City Council/HTMF Summer Project

I am thinking out loud here so I am not sure how practical this might be.  And I am not suggesting it because I have a particular ax to grind.

I read a lot of complaints on this site about problems with the city and the council and whatnot.  Unfortunately, for the most part, it is just venting.

I am wondering if there is something we can actually do that will get our council moving on something we want or responding to the concerns that many people have. 

What I would like to see is a discussion start on various concerns we have or questions we would like answered.  I don’t want to see it as just a bitch session where we just complain, but where suggestions are offered that might be workable.

If one topic starts to take a life of its own, one of the moderators could split it for easier organization.

At the end of the summer, the main concerns could be collated and presented to council at the first or second council meeting in September.  I say the end of the summer because lots of people including councilors are on vacation.

I am putting this out as a challenge to HTMF.  Lots of people, including politicians, read these threads.  Lots of concerns are presented here and sometimes suggestions are offered.  However, we have never really worked together to see good ideas move forward.

To be clear, I certainly don’t want this to become a “let’s knock city council” thread.  I think we should be working with council by offering positive ideas that might be workable. 

What do you think?

Here are the issues that I feel need to be dealt with:

1.  Property taxes in Prince Rupert are higher than almost any other municipality in Canada.  What do we get for it?  Not much.  We need a council that will take the steps to aggressively lower taxes.  If that means laying off workers and management, contracting out services, or simply saying “no” to the unions and bracing for a long and bitter strike, so be it.

2.  Petty crime is allowed to go unchecked in our town.  This reduces the quality of life for all of us.  Do something about it.

3.  The city management and city council need to communicate more with residents and with business owners.  It seems that the city decides to do things without considering how it affects local homeowners or businesspeople, and doesn’t even bother to inform those who are affected by these actions.  Be accountable to the people who pay your salaries.

4.  Bylaws, such as dogs off their leashes in city parks, parking infractions, etc. need to be enforced.  Not only would it improve our quality of life, the fines would provide a revenue stream for the city.  Several times I’ve had to take my kids home from Waterfront Park due to pit bulls or similar dangerous dogs running around off leash.  Not once have I seen a dog owner ticketed or charged.

5.  We have a huge substance abuse problem in town and a huge welfare dependence problem in town.  Council still saw fit to OK the building of a gambling establishment with a liquor license.  Real insightful of them.  Nice to know they are looking out for those who can’t look after themselves.

The bottom line is our town has huge issues.  Our council can’t solve all of these problems, but at least it could stop making them worse.

I don’t see anything wrong with knocking city council … if anything Rupert politics seems a bit tame, mostly mumbling and grumbling rather than debate or controversy … besides, the Mayor’s ass-kicking remark a while back seems to invite a bit of rough and tumble …

Anyway … while positive ideas are fine, constructive criticism can also be helpful and appropriate … but okay, you have a good point … some comments on here haven’t really contributed to ‘the conversation’.

So here’s a start … tomorrow night the public can comment on the proposed downtown revitalization bylaw. Reading it seems like a good idea … but where does a citizen get a copy? … not on the news section of the city web site … not even in the agenda package for the meeting … instead, backtrack to the package for the July 6 meeting and search.

Perhaps scanning it in a second time was too burdensome, but here’s a suggestion … when asking for public input on a proposed bylaw don’t expect them to need archival skills to find the thing. I’ve attached a link to the most interesting page.

As for the bylaw itself, the idea is to encourage downtown business owners to fix up what are in some cases run down premises, many of which are no longer open for business. 

If improvements are made the property assessment goes up and the owner is subject to higher taxes. Under the bylaw an owner can be exempted … by agreement with the council … from the greater of the annual tax increase or 5% of the cost of the improvements.

The exemptions can continue for as long as 10 years, such that (leaving aside time value of money) half the cost of the improvements will in effect be paid by the city, which really means by residential taxpayers and commercial taxpayers who don’t qualify for an exemption. I can’t see any other way of reading the bylaw …

That strikes me as a bit too generous. In Terrace … to give a comparison … an owner is simply exempted from the tax increase for the term of the agreement.

By the way, the council decided that the bylaw should be extended to Cow Bay … although that area has been pretty much revitalized … and proud we should be of the entrepreneurship of the merchants down there … but that also seems to raise a question … if tax incentives were not needed for Cow Bay why are they needed for downtown?

hmmm. MAYBE an idea is to decrease the taxes for folk who DO maintain their shops/property in the downtown and incrementally, on an annual basis increase the taxes for those that don’t, I reckon 5% per year would most likely get a response
…just sayin’

I think City Council Members should be held accountable for wasting our votes with all their false promises. I think councillors should step up and have the voices heard and start to represent the people who gave them their seats. I think that they should pull away from the mayor and have their own voices and remove the gags. I also believe that the UBCM should be taking a close look at what is happening to our city and Victoria should start calling them on what they have not done so far. No way in hell do I want to see them sitting there for the four year term.

