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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kontroversy Continues

Former Nanaimo Mayor Korpan agrees to lawsuit settlement

Editorial: Even name calling must be backed by facts

It is indeed good news for Angela Negrin that former mayor Korpan has settled his libel suit with her but what about Tony Parkin the other person being sued. My personal belief in this ongoing saga is that Mr. Korpan continues his vendetta out of sheer vindictiveness and his need to remain in the public eye.

Rumours abound as to why he recently settled with Ms. Negrin. The most interesting of these involves the possibility of unpaid taxes as a result of income gained from campaign contributions.

I used to love how in the past he would bill his campaign for storing his signs as well as other things. An example of this can be seen in his 2008 disclosure statement, Gary Korpan 2008 Disclosure statement Of note I find his 2011 disclosure statement interesting only on two points; he had far fewer donations and his office expenses, billed to himself were only $355.00 compared to the $3000.00 spent in 2008.

Unfortunately prior election disclosure statements are not available on the city website; if they are they are harder to track down. There was one year; I believe it was 2005, when a candidate even billed $1500 dollars for clothing. An amount I found quite astounding as it is probably more than I have spent on clothing in my lifetime.

It is an interesting question as to whether monies from contributions paid directly to a candidate would be considered income and taxable. If anyone has the skinny on this perhaps they could let me know.

It is high time Korpan dropped his vendetta.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Poverty In Nanaimo

Poverty Presentation 2012
Gord Fuller – Advocate for Social Change

“If the poor weren't so conveniently invisible, maybe we'd come to our moral senses and devise a national strategy for eliminating poverty.” Toronto Star 2007
Imagine yourself in a state of constant dread. That's poverty.
Poverty means hunger, in­adequate nutrition, substandard and unsafe housing, or no housing at all.

Poverty means always trying to find a way to provide adequate food and safe shelter for you or your family and sometimes sacrificing one or the other.

Research shows that poverty is a fundamental determinant of both physical and mental health, closely linked to low school achieve­ment, lower literacy rates and one of the strongest predictors of being involved with the criminal justice system. Poverty results in higher public health care and criminal justice costs.
BC consistently has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada and has had the highest Child Poverty rates since 2001.

Governments commonly measure poverty by Low Income Cut Offs, an income threshold below which a family will likely devote a larger share of its income on the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family, and spending more than 30% of Income towards the cost of housing.

Ø Nanaimo currently ranks 18th worst of 92 health areas for Economic Hardship in BC.

Ø Using established poverty measures almost half the population of Nanaimo would be living below the poverty line

Ø Those on income assistance and Senior Citizens with access only to government pensions live thousands of dollars below the poverty line and commonly pay more than 50% of their income towards the cost of housing.

Ø Nanaimo ranks 15th – More than twice the provincial average - for those on Income Assistance and E.I.

Ø Approximately 15% of the population of Nanaimo, including 1 in 4 children, are receiving some form of Income Assistance.

Ø Nanaimo ranks 11th highest for youth 19 – 24 on income assistance

Ø 25% of those on I. A. are single parent families

Ø If a family of four living on income assistance were to provide a healthy diet, as outlined by the Dieticians of Canada, their costs including housing would result in a negative balance.

Ø Of regions in BC with population centers the size of Nanaimo or larger we have the dubious distinction of ranking number one for youth at risk.

Ø 40% of the workforce in the Nanaimo region has only part time jobs

Ø 48% tenants and 21% homeowners pay more than 30% income on housing costs

Ø As subsets of the general population immigrants and first nations experience far higher levels of poverty. In the case of First Nations, 50% are unemployed and youth have a 5 to 8 time’s higher rate of suicide.

Nanaimo Food/Meal Distribution
· Nanaimo 7-10 Club (Breakfast & Bag Lunch: Approx. 80,000 meals.
· Loaves & Fishes Food Bank, 7 distribution centres: Approx. 45,000 hampers, ¼ to families.
· Salvation Army: Approx 40,000 low cost, $1.00 lunch $2.00 dinner, meals to the public per year.
· St. Andrews Church (Departure Bay): Weekly Lunch serving between 80 – 100 youth & 40 – 50 adults.
· On Eagles Wing: weekly dinner: serves approx. 100 people
· St. Paul’s Church: monthly lunch serves approx 80 people.
· FoodShare Society: sponsors 50 families per month for good food box. Summer Lunch Munch program provides approx 4000 meals er month during summer.
· SD 68: 40 schools provide food i.e. healthy snack, 6 have a formal meal program

Current practices of attempting to alleviate poverty can actually trap people in poverty. BC needs to develop a poverty reduction plan; the costs of not doing so far exceed the costs of poverty reduction.

If the health care costs of the poorest 20% of British Columbians were reduced by raising their incomes it would save BC’s public health care system: $1.2 billion per year.

