Thursday, December 20, 2012

UEL Moving Forward with Democratic Goverannce - UNA's turn is coming!

The UEL is moving forward toward municipal status - real, effective, local government.  The Citizen's Advisory Council of the UEL voted unanimously on December 10th to initiate the process of political self-rule.

Citing the colonial status of the UEL in reference to the Provincial government, CAC Chair Ron Pears says the time is now for real government in the UEL.  The CAC will now investigate the level of support for incorporation as a municipal government and get a feasibility study underway.

The UEL has 4000 residents.  By contrast, the UNA area has 8000 residents. The move by the UEL residents is a positive sign for us in the UNA.  Now, with the election of the OUR candidates and with our campaign commitment of moving toward "A real local government" we too should be able to start the process of Independence and effective local governance.  Like our neighbours in the UEL we too suffer under a form of colonial administration, but between the province and us is UBC whereas the UEL residents can at least directly address the provincial government.

I'm looking forward to a deepening discussion and real action on the democratic deficit front as we move to the new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cash Payment to Legal Firm for Campus Resident Articles

Recently the UNA Board passed a motion to provide consulting fees for research on leasehold property values.  The request came from Jim Taylor, former long serving UNA Chair and Legal Counsel to the UNA.  Taylor solicited support for a series of articles(link to pdf of request) that he is writing for the Campus Resident (the first of which is published on page 4 of the December 2012 Campus Resident).  Taylor explains that the money is not for him, but is for two researchers (one who works in his law firm and the other who is connected to UBC Properties Trust).  The $15,000 is approximately 50% of Taylor’s proposed budget, the remaining half to be solicited from UBC.

The recommendation to approve the cash payment for writing a series of articles came from the closed door Standing Committee on Operations and Sustainability.  As the proceedings of the UNA Standing Committees remain cloistered I am not at liberty to comment on what may have been said during the closed door private meeting. 

In the December 2012 Campus Resident UNA Chair Richard Alexander is quoted saying:
“It is in the interest of the UNA, owners and the university that leasehold property values remain high. The quality of the lease for UNA properties is considered very good. However there can be a significant impact on the value of the lease if leases in surrounding areas are not as good” (see brief story bottom right page 2). 
Thus, the series of articles are designed to somehow maintain lease hold properties for UNA building owners.

At the December UNA Board meeting I raised two concerns with paying former UNA Chair Jim Taylor’s firm cash to fund his series of articles: a question of equity and transparency of the UNA and a question as to the appropriate role of the UNA to attempt to interfere with the real-estate market..

A question of equity: There is currently no transparent process by which any person can fairly apply for similar funding.  Currently there are many residents who have and who may in the future consider writing articles for the Campus Resident.  Many of these articles have and will rely upon research and expertise.  Yet we have no publically accountable process to determine which such proposal should be turned down and which should be funded.  I wonder if this means we will now provide research funding for every series of articles that might require background research and the hiring of research assistants?  I suspect not.  So unless we have a transparent public process in place for community members and or other writers to apply for research funding making this cash payment raises an issue of potential or perceived conflict of interest; a situation that is complicated by the close relation between the author and the UNA.  Absent of a public competitive process independently adjudicated it strikes me as inappropriate for the board to fund research assistants to provide background data to support the writing of this series or any other series of articles.

Role of the UNA.  I find it difficult to reconcile the UNA’s purported role as local governance with that of real estate property value booster. The UNA is supposed to represent residents – not owners.  While many of us living in the UNA own leaseholds, a great number of us also rent.  Is it really the UNA’s role to promote or provide context for the maintenance of property values.  Is this the proper role of local governance to provide mechanisms for maintaining and augmenting property values?  Clearly for some residents and the majority of the UNA Directors maintaining and augmenting property values does appear to be a key role of the UNA. The beneficiaries of such a policy, however, will be properly property holders as a class, not UNA members in general.

