Vancouver City Council votes on 2013 budget and talks bullying
The regular Vancouver City Council meeting of Tuesday, November 11, 2012 came to order at 9:37 am.
Councillor Raymond Louie gave the welcome and acknowledged that Monday, November 10, 2012 was the first anniversary of the inauguration of the current council. He reflected on the important work that city council has done in the last year and wished everyone a happy holidays.
The clerks then took roll call. The only councillor not present was Tim Stevenson, who was on a leave of absence.
On behalf of the Governor General of Canada, Mayor Gregor Robertson presented the Governor General's Certificate of Commendation to Michael John Fuller. On February 1, 2010, a vehicle crashed in the Massey Tunnel and Fuller and another man tried to help the driver escape the burning vehicle. Unfortunately the driver did not survive, but Fuller was able to help other motorists in the tunnel evacuate. His wife and three children were also present for the ceremony.
Council passed a motion to meet for an In Camera meeting later in the day and announced that a number of appointments had been made at the previous In Camera meeting on November 28, 2012. The full list of appointments is available from the ciity clerk's office. (I've acquired the list, but it's too long to include here. If you're interested in a specific department, please ask about it in the comments.)
Four administrative reports were adopted on consent. The first was "Business License Hearing Panels—January to April 2013," a recommendation from city staff on when business license hearings should take place and which councillors should be part of the panels.
The second was "2012 Organizational Capacity Development—Grant Allocation to Vancity Community Foundation." It asks council to approve a $62,600 grant to the Vancity Community Foundation, which would be used to create a Financial Literary Program Framework for cultural non-profit organizations. The program would include financial workshops and technical assistance.
"Expropriation of 1026 Powell Street for the Powell Street Grade Separation Project" asked council to approve the expropriation of a site that currently belongs to Chevron. The site is needed in order to complete the Powell Street overpass project and the Vancouver Charter allows the city to expropriate property if it can't come to an agreement with the owner.
The final administrative report accepted on consent was "Funding for Expropriation of 1026 Powell Street for Powell Street Grade Separation Project," which asked council to approve the funds needed to buy the site from Chevron, deconstruct the gas station and convenience store on the site, and fix the contaminated soil on the site.
A communication, "Appointment of Council Representatives to Metro Vancouver Board," was held for debate by Councillor Elizabeth Ball, and a policy report, "Amendments to the False Creek North Official Development Plan Concerning Area 5b East (68 Smithe Street)," was held for debate by Councillor Adriane Carr.
Council then took on the unfinished business of the "2013 Operating and Capital Budget." A public hearing was held on December 4, 2012, where Mayor Robertson and city councillors heard from six speakers. The budget was then referred to Tuesday's meeting for a decision.
Councillor Louie made a motion to adopt the budget with some amendments, which he had distributed to the city clerks. The clerks tried to bring the amendments up on the councillors' computer screens, but for some reason it wasn't showing up for councillors Ball and Carr. While the clerks fixed the problem, staff gave a walk-through on a memo they had sent to council, answering questions the councillors had asked at the public hearing.
Once staff had explained the memo and all councillors had a copy of Louie's amendments, he was able to introduce his motion. There were four main points that Louie's amendments addressed:
- A 2 per cent property-tax increase;
- a request that cultural and social grants be indexed so that they can be protected from inflation and that staff report back on the gap in social grant funding;
- an additional $3 million dollars for sport field facilities and public washrooms;
- that staff include as part of the year-end surplus report the possibility of additional funds for child care.
Before speaking to the motion, councillors had a chance to ask questions about the budget.
Several of the councillors asked questions of staff, but there were also questions for Councillor Louie.
Councillor Ball asked Louie about his changes to part C of the motion, which spoke to the cultural and social grants. She wanted to confirm that it wouldn't exclude the possibility of additional funds for arts programs.
Affleck wanted to know if it was normal for council to bring forward major amendments to the budget without public consultation.
Speaking to the motion, Louie answered the questions from Ball and Affleck. He explained that the amendments included in his motion were in response to public consultation and that it was impossible for council to make a decision on the budget if drawn into a continuous public-feedback loop. He also said that the proposed budget would protect arts grants.
Affleck wanted more detail on the operating budget. He was very upset and said he had the same concerns last year. He was unable to support the budget because of a raise in taxes and a lack of detail.
Meggs responded to Affleck and said that Affleck wanted taxes reduced and spending to be cut.
Affleck interrupted on a point of order and said that Meggs was putting words in his mouth.
Meggs apologized to Affleck, defended the increase in utility fees and expressed his support for the operating budget.
Ball said she appreciated the work done by staff, but that she'd looked at budgets from ten major cities across the country and all of their budgets provided line items. She felt that Vancouver should also have line items in its operating budget.
Carr also thanked staff and wanted to see more detail in the operating budget. She also said she thought there was too much spin in the budget, and that it wasn't honest about homelessness in Vancouver.
Reimer defended the process city staff used to compile the budget. She questioned whether or not the cities whose budgets Ball had looked at were following best practices and pointed out that she didn't even know which cities Ball had looked at. She did know that council was advised by a leading consulting firm on best practices and that the staff had taken that advice to heart.
Following the council meeting, Ball provided a list of the cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Port Moody, Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey and Kelowna.
Jang was in support of the budget and disagreed with Carr’s claim that the budget was full of spin. He said the budget was honest about homelessness.
Mayor Robertson thanked staff for their work on the budget. He said he thought there was often a knee-jerk reaction to raising taxes, without a connection to the effect on people's lives. He said it was an excellent budget for continuing to improve the quality of life in Vancouver and that it would be nice to have a unanimous vote on the budget.
Louie gave his closing statement on the motion and then councillors prepared to vote.
