109 registered delegates
63% of us newly elected
Keynote: Greg Moore, former Mayor of Port Coquitlam
"Lessons for a Happy Political Journey"
* "Stand for what you campaigned on but be flexible and flow with reality ... my mission statement at start of my final term in 2015 was 'end homelessness in PoCo.' Didn't happen but we worked towards it."
* "'Politician' is seen to be a bad word ... Be proud. You are serving your community."
* Enjoy the networking. Real conversations, real people.
* "Learn how to disagree with your colleagues without being disagreeable."
* Port Coquitlam budget document - "super document" easily understood by the public
1. Massive Time Commitment
Upside is that the municipal year follows a somewhat predictable cycle
- January - somewhat quiet
- Feb/March/April - busy (budget)
- May/June/July - busy
- August - holiday break
- Sept/Oct/Nov - busy
- December - quiet-ish
2. Random encounters with residents with questions, asks and viewpoints
"Thank you, here's my business card, let's set up a meeting, please get in touch with me"
3. Hearth and home
- politicians tend to prioritize politics over family life
- five divorces among council members over his 16 years in office
- vent with your partner!
- avoid losing touch with the people and things that really matter to you
4. Dealing with single-minded people
- elevate the discussion to a more expanded, inclusive level
- professional perspective vs. community perspective (job is to rep the community perspective)
- councillors are residents, too.
5. Social Media
- "Eroding the quality of community debate"
- "Terms of Service" and "Policy of Engagement" for councillor social media pages
- Be clear with your followers: Respectful dialogue is encouraged. Three times rule-breakers are out.
6. Knowing when time's up
- "Plan your exit before the community plans it for you."
- call press back within an hour if possible
- tough conversations are to be expected
- they'll be friendly but they are not your friend
- hone in on three messages about any given topic, and stay on message
- people will eventually want new blood no matter how good you are
- have fun along the way
- you're an individual doing the best you can
- relax, you're not the Prime Minister
- important distinction: "residents" not "taxpayers or ratepayers"
- you can never say 'thank you' enough
Gary MacIsaac, UBCM
"The Local Government Weather Channel"
Major issues currently faced by the Union of BC Municipalities
- a UBCM policy paper released in 2018 helped shape current provincial strategy
- focus on seniors and indigenous communities
- housing to some degree has been downloaded to municipalities -- playing catch-up for an entire generation of non-action by the federal and provincial governments
- zoning for rentals and innovative new housing types
* Building Code in BC
- revised in 2018
- major pressures on the system, hold-ups are the norm throughout the province
- a worst case example are the six cities in Metro Vancouver area, where 115k development and building permits are currently in process
* Cannabis Regulations
- UBCM page here
- May, 2017 federal announcement ... "then Ottawa abandoned the field" and left it to provinces and municipalities to sort out retail and cultivation policies
- land use issues
- ALR land
- TBD: revenue sharing from Ottawa and the provinces to local government
- TBD: policies on edibles and manufacturing of same
- TBD: micro-cultivation and regional sales of "craft" weed
- A punworthy subject ~ 'hazy/dubious/zoned out/joint committees'
* Opioid Crisis
* Health & Social Development
- policy page
* Environment & Climate Change
- UBCM policy home page
- extreme weather incoming
- BC Climate Action Charter in 2007/08
- Wildfire threats: Emergency Operation Centre open in the interior open for six months
- local governments can tap many resources, i.e. BC Climate Action Toolkit
Local Government Organizations & Services
* Association of Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities
- one of five regional associations in BC
- represents 53 member municipalities and Regional Districts
- 346 elected officials in all representing 18 percent of BC population
- at annual convention (Sooke in 2013; Powell River this), three sessions are held to debate resolutions which, if passed, are moved up the food chain to the UBCM convention in the fall (where, if successful, will then be forwarded to the province)
- in discussing resolutions, delegates line-up at a pro or con mic, thus allowing facilitator to get a quick read on the mood in the room
- BC Ferries ... socio-economic study re: rates and schedule
- Oil company culpability - passed at AVICC in 2018, defeated at UBCM
Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia
"Created in 1970 to contribute to the financial well-being of local governments throughout BC. The MFA pools the borrowing and investment needs of BC communities through a collective structure and is able to provide a range of low cost and flexible financial services to our clients equally, regardless of the size of the community. The MFA provides long-term, short-term, and equipment financing, investment management, and other financial services to communities and public institutions in BC."
