Monday, July 29, 2013

Richard Alexander tosses the first pitch @ Nobel Park

Richard Alexander, UNA Chair, tosses the first pitch to celebrate the opening of Nobel Park Baseball Field, July 27, 2013. 

Alexander demonstrated his decisive Chairmanship with three swift strikes pitched at a burning pace over home plate.  Backstop, Luna the UNA Cow, was heard commenting after the event that their hooves were burning from the impact.

UNA's Noise Bylaw and Landscaping Power Equipment Compliance

Nearly one full year after being approved by the UBC BoG the UNA’s noise bylaw is in the process of being placed into operation. If it is implemented in full accord with the wording of the bylaw then we should anticipate noticing some significant changes in the audio environment over the next few years.  It would seem that most of the landscaping practices in the UNA are not in compliance with the noise bylaw.  Bringing landscaping firms into compliance with the bylaw will create the potential for more environmentally friendly landscaping practices and a more pleasant sonic environment.

The opening lines of clause 9 of the Noise Bylaw reads as follows: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Bylaw the following are declared to be Noises which are objectionable or liable to disturb the Quiet of any person and are hereby prohibited and no person being the owner or occupant of any Premises shall Cause.”  This is followed with a list of prohibited noises.  Under subsection 9(d) power equipment is deemed a prohibited noise “except between 0800 hours to 1800 hours on any week day that is not a Holiday or between the hours of 1000 hours to 1700 hours on any Saturday that is not a Holiday.”  This would seem to allow an exception that would permit power equipment of any noise level as long as its operation is restricted to weekdays 8am to 6pm and Saturdays 10am to 5pm.  However, power equipment does appear to be covered under the provisions of clause 10 that concerns continuous noise.

Clause 10 stipulates that “No person shall Cause Continuous Sound the Sound Level of which: (a) during the Daytime exceeds a rating of 55 on an Approved Sound Meter when received at a Point of Reception; or (b) during the Nighttime exceeds a rating of 45 on an Approved Sound Meter when received at a Point of Reception.” This clause does not prohibit power equipment; it does however limit the sound level of such power equipment.

One might argue that the “notwithstanding” used in the opening of clause 9 renders the restriction of the sound level clause ineffective.  However, it would seem to me that the notwithstanding is in specific reference to what noises are deemed to be prohibited, tout court.  Clause 10 compliments clause 9 by qualifying the extent of disruptive sounds within the common areas of the UNA.  Specifically clause 10 refers to Continuous Sound, “which means any Noise occurring for a duration of more than three minutes, or occurring continually, sporadically or erratically but totaling more than three minutes in any 15 minute period of time.” 

What this means is that we need to ensure that the landscaping contactors are apprised of the noise bylaw and that we develop effective noise mitigation operational rules and procedures so that our contractors can act in compliance with the noise bylaw.  At present power equipment is operated in the UNA areas

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fairness and Campaign Spending Limits

Most people in our society will agree that things should be fair.  We want fairness in hiring policies, fairness in sports, fairness in educational assessment, and fairness in politics (at least most of us).  Of course agreeing on what counts as fairness is harder then agreeing on the abstract idea that things should be fair. 

At the last standing committee on governance of the UNA I proposed a set of revisions to the UNA's longstanding campaign rules and policies. The proposals at the June governance meeting followed on a discussion during the previous meeting of the committee.  It seemed to me that the then current rules lacked a certain amount of fairness.

First, the voters list (essentially the UNA membership list) is only provided to candidates as a pdf.  While one can with some effort convert that document into a spreadsheet, it would have seemed reasonable to provide the info to candidates in a more modern and usable format. 

Second, the rules on signage are, in my opinion, rather silly and ultimately unenforceable.  We spent close to 30 minutes going over the signage rules in the June governance meeting and worked out a modest compromise.  My view is that candidates should be allowed to post signs within the public domain.  Not everyone (directors or staff) agrees with that viewpoint.  But, we had worked out a compromise that focused  on the UNA reserving the right to remove a sign for good cause rather than an outright ban or a carte blanch open terrain signage policy.

Thirdly, we introduced a campaign spending limit.  It seemed to me that an arbitrary number (10% of the stipend paid to ordinary directors) was reasonable.   The criteria and policies was full of holes and any (as my father would say) fo'c'sle accountant could weasel around them with finesse (for the curious, such an accountant is a crew member on a commercial fishboat who has added up all the costs of the fishing trip, calculated how much fish has been caught, and then determined what they will make - typically inflated- long before the fish are even caught or sold).  But of spending limits the idea was based in the genuine trust and belief that most people would be honest and fair-minded and do their best to follow the rules and more importantly agree that using money to win an election is not fair.   Why, I wonder, would any person want to spend more than a few hundred dollars?  What sort of person wants to buy election to the UNA through massive spending?  Little did I realize that there would be reasonable people who would stand up on hind legs and (metaphorically) roar with indignation over the thought that their civil liberties would be undermined by the 'pernicious act' of a campaign spending limit.

Ultimately a combination of bad timing and circumstances has resulted in the withdrawal of the 2013 rules and the rolling over of the operational rules and policies that the 2012 UNA Board implemented.

For those who are curious the recommendations of the standing committee were to go to the July UNA Board meeting.  However that meeting was cancelled due to the absence of Thomas Beyer (on holiday) Nancy Knight (on medical leave) and myself (I was in remote coastal location conducting research as part of my regular responsibility as a UBC faculty member).  Thus there was no quorum and the July board meeting was cancelled.  This left the UNA board with a dilemma - we are bound to call an election and issue the appropriate notices in a timely fashion in advance of the Annual General Meeting.  This year the meeting is a bit earlier than normal (September 18) so we had even less time then we might have normally.  So the decision was made to send out the notices rather than defer the AGM and the election of directors.

This is when it was brought to our attention by our own legal counsel that while the UNA has the full legal right to set rules and policies regarding the election (including setting spending limits) the standing committees (even though they are comprised of the full board) can't act without the Board's authority which is only possible to formally enact at a full board meeting.  To cut a long story short we were not able to rely upon the June governance committee decision to approve the rules.  If we had been able to approve the rules at the board meeting we would be fully within our legal rights to do so. 

So this year's election will follow the rules established by last year's board  (Resident directors were: Laquin, Mah, Frank, and Beyers).  We will have to wait for next year to revise and improve the rules of the election.