City changes question period rules – again

0105 - The City announced Friday that it will no longer require that citizens write down their questions for approval before asking them aloud at city council meetings.

Residents will now only need to provide their name and the agenda item to which their question relates.

“We want to make sure all residents are able to participate in question period. Given recent feedback, we felt it necessary to make some changes,” said Sheila Gurrie, city clerk, in a press release.

 

Davis gets her job back

1220 - Less than three weeks after being let go, the City's manager of sanitation is back in her job. Charlotte Davis will return as the City's manager of sanitation, recycling and public works administration, chief administrative officer Tracy Samra confirmed.

Samra said she reflected on the decision to let Davis go last week and decided to reach out "to explore an alternate way forward."

NANAIMONEWSNOW

Waterfront master plan pushed back to new year

The City has notified Ocean Discovery Centre that the Draft Port Drive Waterfront Master Plan agenda item has been postponed until the new year.

 The organizers advise supporters to keep checking the ciyt's website for the next meeting date, Jan 15, 2018, to see if it is included in that Agenda.
 
They would like you to contact your friends ask them learn more about the ODC and consider being an Ocean Discovery Centre supporter at www.ndda.ca.

We welcome readers' comments on any items related to city hall. Please use the CITY HALL COMMENT dropdown menu at the top of this page to post your comments. Comments are reviewed for legal concerns only.

Victoria bans single-use plastic bags

1218 - Victoria city council voted this week to ban single-use plastic shopping bags, effective July 1. The move is designed to reduce the number of bags that end up in landfills and the ocean.

The ban only applies to single-use plastic shopping bags. Small plastic bags for bulk foods,  fruits and vegetables will still be allowed, as well as bags used to wrap meat and seafood.

CHEK NEWS

Regional Board directors give themselves a pay raise

1214- -The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board has approved a pay raise in time for the new year.

Directors now get a base rate of $13,962. Rural area directors get an additional $11,532 and the chairman an additional $20,471.

The raises will be implemented in tow stages – the first increase in January, when directors will get a base of $15,000, rural directors an additional $14,000 and the chairman an additional $38,000. In November, after municipal elections, both base rate and electoral area compensation will increase to $17,000, while chairman remuneration will increase to $48,000.

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Summary from Dec. 11 Council Meeting

From City web page.

Amending user fees for 2018 
The rate for solid waste collection (garbage, recycling, organics) in 2018 from $133.08 to $165 per household passed three readings.
Section 10 a
Motion carried.

Addressing downtown social issues
Priority responses to the health, social and safety issues impacting the downtown area have been identified with a number of actions recommended as priorities for City response in the short and medium term. The City and its partner organizations will further review additional responses. 
Section 11 a
Motion carried.

Banning plastic bags
The City will look into the logistics of banning the use and sale of all plastic bags within Nanaimo city limits.
Section 16 e
Motion carried.

RDN - $150,000 for Ecoforestry cabin restoration

1214 -Regional District of Nanaimo will grant $150,000 of gas tax money to Ecoforestry Institute Society to restore a cabin of sustainable logging pioneer Merv Wilkinson.

The non-profit society holds 31-hectare Wildwood Ecoforest, where the cabin is situated. The society is now setting its sights on cabin restoration, part of a plan to establish financial stability.

Kathy Code, director, said the society envisions the homestead to serve as a learning centre with accommodation, where people can stay and partake in forest activities. It was built around 1963, and while structurally sound, it’s far from perfect, she said.

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City provides temporary security fix

1214 - Instead of diving in, the City of Nanaimo is dipping its toes into the waters of downtown security concerns.

At a finance and audit committee meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 13, which is comprised entirely of City councillors, it was decided to provide up to $60,000 for downtown security and cleaning for three months. The decision was made after discussion on a staff report about issues in the downtown core, which recommended nearly $270,000 in various projects and initiatives.

Nanaimo News NOW

Funding applications now available for downtown events

The City of Nanaimo is now accepting applications from community organizations seeking financial assistance to support downtown Nanaimo events through the Downtown Event Revitalization Fund. The fund supports events and initiatives that attract residents and visitors to the downtown. MORE

 

Meeting times and dates changed

The times and dates for the Public Engagement and City Council meetings have changed.

https://www.nanaimo.ca/meetings/pdf/2017_Committee_Notices/CE171220N.pdf

 

City scrapped controversial contract, then kept it secret

1213 - City officials quietly cancelled a widely-publicized management training program after being embarrassed by a News Nanaimo exposé, it emerged yesterday.

