Thursday, June 28, 2007

Women In Politics - Double Standard - Change must come at Local Level First

Why are there not more women in politics? Federally, provincially and even municipally right here in Langley women are by far under represented. Langley Township 's Councillor Kim Richter is the only woman seated amongst 8 men. Langley City is better off with three women out of 7 councillors. So, why the inequity at all levels of government especially municipally?

One of the clear main reasons is that highly qualified and especially very competent and intelligent women are not interested in being publicly driven through the mud by their male peers and the press alike especially about their gender differences. This Editor has observed an on-going litany of the ridicule, embarrassment, discourteousness, shunning and downright vile attitude by the male counterpart politicians and the equally discourteous but more veiled press. Why would any highly educated and qualified woman ever want to be a victim of this ongoing persecution? Hence the lack of quality female candidates and actual elected women is embarrassingly low and will remain so. The glass ceiling is an old boys club steel ceiling in the political world.

This latest world wide circulated photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who by the way is Germany's first ever female chancellor, once again shows the difference in which a female politician is treated as opposed to her male counterpart. The picture while an attempt to be satirical shows two polish leaders sucking on each of her exposed breasts (photoshop modified). Could you ever imagine seeing a world wide circulated picture of any male G-8 world leader having him being photoshopped with other leaders sucking on his male appendage? I know you wouldn't because it would be unthinkable to ever do so for any male in power by any other male in power politically or in the press.

Recently former MP Belinda Stronach revealed that she had breast cancer and had a surgical mastectomy. Her treatment by the press & peers on this topic was finally understated and somewhat respectful. Too late though because she, after a few short years in federal politics, decided to exit public life some months ago. One has to wonder if her treatment by her political male peers and the male dominated press on varied topics such as being widely called a bitch, the public hockey player Tomi accusations/innuendos and the constant other public barbs on her looks, attire and not the least on her intelligence had played a part in her decision to leave the public stage. Even one of the local Langley press’ frequent editorial comments and political cartoon representations of Ms. Stronach in the past year were downright despicable and tasteless. There have been no apologies ever or comments on her cancer from that specific local paper Editor to date!

This example of one of Canada's most powerful and wealthy women's public assassination by her political peers and the equally male dominated press certainly does nothing to motivate other capable and intelligent women to ever venture into the male testosterone dominated political gladiator arena. The ancient Romans went to the amphitheaters for their “entertainment” where they could see the imprisoned gladiators killing and being killed. The new entertainment seems to have become women in politics: especially capable, intelligent and prominent women. Strong and passionately opinionated women are especially singled out.

Right here in Langley Township the obvious segregation and similar downright rude & crude treatment of the Township Council's most educated, articulate, hard working and in this Editor's opinion most intelligent councillor, Kim Richter, is another example of this blatant and sexual discrimination in politics. Look to this council's track record of unseconded Richter motions, look to the double standard of lack of procedural respect & decorum as demonstrated often and most recently so in this previous posting when her microphone was arbitrarily cut off while that of her male peer antagonist was not. Her male peers on council essentially also isolated her from all prominent committees including GVRD as well.

In another Township Councillor's website a slur on her 'jiggling breasts' while running to hand out candies to kids in a parade was allowed to be posted and only after complaints by her husband removed with no subsequent apology.

One local newspaper Editor once accused her of essentially lying politically (which was untrue) and compared Richter's political work to her teaching career as a Professor of business. He personally questioned how she could ever dare teach ethics to her students. Have you ever heard any similar damning references made about any male on council with their profession? When another male on Council used completely false and misleading election materials, that same local newspaper editor made nowhere close to any ethical accusations about that Council member or linked his unethical behavior to his own career and business. That Council member got away without even a slap on the wrist and no personal slurs at all.

One has only to watch any Township council meeting to see the obvious male group think and ganging up on the only female councillor at any opportunity.

What benefits do women have to offer their constituents in public life?

Clearly their differences provide more political balance and perspectives that should be appreciated and not ignored and assailed at every opportunity. A small and simple example that comes to mind is a few years back when there were once three women on Township council. These three women Cllrs. Arnason, Kirkpatrick and Richter all voted against a day care facility located within a proposed mini-storage building located within the 200th street & Trans Canada highway cloverleaf. As women & mothers they were obviously concerned with warehousing very young children right within a cloverleaf. Heavy traffic noise, air pollution and obvious physical safety were the concerns they reasonably brought up. The day care centre was ultimately approved with the 6 men on council all voting in favour and the 3 women opposed.

Just this week, the sole woman on township council asked to have all the neighbour’s concerns about a boldly lit 120 foot steeple hi-rise addressed prior to approval. Once again, no-one seconded her motion not even for discussion. It is interesting to note that the majority of neighbours with concerns at the public hearing were women while the overwhelming majority of the proponents for the steeple were male. I guess women’s concerns don’t really count in Langley township council.

