Although most friends and neighbors are enjoying Summer fun and vacations, talk still turns to the upcoming Municipal election in October. I think the ‘buzz’ is directly related to bad scheduling of too many ‘hot’ issues in July Council Meetings. Agendas included the 2017 Annual Report, Development Cost Charges (DCCs) and Community Amenity Charges (CACs) Report, Public Engagement Task Force Report, Carnarvon Master Plan Report, Elected Official Compensation Review, Secondary Suites Terms of Reference, Water Conservation Plan, Recreational Cannabis Regulations Report along with administrative and land application items. Residents who attended, or submitted letters, weren’t too happy with either the form or content of the meetings. It felt like the ‘dog days of summer’ had arrived, with no reference to stars.
Compelled by a civic sense of duty, I read the reports, submitted letters and attended meetings. After all, the District invited resident input. Summer is jazz season and I recall a quote by musician Wynton Marsalis, ‘We always hear about the rights of democracy, but the major responsibility of it is participation’.
Even as private citizens we can make a difference. My personal experience:
2014 I voiced concerns about the District’s lack information on Reserve Funds at Estimates Meetings. Council now gets a single page report, but I continue to press Council to pass a resolution or Bylaw to establish minimum and maximum values for each of the reserve funds, with a comparison to actual amounts in the fund, and the specific purpose for each fund. Otherwise it’s like signing a blank cheque.
2015 I voiced concerns about work on our street that was left uncompleted even though the District had collected payment from developers. In 2017, with a new Director of Engineering, our road and driveways were finally repaired. Coincidantly, the District’s Bylaws were amended to increase fees for private services because the amounts previously collected were insufficient to cover the actual costs for materials and labour. Instead, hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars were used to fund private work. Or, in some cases the work was just never completed. If Oak Bay’s Annual Report included comparisons on changes in staffing and revenues collected for fees, the information would highlight when private work puts stress on District resources.
2016 I voiced concerns that Asset Management Reports on Oak Bay’s Infrastructure and Municipal Buildings were being withheld from residents. Several months later the Reports were released and showed that the District needed approximately $283 Million for repairs/replacement of repairs or replacement of infrastructure and municipal buildings over the next 20 years, and with most work in the next 10 years. Deferred maintenance is a short-term solution for a long-term problem. The Official Community Plan should be amended to include a requirement for, at minimum, a 15 year financial plan for the District’s infrastructure and buildings.
2017 After research and discussion with the Municipal Financing Authority (MFA), I outlined my conclusions were in a letter and comments to Council. Finally in 2018, District Staff invited the MFA to give a presentation on financing options to Council. The MFA confirmed the District could be eligible to borrow up to $122 Million for capital projects. But to be eligible Oak Bay would first need to have a Draft Bylaw approved by the Municipal Financing Authority and the Province, and then to hold a public referendum to obtain approval from Oak Bay residents. The MFA estimated the Bylaw process would take 6 – 12 months. MFA inspectors would also need to review proposed capital projects and verify sustainable revenues. In other words, MFA would be diligent in analyzing the proposed expenditures and ability of the District to repay loans.
2018 I questioned how contributions for land subdivisions were assessed, collected, and transferred to reserve funds. The answer was that there was no Municipal Policy in place to delegate the responsibility to Staff. My follow-up letter to Council, on a specific application, stated that with no policy it was the responsibility of Council to approve the contribution. Council then approved $181,900 developer contribution in lieu of park land for a 2017 subdivision application.
2018 I submitted a technical review of the District’s 2017 Annual Report. My conclusion was that Oak Bay’s Annual Report failed to meet the objectives outlined by the Province as guidance for municipal reporting. The Report failed to measure performance, identify new or ongoing concerns, or to establish objectives for the following year. Three Councillors voted against accepting the 2017 Annual Report.
On October 20th I want Oak Bay residents to elect a Council that will be accountable and transparent to the community. That’s why I am running for a seat on Council in the 2018 Election.