The estimated cost of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan in BC, per year:
$3 to $4 billion, the current cost of maintaining the status quo $8.1 to $9.2 billion a year.

A commitment to poverty reduction means taking action to:
Ø End homelessness, and make sure all British Columbians have access to safe, affordable housing;
Ø Make sure no one in BC goes hungry;
Ø Improve pay and working conditions for people in low-wage jobs;
Ø Index minimum wage
Ø Provide access to high quality, public child care; and
Ø Make training and education more accessible to low-income earners
Ø create truly accessible child care

“The enemy is not poverty sickness and disease. The enemy is a set of institutions and interests that are advantaged by clienthood, that need dependency, masked by service. We are in a struggle against clienthood. We must reallocate the power, authority, and legitimacy that have been stolen by the great institutions of society. We must commit ourselves to the reallocation of power to the people we serve so that we no longer will need to serve.” (McKnight, J. The Careless Society: Community and Its’ Counterfeits [1995]).

Sadly an industry around poverty has developed that does not necessarily put the needs of the people first but that of the agency. It is time for that to change; time to eliminate poverty pimping and hence eliminate poverty itself.

Excellent resource:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

To Confence Or Not To Conference

The issue that never dies.

Conference Centre remains a solid investment for the city
Some excellent comments:)
"It doesn't sound like much, but for the struggling facility it's a landmark on the way to calling the project a success." At a projected 5% of capacity if this projected number of delegate days holds up and does not itself drop 50% as in the past we would still be looking at decades before we could ever call it a success.

One also needs to look at where these delegate days are coming from. Do they count the members of the church that holds services every Sunday at the conference Centre? Do they count the number of people at council meetings? If so what percentage of those numbers are accounted for in the delegate days tht we have had.

Also the $380ish dollars they say a delegate would spend would not forth coming from events that are held by groups already in the city. We, the taxpayers, will be paying for this for years to come.

Conference centre should post record year for bookings
More great comments on this story.

"But bookings have failed to meet the predictions of industry experts." Obviously!

One has to note that the so called industry 'experts' lobby for convention centers. The foremost expert on convention centers in North America, not part of the lobby group, warned back in 2004 that there were only 2 centers inn North America that were not heavily subsidized.

Last year at this time there were also 30,000 delegate days talked about which obviously did not happen and puts the ratio at 50% not the 25 spoken about above. Even were we to reach 30,000 that would equate to only 5% capacity.

We cannot and should not be focusing on a hotel but need to focus on other means to attract usage. The recent change to the liquor designation should help but with the cost of usage approximately double that of other venues it will be a tough slog..

Strategic Planning

Council has recently set up a strategic planning steering committee to look at the direction Nanaimo will be going over the next few years. This in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce ‘Successful Cities’ initiative as well as a group ‘Vision Nanaimo’; the latter of which held a community meeting prior to the election that drew almost 300 people. It should be noted that this meeting was not broadly advertized and that the majority of those attending were members of the Chamber, Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association (DNBIA), as well as those individuals, like me, already linked in to city happenings.

A couple of questions; does the City need to do a strategic plan, spending approx. $160,000.00; and could the same not be accomplished through the other two groups at no cost to the City? Will these three plans somehow be integrated? These questions aside, as this process is moving forward; how much real involvement and input will the broad community have?

As those that paid attention to the election should recall almost every candidate running spoke of broader Community input and consultation. The basic process for the strategic plan will involve the following components:
Ø an environmental scan;
Ø an identification of current commitments from existing plans, reports and
Ø Council decisions;
Ø interviews with Council and the management team;
Ø a staff workshop;
Ø a survey of members of committees, commissions and boards;
Ø a Council/senior staff workshop;
Ø development of a draft strategic plan; and
Ø an opportunity for the community to respond to the plan draft;
with a follow up, or enhanced component of these components:
Ø a significant community engagement process to renew the community vision
(including neighbourhood meetings, a youth process, a business symposium
and a survey of community leaders);
Ø an ongoing Strategic Plan Blog that would seek directed input at key points
and facilitate non-directed discussion;
Ø interviews with community leaders prior to the Council/senior staff workshop;
Ø Task Teams consisting of staff and related external experts and community
representatives to develop strategies and actions for each identified priority.

On the face of it this all sounds good though from the past ‘community involvement’ simply consisted of Public Open Houses, advertised once or twice in local newspapers and on the city website, where the community would see a number of information boards and be able to give feedback aka. “an opportunity for the community to respond to the plan draft”. These meetings were generally held once in 3 or 4 locations and tend to have an extremely small turnout from the broad community.