How many other municipal councils have the same myopic majority male led councils? Women bring a balanced and sometimes different but much needed point of view that reflects a complete community’s make up, not just the male half.

To get more qualified women into politics will require a change.

Change has to all be started at the local municipal level first which is the springboard to provincial and federal politics.

The public must be educated that these prejudices and inequalities exist and they should no longer tolerate it from their politicians and the press. The next time a local Editor writes or cartoons another sexually discriminatory or patently unfair article about females in politics, the public should respond vigorously and demand an immediate unqualified apology. The press should in fact actively report on this gender issue in politics and not let the sexists in politics get away with it anymore. In fact the press should go out of their way to report on the women in politics and their viewpoints especially where they are so grossly under represented. (Suggested case in point: check the media coverage for Langley MLA Rich Coleman vs that for Langley MLA Mary Polak.)

The same should apply to discourteous and derogatory behaviours displayed by male politicians towards female politicians. The sitting male councillors also have to seriously re-evaluate their attitudes and behaviors and change their methods and styles and become more open to other ideas, especially with the women on council where they are in a minority and even more so if there is only one. A sole aboriginal representative on council would be certainly guaranteed much more due consideration and respect than a woman by both council peers and the local press. Women should be equally treated with political correctness and due respect.

Political women like Richter, Stronach and Merkel, etc. presently in the arena should no longer accept the status quo. They probably worked twice as hard as their male counterparts to get elected in the first place. I’m sure they would agree with my observations yet they all probably remain mute on the double standard issue and are silently stoic because they are all similarly concerned of being labeled screaming antagonistic bitches using discrimination as an easy excuse. Bullshit. It’s time for women presently in politics, especially the articulate, gifted and strong women, to come out of the closet and tell it like it is. There is a double standard sexist treatment of them that must be stopped. Now. It's time for a radical change in attitude towards women in politics.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Langley School District Special Report by Susan Semonick - How to Select a School for Your Child

Report on the June 19th Presentation by Mr. Hugh Burke
How to Select a School for Your Child

Although there were only a few in attendance, 13 to be exact, I believe that everyone left with some very good information.

The low attendance was unfortunate and in my view, could have been helped if Langley District PAC, a communication tool for parents, had advised their membership about this educational opportunity. My understanding is that the executive chose not to. I personally found the presentation enlightening and wish I had heard it at least 13 years earlier. This year, DPAC was heavily involved with ‘how to do your income tax’, yet when it gets down to ‘what to look for in a good school for your children’, they view it as not within their purview. I’m confused.

Here are a few highlights from the presentation:

Mr. Burke promoted parental involvement and gave his view of what things should be considered to find a good school for your child. Whether your child is about to begin preschool, or their final years of secondary school, the informal dialogue on the range of educational choices open to families was valuable.

This is the second opportunity I have had to hear him speak. The first time was at TWU where he spoke about the Charter of Education and Independent schools at the 2004 Educational Forum of Deans, along with our former Superintendent, Mr. Truscott, who was also on the panel.

He started off his presentation with “ I am not here to promote Meadowridge School,” which has 500 students currently, with a capacity of 520. At the present time they do not need to recruit, and it is not his job to do it. The school is expensive and difficult for Langley students to get to. He does presentations as a community service, to model for his students who are also expected to volunteer.

His key points:

• Parents are the primary educators
• Human Rights Act states that it is a parent’s right to choose the education for their child.
• Do your research – Ask and Observe
• Do not rely on labels or aggregated statistics
• Choose the school that will be the right “fit” for your child

His opinions on what not to consider:

Don’t use Fraser Institute results. It is like comparing a cancer clinic and an obstetrics clinic and stating the one that is ranked the highest is the one with the most discharges and least deaths.

Labels on schools mean nothing. eg. Traditional, Fundamental, Montessori etc… Sometimes, the curriculum being taught is the same as regular schools. Sometimes, schools with the same “label” do not have the exact same program and vary greatly depending upon the director of the school.
What to do and what to ask in order to make an informed decision.

• Drive around the school and observe students, staff and parents at different times of the school day.
• Visit outside the school when parents are around (drop-off in the morning, pick-up after school) and ask them questions. You will learn a lot but speak to more than one or two people to get a diversity of opinion.
• Book a visit with the principal and ask for a tour. Take a day off work and spend the day.
• Ask to visit a classroom and observe. Ask teachers questions.
• Invest time to ensure that you have the right fit for your child.
• Ask more questions

Here are a few questions parents should be finding answers for.

Quality of Care
• What supervision is provided if child must arrive early or stay late?
• What is the feel? - Is it a warehouse for children or a place for learning?
• Are there mats for the children to sit on?
• What types of snacks are served? Is it healthy?
• How many staff are on the playground before during and after school?
• Will their essential needs be met? They need: caring, nutrition, soft place for consoling and hard place when not behaving well.
• Are the able to meet your child’s emotional needs?
• Are teachers happy working there?

