City Hall updates: utility rate increases, Vancouver's Olympians and Paralympians
The regular Vancouver city council meeting of November 27, 2012 came to order at 9:45am.
Councillor Adriane Carr gave the welcome and acknowledged that it would have been Amanda Todd’s sixteenth birthday. Carr said that bullying is pervasive in our society, especially in politics and called on her fellow councillors to treat each other with respect.
The clerks took roll call: all councillors and the mayor were present. Mayor Gregor Robertson then declared December 3, 2012 to be International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The day will be celebrated with an event at the Roundhouse Community Centre.
The mayor also noted that the City of Vancouver was listed as one of Canada’s top 100 employers. The top 100 were selected from a list of 2000 employers and the only other municipal government to make the top 100 was the city of Ottawa. Robertson presented the award to members of Vancouver’s human resources staff.
Council agreed to hold an In Camera meeting on November 28, 2012 and noted that during the In Camera meeting of November 30, 2012, council had appointed Brian Jackson as a new deputy approving officer, effective as of November 30, 2012, and that cancel had confirmed that Peter Judd would continue his appointment as a deputy approving officer.
Several items on the agenda were adopted on consent and without debate. The first item was a communication, “2013 Council Meeting Program,” which listed the dates for city council meetings in 2013. All other items adopted on consent were administrative reports.
The first was “2013 Engineering Fees.” This report was a recommendation from staff to implement a 2 per cent increase in engineering fees, with the exception of the Street Rental Fee (increased to $1,500 from $766.09), and the Street Utilities By-law Plan Review and Administration and Inspection Fees (each increased by 25 per cent). The new fees would be effective as of January 1, 2013.
The second administrative report was “Municipal Access Agreements with Shaw Communication Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc.,” a request from staff that council authorize the General Manager of Engineering Services and the Director of Legal Services to finalize agreements with Shaw and Rogers to let them install and operate telecommunications networks under Vancouver streets.
Next was “Deconstruction of 8356 Victoria Drive,” which asked council to approve the deconstruction of a single family dwelling on City land.
Deconstruction will cost $60,000 whereas making the house livable again would cost $80,000 or more. If the property were rented at $21,600, then based on the calculated net operating cost, it would take the City 6.7 years to recoup the cost of the improvements. Staff is recommending that the dwelling be torn down and either rezoned or subdivided under the existing zoning. Staff has not offered an estimate of how long it would take the City to recoup the $60,000.
“2012 Animal Welfare Grant” requested council’s approval for a grant of $7,125 to be given to the Small Animal Rescue Society of BC.
“Social Grants—Year End 2012” recommended approval of 19 grants for registered non-profits in Vancouver, for a total of $233,653. It also recommends $235, 059 in ongoing funding for Collingwood Neighbourhood House.
The administrative report “2012 Q3 Capital Budget Adjustments and Closeouts” asked for councils approval for Capital Budget Adjustments, resulting in a net increase of $705,846 to the 2012 Annual Capital Budget, and approval for the closeout of capital projects with variances exceeding 15 per cent and $50,000 of the approved budget.
And the final matter adopted on consent was the administrative report “Application to Federal Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative Transportation Infrastructure Fund,” which requested council’s approval of a funding application for $1.5 million for the Boundary-Vanness pedestrian-cycling bridge. The bridge will allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross Boundary at Vanness Avenue.
Two administrative reports were held. Councillor Elizabeth Ball asked that “Sport Hosting Grants” be held for debate, and “2013 Land Assessment Averaging Program: Notice to BC Assessment Authority” was held for a staff presentation.
Next on the agenda were the report references.
Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver’s director of transportation, gave a presentation on rapid transit in the Broadway corridor. Drobovolny also gave presented the 2040 Transportation plan back in October and pointed out that developing rapid transit in the Broadway corridor was essential to the plan. Current council policy supports a subway along Broadway from VCC Clark to Arbutus Street, with rapid bus service continuing west to UBC, but staff is recommending that council consider extending the subway to UBC.
