Wednesday, 15 November 2017
Request for Decision
Any issue - in-house or citizen-proposed - needing City Council's approval, is presented in a Committee of the Whole (COW) as a REQUEST FOR DECISION (here RFD).
An RFD is a standard document covering the issue itself and looking at its projected positive/negative impact, with substantiating documents attached.
Near the bottom is a Recommendation to Council - usually to pass the item as presented in the RFD. Who is doing the recommending is not clear but certainly would be interesting to know with in-house issues, frequently presented imprecisely.
At the very bottom of an RFD are 2 signatures:
the one on the left with AUTHOR printed above and usually DEPUTY CORPORATE OFFICER below;
the one on the right with REVIEWED BY printed above and CITY MANAGER below.
No names printed though!
(This City Manager used to be called Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). What changed? Admittedly - City Manager does have a more being-in-charge-of-absolutely- everything-and-everyone punch.)
Anyway - unless one is familiar with those signature-scrawls belonging to personnel one is familiar with: they could be anybody's.
Expert authorship by a mid-level employee is doubtful, what with too wide a range of knowledge required. That and the author/deputy certainly not having enough time to gather all pertinent material to then write it up as well. One RFD of many and all with the same deadline.
Just as it is doubtful that the CAO will relinquish determination of what goes into an RFD to a Deputy and be satisfied with reviewing it. Only.
It is more likely that the CAO provides topic, key-points, fixes direction and goals; the Deputy Corporate Officer has droids do research and gives shape to the material as Writer, to ultimately have the RFD polished and approved by the CAO as Author.
Troubling: why names of the so-called author and so-called reviewer are not identified-printed as well, as is customary anywhere in official documents.
Back to this later.
Normally citizen-based issues are dealt with relatively easily in COWs, with their presentation narrowly focused and heavy on itemized single-need-based documentation.
While in-house issues - affecting the community as a whole - like bylaws, plans/concepts and physical projects - should take more involvement from Councillors: deeply discovering purpose, use and flaws.
The following focuses on the latter - in-house issues. Well - flaws too.
Although Councillors need to take responsibility for self-motivation with more convenient decision-making via RFDs only - they are not supported in this when Requests lack depth, detail, logic, defining documentation and - objectivity. Frequently several of them in one RFD, and that way actually authored and reviewed by whom?
If not cognizant of this Councillors then may - too often do - accept the RFD at face-value. Thus possibly nudged in a particular direction.
This can lead to issues being approved in general only. And once approved overall - any later specifics, changes by whom? are out of Council's hands. Like haphazard, open-ended Hall St 1&2; loads of money for nothing into the Cottonwood Market; the totally unsubstantiated attempt at a Panhandling Bylaw.
Request for Information
Wondering about the names of those seemingly responsible for having in-house issues put to Council - I connect with Frances Long, Director of Corporate Services, for clarification.
And that goes like this - quoted directly:
Oct 7, 2017
To: Frances Long
Subject: Request for Decision Signatures
Hi, Frances -
The "Author" of Requests for Decision for the Reg. Meeting, 10 Oct, 2017, is a "Deputy Corporate Officer" with a signature unknown to me - thus probably to at least most outsiders who read them.
Seeing that these documents are made available to the public: it is desirable - for the sake of transparency - to know who those signing are. Would you please - as a matter of course - print their/all names together with the job title.
This is my 2nd request.
Claus Lao Schunke
While in the past messages to Long are replied to almost immediately - I don't receive a reply to #2 yet for almost one month:
Nov. 2, 2017
Re: Request for Decision Signatures
Good afternoon Claus;
I am sorry to inform you that we will not be changing our practise and printing the name of the person as well as the position on our Council reports. What is relevant in those reports, is the position, not the person that is holding that position. The responsibility for what was written in the report remains with the position no matter who the person is that holds the position. The signatures are required as an internal control to verify that the person signing is the person holding the position as stated in the report with the originally signed documents being retained as the City's permanent record.