School Facilities
• Are the school grounds clean? Litter?
• What do the washrooms look like?
• Are the classroom floors dirty?
• Is the ventilation adequate?
• What is the lighting like bright and cheery or dark and gloomy?
• Would you want your child to spend 6 to 8 hours there a day?

School Climate
• Drive by the school and observe the socializing during recess and lunch break
o Are there a lot of loners, only two large groups, many small groups?
o Are there students intermingling among the groups.
• What is the population diversity? Is there a wide range of Expression?
• How would your child fit in?

• Do they pay close attention to attendance?
• Do they report attendance more often than just once in the morning and afternoon?
• Do they advise parents of any absenteeism, or only if the do not arrive in the morning?
• Are they allowed off school grounds during spares? (Is it a closed campus?)

Programming and Academics
• Is there a balance arts, athletics, academics, etc?
• Is there a uniqueness of opportunities?
• Is there a great range of achievement between classes? Look for sequence in learning.
• Literacy - Do the teachers know their goals and the strategies?
• What do they use to measure or know they are being successful?
• How much professional development, cooperation and sharing between teachers is there?
• How well do the students achieve on provincial exams?
• How many students take the provincial exams?

Some other comments from Mr. Burke in response to parent questions from the floor.

• Ask questions and find the school program that fits your child. Location should not be the key driver in deciding where to place your child - it should be the school that best fits your child.

• French Immersion – it is not what most think and not good for all children. There is a gender issue - by the senior high school years there are very few males in the class. Late French Immersion starting at grade eight is the best for student success.

• An emerging demographic that has contributed to the decline in enrolment is more families are having only one / fewer children. So parents want a larger involvement into how, where, and what their child learns and is exposed to for their investment is greater.

It is neither the community nor location of a school, but most critically it is the environment within the walls that is of the most importance.

• Small schools of less than 600 are the best teaching climate. This would override the class size issue. School is small enough that everyone knows everyone.

• K –12 on same campus is the best model. It does not necessarily require one facility.

• Community is an extension of you .

• Middle school model he is familiar with - 20 students per teacher 4 teachers per group (no more than eighty students)

Middle schools – the concept is not for grade sixes – a 6 to 8 middle school makes no sense. A grades 7 to 9 middle school configuration works better. Gender issues are very important and adversely affect the 6 to 8 configuration. Leadership issue is also of concern – there is no natural ‘king of the hill’

• K-8 configuration is fine.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Democracy Vs Idiocracy - Also Listen to Feisty Live Council Clips

Former Councilor and now Langley Township Freewoman Muriel Arnason made a late delegation at the June 18th Township council meeting about Councillor Mel Kositsky's June 11, 2007 motion to dumb down democracy by eliminating the recording of movers and seconders in council minutes - the official record of council meetings. Kositsky's motion was seconded by Cllr. Howie Vickberg. It passed with Cllrs. Kositsky, Vickberg, Ward and Mayor Alberts in favour and Cllrs. Bateman & Long & Fox opposed. Cllrs Richter and Ferguson were absent due to their attendance at the 45th International Liveable Cities Conference in Portland, Oregon. (Cllr. Richter talks about this conference in a previous posting here).

spoke passionately to the fact that she was aghast at this attempt to muffle the voices of Councillors after 92 years of recording movers & seconders in township council records. To hear her 4.5 minute presentation in its entirety play it here.

Logical that some of the Old Boys Club members would try to pass this kind of anti-democratic garbage while Richter was not in attendance! They almost got away with it except that the motion was re-tabled on June 18 and rescinded with both Richter & Ferguson adding their voices to not change this 92 year long democratic and accountable procedural tradition.

During the discussion on the rescinding motion, Cllr. Kositsky made a very derogatory reference to Richter's & Ferguson's absence from the previous week's vote accusing them of "skipping" meetings. (Funny how that reference was not made at tonight's meeting when Cllr. Bateman was absent from a very political vote on a 12 story lit up steeple). Hmm how convenient... no votes lost here!

The Mayor cut off Richter's microphone after she just started to try and take exception to and chide both Kositsky for inappropriate language for saying they "choose to skip" the council meeting and Mayor Alberts for not calling Kositsky to task for saying so. She then objected to Alberts behavior towards her and her mike was finally turned back on again. To listen to the actual content of 5.18 minute debate in its entirety play it here.

So in summary, why on earth would Kositsky (mover) Vickberg (seconder) Ward & Alberts want to remove the accountability measure of recording who made and seconded a motion after 92 years? Just because GVRD board meetings don't record movers and seconders, is that good enough reason for the Township to follow suit? As Richter points out, Council members and the public never know what work the Township's GVRD reps, Mayor Alberts and Cllr Kositsky, initiated at their $200+ paid GVRD meetings. But maybe the key is that we also don't know what they did not do! In this Editor's opinion, this all essentially leads to a dumbing down of democracy. To see my point, rent my latest favorite movie, "Idiocracy" (or click below Utube clip - note some crude humour in the video clip) .