I have no disagreement with the idea of writing articles about lease values.  I do find the process of allocating this payment problematic in terms of issues of equity and that the focus on property values lies outside of the UNA’s proper role as local government.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tweeting UNA Board Meeting, Dec. 11, 2012

 The following are a direct quote of my tweets from the last UNA Board of Directors meeting Dec. 11, 2012.   The tweets are posted in reverse chronological order.  So, if you want the 'as it happened flow,' scroll to the bottom and then read toward the top!

meeting over and fairly uneventful this time. Nice to have the reports at beginning just Q&A!
CRA deems services pst/gst taxable - cost about several 100 thousands
Listen In approved for three sections starting in the new year.
Listen In workshop approval final approval again before the board
Motion to post standing committee agendas online -a halfway step toward public meeting accountability and transparency.
Motion on monthly update from directors rather than individual reports from directors.
Voting on holding workshop on social media

Maria Harris Electoral Area A report. Transportation question
AMS microbrewery project raised - questions about smell and effect on residential. Board Meeting
TB asks about garbage facilities on institutional lands beside residential areas - what is 's policy about garbage.
Two funding requests from Jim Taylor coming up. 1 funding for children's park; the other funds his research for articles on lease values.
ExecDir responds that noise bylaw in progress - expect January
Now on to the ExecDir's report - questions from the board. TB asks: What' up with noise bylaw?
Governance Standing Committee report - missed a few items that need to be put on the Board agenda . . . need to get our act together :)
Aquatic Centre construction start up Aug 2013, opening within 2 years thereafter.
Like most public buildings these days, some retail space to be included in Aquatic Centre. The reach of free market liberalism.
Kavie Toor, UBC Athletics, speaking on the new Aquatic Centre at the meeting
And we are off! The meeting is about to begin.
The last Board meeting of 2012 coming up soon. Live tweeting on this channel :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rose Point - a life long advocate for education.

Rose Point was, by all accounts, an amazing person.  Originally from Seabird Island near Mission, Rose spent much of her adult life advocating for education and human rights. Educational philosopher, Nel Noddings, advocates a pedagogy of care: Rose embodied this ideal through her commitment to education for all people. 

Colleagues in my department at UBC speak with warmth about the ways that Rose touched their lives.  Rose touched many lives, not just those here at UBC - she worked tirelessly in her home community to see the rights of her people respected; she advocated for children in our public schools; she provided educational support at BCIT; she was a life long learner and a mentor and teacher. 

Rose passed away July 2012.

It would would be a powerful act of respect to place Rose Point's name upon the new K-8 school being built at UBC.

Here is a short list of pieces written about Rose.
The VSB link for suggesting a name for the new UBC area K-8 school can be found here.  

Name the New VSB School @ UBC

There's been a flurry of media attention surrounding the chance to name the new K-8 school in the UBC area. 

Here's a summary of the stories so far:

There has already been quite a bit of response with nearly 100 submissions to date, according to VSB staff.  Don't forget to add your thoughts on the new name by clicking on this VSB link

Friday, November 23, 2012

Name a New K-8 School at UBC!

Its finally happening!  After years of lobbying, political action, and community pressure two new schools are finally going to open in the UBC area. I've covered this saga on my In Support of Public Education blog and was very active in the campaign as a member of the U Hill Parents Advisory Council (2004-2009).  Now we are getting a chance to suggest a name for the new K-8 school being built on the site of the Old University Hill Secondary School!

My family and I first lived on campus in 1996. My sons started in kindergarten at Ecole Jules Quesnel, named after a European adventurer who accompanied the Scottish merchant explorer Alexander MacKenzie on his transcontinental voyage to the Pacific.  Soon thereafter one of my boys transferred to a school named for a British Monarch - Queen Elizabeth.  For highschool one went to University Hill Secondary and the other went to a school named after an English prime minister, Churchill.  In 2001 our family moved out of the Acadia neighbourhood, named after an area in Greece that was itself transplanted and placed over top of Mi'kmaq lands on the east coast, into an area of campus that eventually was named Hawthorn Place, after the anthropologists Harry Hawthorn (who incidentally made his career studying Indians and collecting aboriginal objects).

A close survey of the nearby schools presents the following list of illustrious Imperialist, warmongers, monarchs, and notable old white men: Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Jules Quesnel, General Gordon, Henry Hudson, Lord Kitchner, Lord Byng, Lord Tennyson, and Prince of Wales.

Others are named after locations, a good many of which are themselves the names of illustrious aged imperialists, country estates or places of  battles: University Hill, Trafalgar, Carnarvon, Bayview, Kerrisdale, Shaughnesey.

Only two schools carry names derived from aboriginal origins: Kitsilano and Quilchena. Kitsilano is derived from the name of a Coast Salish chief. Quilchena, however, is derived from a place name related to an interior indigenous community.  There are no school names on the west side of Vancouver's school district that honour the people upon whose unceded and traditional territory we are all living.

