Whether or not this year to add more Baker Street Xmas-hoopla to last year's takes-up more time/energy in the Regular Council Meeting, 7. July, than any other item in recent memory. The claws are out! An entertaining embarrassment! Finally - life in the Council Chamber!
Dimly Lit! If someone were to raise the bottom-line question:what is the purpose of this particular kind of lighting, the silliness of the topic quickly could be established - that incidentally leaving councillors more time/energy to reflect on their here once again displayed habitual thoughtless disregard for the attending electorate in meetings. But - no reflection here! Usually just talking to each other - often inaudible to the "audience" - or referring to topics which already had been addressed outside the Council Chamber - not necessarily in camera - thus often not cohesively explored in front of the interested/concerned.Being very inside - and very not!
While the effort of the recent Xmas-elves is to be commended - the result is predictable: predictable fake pine-garlands, predictable cardboard bows, predictable fake candy-canes, predictable electric twinkle: all adding-up to a Festival of Lights! Seriously!
Predictable holiday-cheer in a predictable smallish-thinking town.
Gotta Light? Purpose? Xmas is when downtown/mall-merchants make more money than at any other time during the year - money then the name of the game: spending it and making it. This is the time when Xmas-addicts will indeed shop local and lots, without needing to be prompted with fake mall-cheer up-and-down trees. As bizarre as can get: with a bit of the Spurway Fund in there but who knows - an ultimately again-and-again taxpayer-funded Xmas decor is really only to set the mood for the Nelson Business Association's (NBA) walk to the bank laughing, with the same taxpayers' irrationally spent money - what with the NBA only taking but never giving.
The Spurway Fund - a substantial privately donated amount, ostensibly to be used for Xmas-lighting-up Baker - sitting around somewhere at City Hall for ages, is not mentioned in depth anywhere. Not in Council, only superficially in The Nelson Daily/Nelson Star, not on Google, not on the City's website. Who knows? Colin McClure, CFO, knows, and he's on vacation. Close to the chest!
Back to irrational shopping - encouraged generously (any time!) with taxpayer-funding for the NBA's benefit only. More rationally - any Xmas decor should be initiated and paid-for only by the NBA, possibly supplemented by the mythical Spurway Fund. There could be a competition among its members for the most original winter-wonderland shop-windows and building-facade displays. This would lure shoppers and their children directly into particular stores - sort of like Hansel and Gretel - and stop Nelson Hydro's clumsy spiking, screwing and nailing into trees, with sad-dusty Xmas-lights still up in July.
Blinded by the light!
(Councillor Adams - arguing for more twinkle with Councillor Kiss against in the above-mentioned RCM teacup-tempest - is so fanatic about Xmas that after my critique of this topic to the Committee of the Whole (COW), 21. July - above and below here - he sends me an e-mail during! the COW - 7:50pm - masquerading as his wife - Lynn Adams - with: It is my opinion that more residents are inspired by the Festival of Lights than not. Signed: Lynn. Who is not present at the COW.)
Back at the RCM the plot thickens. Kevin Cormack, CAO - as a by-the-way tells Council of the need for considering general lighting - Xmas-lights possibly included - benches, banners and what-not in a Baker revamp and a consultant soon to be engaged for all this. Therefore the City holding-off on additional Xmas-lighting for now. Councillor Macdonald - the Cultural Development Committee's (COW) de facto hub - nods smiling agreement. This making the Adams/Kiss argument not only a waste of their energy and everybody's time but also pointless. With neither announcing nor moving on this idea Cormack's job - clearly all this was decided among "them" - whoever they are, seemingly not all of Council - prior and elsewhere.
The idea of doing something about Baker - for long stretches of the year a drab affair - is long overdue, but bringing in a consultant yet another sign of how little awareness there is at City Hall generally and the CDC specifically: still not having a naturally homegrown vision of Nelson and once again expecting an expensive, generic, outsider-generated study to provide it. This vision then promptly to be filed-away and forgotten - alongside others from before.
What with the Spurway Fund (also called Spurwood by Councillor Adams) not meant for a general overhaul but what do "we" know: here surely again comes the hapless taxpayer!
