Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve - UNA Year in Review

I was thinking of starting off with an opening like this: "It's been an amazingly transformative year at the UNA." But that wouldn't be right.  Realistically, not much has been transformed.

I guess for some of us this is a good thing.  As long as the lawns are mowed, parking is readily available, student neighbours reasonably quiet, and property values holding steady it would seem that a good number of folks in the UNA area don't notice and don't care what the UNA does and seem to have even less interest in real local democracy.  And for those who do seem to notice and care about what the UNA does it may well be that the majority of this minority of people like and benefit from keeping things just the way they are.

I feel, however, compelled to highlight what might best be called a positive take on the UNA year that was.  Okay. Let's see. Well, we commissioned a lot of external consultant reports this past year to:
  1. examine how to improve Director's stipends and to compare just how 'municipal-like' we are.
  2. collect input on information priorities and how to keep residents informed about UNA projects, programs, and services.
  3. improve the orientation of Directors by hiring a special consultant firm,
  4. and then some other consultants reports that I'm not sure whether I am allowed to mention so I won't mention
We also moved toward completion of the soccer field by the high school and are anticipating opening the new community centre in Westbrook Place summer of 2015. 

We set a election record this fall with one candidate topping the polls with more than 1,000 votes.

Did we address any of the fundamental problems with the way UBC runs the show in the UNA area? Nope.  Are we likely to? Probably not.  Does it matter?  I'd like to think that it should.

There has been some progress on the UBC/UNA front.  We now have 'high-level' quarterly meetings (in camera of course) between the UNA Directors and key individuals of UBC's top administration.  UBC has also added a new engagement charter and has introduced community conversations.  At the very least they really want us to understand that they want to talk with us (joint governance or self-rule, that's not on the table).  The first event for residents will be January 6th, 2015.  The UNA has signed on as co-sponsor and is in process to make this a regular part of what we now call community engagement.     

When I was first elected to the UNA Board we set up a series of community events under the headline Listen In.  The idea was that the board was to attend and listen to what our community had to say and then to act on what was said.  Listen In was premised upon an idea of participatory community democracy.  It was designed to provide a direct link between UNA residents and those of us charged with representing UNA residents.  However, since many of the things that residents wanted action on fall outside of the capacity of the UNA Board and under the control of UBC those residents wanting improvements became disillusioned with the process.  The end result was a shift back to a status quo style of governance in which some of those who represent the UNA meet quietly behind closed doors with members of the UBC Power Structure and from time to time announce developments.   

A decade ago a friend and I were writing the introduction to a collection of essays about the role of anthropology in building a better world.  We had surveyed the literature, reviewed current events and affairs, and had come to the glum conclusion that truth be told things just seemed to get worse.  But then he said "Well, this is a growth opportunity.  With things this bad it can only get better!"  I had to laugh.  Count on my friend to see the positive side. The same must apply here.  Things can only get better!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Community Cameras

Community Cameras was a great project initiated by Old Barn Community Centre staff.

Here are some photos that came from the project.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sunday Night Robbery at the Old Barn

Sometime late Sunday evening (Nov. 23rd) the Old Barn Community Centre was robbed.  Thieves made off with cash, electronics, and critical community centre equipment and supplies.  The RCMP and UBC security were called to the scene and the investigation is currently underway.  The Old Barn facilities were closed briefly Monday morning while police and staff took stock of damages.

Friday, November 14, 2014

UNA Budget Consultation Process: a cutback budget

Please take note that the UNA Budget process consultation is about to begin.  

This year, due to the way the UBC Service Levy is set up, there is an anticipated decrease in UNA funding.  For reference, the service levy is calculated from the difference between the BC Rural Property Tax mill rate and the City of Vancouver residential property tax mill rate.   Thus the UNA has no control over our annual funding levels. There is a special fund called the rate stabilization fund that the UNA can draw from to cover drops in the service levy.  The UNA Board has agreed to take up to 300,000 to cover part of the rate disparity.  
At the same time the board has prepared and will be presenting a budget for public consultation in which cuts have been suggested across many line items.  One of particular interest to the community includes a reduction of community centre operating hours at the old barn which would lead to reduced hours of operation starting summer 2015 (so, instead of opening at 7am, the Old Barn would open at 8:30; plus closing early on weekend evenings and stat holidays).  The suggestion is that with the new community centre coming on stream in the summer of 2015 services at the old barn can be replaced with services at the new community centre.  