City councilors???

How about prime ministers, how about premiers??

It’s all Government, not just at the civic level.

It’s called politics…

politics. root words: poly meaning many, and tics, blood sucking parasites…

Yes you do have a point but the question was concerning City Council and those are my own honest thoughts.

Again, no matter how inviting, the ’ comparison’ type of argument is, usually, not a prudent way to get a point across. …too many variables to consider…

No dissing intended.

Yes, you’ve said that before. What point you are trying to make … or even whether you have a point to make … is unclear. You seem to be saying that you disagree or that you are unconvinced, but you otherwise offer nothing in reply.  

Your statement seems to be presented as a truism although you present no reason as to why your premise … that comparisons are not ‘prudent’ because there are ‘too many variables to consider’ … should be accepted as true. You seem to take that as an article of faith.

Why do you think that? Do think that what you say is true of all comparisons or just some?

We understand most things, perhaps even everything ultimately, in relation to something else. Does anything have any meaning in isolation? Today was a beautiful day, but that statement makes no sense, or little sense, without making comparisons to days that are less pleasant.

How many variables is ‘too many’? Sure, there can be lots of variables out there when comparing communities or anything else, but many or most, or perhaps all but a few can be irrelevant to the problem at hand.

Comparisons generate questions, which hopefully those entrusted with making decisions will consider during their deliberations and perhaps in some cases answer.

I’ll tell you why I think that Terrace is encouraging revitalization by exempting the value of tax increases resulting from improvements, while the draft bylaw here would  make the exemption the greater of the tax increase or a percentage of the cost of the improvements …

Experience elsewhere … comparisons … suggest that in some places the commercial real estate market may be so badly in the tank that even after the improvements are made the assessed value will not increase enough for the exemption to provide an incentive … so a portion of the owner’s costs is exempted to make up for that.

If the administration concluded that additional incentives are needed here … compared to Terrace and other places … because the outlook here is comparatively bad, they’re doing their jobs. If they don’t know why additional incentives are needed here … well I hope the councillors ask some questions, as some seem to be increasingly inclined to do as of late.

As for comparisons between downtown and Cow Bay, I simply pose a question. Why is it that one part of town has been revitalized and the other hasn’t been? Did public sector investment around Cow Bay … cruise ship dock, better access, parking etc … prompt owners to revitalize their buildings and generally spiff the place up without tax concessions? Is that what’s been lacking downtown?

If questions like that … and they’re just examples … are not asked, on the basis of what analysis or rationale is a decision made to further shift the tax burden to one class of taxpayer from the rest?  

I actually doubt that the administration drafted the revitalization bylaw without looking at … making some comparisons with … what other municipalities have done or are thinking.

I hope so anyway … because there seems to be a trend towards this place not only being an island, but being insular in other ways, parochial … cut off from ideas and experiences elsewhere … which seems odd, particularly since so much of the economy is based on being connected to other places through the Port and everything connected to it.  


I guess Gordie Howie would love to make 800 thousand like the city manager
in California.

comparison… to estimate the similarities and differences.

I guess the reason I get bothered by comparing, is that it is, generally, always used when speaking in terms of municipalities. Whether it’s property taxes or worse yet B.C. Assessment ( who, incidentally, should use an alternate source of assessing properties, rather than the comparative approach).

Comparing the weather isn’t quite the same, as comparing the tax base of a community is it.

I don’t take your view regarding the relevancy of differences in a community. A spin can ( most ) always be put on a particular aspect of a comparison.

Comparisons do generate questions. I’m just wondering if, when speaking in terms of municipalities, they are the same ones that have been being asked time and time again.

Anyway of to work, always a pleasure.

Well, that’s not about to happen because pay is more typically … or should be … decided by making comparisons to cities and towns similar to this place.

I think the problem with comparing taxes between communities is that we seldom seem to get to the reasons for the differences, eg Terrace has lower taxes but it also has a volunteer fire department. I’d rather have a full-time fire department … but there may be cost-cutting ideas elsewhere that can be adopted here.

As for the revitalization program … how much will it cost other taxpayers? If some owners get exemptions, the rest will pay more (unless the city cuts its costs by an equal amount, which seems unlikely).

What is the council hoping to accomplish? … does ‘revitalization’ mean improving the appearance, eg encouraging a ‘heritage’ look like in Cow Bay? … or like Nelson has done? … that seemed to encourage people and small businesses to move there after industry closed down.

Or will tax exemptions be used to encourage adding residential space to commercial buildings? I’m not sure the city should be using tax breaks to subsidize those projects.

The objectives of the program are so general that they’re not very clear … hopefully the council will fill us in on what they envision before they approve the bylaw …

For sure.