Financing of the next-in-line consultant and this vaguely explained project-to-be is not divulged in this meeting - while surely on the(ir) table as a prerequisite - so one has to wonder whether the Spurway Fund's rules of application could be bent to allow for hiring pricey consultants ostensibly for a Xmas-lighting plan and - incidentally - buying Cormack's general lighting, benches, banners and what-not! I mean - who's to know?
In a Nelson Star survey the public overwhelmingly speaks out against hiring a consultant (for something barely explained yet).
Remember the ego-fueled/driven truck City Hall bought for Onagawa with funds publicly collected for immediate disaster-relief wherever most needed in Japan - after these funds had been left sitting around by City Hall for way over a year? And despite repeated loud protests in COWs - but nothing from Council?
Could this Baker Lite be deja voo all over again?
Seeing that the tenor of both - Council and the CDC - is bound to be significantly different after the election in November: decisions of this range had better be left to the next generation at City Hall - with the current lame ducks focusing on fixing the present rather than the future. And Cormack implementing directives from instead of originating them for Council.
The above - with the odd change/addition for clarity and depth here - is the material I present to the COW, 21. July, based on lights-or-not and consultant-for-sure, RCM, 7. July.
Let there be light!
Two dominant points here: City Hall's/CDC's lack of a vision, despite their all-overriding artsy/cultchuh/heritage-pretensions plus the City's unquestioning readiness to buy a vision off-the-rack.
Some years ago a consultant tells us about art and economics. Then we have one for the cultural tourist. Then there's Roger Brooks telling us pretty much what Cormack/Council/CDC want to be told again now.And the Downtown Etc. Master Plan. More recently - almost again Brooks - to label Nelson. Sooooo - is this to be more Brooks-shtick?
So far always at the taxpayers' expense - never real because never ours: never to be applied!
We don't need still more consultants: googling what's similar to our perceived needs - then tweaking that as theirs for a hefty fee. In this case particularly: Baker is well enough lit, and additional Xmas-hoopla benefits only the NBA and those actually involved in designing/installing it.
I will provide a reasonable Baker-plan - free of charge! - here now just like that totally doable. Not that I'm an expert consultant - I walk and simply pay attention with intention. I also actually care about Nelson - unfettered by a political, economic, social agenda.
Extra Lite! It all starts with Heritage - rather only the anal-WASP kind our previous heritage watchdog - the CHC - formalizes and the CDC - its successor - still lives with in a snug box. Those WASPs aren't into color beyond the faded burgundy of tassled plush in the colonial drawing-room. While bright colors are lived (but frowned upon by the repressed masters) among Eastern-Europeans and Asians within the community - but then: they don't count tut-tut what can you expect from them! When various paint-manufacturers more recently come-up with heritage-colors - a contrived concept to up their profits and cultural diversity/multi-culturalism only going so far I mean really! - their palettes predictably come from mud-puddles. With Nelson today rather faux heritage and proud of it - still in the same snug box. Little life and only dim light to be found in there. No vision possible without the boundless exuberance of multicolored joy! With the City's so-called cultural development an insult to all cultures having made a contribution to Nelson with their own heritage of values - like hard work! So much for heritage.
But surprise, surprise - a spark! - when pictures now are taken of Baker to showcase local vibrancy and what-not - even in tourist lit - the inevitably photographed buildings are the ones with the Dominion Cafe and Kootenay Exchange next door. Because they are colorful - even though somewhat shabby! A very recent further step: covering even heritage-stone - gasp! - with total totally irreverent bright paint - the former King's Restaurant!
Color does liven/lighten(!)-up the environment - thus the people inhabiting it, passing through it. Color-therapy! Ultimately - in a commercial setting - prompting them to spend more money. The reality of these dots yet to be acknowledged, then connected by the NBA, CDC and City Hall - all of the same pursed-lips lot. Whether stone- or wood-buildings: painting them in different colors and/or subtly varying shades of one color brings out architectural detail, easily overlooked in monochrome treatment. Have a slow look at the old King's from across the street!
And then there's painting with light!