- it will take six months to get a borrowing bylaw approved
- municipalities must borrow their long-term debt from MFA
- MFA has a Triple A credit rating
- municipalities cannot run a deficit; if one does, the deficit must be repaid within a year (unlike long-term provincial and federal deficits)
Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia
- Insurance provider for municipalities
- "we fight frivolous, nuisance lawsuits on your behalf"
- very real liabilities and risks faced by local governments
- Local Government Management Association
"LGMA is dedicated to supporting excellence in local government by providing high quality, practical training and resources; encouraging the development of professional networking and connections; and facilitating the exchange of ideas and best practices among members."
- "Meet the Johnsons" video for overview
- Just over 2 million properties in BC
- $1.99 trillion is total value
- 4300 percent increase in assessed value between 1974 (year of BC Assement's foundation) and 2018
- 45 percent of municipal funding, on average, is from property taxes
- Assessments determined as of July 1 of prior year
- 1.25 percent of BC property assessments are appealed annually; less than 0.25 percent are typically successful
DYNAMICS & DECISION MAKING
* Advice to elected reps: "if you're made of glass, get over it!"
* Rule of thumb: Most residents are indifferent to what you're doing until it affects them directly.
* Clear, crisp, understandable communications from local government to the public is essential (show of hands in the room indicates that most have dedicated communications officers). "Don't be shy to brag!"
* The media twist: Civic government processes can be boring; therefore the media will find ways to make a story compelling by focusing on personalities and polarities. Clickbait is their job. "Doing good things well for your community is not news, unfortunately."
* "Worry about the opinions of those you respect ... not the average social media critic."
* Business tax rates are not the #1 determinant as to why a savvy business or developer will want to invest in your community; instead, focus on developing a track record of good, effective and consistent municipal governance.
* It is incumbent on council to ensure that as wide a range of viewpoints and perspectives as possible is addressed and acknowledged in working towards a decision -- even if those representing these viewpoints aren't in the room.
* "You're in the business of disappointment"
* Danger of over-responding to the agendas of others -- especially those who gripe in public, at council meetings or in the local press. Conversely, don't ignore squeaky wheels, " because certain wheels could be about to fall off."
* All decisions need to be filtered through 1. Official Community Plan. 2. Bylaws.
* Councils need to pace themselves. Some are addicted to doing too much too soon ~ a bias for action intended to reveal that the decision-makers are "quick, deep and assertive." Often better to move at a slower pace, be more contemplative, table decisions for further discussion.
* Careful of asking too much of municipal staff. Every report is approximately a $3k to $4k investment in staff time. Specify whether a minimal, mid-level or in-depth report is desired.
* Taxation: A zero percent tax increase effectively reduces municipal funds by 2 to 3 percent given average annual inflation. Generally speaking, there is underinvestment in essential infrastructure. Future taxpayers will shoulder the bill sooner or later to replace failing roads, sewers, etc.
* Residents get what they pay for with their taxes. Whether a community receives gold, silver or platinum service is a direct reflection of tax rates. Less cannot deliver more.
* Council relations
i) "The essence of strategy is in choosing what not to do" - Michael Porter. Any four-year Strategic Plan must be given an annual update and check-in ... something not enough councils do.
ii) Listen carefully to each other and focus efforts on mutual differences and sticking points
iii) Respect each other's views and opinion. "Lean into the circle of council and staff as you move towards a resolution."
iv) Always be ready and prepared to change your mind - fixed opinions are the death of creative, evolving processes.
v) Have the confidence to say, 'yes, I expressed concerns about x, y or z, but now I realize the wisdom of moving ahead having given it further thought and weighed it from multiple angles.' Or vice-versa in moving to 'no.'
vi) Be curious, not certain. Do not play to the gallery with grandiose or obvious statements.
vii) Choose your battles, use your equity wisely, manage your air time during meetings.
viii) Council as a whole will be characterized by the public according to the worst behaviour of any one of its members.
ix) Read agenda packages. If you've not done so, stay quiet and vote as best you can based on the insights of staff and informed councillors.
x) “Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another's world." ~ Bill Bullard
"We're Got to Stop Meeting(s) Like This"
Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne & Bob MacPherson, CAO, District of Tofino
- councillors who stray habitually off-topic
- take 10 minutes to say something that should take two
- personal attacks on members of the public or each other
* Each councillor has the right to shape the process. Always be ready, if a debate is heading off the rails, to call a point of order and ask for a break.
* Motions made on the fly are a bad idea ... must be in writing and available ahead of time for public comment
* When in doubt, postpone decisions so that staff can have time to weigh in, address questions and clarify grey areas.
* In the case of complex, double-barrelled motions, split them into component parts and address them in succession
* OFEEDS (acronym for best-meeting practices)
- Focus (on the agenda as approved)
- Efficiency (watch the clock, keep things moving)
- Equality (for fairness and informed voting; each councillor to speak once in the queque before having a second opportunity; likewise with public comment period & public hearings)
- Decorum (dignity, respect, Roberts Rules of Order)
- Safe (meeting environment for everyone in the room)
* Statement to the public at the start of action-packed meetings: "We have a heavy agenda tonight, and we need your help in running a smooth, efficient meeting."