Drobovolny presented several reasons why Light Rail Transit (which would be cheaper than a subway, simply because there’d be no digging) would be an impractical solution west of Arbutus. Essentially the streets west of Arbutus are too narrow to allow for an LRT without significantly disrupting traffic. Drobovolny also urged council to make a decision about the Broadway corridor as soon as possible, as staff estimate the design and construction of a Broadway subway would take five to seven years.
The next report reference was the Community Safety Program, presented by Chief Constable Jim Chu and Superintendent Daryl Wiebe of the Vancouver Police Department. Wiebe outlined a proposed program that would create 20 full-time and 20 part-time peace officer positions. The peace officers would wear distinct clothing from police officers, but would still be identifiable members of the VPD, and would respond to low-priority calls that do not require a police officer. Officers would then have more time to respond to high-priority calls.
Council recessed for a previously scheduled event before all of the councillors could ask Chu and Wiebe their questions.
The event was a recognition ceremony for Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes living in Vancouver. Mayor Robertson called the athletes up one by one and then presented all of them with gold medallions. The Olympians presented the mayor with mittens and a red Canadian Olympic Team jacket. The Paralympians presented him with a white Canadian Olympic Team jacket and a scarf. The ceremony was followed by a reception in the mayor’s office.
The council meeting reconvened at 1:08pm and the councillors were able to finish asking questions about the Community Safety Program.
Next on the agenda, the general manager of engineering services, Peter Judd, presented the “2013 Utilities Program.” Judd presented the recommended rate increases for water, sewer, solid waste and neighbourhood energy utility (NEU), which are 3 per cent, 5 per cent, 6.6 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively. Judd also gave background on each utility.
Councillors were given the opportunity to ask Judd questions about his report and then were asked to vote on a by-law for each utility.
The first item to be voted on was the “2013 Annual Review of Water Rates under the Waterworks By-Law.” Councillor George Affleck motioned to refer the item to the Special City Finance and Services meeting regarding the 2013 Operating and Capital Budget on December 4, 2012 at 6pm, where members of the public would have the chance to speak to the changes. Councillors could then vote on the by-laws at the regular council meeting on December 11, 2012.
Councillor Louie pointed out that the utility rate increases had been made available to the public (council items are usually posted five days before the meeting) and as of yet no member of the public had requested to speak to them.
Councillor Carr responded by saying that there was no harm in deferring the vote until the December 11, 2012 meeting. Councillor Elizabeth Ball also supported Affleck’s motion.
Councillor Kerry Jang stated that the utility rates work on cost recovery basis and that continuing to debate the increases was an efficient use of the council’s time, while Councillor Andrea Reimer pointed out that the public could still speak to the matter at the December 4, 2012 meeting and council could then amend the by-laws later. Mayor Robertson echoed Reimer’s statements and then took a vote on the referral motion. It did not pass, with all Vision councillors and the mayor opposed.
Following up on the main motion to pass the by-law, Carr wanted to confirm with the city manager, Penny Ballem, that council would be able to change the by-laws, following the 2013 budget presentation on December 4, 2012, if they passed at this meeting. Ballem told council that the by-laws had been brought to council at the current meeting because staff would prefer they be dealt with at the current meeting. Carr stated that she was against the main motion.
Affleck was also against the motion, saying he believed that the public should have a chance to consider the by-laws. Reimer interrupted on a point of order to say that the public had a chance to respond, at which point Affleck clarified that the public should have the chance to consider the by-laws as part of the overall 2013 budget.
Reimer followed up on Affleck’s statement by saying she wanted Affleck and Carr to vote on the issue, not on the process that brought the motion before council.
Louie was angry that councillors were protesting the by-laws on the grounds of process, as he felt these same councillors had previously gone outside of process for their own purposes. Louie tried to address Affleck directly but was reminded by Robertson that he needed to address the chair.