It would seem that since the projection is for a one time drop in service levies and that the extra costs for 2015 are one time costs associated with opening the new community centre,  an argument could be made to maintain operational hours at the Old Barn Community Centre over the period of concern.  It may well be that the problem is short lived and that after a review of real costs in 2015 we will have no real need to cut hours. 

The cuts to community centre hours of operation to save about $30,000.  However, the real big ticket items in the 100s of thousands of dollars that we have involve landscaping (at a level far higher than truly necessary or environmentally sustainable) and access fee payments  (UBC Athletics, the Museum of Anthropology, the Botanical Gardens, etc).  

The staff and finance committee have worked hard to find a balance of cuts and preservation approaches.  With community feedback perhaps we can find creative and relevant solutions to the current budgetary issues.  For example, do we need to have the lawns cut so frequently and often?  Are the watering regimes in play a reasonable expense?  Are the fees we pay to UBC Athletics reasonable?  What costs in the new community centre can be deferred one, two, or three years until the service levy catches up?

One solution that I offer as a director is it is time that we stopped using high priced consultants to do all manner of things for us – like the study on comparing us to a municipality.  I voted for that, but in retrospect it was not a wise use of UNA funds.  Or our current communications consultant is equal to the cuts in Old Barn hours of operation, but what will it ultimately show us that we couldn't have figured out by ourselves at far less expense? We are planning to spend (an item previous approved sometime ago) tens of thousands of dollars on a community survey, much of which info could be garnered from census data. But this is just my opinion.  I look forward to hearing the opinions, perspectives, and ideas of all UNA members.  It is especially important to have feedback from those of us who use the services that are on the cutting block.

UNA Online Budget Consultation

2015/16 UNA Operating Budge

The UNA Board of Directors invites you to review the UNA Operating Budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 (April 1, 2015 - March 31, 2016).  The budget documents will be available online Nov. 14, 2014.  Please send your comments and feedback by 4:30 pm on November 26, 2014 by email.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On a day like today

On a day like today it's hard not to be appreciative of living at the edge of Point Grey within UBC's residential community.  The sun is out, a light breeze blows on shore, and from my office window I can see clear up the Gulf Of Georgia (Salish Sea).  This morning I was able to step outside my backdoor and go for a run without having to worry about traffic.  Later I biked across campus to a meeting and to my departmental office in the Anthropology Building on the north edge of campus.  All in all it's a great place to live and work.

Sometimes people get locked into a binary way of thinking.  If I see problems I must be dissatisfied with something.  Or, if I find something great I refuse to disrupt my good feeling by recognizing areas that can be improved.  I think that we all know that in all things we like there are things to improve; that in things we dislike there are often kernels of the positive.   Yet, I wonder why is it that as human beings we often allow the false polarization of issues to guide our actions.

As an undergraduate in the early 1980s at Simon Fraser University I took a number of courses on east African history.  The professor, Phillip Stigger, had been a colonial administrator in Tanganyika before independence.  Then, after independence, he worked for the Julius Nyerere government of Tanzania.  I enjoyed these courses.  For the most part we explored the period of British Colonial rule, the rise of independence movements, and the subsequent modern history of the new independent nations.  These courses were not taught from the then still popular ideas of national liberation and anti-colonialism.  They were taught from the perspective of a man who had been there and observed the fall of empire and the rise of independent democratic regimes.  His taught us a critical, not an ideological, history.  He pointed out errors of colonial and independent rule. He discussed what worked well.  He drove us to consider evidence, not conjecture.   One of what I consider to be my most important lessons on democracy came from listening to this small 'c' conservative historian: the idea that change will come even when those in power don't want it.

Change will come. The point as I recall the lessons was how best to manage it.  Do you hold on like the white minority governments did in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa?  Do you try to create slow legislative reforms leading gradually to responsible local government? Of course, the reality we learned, fell somewhere in between planing and serendipity.  Ultimately the transition was about managing insurgency, and realizing the the days of minority colonial authority were limited.