Idiocracy suggests the age of morons is upon us! We suggest an interesting parallel to politicians with on-going dumbing down actions like eliminating records in which politician did something!

So please remember at election time next year that Councillors Kositsky, Vickberg, Ward and Mayor Alberts all unsuccessfully voted to eliminate the democratic tradition and accountability measure of recording the movers and seconders on Council motions, not once, but twice! All hail to Idiocracy! P.S. Three times in the audio clips Mayor Alberts called Muriel Arnason Mrs. Arnason and not Freewoman Arnason even after being reminded by Richter of the honour bestowed on her by Mayor Alberts and Township Council at Douglas Day last fall. What the heck is going on here?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Local Media and Vanity Blog Site Spin Control Power Lesson #1

The power of the written word and especially blogs these days is not to be underestimated as demonstrated below. Councillor Bateman this week alone twice posted two clear examples of spin control.

Example 1 Spin Control Quote from his blog site;
"The paper also has a story on the Firehall gravel pit debate. I know my Council colleague Steve Ferguson is working hard with various neighbours (he lives in the area) to find a compromise solution, "

Example 1 LFP The Real Truth Commentary; No mention whatsoever that Councillor Richter is the one that put the motion forward to have a public meeting for the benefit of neighbours to get more input. In fact Richter was at the said meeting the longest, staying till the bitter end and networked with pretty much all the protestors and Bateman was not seen there at all. Also only Cllrs. Long and Ferguson were there from council. In fact Cllr. Bateman along with other Cllrs. once again refered her motion to staff, a.k.a. - deep sixed. So does this vanity site make it look like someone else is taking the lead on this community issue and Richter nothing? Spin Slickly done.
6.5 out of 10 on the Spin-O- Meter

Example 2 Quote from his blog site;
"A request from VALTAC asking us to support its objectives was referred to a Council Priorities Committee meeting for more discussion (referral moved by Ferguson, seconded by Bateman; Richter opposed). "

Example 2 LFP The Real Truth Commentary;No mention at all that it was Cllr. Richter who was the one that put the motion forward to support the VALTAC objectives in the first place! What Richter voted against was that the old boys club as is typical, deep sixed the same VALTAC Richter motion by referring it to the essentially behind the doors old boys club private council meeting! In essence it looks like Richter did not support the underlying motion when she was in fact the chief supporter and intiator of the original motion! She voted against the delaying deferral only, not the motion which she initiated and supported! She simply wanting it to go ahead immediately. Spin Slickly done again! 8.5 out of 10 on the Spin-O- Meter .

Summary. The power of the public written words in all media should be cautiously understood and digested not only by what is written but also by what is not written, how it is written or perhaps even strategically avoided. Journalism schools teach on this very topic. No wonder today's youth don't believe the media. Note that this is only lesson one as this Editor is sure there will be many more lessons in future!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Richter Report - June 17, 2007 - Should Councillors Travel? “There are none who are so blind as those who will not see”.

There’s been a lot of hot air blowing through Langley web space lately about Councillors who travel to conferences and the costs of doing so. Being old enough to understand that I don’t have all the answers (or even all the questions) and being wise enough to appreciate that significant time and money can be saved in the long run by learning from other communities’ examples, I think Councillors who travel for the purpose of learning is a very good thing for Langley. It is money well spent and it has resulted in several notable advances for this community.

Thanks to Councillor Kositsky and his earlier involvement in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the Township of Langley is a partner in Canada’s international development program. We have shared our expertise with a city in the Philippines for the past 6 years and are now actively involved in Tsunami reconstruction efforts. Also thanks to the FCM and its initiatives, Langley Township has a fully functioning Community Safety Commission which is chaired by Councillor Kositsky.

Councillor Long has carried on Councillor Kositsky’s initiatives by being the first elected representative from Langley Township (and the Lower Mainland outside of Surrey, Burnaby and Vancouver City) to the FCM Board of Directors. Councillor Long is also the newly elected President of the Lower Mainland Municipal Government Association which includes municipalities from Hope to Pemberton including Vancouver. When Langley Township representatives attend these activities, Langley Township is well known and well respected.

Langley is the first municipality in Canada to have an environmentally LEED Silver Certified township hall. This is a direct result of the municipal environmental initiatives reinforced by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). Councillors Ferguson, Kositsky, Long, Ward and myself have been regular attendees at these annual conferences which are held at different cities across Canada.

This year’s conference was in Calgary and one of its major foci was on affordable housing.

We learned at this conference that this is an issue in all major cities in Canada and that according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) standards, the group most at risk are those in the 40th percentile or lower income bracket. Depending on the area that you live in, this equates to about $50,000 to $60,000 annual income per year. CMHC uses a 4:1 ratio which means that a person/family with a $50,000 per year annual income can afford a $200,000 home. (Good luck finding one of these in Langley).