The motion passed, with Affleck, Ball and Carr opposed.
Next was the “2013 Solid Waste Utility (SWU) Rates and By-law Changes.” Affleck also opposed this motion and accused Vision councillors of not hearing the public.
Louie demanded Affleck withdraw his statement and then Robertson requested Affleck withdraw the statement.
Affleck defended his statement, as he didn’t feel the public was being given a chance to consider the rate changes holistically as part of the budget.
Councillors continued to debate and Louie eventually pointed out that the public would still have the chance to speak to the budget holistically at the meeting on December 4, 2012.
The motion passed with Affleck, Ball and Carr opposed.
The next motion, to pass “2013 Annual Review of Sewer Rates under the Sewer & Watercourse By-law” was also debated, but passed with Affleck, Ball and Carr opposed. By the time they got to “Southeast False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility (SEFC NEU) 2013 Customer Rate,” councillors decided to forgo further debate and voted on the motion right away, with Affleck, Ball and Carr opposed.
With all of the report references dealt with, council was free to move onto the two administrative reports that had been held.
“Sport Hosting Grants” requested council’s approval of a grant for $100,000 to support hosting of the Davis Cup 2013 international tennis event. Ball had the report held for debate and asked a few questions about the Sport Hosting Grant Program and how the grant for the Davis Cup would affect other possible Sport Hosting Grants during 2013. The grant was approved, with all councillors in favour.
There was a brief staff presentation, and some questions from councillors, regarding the administrative report “2013 Land Assessment Averaging Program: Notice to BC Assessment Authority.” The report is a recommendation from staff that the city clerk notify the BC Assessment Authority, before January 1, 2013, that the city intends to consider the adoption of land assessment averaging for the purpose of property tax calculations in 2013. Notifying the BC Assessment Authority does not commit the city to adopting land assessment averaging (council will have a full report on February 27, 2013), but notification needs to be given for January 1, 2013 so that the city has the option.
There were four “Motions on Notice” on the agenda.
There was a request to hear speakers for Councillor Ball’s motion, “Support the Taxi Industry,” so it was referred to the Planning, Transportation and Environment meeting on November 28, 2012. Louie was acting as chair at this point and somehow Ball didn’t get a chance to introduce her motion. Later in the meeting she took this up with Mayor Robertson. There was a great deal of discussion around this and Councillor Reimer, who chairs the Planning, Tranportation and Environment meetings, offered to give Ball an extra minute to introduce her motion on the 28th.
Councillor Affleck introduced his “Anonymous Donations” motion, which asks that staff report back regarding donation programs and anonymous donations made to the city. Councillor Reimer introduced amendments to Affleck’s motion, and while that initially didn’t sit well with him, he and Ball only ended up voting against one of her amendments, which passed anyway.
Mayor Robertson declared Councillor Carr’s motion, “Influence of Interim Rezoning Policy for Affordable Housing on Rezoning Decisions,” to be out of order, as it challenged the basic authority of the council.
Councillor Reimer’s motion, “Poverty Reduction Plan for British Columbia,” had speakers and so she declined to introduce it and let it be referred to the Planning, Transportation and Environment meeting on the 28th.
A few interesting points arose when councillors introduced new business at the end of the meeting.
Councillor Reimer appeared upset about statements Councillor Affleck made on CBC’s The Early Edition on November 26, 2012. In response to a pre-recorded statement from Reimer, saying that she had gone door to door to inform businesses of the shelters’ locations, Affleck said:
“Well, I would have actually liked to have seen Councillor Reimer walking around the neighborhood. I highly… I’m skeptical that she went door to door.” Affleck also said he had not been formerly told about the shelters In Camera or in council.
Reimer confirmed that she did in fact go door-to-door and reminded Affleck of an email that all of the councillors and the mayor had received regarding the shelters.
Councillor Jang presented the Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation in the Sustainable City category, which he accepted on behalf of Vancouver while in China.
The meeting adjourned at 4:53pm.