Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mayor Alberts' Fort Langley Gets Funding Once Again

MLA's Ministers Rich Coleman & Stan Hagan along with Township Mayor Kurt Alberts apparently are making an announcement in Fort Langley on Monday. No surprise, let's see now, Alberts' home base of Fort Langley has gotten street improvements, a fort to fort trail, along with purchasing a local golf course and a restaurant/bar so far. What's next and how much more? What is Fort Langley getting this time? Maybe the bigger question is how much is this going to cost the Township taxpayers this time as well?! What's wrong with Brookswood, Murrayville, Aldergove South Langley, etc. also getting some perks sometime? Their residents have been paying through the nose in ever increasing taxes for these spending sprees. Why don't they ever get something in their backyard? Doesn't the ole boys club slate on council know that the Township is a community of communities? Sure doesn't seem like it to this Editor....

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Letter To The Editor - July 29, 2007 - From Jeannine Cherewick - New Translink Bureaucracy Feeding At The Trough?

Reader Jeannine Cherewick forwarded the below 3 emails to LFP re the new Translink governance model, Light Rapid Transit in the Fraser Valley & fiscal accountability. Reading the bottom one first is her initial email to Minister Kevin Falcon, Falcon's response is second from the bottom and then Jeannine's counter response To Falcon just below. Jeannine please think about running for political office! - >>>EDITOR LFP<<<

From: Jeannine Cherewick
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2007 3:00 PM
To: 'Transportation, Minister Falcon TRAN:EX'
Subject: RE: 155606 - Changes at TransLink

Your responses to my letter are very slick and political shit. Please pardon my vulgarity but you haven’t given me any real answers. I don’t want slick long winded explanations, I want
some blunt to the point answers.

First of all; who is the independent panel of people choosing which mayors get to spend my money? Depending on whose will this independent panel bows to determines if the mayors council is appointed or not... Not to mention a commissioner? Who chooses him/her?

I express a huge concern over the "resources" translink has access to because I have yet to see a clear year by year total of all their funding. And clear totaling using Generally Accepted Accounting Practices to show how much money translink gets every year for everything; wages salary, perks, expense accounts, maintenance, operations, projects, consulting, and gosh only knows what else... every penny that is spent by Translink... and every penny that goes into Translink. I don’t care about the propaganda; the long winded letters explaining how translink is going to put that money to use with out really fully disclosing how much they’ve gotten; using figures over and omitting some non essential amounts, rounding up or down totals etc. I want to see the balance sheet... the P&L report. Are you going to email them to me or not? I am going to assume that you are not. How can you honestly expect me to accept translink saying that they need more money with out some sort of proof?

It boils down to this: I don’t have a problem paying my taxes and supporting the growth and infrastructure of our province but I’ve been lied to, condescended to, over taxed regularly and been expected to be grateful for all of it! I am sick of being scammed by the fridge repair man, overcharged for fuel, taxed for transit I don’t have access to and I am sick of bureaucratic smooth talking, legalese spouting, politicians telling me I don’t understand the situation. I may not have the fine points down but I understand that translink gets a lot more money than they will add up and admit to all on one piece of paper. I also know that if translink was run like a private company or was a fully transparent crown corporation, I’d probably have better access to the info I want and there would be a bit more real accountability to the public. Not to mention the fact that it would most likely be profitable.

So don’t email me with more condescending fluff talk to enlighten me as to why your non-answers are enough and I should be satisfied with that. Give me a detailed P&L, a balance sheet and list of where all the funding translink gets comes from as well as their complete revenue stream totals that Translink received last fiscal year and for the last ten years and you’ll have made me a very satisfied British Columbian.

Jeannine Cherewick

-----Original Message-----
From: Transportation, Minister Falcon TRAN:EX
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2007 12:01 PM
To: jeannine
Subject: 155606 - Changes at TransLink

Dear Jeannine:

Thank you for your e-mail of April 8, 2007, about the important changes announced for TransLink. Your e-mail contains a few misunderstandings about these changes, and I'm glad to have this opportunity to clear up matters.