This Council likes to think it’s providing “affordable housing” with the new developments it is approving but I don’t think it’s even close which I suspect is one of the reasons that most new developments have unregistered secondary suites which in turn is doubling the density and the car/traffic problems in these areas.

At FCM, we were told of the Langford, BC model. In Langford, one in every 10 new single family homes being built is “affordable”. This means that they are integrated into existing developments and the price of these homes is capped at $160,000 for 25 years. To be eligible for these homes, several criteria are used such as age, length of residency in the community, annual income, number of children, disabilities, etc.

The Council and planners at Langford have observed that these homes are integrated into each subdivision. Developers are using a higher standard of building materials than they have to and so these homes are indistinguishable from their $360,000 neighbours. Langford City planners have also observed that the residents in the affordable units have great pride of ownership and are often the first on the block to have flowers planted and landscaping done.

I was so impressed with the Langford model that I have put forward a notice of motion for discussion at tomorrow’s Council meeting (June 18, 2007) asking that Council authorize staff to investigate and incorporate the Langford model here. Hopefully Council will agree as I think this route is much better than building separate affordable “projects” in Langley. They will blend in better with the community and avoid the problems of low-income developments experienced in other cities. Kudos to Langford for thinking this one up and making it a reality!

After FCM, Councillor Ferguson and I attended the 45th International Liveable Cities Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Portland is regularly held up as one of the most sustainable cities in North America and I can now see why. They stopped building major highways into their downtown in the 1970’s and transferred all their highway funding into transit funding. As a result, they now have a light rapid transit system that extends 18 miles to the west and 15 miles to the east. They are currently in the process of extending it north and south. Greater Portland has a 2.2 Million population and a geographic area which is equivalent to the GVRD. Essentially, they have light rapid trains that run from North Van to Chilliwack every 15 minutes! Furthermore, travel in the downtown core is free.

The majority of Portland’s system is paid for by annual payroll taxes equaling $6.52 per $1000 of gross payroll. All employers pay including not-for-profits and charities. This was accomplished through State legislation and makes a lot more sense to me than paying for the system through property taxes like we do here.

Portland also has the highest per capita number of hybrid vehicles and cyclists. Cyclists take priority on their roads including the right to sit in front of cars at all intersections. No one speeds downtown because of the number of cyclists.

Having seen what Portland has accomplished, I am now wavering on my former stance concerning twinning the Port Mann. I have heard it said that the expression “Build it and they will come” applies to cars and roads. I can now see why. Portland (a city of 600,000) appears to have successfully stopped this trend whereas in Everett, Washington (a growing community like Langley with a current population of 91,000), I sat on the I-5 highway (which they are expanding) for 2 hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 9 miles for no apparent reason other than volume of single occupant vehicles. There was no construction, no accidents, no emergency vehicles, no reason for bumper-to-bumper traffic at 2:30 pm other than volume and suburbs.

While Portland is clearly a pioneer in sustainability measures, it does have its problems. Homelessness is one of the big ones. Portland does appear to be a very safe city (for the US) but there were many homeless people camped out in every doorway and park in their downtown. This is a major problem in the US. One of the speakers at the conference was a planner from Los Angeles and he indicated that the homeless population in Los Angeles was 90,000 (essentially the size of Langley Township). He said that dealing with this was a very complex issue that they have worked on for many years. Homeless shelters alone do not appear to be the solution for the same reason as mentioned earlier for cars and highways (i.e. “Build them and they will come”). One of the problems with shelters is that people must vacate at 8 am and they have no place to go but the parks.

Councillors from other parts in Canada confirmed this saying that what is really needed is “2nd Stage Housing” where homeless people can stay for longer than one night, where they have access to a telephone and can use this as a stepping stone for employment. Based on what I heard at this conference, I think we should rethink the need for a homeless shelter in Langley and move instead towards providing 2nd Stage Housing.

One of the topics that really captured my imagination concerned agriculture. For the past 6 years, a New York City Professor has challenged his classes to think about how to feed the 2.8 Billion new Earth residents expected over the next 50 years. He defines sustainability as "behaving like a true ecosystem" and that a human being's basic rights include the right to 2.3 litres of safe drinking water and 2000 calories of safe food per day.

He thinks we need to start thinking about “farming up” instead of “farming out”. He says that cities should be able to feed themselves without going beyond city limits. He asks his classes to figure out how to do this and their very interesting results are all posted on a website called . Fascinating concept!

His classes have determined that that there are 13 acres of roofs in Manhattan which is not enough roof top garden space to feed NY. According to them, one 30 story vertical farm could feed 50,000 people per day. This farm would take up one NY city block (or 5 acres). NY City would need 160 such towers to feed its population and this would save 60 million acres of flat land. At present, they calculate that NY City eats the equivalent land value of the entire state of Virginia.

Prior to this conference, I had never thought of farming up but it seems to make a certain kind of sense and certainly captures the imagination! We would need two such vertical farms to feed our current population in Langley. Perhaps our Langley Agriculture Advisory Committee and the GVRD Agriculture Committee should consider this.