You light-up my life! Victoria BC - heritage mother of them all - saw that along with cities all over the world and now has the candy-colored Old-Town strip at Johnson Street's harbour end showing the early colonial city isn't all about Earl Grey and crumpets. As in Westworld. All pictures in this post are of LoJO - Lower Johnson - in Victoria. Take it from there and find all the light(s) you need in post Nelson in Living Colour 1. December, 2011 way below, along with over 20 posts in between dealing with aspects of Baker Street as-are/as-could-be.And their current/projected influence on Nelson's growth.
I can see the difficulty City Hall is facing with the Spurway Fund - all this money and nowhere to put it - but what to do with it must come before Council as a whole: clearly, comprehensively explored/explained in an open meeting. According to established rules - instead of (seemingly) being the agenda of one or a few.
The probable rationale - should anyone ask - that it's all part of the Downtown Etc. Master Plan, so Council is not needed for this (remember Cormack's Baker-amenities blitz?) wouldn't wash here: there should be no need for a consultant at this stage now - what with definitive plans for upper Hall established ages ago. So why not for Baker - the center of Nelson's universe - then as well! By the same consultants: the M&M&Ms from Kelowna.
This following the previous post Meanwhile - Who's Minding The Store? immediately below.
The Nelson Star, 11 July, 2014, has it that Russell Precious, Nelson Commons Condos - Project Manager, is attempting to have the Vancity Credit Union and the Nelson and District Credit Union agree to restructuring the prerequisite for theirbig money to kick-in to finance the project: lowering 46 of the total 54 units having to be sold first to - 32!
A giant leap - particularly considering that these 2 banks by-any-other-name - as any risk-averse bank would - must (should!) have ages ago begun to wonder at the public's low-voltage interest in these condos - thus the long-term financial viability of the project. If so - what "security" has made them hang in there so long? Even building with 46 sold would mean 8 empty - that with gossipy Nelson being gossipy Nelson and several other condo-projects in the offing.....
Starting to build with 32 units sold - thus 22 not! - seems like a fool's paradise and gross incompetence at these banks. Precious - supposedly having sold/sales pending of 28 units, thinks he can sell 4 more no sweat - according to the Star - and is ready to build with 22 vacant indefinitely. But then - with the uninformed Co-op's member/owners thus far unwittingly having footed the project's bill: maybe their store - with its financial projections - is (has been for a while) used as collateral.
Nelson Commons (NC) is the only condo-development with parking-variances granted by Nelson City Hall long before even applied for and continuing newsletters with nothing useful reported to Kootenay Co-op member/owners (M/O) because NC is attempting to sell a non-existent product to a non-existent market. With motivation for this project not based in a need for co-op and/or social housing - but making as much money as possible as quickly as possible to pay-off a property too large and too expensive bought too hastily. Tacky! You don't see the connection between NC and the Co-op? Therein lies the rub!
Much newsletter-worthy explaining is owed M/Os - seeing they were not asked for approval of the NC spin-off itself and use of M/O-generated funds to finance preparation for it. But - nothing!
Explanations such as: 1. How many units have been sold thus far. 2. What the deadline is for calling it all off when not enough units are sold to kick-start the big money from banks. 3. Why the M/Os were not consulted, asked to vote on approval for the NC-project and its preparation-funding. 4. How much of the Co-op M/O-generated funds has been spent on preparing for the NC-development. 5. Who/what this NC-entity is, and who is in charge of it. 6. How much those in charge are getting paid with M/O-generated funds for their unauthorized work, and who determined the amounts. 7. What exactly connects/separates the Co-op and NC. 8. How unauthorized spending of large amounts of M/O-generated funds will be justified to M/Os if/when NC very likely folds. 9. Who will be responsible for that loss and how.
And -most important: 10. Why the Co-op has - engaged to whatever extent in all the above - done so with an almost complete lack of transparency - thus accountability.
Reading some of these newsletters while abroad for a while - with a bit of distance on several levels - I realize how bizarre they actually are.
Plenty of good units left for sale is very poor marketing - even though the truth.