I learned that in east Africa there were those who wanted the British to stay in power: they benefited by the colonial regime, they gained privileges that they might not otherwise had if local democracy had been maintained.  There were also those who were afraid that they might loose more then they would gain, even as they chaffed under the authoritarian controls of the British. In the independence movement there were those who were impatient for change, others who cautioned "take a slow pace." There were many perspectives in play. Reflecting back on those lessons I now think about that core lesson, the idea that change does come, and that when there is one group who unfairly hold all the power they will eventually loose that power.  The only question is to what extent they can figure out how to relinquish some control, to meet some needs, without unleashing more chaotic forces or finding themselves totally driven out of the seats of power.

This brings me back to living at UBC.

It's been a great place to bring up a family. It's a great place to live. I enjoy my neighbourhood and take pleasure from all that there is here to enjoy and benefit from.  I also recognize that my community suffers a serious democratic deficit.  It matters little how benevolent or understanding the University Administration might be it does not excuse them from criticism.

Change will come to the university residential areas too. There are people in the university areas who benefit from our current arrangements.  They will likely loose their special privileges once real democracy arrives.  But so many more of us will benefit and ultimately we all will grow  through addressing the real democratic deficit that we have here.

There are many world class universities that exist in the middle of major cities.  These universities show that being part of a city that has democratic structures in place is not a bad thing.  Being truly part of a city, being part of the cosmopolitanism of a majour urban centre will spark creativity and innovation.  Trying to rule over a city is a distraction that UBC can ill afford to maintain.

On a day like today, with the ocean breeze and the sun, is a good time to make the move toward divesting UBC from the shackles of colonial rule.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Proposed ToR for UNA Election Procedures and Policies Advisory Committee

UPDATE (Oct. 31, 2014): the terms of reference were modified at the Governance Committee for greater clarity.  Details will be forthcoming in the upcoming November UNA Board Package.

Following my proposal to the UNA Board, first in the September Governance Committee meeting and then again at the October Board meeting, the Board finally agreed to review UNA Election Policies and Procedures. At the Tuesday Governance Committee I have proposed the following terms of reference that, with possible modification, I trust will be recommended to the UNA Board.  The Oct. UNA Board motion also asked that the governance committee recommend the individuals to serve on the committee.  Not sure if we can do that in time for November - here's hoping!
The Board met on October 14, 201 and considered a proposal from UNA Director Charles Menzies to consider establishing an advisory committee on UNA election procedures and policies.
Moved by   , THAT the UNA Board of Directors will conduct a comprehensive review of the UNA elections policies and procedures  with the intent of improving the process in time for the 2015 UNA Elections. To assist the UNA Board of Directors, the Board will appoint an advisory committee, comprised of individuals with broad expertise in governance models and procedures to bring forward recommendations for its considerations. Further that the Board directs the Governance Standing Committee to:
1)     develop the terms of reference for the panel
2)     recommend the individuals to serve on the panel; and
3)     submit the terms of reference and the list of recommended individuals to the Board for approval at its November meeting.

Terms of Reference
1.     Purpose
The Elections Procedures and Policies Advisory Committee, a sub-committee under the Standing Committee on Governance, serves the UNA Board of Directors to conduct a comprehensive review of the UNA elections policies and procedures with the intent of improving the process in time for the 2015 UNA Elections.

2.     Objectives
The main objective of the UNA Elections Procedures and Policies Advisory Committee is to conduct a comprehensive review of the UNA’s current election procedures and policies.  To achieve this, it will focus on the following activities:

a.     To solicit UNA members input on the status of the current elections procedures and policies through written comments from UNA members and at least one public townhall meeting of UNA members.

b.     To assist the Board in enhancing the democratic structure of UNA Elections by identifying residents’  concerns and resolving issues, and to facilitate engaging residents in the election process.

c.     To assist the Board in designing and organizing an improved democratic election procedure and policy to be implemented in tie for the 2015 election.

3.     Composition
The UNA Election Procedures and Policies Advisory Committee will consists of individuals appointed by the Board of Directors who have specialized expertise in democratic governance models. A list of potential appointees will be compiled by the Governance Standing Committee and submitted to the UNA Board for approval at the November meeting of the Board. The Chair of the Governance Standing Committee will chair the Election Procedures and Policies Advisory Committee.

4.     Procedures
The Advisory Committee shall hold meetings on as needed basis and the Chair may call emergency meetings as needed. The chair will approve an agenda prepared by UNA staff and forward this to committee members at least three days before the meeting. A UNA staff may take the minutes subject to approval of the committee Chair. The Chair will send the draft minutes to all members and the committee at the next meeting will approve the final minutes incorporating revisions and corrections.

