Appeared in the North Shore News – August 5, 2011
It’s a small gesture in a swelling global crisis, but today I’m announcing AmblesideNO!
Basic idea: Stop till we can live within our means. Just stop.
Unlike the disastrous HST referendum question, AmblesideNO! really means no – not just to AmblesideNOW and growing West Vancouver taxes, services and transit burdens, but to such City of North Vancouver follies as replacing Harry Jerome rec centre at 23rd and Lonsdale with a multi-million-dollar new one on part of the popular adjacent Norsemen Park, and building eight high-rises on the rest of the park to pay for it.
(Before moving on let’s name the proponents: Couns. Guy Heywood, Pam Bookham and Bob Fearnley. Add this: CNV’s Courthouse Area Residents Association and others want Jerome renovated, and renowned international architect Carl Elefante, a Washington, D.C. specialist in far cheaper sustainable preservation is a guiding light.)
Yawning over Middle North Shoreans, as well as Middle Canadians and Middle Americans – whose reps have just “solved” the bankruptcy crisis by adding more than $2 trillion to the till – is an explosion in taxes, bureaucrats’ salaries and service costs, while local governments play handmaiden to big developers and cook up glitzy projects that further burden taxpayers and clog roads.
We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Highrise developments proposed along Lonsdale Avenue at 13th, 17th and 19th Streets, as well as the North Shore Credit Union’s new digs at 13th Street – to say nothing (too late to say much) of massive waterfront condos – would transform the villagelike area into an extension of Vancouver’s West End. Bridge traffic, anyone?
Now West Vancouver. Harken to Garrett Polman, a finance guy with top credentials and a member of West Vancouver’s Interested Taxpayers’ Action Committee: “It’s intellectually dishonest or just irresponsible, whatever you want to call it, to promise, as the mayor (Pam Goldsmith-Jones) did in a formal press release of Jan. 26, that AmblesideNOW would be done at no cost to the taxpayer.
“Fact is . . . they don’t know how much revenue the sale of land will generate, or what the construction costs are. . . . Costs . . . may be as high as $70 million and involve debt financing.” (Memories dance of the huge community centre overruns.)
Waste? Council voted to spend $3.1 million just for studies of a proposed combined fire hall and police building – a figure jumped on by Coun. Shannon Walker, hardly a left-wing loose cannon.
Polman asks: “Can anyone have any confidence in the spending of the $3.1 million . . . a good part of which can be avoided by doing some serious calculations in-house?”
What a novel idea. Assign already highly paid staff.
How highly paid? It’s scandalous. David Marley of ITAC states that in the last five years, its population near static, West Vancouver town hall annual salaries have risen 32 per cent and those of staff paid more than $100,000 by seven per cent. Forty per cent of the 640 employees are paid more than $75,000 a year. That excludes police, whose salaries are a Victoria secret.
On Bill Good’s CKNW program, Marley specifically exonerated union staff for the rise, though their four per cent a year isn’t too cruel either. He passed on the joke that B.C. Ferries CEO David Hahn is considering leaving the corporation to work as a West Van municipal manager.
I’ll have to bypass a thundering 44 per cent rise in Metro services projected over the next five years – a backbreaker in itself – and the grotesque $1 billion aspirations of democracy-proof TransLink, to the question I posed to Mayors Goldsmith-Jones of West Vancouver, CNV’s Darrell Mussatto, and Richard Walton of the District of North Vancouver:
“Would you prefer funding TransLink’s expansion plans through a two-cent-a-litre tax on gasoline, a one-percent reduction in Metro Vancouver municipal budgets, a combination of the above, (or) another option/proposal of your own?”
After an initial nonresponse, Walton courteously replied for all three mayors: “We are committed to working closely with the province in finding solutions that do not fund additional public transportation (TransLink) using property tax, and we believe that user-based pricing and demand management strategies are the way to control congestion, pay for future needs, expand access to transit and improve goods movement on our roads.
“These are challenging questions, and we believe the mayors’ council, the TransLink board and the minister of transportation are beginning to move in the right direction. We welcome hearing from the public on the future of transportation for the region, and TransLink is setting up public consultation meetings in September to discuss these issues.”
Now you know, eh?
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Speaking of Hahn, Business in Vancouver recently listed B.C.’s 100 highest-paid executives. Hahn’s $1.2 million salary was too contemptibly paltry to make the list, being more than $400,000 below 100th place.
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Jim’s Hardware, a loved Dundarave institution for 25 years, is closing. The usual: A victim of change, a small store on big valuable lot up against the big boxes. Sad.
© Trevor Lautens, 2011