Frances Long, CMC
Director of Corporate Services
City of Nelson
Here City Hall is replacing people with a fixed position/title through a signature-scrawl only. To the point of the City Manager's signature - when he is absent - replaced with that of the Chief Financial Officer. Who - then called City Manager by virtue of his signature above the printed position - in reality has nothing to do with any of it - even less issues at hand. REVIEWED BY - indeed!
The breathless tone of Long's reply makes me - more than before - wonder why she/they won't be transparent about an issue as ordinary and easily adjusted as this.
I also wonder at the style, form and content of this message - here quoted verbatim, including punctuation - totally different from Long's usual way of communicating electronically.
Actually authored! by a deputy corporate officer (with atrocious writing-skills)?
What is to be avoided here? Who is doing the avoiding?
Nov 2, 2017
To: Frances Long
CC: Mayor Kozak
Re: Request for Decision Signatures
Hi, Frances -
Thanks for your long-awaited clarification.
"What is relevant in those reports" to the public - seeing that Requests for Decision must be available publicly - is that the citizenry should know who is originating what. Which clearly goes beyond "relevant" for "internal control" only.
Obviously - the public - ostensibly served by City Hall - is deemed irrelevant here.
Claus Lao Schunke
Along those lines - FACT:
City employees are working under a non-disclosure rule - sensibly largely ignored - a gag-order, really.
Put in place when by whom, and why is it (still) there?
Caspar David Friedrich
+ image manipulations
Frances Long, Director - Corporate Services
Kevin Cormack, CAO
Deb Kozak, Mayor
Monday, 6 November 2017
Friday, 27 October 2017
When lane houses come up on the agenda of the Committee of the Whole (COW), Oct 23, 2017, nobody but news media are left in the gallery. This after 2 going-on-and-on presentations about tree-management to a nearly full house.
So the audience possibly just has to get out of there.
Or hasn't come for lane houses.
As in: out-of-town trees get considerable space in the Star promptly after the COW - in-town lane houses of this same COW get no mention at all in the same report.
Nelson considers laneway housing
Star, Oct 17, 2017
When lane houses are given a superficial go-ahead some years ago, this is in tandem with legit basement suites. What pretty much then makes both non-issues is the bizarrely reasoned over-the-top water-rate increase for such suites, passed by the previous Council.
Fact: This water-rate increase makes many who have been considering a legit basement suite reconsider, while reinforcing the general image of City Hall as cash-grabbers.
Fact: This spilling over into the lane house concept.
While said rates have been adjusted in the meantime - though this never clearly communicated to the general public - lack of trust in City Hall processes: here - perceived as time-consuming byzantine, unfocused and expensive hoops to be jumped through for possible lane houses - largely have made both a no-go since.
As already mentioned in posts
Home Sweet Home (is not a condo) - 1/2/3
Dec 2016 - Jan 2017,
in order for City Hall to get traction with this now, both options need to be made real-time now-time attractive to possible converters/builders, with streamlined relevant processes - no matter how many concise new ones - and offered incentives: financial and bureaucratic.
Secondary/basement suites must continue to be focused on parallel to lane houses. Both addressing housing shortage and affordable housing on the municipal level.
Conditions permitting: a home-owner building a lane house should also be allowed to run a basement suite. Oddly - not allowed now!
Anyway - to convince thus make this double-concept fly - there needs to be a definitively clear vision, a strong context - recorded in words and images - everybody: planners and public - then can look at and work towards together. Prior to!
Same vision - same future Nelson.
Not easily to be shed: the general public's strongly negative view of the City's Hall St stumble downhill. And those held responsible. A grudge-fest for a long time to come.
Unless City Hall can ramp up its credibility-rating quickly and substantially!
By/For Whom, Why, What?
A lane house - restricted by lot-size, privacy-issues, access and parking-needs - will be significantly smaller than the house out front. Somewhere between tiny house and lesser Better Home & Garden. Therefore cheaper. Therefore more affordable.
Random dust-ball spaces superseded by bright cost/efficiency/practicality-concerns.
Possibly piggy-backed by a property-owner and leased within an option-to-buy framework, after a substantial downpayment, followed by monthly cheques.
Possibly built separately on a sliver of backyard sold outright.
Attracting singles, working couples, retirees with fewer current/future plans/needs.