Appointments to TransLink's new board of professionals will be made by the new Council of Mayors from a list of qualified individuals identified by an independent panel. The provincial government will not appoint anyone to the board, as you suggest.

The Council of Mayors, which will be made up entirely of elected local officials, is going to have a crucial role in TransLink's new structure. They will be responsible for setting TransLink's high-level direction by approving a 10-year strategic plan. The council will also authorize the
tax measures and borrowing required to achieve these goals.

The council's 10-year plan will be carried out by TransLink, overseen by a board of professionals -- people who have the appropriate expertise to oversee the planning, construction and operation of the region's transportation system.

To provide checks, balances and transparency, an independent TransLink Commissioner will be established. The commissioner will authorize any transit fare increases and will also provide unbiased assessments of whether TransLink's plans are consistent with the region's growth
management plans, as required by law.

Regarding your concerns about financial transparency, TransLink will continue to publish its financial statements and accounting policies in its annual report, which is currently available on its web site at: http://www.translink.bc.ca/Plans_Projects/

As you note, people in the Fraser Valley and other neighbouring regions have asked for a stronger voice in TransLink's decisions for some time now. Local governments from Hope to Pemberton may choose to join TransLink and be represented on the Mayor's Council if they feel this approach is right for their communities. However, no local government will be required to join, and no region will have to help fund TransLink without being represented.

You express some concern that TransLink has too many resources at its disposal already. However, TransLink needs to make significant investments in order to secure the transportation system required for the region's future. Only under the new structure will it have access to the resources to make these investments a reality. The changes we plan will ensure TransLink's funding requirements are met for the next two decades, making possible projects like the Evergreen Line and public transit across the Port Mann Bridge.

The new Council of Mayors will have the authority to increase fuel taxes within TransLink's service area by up to three cents per litre in the coming years, on the condition that additional revenues from any increase in fuel taxes are balanced with increases in property taxes and
other revenues, including fares. The panel chose to recommend this approach, because it fairly balances the demands placed on drivers, transit users and property tax owners in the region. It also provides an incentive to reduce automobile use and encourages transit use. The measure will also provide a substantial and predictable revenue stream, mitigating the need for property tax and fare increases well into the future.

You outline many other transportation investments you'd like to see, such as new transit lines. These are the sorts of decisions that will be made by the elected officials on the Council of Mayors and the skilled professionals on the TransLink board. The provincial government remains committed to the principle that regional transportation decisions should be made at a regional level.

The changes to TransLink we have announced are going to increase its effectiveness, responsiveness and accountability. They will let the people of the Lower Mainland build an outstanding transportation system that serves their needs for decades to come.

Again, thanks for taking the time to write.

Best regards,

Kevin Falcon


From: Jeannine Cherewick
Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2007 11:45 PM
To: Falcon.MLA, Kevin

Subject: translink...

I have a serious issue with enlarging translink, under funding it and making sure the public have less access, control or say over its actions. So basically you've done the complete opposite of what you should have done with Translink as what you should have done. Translink
costs too much and does too little for every one outside of Vancouver city, Burnaby, Richmond, new west and tricities.

I am sick and tired of politicians saying they are doing what's best for BC when all they are really doing is consolidating power so they can do what they think is best for BC'ers. Translink should be restructured for sure. But there should be accountability to the tax payers of BC built into the new structure. As it stands, Translink has gone from being a unaccountable, non elected
body of bureaucrats who had the power to impose taxes, (which is completely wrong as far as I'm concerned) to a non elected body of bureaucrats, unaccountable to anyone but the minister, so you can have an squad of yes men run after you and applaud your every action. I think it's egotistical.

Translink should be made smaller, with far more checks and balances in place. With a transparent accounting of where the tax money they receive goes, not to mention how much they really get. Not some mishmash of obscure sources either. I'm talking a complete financial reckoning based on generally accepted accounting practices. I hope you are familiar with that terminology. It's a formula I am supposed to follow when doing my taxes. Once Translink gives a complete and fully transparent, honest accounting of its Profit and Loss, Balance sheet and
general ledger I will be more willing to support it if it can show why it deserves my support.