Another concept that I learned about at an earlier “Liveable Cities” Conference in Santa Fe was the idea of designing our communities around children and their need to grow up in safe surroundings. As a result of that conference, Langley Township adopted a Child Friendly Impact Assessment analysis that developers are now required to undertake (June 2005). We have also incorporated a Children’s Bill of Rights into our Township corporate goals and objectives. We were 2 years ahead of Portland in doing this.

The latest advances on this social sustainability front in the US concern “Health Impact Assessments” for new developments. These have been adopted in California and have been pioneered by a UBC Professor. I think we should be adopting his revolutionary development principles a little closer to home than California (like in Canada) and I intend to make a Notice of Motion about this. I think this should be another “first” for the Township.

At this year’s conferences, I met many people including the Mayor of Westmount, Montreal where the average property value is $1.1 Million and the transit system is $32.0 Million in deficit. I met the Mayor of Portland who starts every Council meeting by asking how the children of the city are because these children are the future of a sustainable city. I met a fellow “blogging” Councillor from Windsor, Ontario ( who has family here in Langley. Alan is the first to pioneer blogging in his city and is under scrutiny from his Council colleagues for doing so. In fact, they’re even thinking of employing an “Ethics/Integrity Officer” to screen his postings. I think this is a totally unnecessary and frightening form of censorship and I encourage you to visit his blog to offer your support for his efforts (as well as to learn what’s happening in that part of Canada).

The preceding is just a “relatively” brief summary of the many ideas and concepts that I have been exposed to in the last month while attending these conferences on behalf of the Township. I have brought back file folders of information which I have given to the Township’s Administrator for distribution to the appropriate departments. I know he has passed them on because I have just recently heard from the Director of Finance about a new website concept that I brought back from FCM.

In conclusion, there is such a thing as penny wise and pound foolish. I don’t often agree with Councillors Ferguson, Kositsky, Long and Ward but I think they’re right in trying to expand their horizons. Council members who have not bothered to attend conferences before passing judgment on the advantages to the community from doing so fall into this category: “There are none who are so blind as those who will not see”. How unfortunate that we have such myopic individuals on the current council.

Should Councillors travel? Based on all the ideas that I have heard/seen in different communities across Canada and the US and based on all the ideas we have been able to successfully implement in Langley, I think the answer is a resounding “Yes”. In fact, I think travel to at least one conference per year should be mandatory for every Township Councillor to ensure that they are thinking in the broadest possible terms when they are evaluating new ideas and making development decisions.

Bottomline: You decide if it’s worthwhile. You’re the taxpayers. (However, I do think that expecting Councillors to provide written reports on what they’ve learned at conferences would probably be a very good idea and an excellent accountability measure).

All Trustees Wimp Out & Re-Elect Burton as Chair !!??- June 12 Langley School Board District Report by Susan Semonick

Bravo for Chair Burton for arranging the agenda so that the Aldergrove Elementary and Bradshaw Elementary communities had opportunity to address their situations without all the overshadowing of the large contingent from HD Stafford.

Trustee Reports
Trustee Paterson apologized to fellow trustees, Ms. Beaumont, and the public for sending out the e-mail addressed to Ms. Beaumont to the 900+ people on the school district’s listserve. Of course, she was referring to the email that she sent out in the early morning hours of April 25th, making known her displeasure about the sudden decision to relocate the Board meeting and the short notice provided. The crowded boardroom was noisy and Trustee Paterson had her eyes focused down on her written copy, rarely looking up, and spoke in a muted voice so it was difficult to hear. She gave several reasons why she believes she did what she did. Whether the public considers them excuses or not remains to be seen. From what I understand of the events that have led up to this apology, there seems to be lack of full disclosure of what really transpired.

I wonder, since very few people on the listserve attend Board meetings, whether they appreciate having their e-mail intentionally sent all over the place, and whether her apology will be satisfactory, if they find out about it somehow. Being one of the recipients of the infamous email, I know I have still not received a retraction or an apology and yet this would seem simple enough to do. This time however, just use the blind-copy.

The Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act allows for penalties of $2,000 up to $500,000 to be imposed depending upon several factors. Hopefully, the Board will not incur any penalties. I have asked for a copy of her public apology and will be able to comment further when I receive it.

Delegations (First part)
Bradshaw parents made two presentations on how things were going for them. I will quote the Bradshaw PAC President, Allison Charlton.

“This process has reminded me that there is more to education than what is taught within a school.”

“I have learned that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary achievement. Sadly, I’ve also learned the even with great heart and great strength it is impossible to deny the reality of our demographics.”

Bradshaw Elementary will close at the end of this school year. The vote of 5-2 to close the school almost didn’t occur due to a couple of trustees who were either not paying attention to what was being voted on, or did not realize that the effect of voting against having all three readings of the motion at one sitting would be to delay the decision for another painful week. However, it was quickly rectified after the audience’s outcry.