The target-market would be similarly focused for rentals of basement suites.
Pam Mierau, Nelson Planning & Development Manager - the driving energy behind lane houses - envisions possibly 3 pre-approved designs. Conceivably they will be based on available funds and/or for certain numbers of people to live in them.
Pre-approved designs would cut down dramatically on paperwork necessary for such projects. And costs.
Outside, looking in: simplified, locked-in processes would also mean City Hall can't follow its usual just-making-stuff-up-on-the-fly pattern. The prime example of that: Hall St (again!) all the way down. Splash!
The planned design-competition must not be limited to local architects. Considering: Nelson Commons is boring and already entering its next phase: Kelowna stodge. And the ultimately rejected Flying Nun Cottonwood Market design was without any practical merit as a basic market-shelter.
Lane houses will need expert know-how in ingenious use of condensed spaces. Except for possibly Tiny Houses folks: Nelson simply doesn't have what it takes to make this happen.
The way to go may be prefabricated - ideally flat-packed - modules: minimizing overall costs, assembly-time, size. These modules added to with other modules clicked-in to increase the number of volumes horizontally/vertically. They also may incorporate parking.
In effect - owners would still be participating in the overall design - from basic to expanded. Later to be prettified at leisure. Pink flamingos, gnomes, Santa on the roof - you name it!
Sort-of like a base-unit with apps!
Here designers must be those focused on this kind of housing specifically - with a proven track-record of appealing houses larger inside than out. And manufacturing-capability.
The 3 blog-posts above show some examples and their designers/manufacturers.
As a whole this lane-house concept will need way-out-there imagination and willing cooperation towards a common goal by several City Hall departments concurrently - including a proactive nudge-nudge Council - in meticulous planning and timely lateral execution.
Run by whom? will be interesting to watch.
Richard Woods, Folkestone
Pam Mierau, Nelson Planning & Development Manager
Deb Kozak, Nelson Mayor
Kevin Cormack, Nelson CAO
Colin Innes, Nelson Public Works Director
Monday, 2 October 2017
This post directly connects with
What DOES Matter (Part 1)
23 July, 2017
Councillor and other local government officials tell of increasing harassment
Nelson Star from Cowichan Valley Citizen
28 Sep, 2017
While one here could have expected far-ranging examples of BC municipal politicians' harassment by the unruly public - the headline is misleading, what with only 2 politicos quoted. Both from the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD). And their recollections dramatically turning a few minor confrontations over a long time-span into harassment, intimidation, assault and defamation!
The rest is thinnishly anecdotal.
There's a - possibly unintended - kicker to be found in this write-up, making clear why what's often loudly objected to by many in Smallishtown politics.
It's the stranglehold re-re-elected often have on the decision-making process: either creating a deadzone by inertia - or monopolizing the process by pursuing self-glorifying agendas.
Usually those re-re-elected anywhere are so not because of the consistently impressive quality of their involvement, but because - over time - they have established a social feel-good support-base: never mind their ever-diminishing need-focused contributions to lulled-to-sleep segments of the greater whole.
Consistent re-election and cross-breeding of elected officials - both the case in Cowichan - can't fail but lead to stagnation.
Bob Day - 10 years as Lake Cowichan Councillor and 4 as CVRD Vice-Chair - is confronted 7 years ago - gasp! - in the store where he still works today. A man "verbally assaulted" him on a "zoning issue".
And again recently: a repeat-complainant 2 days in a row - on a "traffic issue" - same store. The man carrying a placard and "making defamatory statements". Following Day up and down the aisles! This is funny! But maybe embarrassing to a clerk preferring to be known as Vice-Chair of something or other.
That's all - and Day does admit: neither incident was directed at him personally.
Jon Lefebure - North Cowichan Mayor/CVRD Chair, previously Councillor - recollects "only one incident about 12 years ago - double-gasp! - when he was harassed in a public place". Also in a store! No, we don't know...
What we do know is that a person being Mayor and Regional District Chair - at the same time - is a bit much to many in whichever Cowichan. Constituents would have ample reason with this alone to express themselves forcefully.
Like - I mean - what the f**k!