Unrestrained development at UBC has created the need for more schools - but the combination of jurisdictions - UBC, VSB, UEL, Metro, Province . . . etc. made finding a solution almost impossible. It was a minor miracle to finally get an agreement for the location of the new highschool, to get approval for design, and then the go ahead from the province to actually build the school. Through this process several generations of school boards and many different trustees worked hard to bring this to us.  Finally we get to one of the most enjoyable aspects of the process -suggesting a new name for the school.

For me this process is even more exciting as after all of these years of lobbying for the new school I have been fortunate enough to find myself a member of the advisory committee of stakeholders that will help select a name for the new school.  The criteria are fairly broad and can be found on the VSB name the school we page. I am looking forward to being part of the process that will consider a wide variety of suggestions.  Ultimately I am hopeful that we will be able to suggest to the School Board a name (or names) that honour the people upon whose lands our new school is being built and all the people who have worked to make education possible and meaningful throughout our great province!

Tweeting the UNA Board of Directors Meeting, Nov. 13, 2012.

 The following are a direct quote of my tweets from the last UNA Board of Directors meeting Nov. 13, 2012.  Apologies for delay in posting them here - was away at a professional conference.  The are posted in reverse chronological order.  So, if you want the as it happened flow, scroll to the bottom and then read toward the top! Tweeting and other forms of live broadcast has become a standard practice in most government bodies with everyone from MPs to school board Trustees tweeting during meetings.  At the same time the media are also doing this as well as many members of the general public.  It's an interesting form of direct reporting that allows for an expanded circle of engagement in the democratic process.

UNA meeting over. Will have to think about this one. What's the deal with democracy? It should be a simple answer. Go for it. But. . .
Director Franks suggests thermostat setting as a fiscal cost savings.
Parking issues continue as an issue with . Public consultation coming up Nov. 20
OUR directors flub on major commitment to openness in vote.
What's the deal with Directors fear of being in the open?
Concerns expressed that only media would attend. Talk of only making committee meetings open to UNA residents.
Motion to make standing committee meetings public fails, with only one vote in favour
Very interesting. not a democratic organization?
UNA voting down democratic practice due to fear of openness
Beyer now jumping in saying we need to have informal meetings - we can have too much openness. Need private time.
Debating proposal on holding standing committees in the public domain. Chair Alexander suggests need to have private discussions.
Community delegations: Bill Holmes presents a proposal for electoral change. Suggests 3 yr terms along with all civic elections.
Maria Harris talking about needed rapid transit line along Broadway Corridor to .
Maria Harris, Electoral Area A Director, gives report. Focusing on eco-depot idea for the area.
Who manages the Chair Alexander asks the AMS rep: "they say we don't like students" says Alexander. We don't control them says rep.
Transportation and traffic issues around the new school discussed. Director Frank suggestions free candy to encourage walking !
Noise by-law issue brought up by Director Beyers - Exec Directore JF met with to discuss MOU for noise enforcement.
Listen In report that will be discussed later in the agenda - yup, posted to my blog
A bit of a kerfuffle regarding letter writing on behalf of the UNA - referred to the governance committee to go through the process.
Menzies' says, in response to Beyer, that the only way to have accountability is have public reporting as Chair, Secretary, etc.
Director Beyer takes issue with Menzies' issuing a secretary's report and with posting items on his blog.
Office space versus government centre - Knight says that multipurpose rooms in Centre could be repurposed once building is done.
UBC Admin Nancy Knight cautions that making a government space in the CC would derail the entire process. . . . . Not a surprise here.
Feeley responding to Beyer's question about UNA offices in Centre. Discussion of 'office' space in building versus government centre.
"Are squeals of joy acceptable?" asks Director Frank as she studies the artist's conception of the planned community centre.
Site plan of new community centre being presented. Will remove most, if not all, of remaining 2nd growth forest.
Abandoned LEED certification saves $50,000 out of $10million capital budget. . Interesting.
Going 'LEED' Gold equivalent; but not LEED. Rather a desinged process.
New community Centre planned to be open Summer 2014 Let's hope target deadline is realized!
Extra daycare space being added to community centre - over&above the 30000 sq ft planned centre.
Mike Feeley presents on the new Wesbrook Place Community Centre and related development process
UNA meeting in U-Town about to start. Live-tweeting through the meeting tonight.