I've done a fair bit of bitching about Translink. In fact I think it's just another bureaucratic pig feeding from the trough that has been intentionally inflated to seem bigger than it needs to be in order to justify taxing the public as much as possible. How many hundreds of millions of dollars does translink suck from the public through its current revenue streams? Hydro Levies, fuel tax, property tax and so on. Now your going to expand translink fee's to the rest of the Fraser
valley... for what? Translink neither serves the outlying areas nor deserves the tax base.

I have said it before and I'll say it again, Translink is only good for those people who have the option of using transit, most of whom live in either Burnaby, central Surrey, New West, tri cities, North Van, Richmond or Vancouver itself. And of course most of those people think its fine for Translink to steal money out of my pocket and the rest the Fraser valley population because it's good for their circumstances.

Let's see some service that is on par with the service Vancouver gets out here in Langley and Chilliwack... build an affordable light rail transit from Hope to Maple Ridge west coast express, add a connecting train to Abbotsford and another rail transit from Abbotsford to Langley, south Surrey, Delta out to Richmond and build the highway and bridges that should have been built 20 years ago to accommodate today's traffic.

Yes I am talking billions and billions of dollars, but the fact of the matter is that I like hundreds of thousands like me resent Vancouver's monopoly on transit dollars. I drive for a living and when I am not working, I don't have the option of walking to the grocery store or hopping on the next bus because there isn't one on a regular basis that would take me anywhere near the places I need to go. Everything focuses on getting into Vancouver, very little concerns getting out of Vancouver or just commuting in my community. I do not see Langley as a suburb.

Langley is my home and I want to commute here, to hell with getting to Vancouver on transit, I'd just like to get around my home town! I live here and stay out of Vancouver as much as possible. I don't shop in Vancouver or take my recreation there. The issue of urban sprawl is
long past... The issue is providing adequate transportation to the people who live in the valley. Right now the only viable transportation is the highways because the province and Translink in their wisdom have not built enough rapid transit infrastructure to service the needs of the bulk of the population of the lower mainland.

And so all the Starbucks drinking, tree hugging yuppies in the downtown core and North/west Vancouver who can afford to actually live there and whose transit is subsidized by the hundreds of thousands, (dare I say millions?) of people who don't get access to the buses and sky train; who instead of using transit, choose to drive their smart cars and Saab's and Prius' the ten or twenty blocks to work; bitch and scream about how much more pollution will be caused by all the cars driving on the new highways that will be built (and how dare we lowly masses not
worthy of residing in the hallowed city of Vancouver (including North V and West V) ask or hope to understand why its bad for us to have better access to the ports, north shore, east of hope, industrial area's of Vancouver and so on.

And those same hypocritical yuppies that rely on the highways for all their supplies that keep the city alive; honk their horns and give me the finger and road rage at the trucks I pilot because we dare to be on the road at the same time as they.) these hypocritical, trendy, look-down-their-noses, Sam Sullivan ass kissing sycophants who don't know what the hell their talking about because they haven't been out of the city of Vancouver in years; have the gall to demand that anew bridge not be built over the Fraser river to reduce traffic congestion... ?! WTF!

I am not being derogatory towards all Vancouverites. No, just the ones who don't get that with out the proper transit system to bring people into the city, out of the city and around their own communities, there has to be roads. More roads. Because all the people who have to commute don't really have a choice and clog the highway from 176 St west to the second narrows pretty much from 4am to 9 or 10 pm and that is a huge problem... All those idling vehicles, thousands of them an hour, burning fossil fuels and polluting. And yes, it bothers us out in the valley to see such wastage. Why? Because its our money going out the tail pipe. And every time I fuel up my vehicle (It's a ford F350 diesel pickup. And yes, I need it for work, not just because I can afford to burn my money on an overpriced, gas guzzling SUV like so many of those whiney Vancouver hypocrites who are opposed to building more roads) I am pissed off to know that some of my hard earned money is going to be sucked up by the bloated leech called Translink.