Did nobody raise actual concerns in this "large crowd at a workshop at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) meeting being held in Vancouver this week, dealing with the rise of incivility in local government, and the conduct of the public toward elected officials and staff"?
Seeing that too often self-serving "incivility in local government" prompts the frustrated "conduct of the public" - this write-up could have made its point by intent, if the former had been dealt with first and strongly - instead of the latter only and weakly without context.
But then - it sort-of did make this point after all, just sneaking up on the reader!
So what's (not) to like and (not) to complain about (loudly!) in Cowichan politics?
Any elected BC office should only allow 2 terms tops - particularly now that a term is 4 years very-long. Term-limits conceivably supporting a higher energy-level, more urgency to accomplish something, and a light at the end of the tunnel - if.
That's what this and the previous UCBM meeting should have focused on. And the needed separation of Mayor's Office from Police Board. Aside from the obligatory housing and dope, of course.
Respect does not automatically come with the job of an elected official: it is earned by the official being respectful of the constituency.
Often unsociable social media provide impatient users the opportunity to voice from a distance what they are too timid to do in person.
Or what they have next to no opportunity to voice at City Hall.
But if neither this nor placards will do: vote wisely - don't re-elect!
Deb Kozak, Mayor
Jon Lefebure, Mayor/CVRD Chair
Wednesday, 27 September 2017
According to Council's 3-year shelf-life of the past: there would be an election any day now. The third year always and inevitably sluggish - deep breath and enough already! On both sides.
With - from the current Council onward - a term stretching from 3 years to 4, the big question is: will their energy - demonstrably low at this point - stretch that far?
Mayor Kozak and Council - very conscious of the 3-year wall - recently held a meeting to take stock of what they accomplished over the last 3-years. So they're done? What's with the coming 4th?
For everybody's sake: Councillors now should be allowed 1 term only! While 2 consecutive 3-year terms were still doable - 2 consecutive 4-year terms decidedly are not.
Adjustment upward by 1 year just to bring municipal terms in convenient line with provincials shows extraordinary lack of interest in municipals by the provincial government.
What with provincial politicos professionally fulltime and very well-compensated - Smallishtown City Councillors are remunerated only so-so as parttimers: pensioners or those - by vital necessity - with primary focus on a fulltime job elsewhere.
But then - municipalities could/should have spoken up loudly in/through their Union of BC Municipalities and MLAs - yet did they? Were they consulted? Not that we and future Councillors know.
Despite public knowledge here that the current term was to be 4 years, a surprisingly large number of would-be Councillors presented their elect-me shtick. Go figure!
That may happen again next year, and it would be good for us Nelsonites if those even just vaguely considering running - to keep later surprises to a minimum and conserve energy - soon started to give it in-depth attention. Keeping in mind that Council - ostensibly! - has the power to shape Nelson. A hefty weight - best not carried lightly!
So - once campaigning: showing-up at a Council Meeting or two just before the election to see in person how it's done when/where it's done is irresponsible. Leading to unrealistic expectations. An unhealthy Council from the get-go.
Random Reasons For
Is it that you have been attending Council Meetings as spectator, sitting through Agendas presented/passed - possibly without adequate cause-and-effect consideration - saying to yourself: WTF - I could do this better?
Is it that you don't have a life and feel being a Councillor would give you one?
Is it because you're frustrated with the way the current Council has been rubber-stamping big-ticket items, and as Councillor you would feel ready to - if need be - push for their full engagement, framed by diligence, transparency, accountability: with you totally ready to come from that place?
Is it that you are a control-freak?
Is it that you - with your biggish ego - feel underutilized in this here Smallishtown, thinking that as Councillor you could calm the restlessness within: channel it into positive changes and - what could be better! - get stroked for it publicly?
Is it that you have a hush-hush agenda not directly related to the responsibilities of a Councillor?
Is it that sitting on one board or another isn't cutting it any longer - you're frustrated with treading water: ready for the bigger pond?
Is it that you feel: good enough just isn't good enough?
Is it that you have an urge to prevent Nelson from doing itself in?