Chair and Vice-chair Elections
Steve Burton acclaimed to position of Chair. I say “Way To Go “ Mr. Burton for sticking to it, even with all the controversy. No other trustee challenged him for the position so they have no right to complain about how he does things. Since there were no other candidates, despite all the complaints that have been lodged about the treatment the public has received, this indicates that the Board is fine with how he has handled the public or that they believe he has changed. I hope the latter is true.

Trustee McVeigh was challenged by Trustee Cody for the Vice-Chair position, but won in a secret ballot amidst some vocal displeasure from the audience.

Student Leadership was reported on in regards to School District initiatives. From responses from a survey of educators and students, the vast majority clearly indicated that they felt it was very important to have strong student leadership within the school system and gave numerous examples including:

  • Being strong role model for younger students
  • Helping teach others how to be responsible
  • Being able to show pride in accomplishments
  • Getting involved in activities that will make you want to be a part of school
Overall, the message was that students were setting example and showing the lead for others, as our Board of Education should be doing.

Flood Prep Update
No flood threat at this time for the Fort Langley schools.

Fee Schedule
The school fees tab stands at $600,00 to 800,000 to cover the costs that the district is now not allowed to charge families.
The Board approved fee schedules for Hockey, Soccer, Edge program, Dance, Theatre, Media Arts, Music and Visual Arts academies at four of our schools in the district.

Budget Report
There has been $2.4 million in enhancements to programs and services that is partially supported by $646,000 of funding that was not used last year. The government has given all the money that they have promised. We are still closing schools. When I hear the word “enhancements” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I interpret that as something that is not really needed. Are we trying to meet unrealistic expectations in trying to meet a choice mandate at the cost of needlessly closing facilities? Or, are we trying to correct things that are not complete?

Delegations (part two)
Of the 13 delegations at the end of the Board meeting, all related to the South/Central consultations and 6 delegations were identified as presenting on behalf of HD Stafford although many individuals spoke on behalf of HDS as well. There were at least six, if I am correct, past trustees in the audience. I wonder if they will be getting together as former trustees and putting together something as recommendations to the Board? I also wonder if all the parent presenters will be meeting over the summer to come up with a joint recommendation that could work. So many of them seem to have individually spent many hours on their presentations that collectively as one group, imagine what they could do.

I will be submitting an additional post in regards to this meeting in the near future. It will deal with Building for the Future suggestions. Even though each of the presentations had valid content, a few are more than worth my time to advise you of; the content of some were very entertaining. If any of the presenters have not already given me their presentations please send them to if you wish your input to be considered in my next report.

Due to the lateness of the evening (they were the last two delegations) LSS chose to submit their written presentations instead of speaking. According to the last presentation that the PAC President had done, LSS parents are apparently in support of the 9-12 configuration and the middle school concept.

The meeting was adjourned at midnight.


Susan Semonick...

Letter To The Editor - June 11, 2007 - From Rick Kaselj - Re: The Unbundling Energy Scam Offers

SCAM Alert

The Unbundling Energy Scam Offers!

Do not sign up for any services offered by any gas marketer that have popped up because of the commodity unbundling of services relating to natural gas.

A representative from a new gas marketer came to my home on May 15, 2007 and scammed me for $579. This representative knocked on my door and informed me that Terasen was not going to be delivering natural gas to my home and that they would be providing that service. He let me know that in order for me to be transferred over to them and have my natural gas service continued, I would have to provide him with my Terasen gas statement. I was resistant at first but he convinced me to provide it. He filled out a form and got me to sign it. He said a letter from Terasen would come in the mail informing me that they would now be delivering natural gas to my home instead of Terasen.

I received a letter dated May 16, 2007 on May 28, 2007 from Terasen gas. After reviewing the letter, and realizing that I was not interested in having this new gas marketer provide me with gas, I explored my cancellation options. I noticed that that I had 10 days with which to cancel however; I received the letter past my 10 day cooling off period. According to the gas marketer weekends and holidays are calculated in the 10 day cooling off period. I contacted them and was informed that I could only cancel my contract if I paid a $310 service charge. In addition the rate I was originally quoted on my contract was $9.14 per GJ and the letter stated the rate was $9.74. When outlining this mistake to them they said I was wrong and refused to make the change.

I have tried to communicate diplomatically with them but they have refused to be understanding. What I have decided is to inform my friends, family, city, politicians and media of the tactics of this situation.

Do not make the same mistake as me. Be cautious and do not sign up for questionable this gas marketers Scam to replace Terasen Gas!