Those people living west of Coquitlam who don't know that there are beautiful towns, parks and happy communities just east of them. Those people who don't know anything exists past the city limits of Burnaby... those are the people I have so little respect for. Who think they are the only British Columbians who have a say and think their opinions are correct because they live in Vancouver (!). Give me a break!

What it all boils down to is this: I would like to see some honesty from your ministry. I would like to see a proper and full accounting from Translink, justification for the changes that are going to be made and a cost break down of the changes. Oh yeah, also, think that the province of BC and Translink should reimburse every person in BC who pays the tax on fuel that supports translink. Why? Because they aren't being honest with our tax dollars, I believe, and we pay too much as it is. And I'd like to tell Mr. Sullivan where to stick it along with all the other ding dongs who haven't got a clue.

And a word for you Mr. Falcon, if you really want to do some good for transportation in the lower mainland, a rapid transit, like rail (The west coast express for example) from Hope to Richmond with connectors to the sky train, and stops at Mission, Fort Langley, (To connect with WC express at albion) Surrey, Delta at the industrial park there, (so many people would use rail there!) Ladner and then to Richmond to connect with the new Canada line; that would be beneficial. Also, Some form of mass transit that paralleled the path of the freeway from Chilliwack to Vancouver.... But my idea's might actually work at reducing the need to build more roads which might in turn reduce the fuel tax revenues the gov. could expect, so why take them seriously, right?

Jeannine Cherewick

Vecchiato's Voice - July 29, 2007 - Black Kettles and Vocal Pots

Sometimes, a vocal pot calls the kettle black, lending us an image of personification. In this particular case, it appears that the Township is the vocal pot.

In the Langley Times (July 13, 2007), an article "Tree Protection Sought" includes interviews with Township staff in relationship to tree surveys as well as the condition of a property adjacent to Mountain Secondary, which township owns and had leased to a tenant.

The article states that "the site has the appearance and smell of a homeless squat...putrid, stagnant water in a half full basement contributes to a smell of human excrement that might come from a leaking septic tank." Township administrator is quoted as saying, "it is not a healthy situation."

Since when is a tenant responsible for septic maintenance? According to tenants.bc.ca, a landlord "must keep a place healthy, safe and 'suitable for occupation' .... has to make any repairs that are needed for your health and safety. (The) landlord is responsible for repairing: heating, plumbing electricity...Anything included in your rent must also be maintained.... The landlord is responsible for repairing: garages and storage sheds.

But let's add the Township's own legislation, stating, under its Property Maintenance and Repair Bylaw 2003 No. 4231, "where "the Corporation of the Township of Langley deems it necessary for the health, safety and protection of persons and property, to regulate the maintenance and repair of properties within its jurisdiction." It also states in section 3 that "The Owner of a property will maintain the property...concerning the health and safety of the property."

It seems clear that the staff interviewed wished to steer away from the initial issue of the article (Tree preservation) and paint the tenant in a most unfavorable light. Township, however, shoots its own foot because they were, in fact, the landlord, yet never checked on their property.

I've been both landlord and tenant and understand that regular inspections is one way to guarantee the condition of your property. Township has violated its own by-law and not lived up to provincial laws legislating the responsibility of landlords.

But back to the initial issue: "Tree protection sought." With some investigation, I found that the Township was not able to produce a tree survey when requested, although Parks Manager is cited in the article, by saying, "the township has produced a tree survey as part of the topographical survey of the whole Willoughby Community Park site." When asked for the survey, one wonders why our public servants remain so furtive. There are, of course, things the township does very well, and part of this is providing some of the best recreational facilities available to a community. Consideration of heritage properties and the importance of the historic elements of this area are more laudable than other municipalities. However, an antagonism seems to develop between taxpayer as critic and staff contorting into a defensive position.

My feeling is that taxpayer as employer is often forgotten. We should not be forced into using the Freedom of Information Act, but maintain a transparent government that needn't play spin doctor, but instead, serve the people in the community.

Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for the past 5-1/2 years. She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and a community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities. Cathleen formed and leads the Langley Conservation Network. Editor LFP.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Christy Clark Join's CKNW - Is Michael Smyth Toast?

"CKNW NewsTalk 980, is pleased to announce that Christy Clark joins the station’s on-air roster on August 27, 2007 with the launch of The Christy Clark Show, airing Monday to Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m."

Charles Adler moves to weeknights 7 to 9 pm. No mention of local Province political commenter Michael Smyth who was on from 7 to 9pm.!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Township Audio Tape Top Picks by LFP - He Said - She Said or "I've Got A Witness"?!

This Editor just loves listening to some of the Langley Township Council discussions. Now you can listen to some choice ones too as selected by this LFP Editor as well. Be patient, depending on your computer it may take a few minutes to download the audio onto your audio player. But it's well worth it!

The following recording is between Councillor Kim Richter & Steve Ferguson at the July 9th 2007 Council meeting. At this meeting Richter asks if all Councillors can at their whim and wish use township tax-payer staff, facilities and resources to hold their own self serving or otherwise meetings. What ensues is an hilarious 'he said- she said' discussion about a meeting where Ferguson arbitrarily got free use of a meeting room at a township firehall, he also got high paid Township staff to attend and make presentations and discuss tabled issues as well by the Chair Steve Ferguson! To top it off, his essentially private taxpayer funded meeting was not advertised publicly nor were any of the other Township councillors apparently invited! So just imagine if all 9 council members had these freebie meetings every week all over the place. Good taxpayer investment? Do you think?

The first audio (click here) is the actual "he said - she said" heated discussion. The second audio (click here) is the complete discussion. Footnote: This Editor understands that the witness in question corroborates Councillor Richter's version. P.S. note that the local press once again reports not a peep on this item at all to obviously not help the taxpayer get an real insight on their elected council choices. Why? Why not?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Vecchiato's Voice - July 12, 2007 - That's Entertainment - Pirates vs Township Council!

Sunday, July 8th. Leave at 7 pm to see Pirates of the Caribbean: World's End. Pay too much $19.90 for myself and a nine year old. Try to figure out during film if screen writers did too many drugs. Assume probably yes. Wonder why people stabbed with epees come back to life. Wonder what 'up is down' means in the context of theme. Squirm at close up of Johnny Depp’'s nose. Large pores and blackheads. Close-ups of sex symbol's facial skin should never be shown unless airbrushed. Get on the Clinque men'’s program, Depp. Leave at 11 pm, bewildered, but stayed for final surprise segment after the credits.

Monday, July 9th. Leave house at 6:50. Go to Presentation Theatre in resplendent township hall and enter during first presentation. Langley will be 150 years old. Special logo with acknowledgement of First Nations added to Langley logo. Still think the flower looks like an edelweiss. Wrong country. Like the added canoe and frogs. Compensating for 150 years of bad behaviour is subtle and tasteful.

Listen to delegation regarding planned park on 202A south of Mountain Secondary. Delegate points out that township has exempted itself from the development tree by-law. Section 5.1 truly ambiguous. Use of double negatives to confuse anyone who bothers to read it. Councilor Richter asks that if they are exempt, then they could cut down the redwoods on park land. Answer is affirmative. No one at the long council table reacts. Delegate is thanked. No further discussion.

Next is a development at Gloucester Estates. Richter points out that original conservation areas not shown. Engineering cannot guarantee if tree removal in conservation area is probable, but guesses it is. Mayor dismisses Richter’'s point. Asks council for a vote to approve the submission. All councilors raise hands in unison except Richter. Smooth as a group of synchronized swimmers. I wonder if they have practiced this routine over dinner. Boys will raise hands when questioned by Mayor; girls not included.

Next subject is environmental design to be added to buildings. Bateman believes it should be mandated, not suggested; Mayor disagrees but allows a vote. Mayor seems to approve of each development submission 'as is.' Done deal. No one else asks questions. Richter seconds Bateman's motion. Something may change.