A Councillor's job does not begin/end in Council Meetings - its nature is time/energy-consuming: if done circumspectly, often leaving little time for fun and games at home and the real job done conscientiously, if there is one. Something's gotta give - visible to the great unwashed is Council's performance in the public meetings only. They're rarely seen in the streets.
To arrive at a well-substantiated personal opinion on an Agenda item - a few days before it is tabled in Council - with material of frequently shallow and/or subjective depth provided by the CAO/Staff - needs a clear, logical head, extensive research - and time.
A focused two-prong approach - not only as Councillors but also as members of the community - is crucial.
As in: all Councillors consistently conscious of this basic position would lead to vigorous discussions, ending in solid decisions. Would.
Sadly - it's been Councillors up there and the community down here all along.
They frequently are superficially prepared, seemingly leaving a decision to bubble to the surface during meetings, or having been nudged in a particular direction by the CAO. In the backroom, just prior to the official vote on an item in public. Prepped.
An habitual lack of personal connectedness has led Councillors to approve items generally - specifics within big-ticket items usually left unaddressed. Meaning: once they approve the thing in principal (only), crucials undoubtedly arising later are no longer their business - their concern.
As in more and more Cottonwood Market funding - but still no acceptable toilets; Hall St. Phases 1/2 in bits and clumsy pieces; the Panhandling Bylaw without panhandlers; Wood-Chip Steam out of steam; the Solar Garden an invasive species.
Then there are committee-meetings at all hours, often little different from private-sector board-meetings: talk, talk, talk and the decision when to talk some more.
One wonders what prompts Nelsonites to want to be Councillors: their by-rote election-rhetoric never a believable explanation.
So - the rare oddity knowing clearly what the job entails - endless stacks of stuff, endless meetings, endless in-house politicking, endless sacrifices in their personal lives and endless boredom - but still wanting to take it on, is to be enthusiastically embraced!
Kevin Cormack, CAO
Deb Kozak, Mayor
Sunday, 3 September 2017
This post connects with
City paid part of convicted cop's legal fees
Nelson Star, Sep 2, 2017
More precisely: it was the tax-payer - not the City!
Local cop Drew Turner - while off-duty - beats a severely inebriated, about half-his-size, handcuffed woman unconscious, in front of two on-duty cops who do not participate in this. Finishing his assault with "That will shut her up!" he drives off, to repeat the same alpha-grunt later to a dispatcher. And then lies a lot.
The report/eye-witness account of the 2 on-duty cops raises questions, and Turner is put on well-paid desk-duty for the eventually lengthy duration of investigations and his subsequent trial.
Nobody talks in public about possible drugs - roidrage? - or even just a breathalizer-test. Considering his way-out-of-proportion, explosive meltdown, it would seem appropriate to also have his mental health evaluated - before letting him loose on even just desk-duty. After all, there is at least the well-being of his 2 fellow cops - testifying against him - to be considered.
But he does not start any "counseling" until about 7 months after the attack, and it has not been made known who initiated it, why only then and what the results are.
Accumulating costs of legal proceedings against Turner are volunteered by the City - actually tax-payered - but not made public either at the time, with the Nelson Police Board (NPB) stating it MAY seek reimbursement later. While it actually has paid absolutely nothing towards the consequences of its employee's meltdown.
Judge Richard Hewson - on the job less than 2 years - finds Turner guilty, and after righteously proclaiming "When a police officer breaches the public trust and engages in illegal activities, even if off-duty, it undermines the public confidence in the police and the rule of law", promptly sentences him to 1 month of (still well-paid!) house-(ar)rest and 2 years probation, citing most bizarrely biased mitigating circumstances for his (poor) judgement.
Eventually Turner resigns from the Nelson Police Department (NPD) - staying on its payroll until he actually does leave. The extent of his severance-pay package also is not known to the public.
But now this public is told that part of the legal costs of $38.115 - as per confidential(!) agreement between the NPB and convicted assailant Drew Turner - will be carried by Nelson(ites). But not how much and orchestrated through whom at City Hall.
"The board considered the amount Mr. Turner offered, they got legal advice, and said they were satisfied and the matter was closed."
