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: http://www.myuna.ca/newcomers/membership/
If you need assistance arranging a form I would be pleased to assist.

Please do not hesitate to contact me by email, charles.r.menzies@gmail.com, 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.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

UFASTA endorses fellow candidate Allan Craigie

Fellow candidate, Allan Craigie, has been formally endorsed by the University Faculty and Staff Tenants Association in this year's UNA election.  I share UFASTA's enthusiasm for Allan's candidature and encourage my fellow neighbours and supporters to also cast a vote for Allan.

Our UNA board needs a set of directors who place residents' interests first and foremost.  With three university appointed  directors (2 by the UBC President's Office, 1 by the AMS) on our board it is critical that we have independent resident directors who have the experience and the energy to do the job of democratic representation.

Democracy will work best when diversity of perspective is valued and encouraged.  Voting for Allan will go a long way toward ensuring that the UNA becomes more effective and more democratic.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Shaohong Wu, former UNA Resident Director and Vice Chair, endorses Menzies for UNA

Beyond a doubt, Charles is the most qualified person to run for re-election to the UNA Board. As a former colleague in the UNA board, I witnessed that Charles constantly exemplifies his sharp mind to speak for residence's interest and stand for democracy, particularly he actively advocated for the establishment of a civic engagement committee, which now is a major venue for residents’ engagement in UNA matters. For a better UNA neighborhood , vote Charles.

我和Charles 在2012-13 年间一起在UNA 理事会共事, 他大力支持成立civic engagement committee , 提倡民主, 为居民利益着想, 为了一个更好, 更有效的UNA, 请选举 Charles!
Shaohong Wu -  former UNA Resident Director and Vice Chair