For the past 10 years Roger Bassam has been a North Vancouver District Councillor. Over this period Roger has identified a number of policy-related positions. Many of these policies relate to the District’s Official Community Plan (OCP).
District residents love recreation! Whether it is walking or hiking through our extensive trail network, swimming in our pools or taking advantage of the multitude of Rec Centre programs, the majority of residents participate in some form of recreation in District facilities.
One of the major capital projects the District is the replacement of the William Griffin and Delbrook Rec Centres with a new facility located at the current William Griffin site (above).
At almost $50 million, this is an expensive project but the facility will serve as the recreation centre for the western part of the District for the next 40 years. The cost of building the new centre may be significantly offset by disposing of the Delbrook site; the community will be consulted about this and other financing options before we commit to the disposition of the Delbrook site.
In Addition to the Griffin Recreation Centre the District is also committed to delivering a Community Centre in Lower Capilano. This smaller facility will offer a mix of programs and recreation opportunities and will be the cornerstone of that new town centre. The cost of this 26,000 square foot facility will be offset by CAC’s from development in the area; primarily the LarcoCap West project.
I have been committed to delivering a Community facility for this neighborhood since the 1996 referendum and while I generally support the Larco project there is tremendous concern around elements of the project including the potential delivery date for the community centre being up to ten years away!
Having served 10 years on the North Vancouver Sports and Recreation Council I am well versed in the recreation needs of our community and the benefits we enjoy from our excellent facilities.
Recently the District, in partnership with several other government agencies and community groups, opened a new artificial turf field, running track and indoor soccer bubble at Windsor Secondary School. These facilities were welcome additions to our inventory and are being well used by the more than 15,000 field users in North Vancouver.
I was pleased to be a strong advocate in District Hall for those projects and I am currently working with the NVFC to help them develop a home and training centre for their 3500 soccer playing members. In addition to all the regular recreation happening around North Vancouver we are also hosting the 2015 BC Senior Games in August.
Translink and its proposed $7.5 billion funding referendum are very contentious issues.
There is no doubt that District taxpayers currently pay for substantially more transit service than we receive. In fact, we continue to see reductions in local bus service under Translink’s regional ‘Service Optimization’ program. We literally have been left high and dry by recent Translink decisions.
No new third Seabus, no Lonsdale Quay upgrade, no Phibbs Exchange upgrade, no local bus depot and service cuts as ‘optimization’. Clearly North Van is not a priority for Translink.
To be clear, I support increased transit service but believe the current funding model is flawed. Translink should not use property tax as a funding source.
The local area gas tax of 17¢/litre encourages tax avoidance, people filling their tanks in Mission or Abbottsford or crossing the border into the USA.
Several people have raised the idea of new revenue streams for Translink; under no circumstances would I support universal bridge tolls or a ‘comprehensive road pricing policy’! I believe the mandate and construct of Translink is flawed. Translink should be responsible for operating the public transportation system not building it.
Translink should NOT be responsible for the Major Road Network and other transportation investments – bridges, tunnels and light rail trains to name a few; that is a provincial responsibility.
It has been suggested that an additional $350 Million per year in funding would allow Translink to not only sustain the current service levels but augment the current service inventory to meet the growing demand. In 2012 Translink was forced to pay $275 Million for Debt Servicing and Capital Repayment.
By 2016 that number will be $379 Million.
The problem isn’t that Translink doesn’t have enough revenue. The problem is that it’s broke because it is paying for infrastructure the Provincial Government should be financing. If Translink did not have to service this debt and repay the Provincial Government for ‘capital contributions’ it would not need supplemental funding!
The issue of capital expenditure and debt financing is a key difference between our Translink model and the Metrolinx model in the Greater Toronto Area. Metrolinx was given a limited mandate is not responsible for major capital funding.
Finally, if Translink is to remain funded by local taxpayers then the organization must be accountable to local taxpayers. The appointed board should be replaced by elected officials. However, my preference is that Translink be a Provincial Crown Corporation, funded by its own operating revenue and free of any requirement to fund major capital infrastructure.
One of the key goals in the Official Community Plan is to increase the diversity of housing options in the DNV.
We currently have a very high percentage of single family homes. The balance of housing varies in age and form with some many older townhomes and apartments and several new condominiums buildings.
We have a serious lack of rental housing having built very little in the past twenty years. We also have almost no housing for people with moderate or significant disabilities. Creating a range of housing options is something we can accomplish as part of the change and development of our Town Centres.
We have recently approved a 100% purpose built rental building. However, the production of rental housing is difficult in this very expensive market.
To help address this issue I introduced a new policy that was adopted by Council. Now, whenever a new multi-family property is developed and requires a zoning amendment, the District will require a convent to be placed on the property which forever prevents the Strata from restricting rentals within the building.
It is estimated that up to 30% of market condominiums will be rented out as investment properties. While this is not a panacea for the rental market challenges we face it will certainly help and over time will provide consistent supply of rental stock in the District housing market.