Affleck asked if separate parts of the motion could be voted on individually. Staff and clerks determined that A and B needed to be voted on together, that C could be voted on separately, that D and E needed to be voted on together and that F could be voted on separately.
Carr, Ball, Affleck were opposed to A and B, and Carr was opposed to D and E, but C and F passed unopposed.
The communication "Appointment of Council Representatives to Metro Vancouver Board" was held by Councillor Ball for debate. It's a recommendation from the Mayor, which explains that the number of directors representing the city of Vancouver on the Metro Vancouver Board has increased from six to seven. The six directors already on the board are Mayor Robertson, Reimer, Louie, Stevenson, Deal and Meggs, and the mayor recommended that Jang be added as the seventh.
Ball felt that the appointment should reflect the actual make-up of the council, instead of only including Vision councillors.
Deal expressed her support for having Jang on the board, because he is a leader on housing issues in Vancouver and it is an issue that the Metro Vancouver Board deals with.
Carr echoed Ball’s concerns.
Reimer said that Carr is her alternate and she makes efforts to meet with her on a regular basis so that she can brief Councillor Carr. She said that councillors on the board aren't meant to represent the city, but are meant to act as board members. Their responsibility is to the Metro Vancouver Board and not to the city. She supported the mayor's recommendation.
Tang was also happy to support the recommendation.
Mayor Robertson said that Councillor Deal was correct and that he’d recommended Jang because of his expertise on housing.
The motion passed, with Carr and Affleck opposed.
"Amendments to the False Creek North Official Development Plan Concerning Area 5b East (68 Smithe Street)" was a policy report held by Councillor Carr. It's a recommendation from staff that the request by One West Holdings Ltd. to increase the number of residential units at 68 Smithe Street from 311 to 468 be referred to a public hearing.
Carr pointed out that there was nothing about the size of the units and said she would also like to know the cost of the units. She asked if these details could be added before the public hearing and staff confirmed that they could be.
The motion carried unanimously.
There were four motions on notice on the agenda. The first was a motion from Councillor Affleck, "Request to the Auditor General for Local Government Regarding Local Garden Vancouver Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the public company Alterrus Systems Inc." It called for the Auditor General for Local Government to examine the contract between the city of Vancouver and Local Garden Vancouver Inc. and for staff to release the details of any agreements between the city and the company.
Affleck introduced his motion and said the goal was to make City Hall a more transparent place. He explained that he wasn’t against the project, but that he was unclear on the decision process that was used when renting the space.
Councillor Jang said he couldn’t support the motion and quoted a statement he said Affleck made on the CBC on November 22, 2012: “The fact that neither council, not the public have been provided with details of the agreement or any alternative options for using the space is shocking.” He also quoted a statement he said Affleck made on December 5, 2012 on On the Coast: “This was announced without it coming to council. Without it coming to us in any official way that I think was appropriate.” Jang said that the lease of the space was discussed during an In Camera meeting on September 19, 2012.
Councillor Carr also opposed the motion, saying that due diligence had been done and she likes the gardens.
Councillor Louie wanted Councillor Affleck held to account for the false statements he had made.
Affleck said there was nothing in his motion that wasn’t true and that he wanted to know if the right process had been used when renting out the space. He also wanted to know if the proper rate is being charged for the space.
Councillor Reimer was against the motion and said that the matter had been thoroughly discussed during the meeting on September 19th. She accused Councillor Affleck of being untruthful.
Affleck called a point of order, but Mayor Robertson said that councillors had brought false statements made by Affleck to council.
Affleck claimed these statements were hearsay.
Reimer said it was clear that Councillor Affleck claimed not to have received information that he and all the other councillors had indeed received. She also pointed out that it is illegal under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to release the details of the contract to a third party.
Meggs was also against motion.
Ball differentiated between items discussed in council and items discussed during In Camera meetings. She believed Affleck meant that this item had not been discussed in a council meeting. She asked councillors to respect each other.
Councillor Affleck thanked Ball for her support and emphasized the need for transparency and the idea that the public should be aware of how the decision was made.
Louie called a point of order and reiterated Reimer’s statement that the contract could not legally be released to a third party. He requested that council not vote on the motion.
The clerk confirmed that not all of the information in the contract could be released to a third party.
Louie requested that the motion be ruled out of order.
Mayor Robertson said that as far as he understood it, council would only be violating the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act if the motion passed.
The clerk confirmed this and said that if the motion was approved the council would have to sever the agreement.
The motion failed, with councillors Jang, Meggs, Carr, Tang, Reimer, Deal, Louie and Mayor Roberston opposed.
The next motion was Councillor Reimer's "Coordinated Action to End Bullying." It asks city staff to coordinate with the Vancouver Board of Education and community partner on anti-bullying measures.
Councillor Carr thanked Reimer for bringing the motion before council. The mayor echoed Carr’s sentiments and said that Vancouver needs to keep stepping up anti-bullying efforts.
The motion carried unanimously.
Councillor Meggs motion, “Resolution of the NHL Lockout,” supports the request from Ottawa that mayors from NHL cities write the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association, urging a resolution of the lockout. Meggs read a letter from a stadium employee who was worried about being able to make end meets, should the lockout continue for too long.
Mayor Robertson supported the motion and was hopeful that the lockout would be resolved.
The motion carried unanimously.
Council had received a request to speak to Councillor Carr’s motion, “Port Metro Vancouver Must Adequately Consult on Coal Export Proposals,” so a motion was made to refer it to the Planning, Transportation and Environment meeting on December 12, 2012.
The referral motion passed unanimously.
The meeting was extended and then councillors were given the opportunity to introduce new business. The meeting adjourned at 12:19pm.