Officials failed to tell the public for nine weeks that the controversial program was scrapped due to the fallout over the article, which said the contract had been awarded in violation of trade laws because it wasn’t put out for bids.

The article also revealed that one of the instructors the city was hiring ran a $500-per-night sexual empowerment retreat.

DOMINIC JONES has more

City delays decision on banning retail pet sales

1213 - City council wants more information before deciding whether to ban dog and cat sales at pet stores.

The issue was debated Monday when councillors first voted against staff’s recommendation to regulate the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at retail stores, then began debating an outright ban before determining they didn’t have enough information to make their decision.

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Legal or not, council votes to ban plastic bags

1212 - Plastic bags from retailers could soon be a thing of the past.

Nanaimo city councilvoted yo ban the bags during a special council meeting on Monday night. However, a ban won’t take place until city staff can determine whether the municipality has the authority to impose one. Staff are expected to report back to council as soon as possible, but no concrete timeline was provided during Monday’s meeting.

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Council's action was irresponsible, at the least

By Merv Unger

1212 - Just when you relax just a little, confident that things could not get worse at our local city council, along they come and prove you wrong.

If reports from Monday’s council meeting are correct, Coun. Bill Yoachim and council voted to ban the use of plastic bags in the retail sector. Coun Yoachim pushed the motion through even though he admitted he didn’t know whether council has the authority to institute such a ban.

This is not about whether to ban plastic bags, but the arrogance in forging ahead before a staff report and charging ahead, legal or not. A staff report which will now come after the fact, could have spelled out options available to the city before making a final decision.

What was passed was a "mom and apple pie" resolution, with an attitude of "we'll see if it floats", pandering to a delegation before council. Even the spokesman for the delegation was surprised.

That attitude spells out that the majority of councillors don’t care about the rules, although we’ve known that for some time. Now they’re just flaunting it in the open. Legislating in such a manner is totally irresponsible.

Dangerous virus has infected city council

Brian Peckford

Dear Editor:

I read the News Bulletin online edition story about the Council discussion on retail plastic bags and whether they should be banned or some sort of levy imposed. 

Sadly , the virus had already struck . One of the councillors exclaimed that council should go ahead and ban the bags and find out later whether they had he authority to do so. I quote: 

‘Councillor Bill Yoachim, who made the motion, said there was no point of waiting for a staff report. He said the city should instead ban plastic bags from retailers and then figure out what they’re allowed to do.’ 

This is called called NPS – Nancy Pelosi Syndrome – after this US Senator, who a few years ago , exclaimed that the 1,000 page Obamacare legislation should be passed first and then the Senators could read it at their leisure. 

It is a very dangerous syndrome and it’s spread, now manifested in Nanaimo City Hall, could have long lasting repercussions; one of its lasting effects is the utter absence of common sense. 
Brian Peckford 
Nitinat Way 
Nanaimo

City management opposed to legal action over comments

Tracy Samra

CITY OF NANAIMO NEWS RELEASE

The City of Nanaimo administration wholeheartedly supports the proposition that freedom of speech is the cornerstone of our democracy and public institutions and public officials should be open to close scrutiny and lawful comment and criticism.
“Although the courts have made it clear pub lic officials are entitled to protection from malicious defamatory attacks, the City of Nanaimo administration is not recommending that Council authorize or fund legal action over any defamatory statements to date concerning unelected or elected officials, ” states Tracy Samra, Chief Administrative Officer, “Generally, libel lawsuits are not an effective use of public resources or taxpayer monies.”
The City intends to remain vigilant, however, alerting Nanaimo residents to misleading or inaccurate informatio n about the operations of the administration or Council when appropriate. We are particularly concerned about deliberate falsehoods, distortion, or half - truths, which do not advance or promote an honest and transparent public discussion.

Citizens can engage directly with Mayor and Council by attending Council meetings, committee meetings, public hearings and community engagement sessions. Other ways to get in touch are to send a letter, write an email Mayor and Council at mayor&council@nanaim.ca, ask f or an in - person appointment at City Hall or call 250 - 755 - 4400.