These processes have tended to rely more on specific interest groups, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development, DNP etc., for feedback and less on the broad community. It has always been my opinion that rather than ‘Stakeholders’ setting the agenda with community giving feedback on developed plan last it should be the community that sets the agenda first. Approach the broad community and once we know what the community wants then narrow down the focus and bring in the special interest groups. As drafts are developed then bring back to the broad community.

Will this one be different, seeking more input from the general community, and if so how does the City plan to make it so?

Agenda (Strategic Planning pgs 26/27)

Hotel Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw: My take.

There can be no doubt that this tax exemption bylaw only came forward as a result of our Mayor and some others strong beliefs that the only way to up usage at the convention centre would be to entice someone to build a hotel on land we would be willing to give them behind said centre. Initially in bringing forward the bylaw there was somewhat of an outcry from the Hospitality Association and this latest inception is designed to placate the association and bring them on board with the tax exemption.

At council’s meeting on January 23rd these points were approved to be added to the above bylaw:
To include renovations to existing hotels and motels that achieves any one or more of the following:
• adds services
• adds rooms
• improves the quality of the stay for the visiting public;

Also approved was that staff do a report “on the potential for redevelopment of some hotel/motels into nonmarket rent low income housing for the working poor and low income seniors.” As well mention is made that “Council could consider expanding the "downtown" boundaries for revitalization reasons to potentially assist some of the properties currently on the fringes of this boundary.” This one directly related to Development Cost Charges (DCC’s) and the fact that development within downtown boundaries currently does not pay DCC’s.

The report then goes further in talking about “ways that we, collectively, could mitigate the drop in occupancy through increasing visitors to Nanaimo, particularly if the City attracts a hotel partner.” There you have it; the main reason for developing the bylaw in the first place, a hotel for the convention centre.

In looking at the above one would initially see the creation of housing for the working poor and low income seniors as a positive and as an advocate for such one would think I am strongly on side with this point. The fact is that many motels already offer monthly accommodation, though not necessarily affordable at rates of $700.00 and higher. How I ask would the city propose to ensure the cost to monthly renters if redevelopment is done is affordable, affordable being one of those hugely subjective terms. Also in the event the idea is taken up by current owners there would then be a decrease of low cost temporary accommodation that could see many travel straight through Nanaimo instead of staying a night or two.

Development cost charges are the means by which the city secures funds to put in the infrastructure needed to support development. Many years ago, as a means to promote the revitalization of Downtown Nanaimo these costs were waived by the city to promote development. If these costs are not paid the burden is then put on taxpayers to come up with the costs. If the Downtown boundary is expanded the costs born by taxpayers can only increase.

When added together the loss of DCC’s and revenue as a result of the Tax Exemption would be in the millions and have to be born by the taxpayer, this with no guarantee that a hotel for the convention centre would be built anytime soon.

There is no real, only anecdotal, evidence that a hotel for the convention centre will increase its usage or in any other way, especially with tax breaks, benefit the community. Currently operating at less than 3% capacity; even with the proposed delegate days for 2012 and 2013,mentioned in the report, capacity would still be less than 5%. It will take far more than one hotel to bring about any change that would result in the taxpayer subsidizing the facility any less. Yes if it were built it would add to the abundance of underused 4 or 5 star accommodations in the core but at what cost to the community/taxpayer.

The report on the whole is an interesting read and I would encourage folk to check it out.

January 23, 2012 Council Video
(Hotel Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw 2011 NO. 7143 - pgs 28 - 48)


"One of the areas our meeting focused on was ways that we, collectively, could mitigate the
drop in occupancy through increasing visitors to Nanaimo, particularly if the City attracts a
hotel partner."
"The NEDC, TLC, NHA, City agree on the need to develop a plan that will create real tangible changes in Nanaimo that will result in, among other things, an improvement in the occupancy rates in Nanaimo."
1 Aquatic Centre bleachers -these are already included in the 2012 budget.
2 Complete the waterfront walkway to Departure Bay Beach
3 Newcastle Island Accessibility
4 Additional artificial turfs.
5 New festivals.

I look at the above and have to wonder how bleachers and artificial turf will help attract visitors. Do think the others have merit but would the visitors they attract want to stay in 4 or 5 star hotels?

This bylaw and all its little gimmicks is to attract a hotel but until the economy improves enough to make it viable it ain't going to happen. We, and the NEDC, should be working on those things above and others that will improve the community without thought for a new hotel. If it happens it happens but it should not be the primary focus.

Had a thought the other day and I wonder if the number of people attending the Church Group at the convention centre every Sunday are included in the delegate days?

By my calculations we would need 320,000 delegate days to reach 50% capacity. That is a hell of a lot of delegate days working out to 876 people per day. Doubt ebven with a new hotel we could accommodate that number and even in the event we were able to get to it would it significantly reduce the subsidy of the taxpayers?