Nelson Commons Open House for Members - in June, with free food (usually getting them out of the house)! - may hold appeal for the cultish Co-op's large segment of guru-junkie M/Os - but even those have made it clear to all (except NC!) that whoever wanted to buy - has already bought!
Then there are the CVs of the main-players in the anticipated construction-process. These main-players - aside from their total professional wonderfulness - actually the ones to profit most financially if the project should ever get off the ground - thus surely ready to wait somewhat longer, because there's more money to be made in a multi-unit/storey building than a basic single-storey box - the store.
Remember the store?
Happy Canada Day, Summer Hours, Deirdrie and Russell supposedly is a paean to them both for having so tirelessly worked on the NC-project, but seeing that they seemingly are in charge of (and getting paid for) it -including the newsletter - this is self-congratulatory twaddle at best.
So I write to the Co-op Board of Directors and after a reminder necessary later that I would appreciate a reply - being an M/O and all - receive one from Deirdrie Lang, Co-op General Manager, for the Board. I essentially ask for clarification on financial issues in connection with NC preparations thus far. She does not address any of that but lets me know that the accounting-books will be produced in the Sep. AGM. Which accounting-books? And what's happening between now and then? I also write to Russell Precious, Project Manager, asking for the source of preparation-funding, seeing that M/Os had allowed more of the general reserves to be used for construction of a new store - but not a block of condos not even on the table at the time of voting. This aside from the fact that the store is not-for-profit - while NC clearly is for profit-to-be. No reply! - while as M/O I should be entitled to full transparency. With the Co-op Mission proclaiming that every M/O's voice has equal value, running the democracy-thing. Yet if this is democracy - it's of the Stephen Harper variety: only info tailor-made for general consumption is released.
Meanwhile - back at the store - they're wingeing over not having enough space to showcase more varieties of Cheerios by any other name, so they discontinue products - though selling - with a lesser profit-margin. How democratic is that! Or co-oppy! One may wonder how many employees there think: why don't they just get on with it and build the bloody store already this was all about way back when - before condomania!
While many M/Os actually do wonder what the real reason is behind all this diddling, procrastinating, because banks must become concerned with NC's financial future viability, and the public must shrink ever further from the project - the longer diddling and procrastinating goes on. Themselves feeling diddled with as member/owners. I do!
What with little transparency/accountability at the top of this very unco-op(erative) Co-op.
When Councillor Moore perceives irregularities over time in the City of Rossland's procurement/contracting/governance processes, she - almost single-handed - brings her concerns to City Council - nothing! - then the mayor - nothing! - then up/down/across City Hall - nothing! - and along the local and regional political food-chain - always nothing!
Resistance from all directions at once must often feel insurmountable - she persists!
Eventually - finally! - ending-up in the Auditor General for Local Governments Office which investigates and supports her observations to then publish a report for all to see. Court cases and tough recommendations are in the works - with those in charge of fair Rossland now shifting uncomfortably in their seats and attempting to do nice.
I admire Councillor Moore for her integrity - that taking precedence over political, economic, social smallish-town agendas - and getting on with her job. That's what it comes down to:
Kathy Moore is doing the job she was elected to do.
Number 1 Quite recently the Nelson Regional Sports Council (NRSC) decides to have a mural on the north- and Hall-sides of the Civic Arena - towards the Community Center. After having talked about possibilities of this over time - including possibly costing up to $100.000. Be still, poor heart! They present no plans to the public - just sports-in-general talk and the job to be awarded in some application/selection process. Neither do they have funding.
No ideas - no funding - no nothing!
Many large-scale graffito-style pieces today are considered murals. An essential difference being: murals traditionally show great art-technique training/expertise - which we don't find in Nelson, and graffiti often are impulsively bold statements from great imagination - which we also don't find in Nelson. Bring the templates! Out there the lines are blurred today. Here - seemingly without any idea what this mural-thingie is to be - they now surprisingly do know what it will cost.
30.000 dollars! Having come down drastically and this a tellling sign: they haven't a clue!
So what's really going on here?