The Official Community Plan Bylaw 7900, 2011, received final adoption by District Council at a Special Meeting on Monday June 27, 2011. This plan will protect our single family neighborhoods, parks & green spaces and industrial lands while focusing limited growth and economic development into four strategic centres.
While this was a major milestone in the history of the DNV and the OCP lays out a clear vision for the next 20 years, there is much work still to do. Over this term 3 of the 4 Town Centres and Edgmont Village went through detailed design and planning reviews. These processes involved more consultation with local residents and the results are very promising. Details can be found here: http:// http://identity.dnv.org/article.asp?c=1148
I support many of the OCP goals including the low growth rate, protection of our green spaces and single family neighborhoods from development, improving our housing options and developing our local economy. While the OCP may not be a perfect document it does provide an excellent framework and a series of well defined principles and goals which we can reference as we evaluate possible changes to our community.
I am looking forward to the detailed planning for the Maplewood town centre as I believe Maplewood presents a unique opportunity for local economic development. We do not need another smaller version of our three new centres but rather should look at creating local employment and economic activity as a primary goal for change in this centre.
For detailed information on the OCP go here: http://identity.dnv.org/article.asp?c=1151
One of the critical tasks facing the next council is mitigating the impact on District taxpayers of the regional taxing authorities and intergovernmental service agreements. I have aggressively pursued better service agreements and more appropriate funding strategies for regional infrastructure and will continue to do so if re-elected.
This council has been very prudent with the taxpayer’s money and the District is in good shape financially. We have significant reserves and are continuing to reduce the infrastructure deficit through an annual 1% tax levy. Even with the 1% capital levy we have managed to keep the municipal tax increase at or below the regional average.
However, taxpayers will correctly note that their tax bills have increased substantially despite our efforts in reducing the municipal expenditures. This is a result of regional costs that are largely beyond control of the local council.
Water, sewage and solid waste costs have all increased dramatically and the forecast suggests this trend will worsen over the next few years. I will discuss the sewage costs in more detail as a separate issue but it is important to understand that these costs are passed through from the regional authorities; GVWD, GVS&DD, Metro Vancouver and Translink being examples.
In addition to the regional government costs, the District has a number of financial agreements with other governments and governmental agencies.
During this past term I have consistently advocated for a better deal for our taxpayers. We cannot afford to subsidize other governments and their taxpayers.
Whether the subsidy is small, as in the case of the recycling agreement or large, like the First Nations Servicing contract we have an obligation to our rate payers to negotiate better arrangements. I am committed to ending subsidies to other governments and government agencies.
Amalgamation – #OneNorthVan
It is time to end the wasteful duplication of government services in North Vancouver.
We simply cannot afford inefficient government. I am a strong proponent of a re-united North Vancouver. The current political boundary between the City and District is arbitrary and artificial.
The resulting financial burden imposed on both City and District taxpayers because of the duplication of bureaucracies, is unnecessary and should be unacceptable in these economic conditions.
The regulatory confusion that results from two distinct sets of bylaws is also not helpful for businesses and citizens. It is important to note that amalgamation can only happen if the political climate in the City changes – city politicians agree to come to the table – or if the Provincial government forces the issue.
The DNV recently struck a special committee to review the issue of reunification and their initial report outlined the many issues that must be addressed if we are to successfully reunify the North Vancouver municipalities or potentially the whole North Shore. http://www.dnv.org/upload/documents/Council_Committees/NS%20Reunification%20Cttee%20-%20Final%20Report/Final%20Report%20-%20North_Shore_Reunification_Committee.pdf
During the recent RCMP contract negotiations the principle of accountability was an overarching concern. The issue of civilian oversight for matters of police misconduct has been addressed with the establishment of the Independent Investigations Office.
While the details and scope of this mandate may still require some refinement, all parties agree the police must be accountable to a civilian agency. Where accountability remains elusive is in the area of financial control.
Regional Task Forces – like IHIT – are a prime example of major cost escalators that municipalities have little control over. In response to this concern the RCMP has worked with local governments to refine the cost sharing formula for these services. With this improvement we will see better value for our investment in the RCMP integrated teams.
Locally, many people will have seen that politicians in the City of North Vancouver have claimed that the DNV has not been paying our share of cost for the local RCMP operations. This is simply not true. As part of a detailed review of police services it was determined some time ago that the DNV is actually subsidizing the operation of the CNV’s RCMP contingent.
Despite having a much smaller population in the City, the RCMP attends to more calls there than in the District. Having determined who is actually using the RCMP services it became apparent that the distribution of costs according to population was simply not acceptable and that the 20 year old contract would have to be updated.
The negotiation of this new contract was to be included as part of a larger comprehensive review of shared services between the City and District and any changes that were to take place around increase to the DNV’s portion of police costs were agreed to be deferred until the negotiation was concluded.
Unfortunately the City has refused to engage in this comprehensive review and we have been forced into piecemeal negotiations around several shared services like Museum & Archives and the Recreation Commission. I believe that the new cost sharing agreement will see a significant shift of police costs to the City.
One of my personal goals in this coming term is to ensure that we complete a review of all these shared services so that District Taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the City or any other government or agency.