This Saturday being municipal election day I would like to remind voters in Cranbrook and Kimberley of the importance of voting for candidates who will continue municipal support for the not-for-profit sector in each of our communities. In the current drive to hold the line on taxes espoused by many candidates for election in both communities, there is a danger that, if elected, their bottom-line agendas may lead to a reduction in the support provided by council for the operations of not-for-profit organizations.
Not-for-profit organizations are largely driven by volunteers who hold community interests above self-interest and who work to enhance the quality of life for residents by offering needed services or programs and events that provide pleasurable involvement and entertainment, events that also attract tourists to the community, providing a spin-off economic benefit to local accommodators, restaurants and businesses.
For example, in Kimberley a total of 58 community events have been tabulated by the City’s economic development officer, Kevin Wilson, so far in 2014. Many of these were organized by not-for-profit volunteer organizations. They include 8 weekly village markets, 6 First Saturday celebrations, a week-long Kimberley Kaleidoscope festival, the Julyfest weekend sporting events and concert, the Dirtbag festival, 10 orienteering / running / biking events, 7 skiing-related events, Marysville Days and the Kimberley Fall Fair, Bullarama, McWhinnie Days, A Lillith Affair, a carnival, roller derby, and the list goes on. Add to these the 13 exhibitions and 6 to 10 concerts held at Centre 64 each year, Rotary, Lions Club, and Foodbank annual events, and it becomes evident that the fun of living in a community like Kimberley lies to a large extent in the programs and events provided by volunteer not-for-profit organizations. A similar list of Cranbrook events could be made pointing to the same conclusion.
It is essential to the future quality of life in our communities that these programs and events continue and that City Councils continue to support them. Please consider this when marking your ballots on Saturday.
On recent letters
How you might help your City to Lower Taxes.
Thank you to everyone who contributed letters for the Monday edition, and to the Townsman for printing them. Taken together, they show that Cranbrook taxes are very high compared to other cities of its size, and also give us some suggestion as to why this is the case.
Firstly, I accept the Wheeldon’s facts, since they are using public sources, which anyone can look up. (Cranbrook taxes are about three times higher than we paid on the Coast.)
Regarding CUPE, Mr. Jensen is incorrect about one point. CUPE is not primarily concerned about social spending. It is concerned about promoting the interests of its own members. It is perfectly legal for them to support candidates of their choosing. CUPE wrote letters to all us candidates asking our opinions, so we all had a fair chance to explain ourselves. Since I was an elected union executive, I know how and why this is done. Another influential group is the firefighters union, which phoned us all to invite us for personal interviews.
Mr. Collins writes like a reviewer. I loved his vivid description of the political theatre. (Perhaps you could sign him up for your paper.)
Ms. Humphrey asks an excellent questions, and answering requires some history. Because of my promise to not reveal sources, I have learned lots about why Cranbrook taxes have long been so high, and why so many roads are bad. Some Councillors years ago gave road contracts to relatives who were paid full price, but simply scraped off the topsoil and laid thin layers of gravel and pavement. There are many such examples.
Although I am much happier to hear about politicians serving union interests rather than personal ones, I think Cranbrook really needs more politicians who are dedicated to serving all its taxpayers. I believe those promoting financial restraint are sincere and well informed, and that they have facts that would not normally be revealed in Council Chambers.
As to their sincerity, I did mention that most of us could afford to give half our pay back to the city. Other new candidates told me that they would do the same as I had offered. Answering Ms. Love, I would put the facts in the paper about any public decisions that had lasting implications for taxpayers. Tax money is your money, and you should know where it goes.
Ms. Humphrey; It’s nice to see you share the same concerns, interests and passion in the community as the people running for council. This is clear by your letter to the editor. With dedication like this I must wonder why you have not allowed your name to stand for nomination. It is obvious by the large number of candidates that it is felt that our community needs change. Perhaps you shouldn’t come across as so bitter and show some engagement to them in a positive way.