* Council's job is to collect available wisdom in the room; question, follow-up, focus on the issues/proposals. "Engage the brainpower of those around the table to reach wise decisions ... thoughtful, judicious, balanced and informed decisions ... It is not acceptable to surpress valid and relevant input even when it might threaten your desired outcome of a vote."
* Pay attention during meetings! Do not text, email, check Facebook nor (as in one infamous example) read a newspaper.
* Heckling/booing/applauding during meetings is not to be permitted. Leads to creation of a potentially toxic meeting space where some may be afraid to speak. There are cases where human rights complaints have been filed against municipalities on these grounds.
* Active listening is a good strategy always. Ask the public during hearings: "Does anyone have something new to add to what's been said already? If so, we'd like to hear from you."
* Council members should come to meetings with open minds, not 'empty' minds. "It is a dangerous myth that changing your mind is a sign of weakness and lack of integrity."
Local Government Law 101: Rights, Risks & Responsibilities
Ryan Bortolin, Stewart McDannold Stuart
- Province has authority over local government. Municipal governments were viewed as "junior level of government" 30 years ago, however there is an ongoing shift of power and much less micromanagement from on high
- The federal criminal code supercedes any local bylaws
- The Community Charter and the Municipal Act grants "natural person powers .. a person at law" status (like a corporation) to municipalities
- Councillors can be subject to libel (written commentary) or slander (spoken). Section 115 of Community Charter defines responsibilities of councillors
- Province has "duty to consult" with First Nations. No duty to consult at the municipal level, however it is a good practice to do so always.
- No advantages to be given to private business in advancing their interests
- A public hearing, from a councillor's perspective, is actually a "public listening."
- Often wise not to vote the same day as a public hearing; table the decision to the next meeting so that the public's input can be considered over time.
- Councillors asked their thoughts on an issue prior to a public meeting are well advised to say: "I'll tell you after I've heard from the public."
- When a hearing is closed, no more input is permissible
Local Governments & Indigenous Communities
* 230,000 indigenous peoples (First Nation, Metis, Inuit) in BC
* 70 percent live off-reserve
* 203 of Canada's 600 First Nations are in BC
* 46 percent of BC indigenous people under the age of 25
* Treaty negotiations: Annual report at www.bctreaty.ca
* Province of BC draft principles: "free, prior and informed consent"
* C2C (Community2Community) Grants available through Ministry of Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation
* First Nations structure
- Hereditary leadership -- the Chiefs, key to traditional knowledge
- Elected leadership
- Administrative leadership
- Influential citizens
* "Ask a question, be clear you want a response, wait six weeks before following up"
* Patience, understanding and respecting cultural differences is key
Post-Election Assessment - Results, Turnout, Trends
- 3,339,483 eligible voters in BC
- 35.7 percent average voter turnout in municipalities & districts, October, 2018
- 27 percent average voter turnout in regional districts, October, 2018
- Approx. 10 percent voter turnout for school board trustee elections
- Voter turnout was often highest in smaller communities with Wells, Canal Flats, New Denver, Belcarra, Stewart, and Tahsis all reporting turnout rates of over of 70%. Also: Bowen Island (67.4%), Fernie (63.7%), and Qualicum Beach (58.9%).
Local Government Finance 101
- Assessed Value x Property Tax Rate (aka Mill Rate) = Payable Taxes
- Five-Year Plans are rolling documents
- look to 10 and 15-year horizons for capital expenditures
- SOFI (Statement of Financial Information) report document staff salaries in excess of $75k along with remuneration and expenses for councillors
- Sooke Property Tax Calculator
- Legislated timeline:
* ideally begin a new 5 Year Financial Plan process in fall (most councils wait until the early new year and face extra stress in meeting legislated deadlines)
* May 15
* June 30 (SOFI and Annual Report)
* July 2 (taxes due)
* End of September (tax sale)
* Oct. 31 (permissive tax exemptions)
- Revenue sources
* Property taxes ~ "zero percent increases have come back to bite us" - north island councillor
* Parcel taxes ~ sewer service
* User fees (staff meetings, DP and Public Hearing expenses, etc.)
* Development Cost Charges (see "DCC Guide for Elected Officials")
* manage expectations of public based on available revenues and reserves
* strive to keep operating costs within the 2 pecent consumer price index annual increase
- Borrowing referendums
* rules set by the MFABC
* terms for five, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years
* 15 years is ideal borrowing term in terms of burden on residents