Following the Advisory Committee’s first meeting a public call for submissions on the UNA’s current election procedures and policies will be issued to UNA members via all UNA communication vehicles.  UNA members will be provided with at least 30 days to submit comments. 

The Advisory Committee will hold at least one public townhall meeting for UNA members on the subject of review of UNA Election Procedures and Policies within the first three months of the committee’s existence.

5.     Reports
The Advisory Committee will submit reports of activities at the monthly regular meetings of the Governance Standing Committee.  

The Advisory Committee will submit a final report that
a.     summarizes all written and oral submissions on the current UNA Election Procedures and Policies. 
b.     Recommends to the Board, through the Governance Standing Committee, a revised election procedures and policies that addresses concerns and advice of UNA membership.
Additional reports may be submitted on special activities and projects carried out by the Committee.

c.     Resources
The UNA Board of Directors will allocate resources needed by the Election Procedures and Policies Advisory Committee in carrying out its functions.

Following Moved by,  ________,  that the Governance Standing Committee recommends to the Board of Directors that the Terms of Reference for the Election Procedures and Policies Advisory Committee be approved.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Democracy Cafe: a proposal to the UNA Board

The following is a proposal that I am brining forward to the UNA's Standing Committee on Governance as part of an integrated plan of improving and enhancing our local democratic capacity. 

The Democracy Café idea is based upon the concept set in play by the French philosopher Marc Sautet.  His idea is simple: a grassroots forum of discussion rooted in the general public.  Initiated in 1992 the idea has caught on world wide.  In the Lowermainland, SFU runs a widely popular and award winning series of cafés on all manner of subjects.  Our own Democracy Café would be designed to bring residents together in an informal, friendly setting to discuss face-to-face to discuss democracy, what if is, what it might be, what it can be.  As SFU states on it’s own web page: “Thinking the unthinkable, imagining the impossible, and discussing the improbable.

The UNA has a long history of creating general and specific purpose volunteer committees.  Currently the UNA sponsors the Garden Stewards, the Multicultural, and the Civic Engagement Committees which all act as volunteer gathering places with specific domains of activities and interests.  In the past the UNA created the Schools Action Committee, which was an advocacy committee. The UNA has also created volunteer sub-committees for by-law development regarding noise, parking, animals, and waste management.  Democracy Café involves aspects of all of the above, but is centered on creating a social space for creative engaged dialogue on an issue that is relevant to most residents in a setting that will be encouraging and welcoming and not directly tied to formal policy formulation.

Terms of Reference
1.     Purpose
The Democracy Café, a sub-committee under the Standing Committee on Governance, serves the UNA Board of Directors to promote engaged creative dialogue, on issues related to democratic practice locally and globally.

2.     Objectives
The main objective of the UNA Democracy Cafe is to build the UNA neighborhoods into a vibrant, inclusive, participatory, democratic community.  To achieve this, it will focus on the following activities:

a.     To host a series of ‘Philosophers’ Cafés at the Old Barn Community Centre.
b.     To facilitate a discussion of existing and potential democratic models. 
c.     To explore and discuss democracy movements in Canada and globally. 
d.     To carry out other functions and activities approved by the Board on engaging UNA residents in creative dialogue related to democratic practices locally and globally.

3.     Composition
The UNA Democracy Café is coordinate by a steering committee that consists of residents, and one or more elected resident directors and UNA staff as members.

4.     Procedures
The Steering Committee of Democracy Café shall hold meetings as needed for planning the activities anticipated under the objectives of Democracy Cafe.  The discussions at the philosophers’ café events will be summarized and made available to UNA residents and form a portion of the steering committee’s reports to the UNA.

5.     Reports
The Steering Committee of Democracy Café will submit a report on its activities at the monthly regular meetings of the Governance Standing Committee and at Board of Directors when needed. Additional reports may be submitted on special activities and projects carried out by the Committee

6.     Resources
The UNA Board of Directors will allocate resources needed by Democracy Café in carrying out its functions.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Proposal for Public Review of UNA Elections and Elections Policies

The following document and proposal is being presented to the UNA Board Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014.  This is a following up to my proposal that failed to be approved previously.  The older proposal was specifically focussed on the UNA balloting procedures.  This proposal is for a more general review of UNA elections and is designed to build upon community input and consultation. This item can be found under item D.2 of the Oct. 16th UNA Board of Directors agenda.