You talk about costs such as policing and fire protection; why don’t you think positive and engage these people in dialog to see what solutions they may have in mind? You talk about Elizabeth Lake, the new sign to welcome people to Cranbrook and the improvement to the west entrance; it is your opinion this is cost effective beauty. In my opinion, it is not. (Democracy) You also talk about 14th avenue and the beautification; yes it looks better but the cost associated with it is not acceptable to some. (Democracy) The departmental decision to double up the benches should have been overseen by council. It is council’s job if they feel it is an acceptable expense, if they choose that it is then stand behind the decision. This doesn’t mean that we will all agree but in my mind it is frivolous spending. Look at the recreation complex and the huge expense it is to the tax payers at over $9,000 per day. I am a supporter of arts, culture and heritage, in which the Western Financial Place falls under according to the presentation from the Arts Council on October 22. That being said, I would like to see every avenue investigated to reduce this cost.
Ms. Humphrey, the people running for council believe there are other options. We share the same passion you do but we are willing to allow our names to stand. If you do ever consider running for office, keep in mind that you cannot please everyone and you may not have all the answers although I am sure you will do your best. I hope that you will be so kind as to extend your best wishes to the new council as there will be at least three new members that will benefit from your support of their best efforts to the same degree that you support the current council. Help them to lessen the burden on young families, senior citizens and businesses that pay taxes.
Enough is enough. I am getting thoroughly fed up with reading the right wing pro-corporate rantings of so-called journalist Tom Fletcher.
His latest press release for the B.C. Liberals, otherwise known as an editorial, calls into question the existence of climate change. May I remind Mr. Fletcher that he is entitled to his opinion but he is not a climate scientist and therefore lacks any credibility whatsoever on this issue.
His article on carbon dioxide emissions in the Nov. 4 issue does raise some interesting points. To be fair, he does criticize the government to the extent that their targets for CO2 emissions will be seriously compromised in the event that LNG development proceeds according to campaign promises.
He describes himself as a climate change skeptic and mentions that global temperatures have not risen significantly in the last 18 years, as if this is proof of the non-existence of climate change. Information in recent periodicals such as the Guardian Weekly have pointed out that the Atlantic Ocean is absorbing much more heat than previously thought. This may explain the apparent lack of temperature rise but it is hardly good news. The oceans are also absorbing the massive quantities of carbon dioxide which causes a change in PH levels, which is already measurable. This will lead to massive disruption in the food chain, as it makes it difficult for calcium-based creatures such as shellfish, and more importantly zooplankton (a critical base in the ocean food chain), to build shells and therefore survive.
This is just the beginning, and it is going to to get much worse unless we wake up and do something to reverse this trend.
There is not time or space enough to get into a discussion about the intricacies of climate change, but one thing is well agreed upon by the scientific community: Humans are altering the make-up of our atmosphere and this is exacerbating if not causing climate change. Future generations (assuming there are any) will curse us for our obtuse response to this slow motion disaster.
It is beyond irresponsible for people like Mr. Fletcher to use his access to the media to spread the lie that there is a debate as to the existence of climate change. There is no debate. It is here and we have some stark choices to make.
I can only hope that readers of his columns do their homework and subject his rantings to the critical analysis that is so often lacking in the media. We are in serious trouble if we let cranks like him influence public opinion.
I am glad that the mayor agrees that facts are important. He even goes so far as to recognize that some initial work was done by the previous council. What he fails to acknowledge is that the initial work was in fact the creation of the downtown economic development zone. This creation and vision for the downtown core was presented to council in October of 2011 and spelled out the area and parameters that formed the basis for the bylaw brought forward by the next council.
A portion of the minutes follows;
(10) Business Arising
Moved by Councillor Wavrecan and seconded 405-11 That Council instruct staff to bring forward the creation of two (2) Economic Development Zones. These will be brought forward under the guidelines of The Community Charters’ Revitalization Program.
