Whom is garbage pickup meant to benefit?

Appeared in the North Shore News – February 15, 2013

MARGARET Davies is spirited, witty, and as sharp as the memory of a first and last kiss. She proudly lives independently in her small Ambleside house. She is 93. And she is a perfect potential victim of West Van’s Garbage Gauleiters.

Margaret, a Second World War veteran, has a property unconducive to humping four categories of waste to the back lane any time, let alone for a nonagenarian on a pitch-black, stormy morning. A wonderful friend living blocks away usually helps.

As noted here recently, town hall’s busy bureaucrats have issued a trash diktat more complex than the Treaty of Utrecht. Most repressive: On collection day you must put out your trash not before 5 a.m., not after 7 a.m.

West Van is not alone. Philip Till, CKNW’s morning man, writes me: “I am also a victim of the guerre de garbage. In the District of North Vancouver it is verboten to put the garbage out the night before pickup. But as someone who must leave home before 4 a.m. it is not possible to rumble my full-sized Scheafer down the laneway for fear of waking up the folks next door.”

Till is among many whose work, play or flight schedule doesn’t fit the preposterous iron window of 5-7 a.m. Who’s in charge: the citizens – or the bureaucrats and private companies whose contract conveniences themselves?

Mayor Michael Smith made a fair point concerning the bear-aware program: “We must get smarter in disposing of our waste for both economic and environmental reasons,” he replied in response to my request. The 7 a.m. deadline minimizes the time garbage is left out: “Garbage attracts bears and it’s cruel to the animals, as they often have to be destroyed if they have become a nuisance.”

My solution: Extend the deadline to a civilized 9 a.m. and have the collectors start and finish later. Few bears will turn up that late. Self-interest will guide most homeowners.

The mayor concludes: “Our employees are expected to use their judgment. We do not want to ticket residents who have a need to put their cans out earlier.”

. . .

The parking ticket issue is the stuff of fiasco: A bylaw, unknown even to insiders, that forbids parking in the same block twice in the same day, and allegations that the bylaw office told some protesters that they had no legal recourse, just pay up.

The first insanely punishes the driver who typically might park for lunch or shopping, then return to buy frozen groceries or whatever later.

The second is more serious. Challengers were misinformed, either out of ignorance or knowingly.

The fact is that anyone ticketed for alleged bylaw infractions in the three North Shore municipalities can challenge a ticket. First step: a screening officer will get in touch and may decide to cancel the ticket forthwith.

If not, and still unsatisfied? For a $25 fee you can demand adjudication – a little-known process, and in cynical moments I suspect municipalities are happy to keep it that way. Check the back of the ticket.

North Vancouver city and district and West Vancouver pioneered in agreeing to this system in 2004, bluntly because – contracted to a private agency – it’s cheaper all around than provincial court trials. The positive side: Much less formal, can even be conveniently conducted over the phone. The negative: Public and media very rarely attend (hearings are at North Van city hall). Recall the principle: Justice, to be done, must be seen to be done.

Praise for the editors of this paper – no sucking up here; I’ve given them many headaches in my time – for the pointed editorial and the editor’s note attached to Mark Chan’s letter published last Friday.

Chan has a long title encompassing a huge range: Director of lands, bylaws, First Nations and legal affairs. He has fought serious flu since December and I lashed myself for grilling him when he was so ill, especially about the allegations that the bylaw office misinformed ticketed callers. While on the phone he walked into the bylaw department and said he redistributed instructions on procedure regarding challenges.

Now an off-the-cuff ruling by Mr. Justice Lautens: The bylaw is faulty, too broad, and/or open to an officer’s abuse, because of these italicized words: “No person may cause or permit a vehicle to move from one location to another in the same block to avoid the time limit regulations specified in that particular block.”

Question: How can officers know the driver’s motivation – “to avoid” the law – unless they personally observe the driver get in a parked vehicle, move it to another space in the same block, and leave it? The three writers of letters published in this paper did no such thing.

I’d guess the officers just wrote the tickets, shrugged, reminded themselves they were just following orders, and left the drivers to pay up or stew in the procedural juice, and the hell with it.

© Trevor Lautens, 2013

Van’s unhappy rules of engagement

Appeared in the North Shore News – February 1, 2013

So, West Vancouverites, are you happy with the iron rule of the Garbage Gestapo and Trash Marxists?

You may have quickly detected I’m not. You got that right.

Garbage in West Van will be collected only every two weeks starting April 22. On collection day it must be placed at the curb in the narrow window between 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Not before 5. Not after 7:30. Or the heavy hand of the bylaw bullies will strike you down.