The City of Nanaimo a dministration employs 700+ staff whose primary goal is to serve their community effectively and enjoy interacting with people at various civic facilities. “We deliver progr ams and services and keep the internal operations running smoothly. Our job is to carry out the will of Council,” notes Ms. Samra, “ I f the public does not agree with Council decisions they need to let them know .” If something is broken or you are not satis fied with the level of service you are getting from staff, you can contact the various City departments listed on our website.

The vast majority of people who communicate with City staff are civil and conscientious. However, r ecently City staff have experi enced a surprising increase in uncivil telephone calls, belligerent emails and abusive posts on the City’s social media platforms. The City of Nanaimo, as would any responsible employer, chose to study the risks posed by increasing incivility for the safet y and wellbeing of City s taff in the workplace. In part , as a response to this phenomenon, the City reported some of the most virulent messages to the RCMP; in some cases, some users have been blocked from our online platforms.

The City encourages reside nts to visit our website at www.nanaimo.ca, twitter and YouTube channel for important updates and information regarding City operations.

Economic and tourism development update

In December 2016, City Council dissolved the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation (NEDC), bringing economic development and tourism functions back in house. Through this transition, a number of changes took place to ensure that both functions continued to operate within the community while providing a higher level of service to residents, businesses, stakeholders and visitors. 

Recently, the City placed its Economic Development department in the Real Estate and Business Development section of Community Development. This placement benefits the Economic Development team by placing them in regular contact with investors, along with staff handling development inquiries and issuing building permits. Bill Corsan, Deputy Director of Community Development, now oversees the Economic Development department.

MORE HERE

City accepting applications for revitalization funding

The City of Nanaimo is now accepting applications from community organizations seeking financial assistance to support downtown Nanaimo events through the Downtown Event Revitalization Fund. The fund supports events and initiatives that attract residents and visitors to the downtown.

MORE HERE

Samra looking to update staff expense policy

1209 The City's chief administrative officer Tracy Samra wants to update exployee expense policies. She released a statement Friday that she had asked staff to update employee expense policies.

In the statement, Samra said Nanaimo’s policies have not been revised for more than 10 years, are “out of sync with public service standards” and need to be reviewed.

The policies that will be updated relate to petty cash, alcohol expenditures, travel guidelines, travel expense advances and the company credit card.

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City managers have not met with CUPE over latest issues

UPDATE - CITY management staff and union representatives havenot met to discuss concerns. A statement posted on the city’s website late Friday afternoon, stated chief administrative officer Tracy Samra, chief financial officer Victor Mema and director of human resources John Van Horne “met executive of CUPE Local 401 to discuss mutual concerns.”

But union local president Blaine Gurrie said in an e-mail that the meeting was a couple of weeks ago and related to other matters.

On Thursday, hundreds of CUPE 401 union workers boycotted a city Christmas luncheon to protest employment conditions.

EARLIER STORY - City management staff and union representatives have met to discuss their concerns.

A statement on the city’s website late Friday afternoon said chief administrative officer Tracy Samra, chief financial officer Victor Mema and director of human resources John Van Horne “met executive of CUPE Local 401 to discuss mutual concerns.”

Hundreds of CUPE 401 union workers boycotted a city Christmas luncheon on Thursday to protest employment conditions.

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Nanaimo taxpayers need a deeper audit of city spending

By Don White

1128 - To paraphrase Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness”, “The questions! The questions!” In Nanaimo's current financial morass, where do we even start assessing our city's fiscal management?

City Hall is now claiming taxpayers need to pony up an additional 2.6% in property taxes, 7.6% more for water, 24% for garbage, 5% for sewer to cover a projected operating shortfall. According to our CFO, Victor Mema, the increases are necessary because our tax base hasn't grown enough to cover increased costs.

Does Mema mean Nanaimo's tax base hasn't grown enough in the eight months since the Event Centre fiasco in February, 2017? That's when the majority of this Council - along with Mema and CAO, Tracy Samra - claimed no tax increases were needed to cover a $5.4M annual payment on the $80-million arena mortgage this council wanted you to cosign. 

Read Don's entire column here. 

City views legal action for libel and slander

The City of Nanaimo hired a specialized law firm to review potential libel and slander instances.

Defamation experts McConchie Law Corporation began work for the city as early as November 1.

The North Vancouver-based firm has viewed Internet postings by residents and news articles critical of city staff and council.

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