Tuesday, November 10, 2015

UNA Directors' Meeting: Nov. 10, 2015

This evening, 5pm at the Old Barn Community Centre, the UNA Directors are meeting.

There are a number of things of relevance on the agenda (Parking and Car2Go) and at least one thing of relevance not on the agenda (open access government).

On the agenda:
(1) The UNA Staff have proposed some rather significant changes to the Car2Go situation which would entrench a large number of fixed Car2Go parking stalls on Logan Lane, Eagles Drive, and other UNA Neighbourhood Streets.  Staff is asking the Directors to make a decision tonight.  Given the scope of the changes and the direct impact upon residents I am hoping that our Board will agree to defer a decision so that we can receive a meaningful degree of community comment. This is a matter that would have been decided in a closed Operations Standing Committee meeting two weeks ago, but that meeting was cancelled due to the unavailability of some directors.  The fact that it is no in front of the Directors tonight is a mixed blessing  which will at least allow a full open public discussion that I hope will lead to an extended period of consideration that allows effective community input.

(2) Parking rates are set to rise again. The current parking system sort of works.  However, it doesn’t; really work.  Just the same the UNA Staff are again, for about the third or fourth year in a row, recommending upping parking permits pass fees. Staff will say that the cost of managing parking is not effectively covered by the permit fees.  True enough.  However, residents need to be aware that we actually pay already for parking management in two additional ways: through our service levy which is supposed to cover ‘municipal-like’ services and through our rural taxes in which a set proportion goes to the ministry of highways who is the agency with the legal authority over our roads. Th UNA staff have prepared a set of price increase options for the board to consider.  This is again a matter that would normally have taken place in a closed meeting but due to the cancellation of the Operations Standing Committee in October we get a chance to have a full public discussion of the matter. 

It is not clear to me that simply raising permit prices has any bearing upon the parking issues in our neighbourhoods.  The fundamental problem is that Provincial Highways has legal authority over our roads and nobody who can make a decision seems to care to do anything about it.  It’s as though the status quo is just fine.  For those of us who have to live with the issue we know that there is a problem but we are powerless to really do anything about it.  

An effective solution would involve 1) BC Highways transferring to the UNA a portion of our rural taxes that should be used to roads (in the same way as would happen if we were a municipality with taxation authority). A sum of between 250,000 and 350,000 would be sufficient to properly manage and enforce the parking regulations, (2) UBC  getting off their backsides and communication directly with the Provincial govt to have the legal changes made in the legislature that would create the legal platform for the UNA to actively manage our own roads.  They did this before when it mattered to UBC (I.e. When Metro was intrusively managing planning UBC went to the province and the province enacted legislation that placed development planning an management into UBC’s hands). (3) the UNA actively and effective manage parking regulations. 

In the meantime we will continue to limp along with inadequate band aid solutions that constantly annoy residents without fundamentally addressing the underlying and real problem related to parking. 

Take home message: brace yourself for yet another parking permit cost inflation.

Not on the agenda.
Last Directors meeting I was pleased to see such support from fellow directors for the idea of open standing committee meetings.  The motion that I presented was discussed, with several directors commenting positively on it and then it was referred to the closed door standing committee for discussion.  I was not able to be at the closed door standing committee meeting (I as out of town at an academic conference) but from what I can glean of the governance committee report and the agenda for today’s directors’ meeting the issue has disappeared into the bowels of a consultant’s review.  

I am puzzled that the simple idea of open access governance requires an expensive private sector consultant to review and prepare a report on. One might suggest that had I been at the meeting I would thereby be better informed.  However, if I had been at the meeting then the rules of the closed door meeting would have prevented me from commenting on the reasons for why a decision to hold the governance and the operations standing committees in front of our public was deferred to a high priced consultant.

Municipal governments (recall that the UNA and UBC always likes to call the UNA municipal like) are required by law to hold all meetings in which decision are made in a public forum.  There are provisions for which meetings need to be in camera (things like personal matters, contracts, litigation, etc).  The key point is that the process of decision making should be public. If we are to embarrassed, ashamed, afraid, concerned, worried, to say something in public then maybe we shouldn’t say it all.  

But here we are again with one step forward, two steps back and the small conservative step of opening two committees to public observation erased from the agenda. A careful reader will even note that the the motion itself was even erased from the minutes of the last meeting with simply  aline saying referred to committee.  But the content of what was referred was removed from public scrutiny.

Maybe we can try again. But after three years of trying I’m not that hopeful.