1. All property owners of residential lots within residential zones where single family dwellings are permitted, who renovate their properties to develop legal, conforming secondary suites, will be eligible for tax relief from the increased value of their properties, as a result of their renovations, for a period of 5 years.
2. All property owners whose property lay within what is called the Downtown Parking Area, who invest into renovations of existing buildings or construction of new buildings will be eligible for municipal property tax relief from the increased value of their properties as a result of their renovations or new construction, for a period of 5 years.
These (2) two Economic Development zones would be Subject to the guidelines of the Community Charter.
The prime function of a mayor and council is to provide a vision and develop policies and procedures to move the city in the desired direction. I thank you and your council for sharing at least some of my vision.
Deer Mr. Hills
Sorry, Bill, but you are working with only part of my campaign promise and with old science.
What I say in my brochure is “Promote non-lethal urban deer management, harvesting as required for public safety”. While the final decision to harvest or not will rest with the next Council almost 70% of the respondents to Cranbrook’s deer survey support another cull, so I suspect that there will be one. However we can do better in the future…
I am part of a Committee that is looking to get translocations underway because the new science out of the western USA tells us that it can be, and has been, done successfully. The Committee includes BC’s Provincial Veterinarian, local Fish and Wildlife staff, local Fish and Game Clubs, and municipalities. The translocation will be science based and serve as a model for other communities wrestling with the same problem – Cranbrook helping to lead the way once again!
Mayor Wayne Stetski
I have become extremely frustrated with some of our elected officials and glad to see people finally taking a stand.
Watching this current council I can tell you that there has been lots of spending issues. The problem is to prove the facts you have to pay the city hundreds to thousands of dollars to obtain this information or you have to be a genius to interpret some of the categories in line items on the budget.
The west end sign by Elizabeth Lake from my understanding was a budgeted item of $70,000 and apparently the costs for the final project were in the hundreds of thousands. I have tried to obtain an exact cost, budgeting process, council authorizations, and never received the information.
I have submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the City and was told that the cost to me would be almost $700 to receive this information. Legislation states that the first 3 hours of research and staff time to prepare the documents are to be free. I’m pretty sure any business owner could produce documents within three hours or simply be transparent and tell me.
I was disappointed when I found out that the City had paved the service road to the spray irrigation site at a cost of $125,000 to $250,000. I’m thinking the residents along 27A Avenue or countless other streets in Cranbrook would have rather had their roads paved.
I reviewed the 5 year financial plan and it warrants me to ask a lot of other questions. $15 million dollars in new borrowing which includes $300,000 for solar panels on Western Financial Place. Under special projects there is over 1 million dollars to be spent on just studies and plans alone in the next two years. This Mayor and council have another $500,000 in borrowing to re-purpose the old Firehall. Our Mayor advocating it to be a permanent home for the Arts Council. How many households or businesses do you know that are struggling to maintain a budget are throwing money around to purchase art. It is time for the City to think the same way.
The fact is taxes, Development Cost Charges, city fees and services cannot keep rising at the rate they are before you bankrupt the taxpayer both residential and business.
A vote for Wayne Stetski and this current council is a vote for “Higher Taxes.” Not voting at all is a vote for ‘Higher Taxes”.
Response to letters
Re: Alex Jensen’s letter to the editor, Nov. 10.
For the record, I did not suggest that we tax businesses more. I stated my position clearly in my letter: “While property taxes are a deductible expense for businesses, and not for residents, many small businesses do struggle with property taxes. Some municipalities have different approaches for dealing with commercial taxes that might be worth opening up for discussion.”
As for your allegation that I am part of a slate, that is also incorrect. I stand on my record as being an independent thinker, not always having agreed with the mayor or other members of council.
The letter from CUPE Local 2090 actually lists six Councillor candidates they endorse.
Re: Jason and Christie Wheeldon letter to the editor November 10
It is unfortunate that the Wheeldons are trying to make something personal out of something that wasn’t. I never used his name in my letter to the Editor. There was no “counterattack”, nor was it personal.
The real issue is what we really pay in taxes, and how that compares with other municipalities.