The worker who comes home after midnight must set his/her alarm to groggily tramp down the driveway, in moist darkness six months a year, bearing gifts to appease the Trash Gods. Or, since few people in the Best Part of the Best Place in the World actually work in any sense recognizable to the toiling masses, he/she struggles home after a hard night of partying or attending opera to do likewise – maybe choosing to put the trash in the BMW and back it down the driveway, rather than hoist the obligatory four (!) separate categories of waste manually.

Imagine the frail older West Vancouverite, perhaps taking medicine that encourages deep sleep, being nudged awake by Rick Cluff’s or Philip Till’s gentle radio voice at such an uncivilized time. Add rain or snow and there’s a threat to life and limb.

And don’t expect mercy from the bylaw bullies. This is the department that didn’t haul back its hyper-zealous officious officer who several summers ago made lightning strikes on about 500 astonished dog-walkers. Some old people wept at the meetings then-Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones called to soothe them. The ticket-writer’s boss backed him up unreservedly, and her boss coincidentally retired. She later moved on to lucky Surrey. (The officer’s contract ran out – whereupon he quietly got a less visible job elsewhere in the town hall empire.)

Has much changed? Ken Prescott related in a letter to the editor Jan. 15 that he parked in the library’s two-hour lot for 20 minutes, then returned later to drop off another item, parking 15 minutes. Fined! Yes, $35 for parking twice in the same day in the sacred library lot! That’s an offence! Who knew? I doubt that even super-informed council-watchers Carolanne Reynolds and George Pajari were aware of this grotesque bylaw.

Stalin’s apparatchiks couldn’t have dreamt up a more oppressive regimen of trash rules than those laid out in a glossy brochure by the environmental ideologues and their bureaucratic henchmen at town hall. A taste:

“Limits per home, per collection day: Two 77 L garbage cans or bags. Max weight: 20 kg (45 lb.) per can or bag OR Two 121 L cans containing one 77 L bag each. Max weight: 20 kg (45 lb.) each OR One 121 L can with no more than two 77 L bags. Max weight: 40 kg (90 lb.). . . .

“The use of bungee cords/ straps, rope or string to tie lids is prohibited and will result in your garbage or Green Can not being collected. Place Blue and Yellow Bags next to your Blue Box (not inside). . . . Cut cardboard down to fit inside the Yellow Bag or neatly tie in bundles measuring no larger than 60 cm x 60 cm x 15 cm high (2′ x 2′ x 6″ high.). Tie securely with biodegradable string. No wire or plastic strapping.” I’m taking university courses easier than remembering this stuff.

In the 1960s, Lonnie Donegan famously warbled “My Old Man’s a Dustman” – British-speak for garbageman. Now everybody’s old man is a dustman. Give Dad industrial scales and measuring tape for Christmas.

As for the every-two-weeks collection: Pray for a cold summer – for the bears’ sake too.

. . .

Speaking of George Pajari: Former councillor Shannon Walker asked WV council to waive a community amenity contribution (CAC) of $750,000-plus for a redevelopment of the family’s Walker Building on Bellevue Avenue, its floor area ratio (FAR) planned to expand from 1.44 to 2.16. Town hall staff backed her.

In a footnote-loaded presentation, Pajari alleged “questionable and misleading information” in the application. Coun. Craig Cameron picked up on Pajari’s claim that staff had misled councillors. Council was convinced by Pajari’s detailed objections and agreed that the CAC should apply – an implied sharp rebuke to the bureaucrats, and, I’d say, raising a serious question of confidence.

. . .

A big loss to Park Royal Shopping Centre: One of its liveliest businesses and a bright spot in the south mall, The British Newsagent, left for lower-rent premises at 3195 Edgemont Boulevard in North Vancouver, where it was scheduled to reopen today. It offered British foods, sweets, tea, soccer team mementoes and such, had a brisk sale of lottery tickets, and its huge racks displayed far and away the biggest range of magazines in West Vancouver. It leaves an amenity hole not easily filled.

. . .

One of journalism’s joys is interviewing smart, intriguing people like Jordan Sturdy and Robin Smith, seeking the Liberal nomination (Feb. 15-16) in retiring Joan McIntyre’s West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding. Profiles planned. Rumoured aspirant: Geoffrey Cowper, author of a major law reform report and tipped as a future attorney-general. Abodes? Pemberton, North Vancouver (“just over Mosquito Creek”, the riding border) and Bowen Island respectively – none, note, in West Van.

Buzz about former TV anchor Pamela Martin and past WV mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones has faded.

© Trevor Lautens, 2013