What You Need to Know about this Scam:

  • If you sign up with them, you are locked into a contract for 5 years.
  • Your gas fee will go from $7.663 per GJ to $9.74 per GJ. This is 27% increase or $116 a year.
  • Signing up will cost you almost $579 (over 5 years) compared to today’s rate from Terasen
  • Experts expect natural gas to stay at between $7 - $8 per GJ
  • You have 10 calendar days to cancel the contract, not business days. Holidays and weekends are included in the count.
Educate Yourself:
  • Visit Terasen Gas website ( for more information.
  • Visit British Columbia Utilities Commission which regulates British Columbia's natural gas and electricity utilities ( )
  • Read the Code of Conduct for Gas Marketers at
  • How to file a Complaint -
If these new scammers do end up scamming you, feel free to call Rick at (604) 530-0103 or e-mail at and he can share his experience and let you know what actions he has taken.

Rick Kaselj - Victim of the new unbundled Energy Scam

Letter To The Editor - May 27, 2007 - From Donna Passmore - Re: Another Opposition Letter to Langley Township ALR Applications

Re: Township of Langley By-Laws Contravenes Agricultural Land Commission Act

June 13, 2007
Provincial Agricultural Land Commission
133-4940 Canada Way
Burnaby, BC V5G 4K6

Attention: Erik Karlsen, Chair

Dear Sir:

On behalf of the Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition (“FVCC”), I write to urge the Agricultural Land Commission to address the contraventions in the Township of Langley’s by-laws and Official Community Plan that contravene the Agricultural Land Commission Act.

Attached for your records and review is a copy of the Minutes of Township Council’s meeting of May 28th, which lists five new applications for subdivision and exclusion of lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve (“ALR”), which will bring to 22 the number of such applications FVCC has had to oppose since January 1, 2007.

As the Commission’s records will show, many of the most recent applications from Langley Township are in the area of the Hopington Aquifer and Salmon River Uplands, an area that I understand is regarded as the best place in Canada for growing strawberries.

Langley balked when the ALR was introduced in 1973 and its Official Community Plan (circa 1978) flagrantly disregarded the objectives and boundaries of the ALR. Two intensive reviews of Langley’s ALR land in the late 70’s/early 80’s (one focused only on the Salmon River Uplands) was Township’s opportunity to tweak the boundaries and exclude land already diminished by development. What remains in Langley’s ALR is good farmland, meriting the full protective forces of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Rich Wildlife Poor Protection, a report recently jointly issued by the David Suzuki Foundation and Sierra Legal Defence Fund paints a grim picture about the state of BC’s wildlife, and in particular tells us that 17% of BC’s wildfowl population is in peril from lack of protection. Although not the primary objective of the Agricultural Land Reserve, one of its adjunct benefits is that by protecting farmland it has helped protect foodlands for millions of resident and migrating wildfowl.

By allowing Langley Township’s by-laws to contravene the Agricultural land Commission Act, the Commission is:

Undermining the validity of its own legislation;
Creating an expectation – particularly among land speculators – that these lands are open for development;
Failing to live up to its own mission to “Preserve agricultural land and encourage and enable farm businesses throughout British Columbia”;
Failing to live up to spirit of the ALR and the public expectation that the Agricultural Land Reserve protects our foodlands; and
In the case of Hopington Aquifer and Salmon River Uplands, potentially failing to protect areas with high Environmentally Sensitive Area designations from inappropriate development;

Langley Township has had more than twenty-five years to amend its Official Community Plan to conform to the ALR. FVCC is aware that the Commission has asked Langley Township to effect this, and that you held a day-long meeting in Langley last autumn to educate the community about the ALR.

Rather than seeing any serious or prompt move to make its bylaws conform to provincial law, we are seeing a rapid escalation in the number of applications being approved by the Township.

Enough is enough! In light of the indicting conclusions about the state of our food security contained in BC Ministry of Agriculture’s recent BC Food Self Reliance Report, it is incumbent upon the Commission to use all powers available to it under s. 46 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act (and all other legislative tools and policies available to it) to force the Township of Langley to move quickly to conform to the Act and protect our foodlands. In the meantime, we ask the Commission to implement an absolute moratorium on reviewing all non-emergency applications from Langley Township pertaining to lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve.


Donna Passmore

Agriculture Campaigner

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bob Long For Mayor? - "Short Term Pain For Long Term Gain"

Langley Times Reporter Al Irwin was fortunate enough to scoop and catch as well as also to get a picture of Township Councillor Bob Long taking down a protest banner and in an ensuing brief struggle with a community protester tearing the same 6 foot long poster in half ( “Short term gain for long term pain.” was on the poster) that was placed on the Fernridge Hall last week at the Township open house that outlined the Township’s controversial plan to rehabilitate a former gravel pit, at 20355 32 Ave into a park.

This Editor just has to wade in on the issue to question whether a sitting Councillor is deemed prudent and wise to climb a ladder , remove a protestor's banner and in a struggle tear it in half in a struggle with a taxpayer. Worse still he got it documented by published photo in the Times! The Times also carefully closes the report by saying " Afterwards, the two men had a lengthy discussion, and parted ways peacefully". Is this the mettle we seek of our elected officials? How about for Mayor? Why not says this Editor , at least this shows this Editor that Bob shows more conviction, passion, integity and balls than the alternative!