The UNA is a society under the Societies Act of BC. The UNA also, via the Neighbours’ Agreement, manages some of the services (as delegated by UBC) that a municipality might also deliver. Residents have an expectation that the UNA manage it’s affairs in as open and democratic a fashion as possible. Since being create by UBC in 2002 the UNA has slowly grown in membership as the overall residential population of the University Neighbourhoods have developed. Prior to 2002 Hampton Place was governed by a joint UBC Properties Trust – Council of Strata Chairs process that seemed to meet their needs. Hampton Place, at full build out, had just over 1000 units of housing. In 2001 the first residential units in Hawthorn Place were occupied. These buildings were all, initially, faculty staff rental buildings, and the Hampton Place governance model was inadequate and unable to accommodate the needs and interests of the new members of what came to be the UNA Area. As a consequence a democratic residents association was created, the Hawthorn Lane Residents Association, to advocate on behalf and to represent the interests of Hawthorn Place residents. The university eventually responded by setting up a majority appointed University Neighbourhoods’ Association, registered under the Societies Act of BC, to deal with the emerging concerns and governance issues of the non-institutional residential areas.

Over time the UNA has slowly added elected resident directors (as per a formula tied to number of residential units built). The early elections were small, involved few voters, and took place primarily at the Annual General Meeting. As the UNA governed area has increased to include Chancellor Place, Westbrook Place, and East Campus Neighbourhood, the number of potential and actual ballots cast has increased. Over this same period of time the voting process has developed into one in which ballots are mailed to registered UNA members, candidates are provided with a membership list of UNA members, candidates’ are allowed to reproduce ballots, candidates (or others) can solicit and hand in completed ballots, balloting is then closed at the start of the AGM which has now become regularly scheduled for the month of September (in the past the AGM was held during the late spring/early summer).

The current model of voting used by the UNA is consistent with that of a society or public enterprise but not with local area governments in BC. During the course of the past election for resident directors a series of community concerns have been raised. These concerns highlight practices that could undermine the legitimacy of the UNA electoral process and thereby undermine the UNA’s capacity to effectively conduct its business and to effectively represent UNA area residents. Concerns include: the standard practice of candidates reproducing their own copies of the ballots, direct solicitation of potential voters, simultaneously signing residents up as UNA members and soliciting their vote, and collecting discarded mail in ballots (found in AGM packages) and allegedly submitting them without the knowledge of the addressee. These are serious concerns. The UNA has an obligation to ensure that whatever electoral process is used it is one that is beyond reproach.

Proposed Motion
Moved by , that the UNA Board of Directors delegates the Chair of the Governance Committee to set in place an ad hoc public review of UNA Elections and Election Policies; that this review will consist of a panel of responsible individuals with experience in the study and development of democratic governance models, elections, and election procedures; that this panel of responsible individuals will take public input and comment in relation to improving the UNA Elections and Elections Policies; that notice of this review shall be placed in the October Edition of the Campus Resident, on the UNA web page and social media sites, and distributed via the UNA email notice system; that the panel of responsible individuals will consider written submissions and oral comments at at least one public forum, and; that this panel of responsible individuals shall report to the Governance Standing Committee with recommendations by November 25, 2014.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time for transparent public review of UNA

During my campaign I committed to doing my best to set in place a full and transparent administrative review of staffing, services, and communications.  I plan to bring this proposal to the next board meeting.

Over the UNA's 12 year history it has grown from a one man show appointed by UBC and housed in an office within UBC's institutional core.  Prior to the UNA residents living in Hampton Peace had a neighbourhood joint strata council chaired by UBC Properties Trust.  This seemed to work well for several years and, by all accounts would have continued working except for the changes brought about by opening of what came to be called Hawthorn Place.

Construction in Hawthorn Place began in the late 1990s with occupancy beginning in the winter of 2000/2001.  My family was part of the first wave of new residents.  There was no mechanism to work with us, problems with the developments arose, firetrucks and ambulances couldn't find us when an alarm went, UBCPT processes kept being broken.  So we formed a local residents' association: Hawthorn Lane Residents' Association.  Aside from lobbying UBCPT and UBC we organized the first Halloween event in Hawthorn Place (fireworks and a bonfire) and continued doing that until the Old Barn Community was built and took over that kind of programming.