Deb Kozak, NPB Chair
Above-mentioned Star article
So - convicted criminal Turner OFFERED(!) to pay only so much for his own legal defense; the Board - after running the figure by legals (who?) - thought his offer was just fine, and whatever the hush-hush rest may be is stuck to Nelson taxpayers. These including Turner's victim Tawny Campbell!
While not so hush-hush, in
Mason v. Turner
(shortly before Turner's flesh-fest)
Court finds for the plaintiff and - wouldn't you know it! - City Hall pays Turner's fine of $500! Surely plus costs.
So - to be factored-in-but-not by the NPB/NPD: this cop's most vicious attack by/on a single person in Nelson's not so recent history is preceded by another run-in with the law. A quick one-two!
Considering the NPD's proactive efforts to gain the public's trust now - after the reign of the previous Chief then - have just begun to bear comforting fruit: this decision by the NPB - why it was reached and how (not) communicated - is a giant step back into days of habitual dissatisfaction with police - the NPD.
Seeing that Turner was employed by the NPB, and the NPB is in charge of the NPD, it is totally unacceptable that the public should get stuck with "part" of these legal fees for off-leash Turner. While - except for that - ignored, with no concern shown for those to be served, protected, etc.
The NPB compensating Tawny Who? Campbell and having Turner's legal costs come out of the NPD budget are non-issues.
Nelson Police Board
Following is some basic - while frequently irrational - info on the NPB - Nelsonites may know little of. More can be found on the City's website-mainpage, under Nelson Police Department.
Responsibilities of the Nelson Police Board
The Nelson Police Board is responsible for appointing the Chief Constable and evaluating his or her performance. The Board provides direction to the Nelson Police Department through the Chief Constable. The Chief is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the department.
The Nelson Police Board is accountable to the community of Nelson, the BC Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General, and the members and employees of the Nelson Police Department through senior management.
Municipal Police Boards are created independently from municipal councils and from provincial government. This removes boards from partisan council (sic) and politics, as well as recognizes that both the municipality and province have legitimate interests in municipal policing.
Legitimate interests in municipal policing?
Where did this twaddle originate?
The Nelson Police Board is comprised of (sic) the mayor, who is designated chair (?), one person appointed by municipal council (?) and up to five persons appointed by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council (?).
How City Council chooses its local "director" and the Lieutenant Governor in Victoria her Nelsonites for the province is not public knowledge. Clearly - province-appointed local "directors" are chosen based on local "recommendations" only.
Secret Smallishtown handshakes?
None of our "directors" have a background in public safety, policing, criminal justice.
Little of all of the above makes sense: Most NPB "directors" are appointed by the "province", and the NPB is overseen by the "provincial" Ministry of Public Security and the "provincial" Solicitor General. So how "independent" are they, and - by the way! - who creates these Boards "independently"?
Also - the NPB Chair is a "municipal" employee as Mayor: possibly "partisan" and undoubtedly "political".
Then - how much circumspect oversight there is from Public Safety and the Solicitor General is debatable, considering that every municipality's Board in BC may be set-up following the same muddled model. And recently reinvented Victoria is busy. So our Board certainly can - and does - act like a singular entity in there somewhere.
We'll never know!
Like - being "accountable to the community" does not mean the NPB is - has ever been - accountable to the community: this Turner disaster being the latest example.
Deb Kozak, Chair - since elected Mayor
Barb Henry, Director - 6 years
Bill Reid, Director - 5 years
Hilda Taylor, Director - 5 years
Elizabeth Edwards, Director - 2 years
Amed Naqvi, Director - 1 year
Having the mayor of a municipality automatically be its Police Board's Chair is a most growth-inhibiting - seemingly colonial - institution in municipal BC politics. Leaving her/him no room to decisively move forward as either in relation to the other.
A number of years ago a meeting of BC police chiefs overwhelmingly voted against the practice - but so far there has been no political will for change.
Next NPB meeting:
Nelson Police Department/Boardroom
19 Sep, 2017 - 15:00
Open to the public
You don't like what's going on? Go tell them: you'll get 10 minutes!
City of Nelson
Deb Kozak, Mayor/NPB Chair
Paul Burkart, NPD - Chief Constable
Nelson Police Board