8:10 pm. I have to leave. I am going to miss the rest of this. I note that Mayor controls microphones. Think that mayor would look better on a throne. Remember seeing him at the Langley parade in a horse-drawn carriage. Makes me think of Dicken's’ England. We are the huddled masses with little chance of changing our station in life. When the carriage passed by, I imagine mud splattering on those afoot. No apologies. We deserve it, don't we?

Cost of : Pirates of the Caribbean: $19.90 plus $8 for popcorn and small drink.
Cost of Council meeting: Nothing.
Entertainment value: Pirates was more believable.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Richter Report - July 9, 2007 - Are the Property taxes Worth It? Where's the "Value for Dollar"?

Like most other residents of Langley, I paid my property taxes last week. I wasn’t impressed with having to pay what I had to pay. (I have a septic system and private well that I maintain at my own cost. I don’t get any snow removal until the sun melts it but I do have a street light and a volunteer fire hall down the road).

By accident, I pulled out my 2001 property tax statement from the “House” file before I went to pay my taxes. To say I was amazed would be an understatement especially since I have not supported any of the tax increases that have led us to what I believe is a rapidly escalating and unsustainable taxation position.

On Tuesday July 3, 2001, I paid $1000.00 less property taxes than I paid this year. My property taxes then were $2521.79. On Tuesday July 3, 2007, my property taxes were $3569.10 – a 41.5% increase. Hard to believe it was only 6 years ago. I have made no improvements to my property during that time period and I live in an area of the Township where there is a moratorium on development.

On July 3, 2001 (6 years ago), I paid $59.71 for the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority (Translink). This year I paid $226.75 - a 279.75% increase (Please note this is almost 300% or 50% per year). For what? (There’s no LRT in Langley nor will there be until well after 2031 according to the latest Translink plan for south of the Fraser).

On July 3, 2001 (6 years ago), I paid $31.69 for GVRD. This year I paid $44.40 – a 40.1% increase. For what? (The Mayor and his Alternate now get $200+ for attending each meeting).

On July 3, 2001 (6 years ago), I paid $111.00 for garbage collection. This year, I paid $139.69 – a 25.8% increase. For what? (A landfill that’s exhausted and no alternative in sight).

On July 3, 2001 (6 years ago), I paid $.09 for the Municipal Finance Authority. This year I paid $.18 - a 100% increase. For debt in my community. I did not vote for taking on new debt but this year alone, Council approved $11 Million in new debt and there’s even more new debt forecast for next year. Six years ago, this community was just about debt free.

On July 3, 2001 (6 years ago), I paid $42.34 for the Regional Library. This year, I paid $75.58 – a 75.5% increase. However, we did open 2 new libraries in Langley.

On July 3, 2001 (6 years ago), I paid nothing for Storm Water. This year, I am paying $107.75. A 107% increase mainly to fix problems stemming from new development. Don’t believe anyone who says “New development pays for itself”. It doesn’t.

On July 3, 2001 (6 years ago), I paid $1082.97 for school taxes. This year I paid $1324.46 – a 22.3% increase. Compared to Township tax increases, this seems almost reasonable.

On July 3, 2001 (6 years ago), I paid $36.11 for the BC Assessment Authority. This year I paid $41.64 – a 15.3% increase to tell me I can’t afford my property anymore even though I’ve lived here 20+ years. But it’s reassuring to note the compassion expressed in this year’s Township of Langley “Frequently Asked Questions About Municipal Taxes” document which states: “It must also be remembered that taxes are based on wealth, and the perceived ability to pay. It is generally understood that those who own homes with high assessment values would be able to access that wealth by selling their home.”

So here’s the real kicker: On July 3, 2001 (6 years ago), I paid $1157.88 for general purposes Township Taxes. This year I paid $1608.65 – a 38.9% increase or 6.5% per year. I certainly haven’t had a 38.9% increase in wages from either of my jobs but according to the Township, I can always sell my home and leave just like a lot of other long time residents. What choice do we have?

In my area of the Township, there’s definitely been a major property tax increase (40+%) over the last 6 years. For all of this extra property tax, what do we have to show for it? Are we really getting value for dollar?

I don’t think so. Do you?