In response to our lobbying and pressure on the university UBC fast-tracked the formation of the UNA but kept the Hampton Joint Strata Council (which later was expanded to try and replicate the Hampton model in the other local areas).  The UNA was formed with Jim Taylor as it's first appointed UBC Director and Chair in late 2002. And, as the say, the rest is history.

Today the UNA is operating one community centre with a second larger one one the way, a softball field and a soccer field.  We manage a multi-million dollar budget.  The one time all appointed board of directors now has five resident directors who are elected by the general membership and three directors appointed (2 by UBC, 1 by the AMS).  We have a management staff of an executive director, a business manager, an office administrator, a sustainability office, and engineer responsible for operations management, and a community centre manager.  We have a couple dozen part-time and ancillary staff involved in a variety of tasks.  We regularly hire consultants to prepare reports on aspects of our functions.  Yet, through all of this we have conducted no thorough, public, transparent review of our services and functions of the UNA to ensure that we are realistic, focussed, and actually are meeting the objectives we think we have or the purposes we have been established to fulfil.

I plan to bring to the UNA Board a proposal to initiate a series of public consultations to review UNA's staffing, services, and communications.  Are we providing staffing in areas that meet community interests and concerns?  How are we connecting with our fellow residents?  Can we shift from the current one-way communication model (where the UNA disseminates info out, but has no effective way to engage in dialogue or take info in)?  It is all well and good to hire some high paid consultants who have the UNA Board as their client.  That gives us some information. But, it doesn't matter how many consultant scan write a report that is no substitute for real, transparent, public engagement and dialogue.  Furthermore, relying upon consultants to write reports and provide recommendations simply allows Directors to escape responsibility for making their own decisions.  Ultimately, saying a consultant told us to do it is an abdication of our duties and responsibilities.

NOTE: this proposal will be brought to the October meeting of the Operations & Sustainability Standing Committee.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tax rates, UNA funding, and alternative solutions

UNA residents pay a two tier property tax.  The first portion, the BC rural tax is set and collected by the Province of BC.  The second portion, the UBC Service Levy, is set by an agreement between UBC and the GVRD that fixes the levy as the amount that is equal to the Vancouver residential property tax mill rate minus the BC rural tax mill rate.  The service levy is legally enforced by a provision of all of our UNA area leases.

Because the UBC Service Levy is contingent upon the rate of Vancouver's residential property tax the UNA has no fiscal control or certainty in the medium to long term.  Keep in mind that the UNA's budget comes totally from the UBC Service Levy.  NONE of the rural tax revenue comes to the UNA.  The result is that the UNA's tax revenues are ultimately set by the City of Vancouver.

Many of the discussion about UNA tax revenue has focussed on the service levy rate and it's relationship to Vancouver property taxes.  But Vancouver is not the only issue here: the province's rural tax rate is a major issue for us.  For example, the rural tax includes a tax for policing.  However, the net effect is that our 8,000-10,000 residents pay a lion's share of police and fire tax for the 50,000+ daytime UBC population.  Another example, most of the UNA's residential roads are directly controlled by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI).  Our rural taxes include a portion for transportation and roads.  However, MoTI has refused to pay for the enforcement of parking infractions in our neighbourhoods that is caused by the commuters attracted to UBC and trying to avoid UBC's high parking charges.  Despite more than 7 months of negotiations (as reported in UNA Board Meeting Packages) the UNA is still required to pay for enforcement of parking regulations without having any of the tax revenue that would in fact pay for the enforcement.  In addition, the maintenance of most residential roads are a UBC development cost and a UNA maintenance cost.  Again, next to nothing is returned from UNA rural property taxes to the UNA to cover these current and future expenditures.

What can we do?  One thing that I think we need to consider is to begin discussion with the provincial government to return some portion of the rural tax to the UNA.  Take a look at the charges on your property tax bill.  Consider the categories.  Some of those categories are for services that the UNA and UBC must pay while receiving non of the rural tax revenues.  Perhaps we should spend a little less time lodging complaints against UBC and instead devote a bit of time focussing on the role the province plays as absentee landlord collecting 'rents' (i.e. our taxes) without investing any of that money back into our community.