Number 2 Seeing that the NRSC and RDCK are blood-relations - the latter currently in the process of collecting their master plan thoughts around revamping the Community Center on the same premises - it would seem reasonable to have the RDCK provide a portion of the funding - surely one planbuilt into the other you sly devils you wink-wink! Particularly as the RDCK lately rather throws wads of money around - so they've got it!It would also seem reasonable to have the NRSC initiate a fundraising-drive for the rest among soccer/hockey-moms - clearly art-buffs all.
But no need for any of that! Totally handled! I mean - they can go straight to City Hall via their very own direct line to the money. Which they do! This very direct line being the same one getting them the soccer/tram-road redo - directly detouring Council.
So what's really going on here?
Number 3 These 30 grand promptly putting the audacious NRSC at the very top of the City's yearly list of worthy projects, funded by the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT). And when a few days ago funds are handed out - Council allows them $10.000. Still an obscene amount - considering the NRSC has done absolutely nothing along artistic-creative lines in the past or present to show they are competent - thus deserving of funding.
Will you wait, it gets better! Then Mayor Dooley - co-founder of the NRSC - insists they get the full amount because: this project will create work for artists over several months (which artists, which work, which months - how does he know?), and it will be an integral part of the Hall-Street-redo (and how does he knowwhat's suddenly integral there?). This with the NRSC thus far having absolutely nothing to show. Seeing that few walk down/fewer up, and drivers have to pay attention to the steep hill: a poor representation of - yawn! - yet another hockey-stick being swung hardly can be called integral.
The Hall miracle-mile - touted as the only direct lake-access but really going nowhere: weeell, to light-industrial and/or Dog-Turd Alley at the left; the mall at the right; straight ahead to the hotel with the pretentious name. But no direct access. Now if we had a stern-wheeler down there......but I am digressing!
Anyway - there's the requisite bit of toing-and-froing with some councilors who think 30 grand are a bit much - taking away from other worthy causes. So true - this amount represents almost a quarter of the total funds made available by the CBT! But - with his capacity for overwhelming others - the mayor insists, and Council - with their congenital lack of backbone - promptly cave: in a backroom-deal it is agreed to have Staff find the 20 grand wanting somewhere in the general budget and/or elsewhere. Which is exactly the same as just handing over the total 30 grand to the NRSC: at City Hall more money can always be found somewhere - depending on who's looking and knowing where to look. This way just looking better. But why would Staff - on our time! - do this for a rather regional project, what with the RDCK shuddering at even just the physical proximity of City Hall! So why don't they do all this - their own stuff - on their own? Why? Because free money doesn't smell! That's why! So what's really going on here?
Number 4 Obviously there are more players involved in all this than just the suddenly art-craving NRSC - with a scenario worked out earlier, still worked as they go along. But none of that the great unwashed need to know. Clearly, the money will materialize - but then who decides on across-the-board criteria and logistics for making the project happen? Clearly not the NRSC!
The public must be consulted; after all - we pay for it, and we will have to be able to live with this! Keeping in mind that the RDCK's master plan invites the public's input.
While the CDC(?) and Arts Council(?) decide what/who is the best - this at best still only means the best of what's on offer. In their opinion - and that's a whole other story. Not necessarily meaning a truly exceptional, mind-blowing artist and his/her work on any out-there terms.
So what's really going on here?
Number 5 Our recent mural/graffiti-experience is dodgy. The Credit Union mural literally is paint-by-numbers - flat and awkward; Reo's gets ever more wastelandish as time passes: its heart an empty dark-dirty place; the one-off gang doing the decoratively pleasant and predictable fish-and-fowl mural under the bridge - during their (unsupervised) process - add stuff to their originally approved design as they move along. Without approval - so how responsible/mature are they? We have no exceptional painters working in Nelson, and even if we had: would they be able to work on that size-does-matter scale? Would they even want to - hockey-shlockey generic and all - other than as a means to pay the rent. 30.000 taxpayered bucks spent on spec and predictably mediocre artistic merit/result, with a totally guaranteed very limited lifespan - unevenly sun-faded, rain-soaked, peeled-off - is nothing much to look forward to and at.
That's what's really going on here!
Murals/Graffiti: H Fleury, M-C Lachance, P Laforest + Cite Creation Linda Schrader HOW and NOSM RCL Sainer