According to the most recent figures from The Canadian Federation of Independent “municipal spending watch” (http://www.cfib-fcei.ca/cfib-documents/BC1004.pdf) Cranbrook was ranked 81 out of 151 provincially (improved from 99) and 14 out of 28 municipalities in its regional category in spending per capita for 2012. Commendable, given we are almost twice as large as any of the regional communities we were compared to and, with a population greater than 15,000, the only one required to cover 90% of its policing costs.
Projected taxes are not the end result, only the starting point for budget discussions. Using the previous administration as an example, a property tax increase of 30.66% was projected for the five year period from 2010 to 2014. That increase never materialized.
We all struggle with tax increases.
The People First Society of Cranbrook have appreciated working with Mayor Stetski and City Council to make Cranbrook more accessible, such as with the automatic door opener at the RCMP building and the accessibility restrooms at City Hall.
Time to set the record straight on an underhanded attempt to smear four of the candidates running for Mayor and Council. Speaking only for myself, I was not interviewed by anyone from CUPE during this campaign nor have I knowingly spoke to any CUPE member though I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to do so the same as I’d speak to any Cranbrook citizen. I did fill out a CUPE questionnaire that I received in the mail and my good wife Sandra dropped it off at the CUPE office. That’s the total extent of my CUPE involvement and I certainly don’t apologize for it as I filled out a questionnaire from the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce too. That’s what candidates do in elections. So what’s going on here?
Alex Jensen, who made the original slate allegation in the Cranbrook Townsman, ran in the 2002 civic election as an unabashed member of a slate along with lawyers Ron Miles and John Zimmer and local businessman Percy Davis. Except they didn’t call it a slate. They called it a “team” and at an all candidates meeting Nov. 14, 2002 Miles defended the team approach saying the team was just a group of friends and “friendship helps the decision-making process.”
No kidding! And how did the team fare in the 2002 election? Miles came in third out of three in the mayoralty contest and Jensen finished 10th out of 13 running for Council.
The people of Cranbrook saw very clearly through that “team” and I believe they will see just as clear-eyed through Jensen’s baseless allegation in the current campaign.
Councillor Gerry Warner
We moved to Cranbrook last July to a wonderful neighbourhood on 31st Ave South. Behind our property, as well as the neighbours was a vacant lot, which was sold. We were told it was zoned RR-8 but was not of a size that could be built on with that zoning. The new owners of the property wanted to build a multi-family dwelling. A variance was applied for and subsequently denied. With no building permit in place, civil work still carried on with the dumping of fill until letters to the City caused them to issue a stop work order.
March 17, 2014, this property was rezoned to R-1, along with the many broken promises which are recorded in the City council minutes. We as well as our neighbours wrote many letters to the City in regards to the suite, civil work and drainage. We were assured all our concerns would be looked after. The City, then graciously repaired a berm, with tax payers dollars that was damaged by a private contractor during the installation of sewer and water to the concerned property.
Then it happened, used highway barriers as a make shift retaining wall, more fill, and finally, construction of the dwelling. All work, according to the City was completed within their bylaws. However it is these gray area bylaws, along with other bylaws which are in place that were not enforced by the City that have caused all the grief.
The house now looks nothing like the original plan; it is now just a giant rectangle box with garages up and down, dirt spilling into the Hydro easement, weeds between the highway barriers and existing fences. The house plans have changed, over and over again! All approved by only the City of Cranbrook building inspector! The drainage has now been completely changed! This has caused people, my self-included to look at and implement preventive action at my cost? How can this happen? The final straw in this whole charade was the approval from the City not to have stairs from the main floor to the basement! Would you go outside to get to your basement? Is it a suite? Not unless it has a stove! That is a quote from the City Building Inspector!
The owners have built what they wanted, even though the zoning bylaw states no secondary suites in R-1! Will the City step up and do something about it? It appears anything goes in the City of Cranbrook. Drive by, take a look, it could happen next door to you!