What do you think?  Should the UNA open a dialogue with the province with the aim of recovering some of our rural taxes to spend in the UNA area?  Send me a note and I'll take your concerns to the October 14 UNA board meeting.

Thank you to my fellow faculty and staff UNA residents

Dear Faculty and Staff Neighbours,

Thank you for your support for Allan Craigie and myself in the recent UNA Elections.  I am very disappointed that Allan is not joining me on the UNA board as a resident director. Allan is a strong candidate and a person of integrity: just what is needed on the UNA Board.

I take my election as the only member of the UNA Board who is part of the faculty and staff residential community at UBC very seriously.  You have placed your trust in me to represent our common interests.  Our community of staff and faculty residents - in rental and co-development and market housing- is a multicultural world travelled group of hard working, caring, and considerate people.  We have concerns that we share in common with other UNA residents, but we also have specific concerns that are related to living with our employer as landlord.  The UNA needs to pay attention to both the commonalities and the differences that are represented within the global UNA residential community.   Over the past few years the UNA has not done as good a job as it could have attending to these needs.  I pledge to work with your organization and members to make real improvements over the course of my next two years as a UNA Director.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A consultative poll of UNA members

 I am asking for your comments.  I will collate these comments and share them with my fellow board members on October 14th.

This specific poll concerns the UNA balloting system for the election of resident directors.

The current UNA election system is one with  a mail-in ballot.  Each UNA member is provided a ballot in advance of the voting period.  Once the ballots are received a member may mail the ballot to the UNA, bring it in personally, or have a third party return the ballot to the UNA.  This has led to a system in which candidates actively produce their own copies of the ballots, look for potential votes, collect ballots and then the candidate brings the ballots into the UNA offices.  As of the last election the majority of ballots (upwards of 75%) are now collected and returned by candidates.

The following poll asks for your input and advice as to the type of election system you think would be the most appropriate and democratic.

Go to consultative poll.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Modest Change in Board of Directors: UNA Election Results

Thank you to those of you who put their trust in me and thereby re-elected me to my second term on the UNA Board of Directors.

Thank you to Allan Carigie, whom I support and with whom I cooperated with during this election. We both share a view that democracy is not complicated and that democracy is the only correct path to follow in political governance issues.  Allan would have made an outstanding contribution to our community as a Board member.   I look forward to working with him as a strong community member with principles.

My congratulations to Yan Zhang and Richard Alexander who have also been elected to the UNA Board.

This was an election of many firsts and records.  The largest field of candidates, 7, the largest number of voters (about 1500), and a massive split between the front running slate and the runner up slate. This election results demonstrates that preferential voter targeting has arrived in our community.

Voter results.
Richard Alexander 837
Bayan Bennett  144
Thomas Beyer 217
Alan Craigie 306
Charles Menzies 347
Qaisar Niazi  50
Yan (Sabrina) Zhang 1054

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A modest proposal

Here's an idea I have for reforming the UNA electoral system.  Tell me what you think. 

Electoral Reform: Revisions to UNA Voting Procedures.
Charles Menzies

The following amendments to the UNA voting procedures are recommend to ensure that the UNA election process is fair and above board.  The current practice allows for the unrestricted collection of ballots from the moment the UNA AGM package is released up to the time of the start of the AGM.  There are currently no controls over ballots (anyone can print their own) nor is there a system in place to ensure that a ballot does in fact represent the intention of the voter. As a municipal-like organization the UNA should endeavour to follow the prevalent standards of the province. 

The following procedures are adopted from the BC Local Government Act.  The recommended changes include: voting by secret ballot, the establishment of an official record of who has voted to ensure that each voter votes only once, and a provision for those who are disabled or absent during the voting period to submit a mail-in ballot.  Item 4.26 of the UNA BY-laws and constitution will likely require modification to accommodate the shift to a secret ballot system of voting.

The Standing Committee on Governance is asked to recommend to the board that the following suggested revisions to UNA Voting Procedures be presented to the UNA membership for public comment for a period of 45 days.  After which time the Standing Committee on Governance  (in its November meeting) will review resident input and make such revisions to the recommendation as may be deemed relevant. At this point the Standing Committee on Governance will make a final decision as to recommend to the board to adopt the revisions to the voting procedures or not. 

