For most residents of the university neighbourhoods everything (well, most things) seems fine. We have a reasonable fire and police department both fairly nearby. Our roads, aside from some concerns over speed and traffic flows, are fairly safe and in good repair. So why worry about any of this?
There are, of course, the usual litany of complaints that this blog has recorded over a good many years. These complaints all boil down to one thing: we lack real, effective, democratic control over our own community. But, why rock the boat if things are going along fine? That has been the so-called voice of realists over the past decade or so. "Hey," they say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Well it seems like the system may well be broke. Literally, as in no cash to do all the great things the UNA is supposed to do.
The situation has been developing slowing over the past couple of years. The key problem is the way in which public funds for managing our municipal-like services are collected. As a bit of a back ground.
(1) in the mid-1990s a deal was struck with the regional district to set the maximum property tax equivalent to the Vancouver residential mill rate.
(2) all properties in the university development area pay provincial rural tax that includes a transit levy, K-12 education funding, and a basic rural mill rate.
(3) the difference between the Vancouver residential mill rate and the rural property tax is called the UBC Service Levy and is collected by UBC.
(4) the UBC Service Levy is what is used to pay for all of the municipal-like services provided in the university housing development area.
(5) and the fiscal crunch is that the Vancouver mill rate has been dropping over the past few years while the rural rate has been increasing over the same period. The result is that the UNA's funds are actually reducing relative to the services that the UNA is being called upon to provide.
So that's the back ground. It's a bad enough situation by itself. But there are a host of other xxxxxxxxx xxxxxs that I can't talk about because I have been silenced by a confidentiality blanket.
This space is where I would have talked for about three paragraphs about a set of new issues. But I can't say anything about them because I have been placed in a situation in which I am compelled to be complicit with something I find ethically galling. In fact I will likely be criticized for saying as much as I have said already. However, it has become clear that the problem here at UBC is that the senior administrators have run this place like their own private fiefdom and use secrecy as a tool of governance. Some people feel a sense of self-importance when included in a special secret. Others of us feel used.
Despite how many 'collaborative' or 'consultative' meetings UBC holds with residents or the UNA the fact remains we have no decision making authority. We are essentially taxed without us having any real, effective, or democratic representation.