Revisions to UNA Voting Procedures.
A. Voting to be by secret ballot
(1) Voting at an election must be by secret ballot.
(2) Each person present at a place at which an elector exercises the right to vote, including persons present to vote, and each person present at the counting of the vote must preserve the secrecy of the ballot and, in particular, must not do any of the following:
(a) interfere with a person who is marking a ballot;
(b) attempt to discover how another person voted;
(c) communicate information regarding how another person voted or marked a ballot;
(d) induce a person, directly or indirectly, to show a ballot in a way that reveals how the person voted.
(3) The UNA must ensure that each voting place has at least one area that is arranged in such a manner that electors may mark their ballots screened from observation by others and without interference.

B. Voting Opportunities and Locations
(1) Two voting opportunities are to be provided:
(a) at the venue of the AGM on the day of the AGM from the regular opening hours of the UNA business office until the start of the AGM
(b) at the Old Barn Community Centre, at the Wesbrook Place Community Centre, and at the Offices of the UNA. This constitutes the advance voting opportunity.  This voting opportunity will be for five regular business days in the week immediately prior to the scheduled AGM.
(2) If an elector is unable, due to physical disability or infirmity or will be absent during the advance voting opportunity and the day of the AGM, a mail-in voting opportunity will be provided.

C. Each elector may vote only once
(1) A person must not vote more than once in the same election.
(2) For the purpose of ensuring compliance with subsection (1), a record must be maintained of all persons who receive ballots at the voting proceedings.

D. Mail-in Ballots
(1) The only electors who may vote by mail ballot are
(a) persons who have a physical disability, illness or injury that affects their ability to vote at another voting opportunity, and
(b) persons who expect to be absent from the UNA on general voting day and at the times of all advance voting opportunities.

Proposed Motion: 
Be it resoled that the Standing Committee on Governance request UNA members comment on the proposal for revising the UNA voting procedures via public notification on the UNA webpage, the weekly UNA emails, and the Campus Resident; that the period of public comment be 45 days, September 24 – Nov. 7, 2014, and; that the Standing Committee on Governance review community input during it’s regularly scheduled meeting in the month of November.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Make a Difference, vote Allan Craigie

E-Day minus five!

Make a difference in our UNA.  Vote for a change on the Board.  Each of us has up to three votes to cast.  During the course of this election I have had a chance to get to know an excellent man for the job: Allan Craigie. We need a man like Allan on the board. He is principled, honest, hardworking, and has a clear vision of what needs to be done.  Allan is an independent voice of reason.

 I'm voting for Allan. I urge everyone who can to do the same.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Menzies' Opening Statement at ALl Candidates' Meeting (Sept. 16/14)

UNA All-Candidates' Meeting - the twitter reccord!

I've used 'storify' to gather all the tweets from the Tuesday All Candidates' eeting.  You can see it by clicking on this link.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Allen Craigie and Charles Menzies join forces for UNA Board elections

From the UFASTA blog: 
The University Neighborhood Association (UNA) is holding elections to fill three board seats.  UFASTA candidate Allan Craigie and current UNA director Charles Menzies (seeking re-election) have joined forces to meet the goal of representing all of UNA’s residents, including those living in faculty and staff rental housing.
You can learn more about the election, talk with Allan and Charles, and share your views on key issues by attending upcoming events. Allan will be meeting with Dahlia and Magnolia residents on Sunday, Sept 14th from 5 – 7 pm and both Allan and Charles will be at the UNA Barn Raising on Saturday, September 14 from 1 – 4 pm.
Please remember to submit your ballots by 24 September.  Information about how to vote here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

How to vote in the UNA elections

If you are already a member of the UNA you will have already received a voting package in the mail. The package will have a ballot and a self-addressed envelope for you to send your ballot into the UNA offices.  Ballots MUST be received by September 24th to be counted. 
There are three open positions.  You have the right to vote for one, two, or three candidates. 
I would be pleased to pick up your completed ballot from you and hand deliver it on your behalf to the UNA offices.

Please note that even if you have a Community Services Card you might not actually be a member of the UNA.  Membership forms are on the UNA web page:
If you need assistance arranging a form I would be pleased to assist.

Please do not hesitate to contact me by email,, or by phone, 604-318-2504, if you have any questions or would like assistance ensuring that you voice is heard and your vote is counted.

I look forward to serving you for another term as one of your elected resident directors.