Sunday, July 31, 2022

Summer Break from Blogging

As we all celebrate this BC Day weekend, we will be taking opportunity to take a break for this Summer of post COVID rules travel.

As we head out, we take leave of our blogging themes for the next little while, with a return target of somewhere along the lines of mid August or so.

As we take to our travels, we trust everyone will hold off on those Mayoralty, City Council and School District announcements of candidacy,  at least until we return ... wouldn't want to miss anything!!

While we take a break from the delivery of new and original content, feel free to browse our archive pages found as part of our right hand column and catch up on some of the themes you may have missed in recent weeks.

If all goes well and the roads remain clear, we'll be back before the first layer of Blacktop makes its way to McBride Street.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Victoria Viewpoints: Thursday-Friday, July 28-29, 2022

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Provincial scene for   Thursday-Friday, July 28-29, 2022

Globe and Mail


Vancouver Sun 

Victoria Times-Colonist 

Victoria News

Georgia Straight

The Tyee                                                                   


Ottawa Observations: Thursday-Friday, July 28-29, 2022

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Federal scene for Thursday-Friday,  July 28 & 29, 2022

The Pope's Penitential Pilgrimage  

Ukraine/Russia War


Toronto/Vancouver Star

Toronto Sun

National Post



Federal Cabinet Minister Ahmed Hussen spends time in Prince Rupert to explore range of issues

City of Prince Rupert staff members and Councillor Skelton Morven
had opportunity to meet with Federal Housing Minister
Ahmed Hussen this week during a a short visit by the Minister to the North Coast

Local industry and civic officials had a chance to show Federal Liberal Minister Ahmed Hussen around Prince Rupert, with the Liberal Minister of Housing, Diversity and Inclusion in the city for a whirlwind visit earlier this week.

The tour included stops with the Prince Rupert Port Authority where Mr. Hussen explored some of the activity on the Prince Rupert waterfront and some of the issues related to the growth ahead for Port and its partner facilities and the community.

The Minister also had opportunity to tour the Harbour and explore the recently completed Seal Cove Salt Marsh. 

Minister Hussen also had opportunity to meet with some representatives from Prince Rupert City Hall, including City manager Rob Buchan, other civic officials and Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven. 

According to the short synopsis of his meeting on Social media,  the focus was related to providing more people with affordable housing in the community. The Minister noting of the productive nature of the discussion with civic officials.

What progress may have been made towards solutions on housing in Prince Rupert wasn't part of the Ministers post visit commentary.

So far, there's been no relay of the talking points by the city on the visit through their range of information portals, with even Councillor Skelton-Morven letting the moment slip by un-noted through his social media stream.

More items of note on Port Development can be reviewed from our PRPA archive, while housing themes in Prince Rupert are explored through our archive page here.

Items of interest from the House of Commons and Federal political scene can be reviewed here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review.

How much money has City Council left on the City Hall counting room floor?

The revelation from Monday's City Council session that parking tickets apparently received no urgency when it comes to collecting revenue, should probably be a bit of a red flag over how City Council has approached its financial themes over its last few mandates.

The topic made for much discussion coming out of two presentations Monday, the proposed Interim Parking Management Strategy and the decision to move towards an adjudication system for bylaw notices, which is where we received the eye opening note that 75 percent of those issued traffic tickets chose not to pay and seemingly there was nothing for City Council to do as it was a 'voluntary donation'.

As the City Manager correctly explained to Council, with voluntary payments the guiding principle for the city's traffic ticket policy ... why would anyone pay a ticket?

It's not an issue of staffing problems, or administrative management, it really does go back to Council and their oversight on a key element of their work, revenue generation in the community. 

Especially when one considers the volume of conversation that  they have put into parking themes over the last eight years in what has become a long running discussion topic that only now may finally be finding a way to resolution.

March 2022 -- Prince Rupert's enforcement Blues
April 2021 -- Parking Issues Downtown and across the city city continue to confound Prince Rupert Council
December 2019 -- What's the hardest thing to find in Prince Rupert this holiday season?

Image from civic correspondence of 2018

The real question for Council that wasn't asked, or surrendered up for information on the night is why did this council and who knows how many others before it, allow the practice to carry on?

Comments to our story of Thursday quite rightly noted that what was the logic of printing up and sending out bylaw officers to deliver the tickets if there was no real plan to actually make anyone pay.

The parking situation does give one cause to consider just where else the city has been less than proactive in revenue generation opportunities and if there are more unusual discoveries to be found beyond parking, say in the area of maintenance bylaw issues, or other civic instruments.

Considering the various areas where they lease out land, whether at Watson Island or elsewhere in any number of structures they may own, or making  arrangements for tenancy for new or recent commercial space concepts and such.  Having some idea of the volume of revenue that is generated, or should be generated, would be worth providing some background on.

Perhaps before the incumbents on Council that are considering a run in October hit the campaign trail, they may want to ask the Financial office for a financial check up to share and for residents to look over as part of the information flow of the election run up.

Beyond the parking boondoggle, having the city offer up a glimpse towards how much may have been spent on civic project overages, contracts, any past legal settlements, as well as any number of other council initiatives that haven't really been explained fully towards costing over the years, would give some idea as to where the incoming council may be on the profit and losses once the election campaigning is over.

During the final stages of the Bylaw Notice discussion on Monday, Councillor Adey somewhat jokingly observed that the next Council won't know what is about to hit them.

He may be on the mark more than even he may have intended.

If the current council doesn't ask for a snapshot for the campaigns ahead, the incoming Mayor and Council should. 

Maybe a helpful and easy to understand financial tip sheet could at least give the soon to be elected council  (and the city's residents) a heads up when it comes to how the revenues and expenses flow at City Hall.

It's somewhat ironic that in a month of highlighting the financial challenges they face and their frustrations with the Port and Province over Port Property Tax Caps (still an issue for the MLA to show some action towards by the way); the city council members knew of a long running issue of their own curious financial management of the Parking files, leaving cash inaccessible from what should have been a steady revenue stream.

Something which may explain why the Province hasn't really been too keen to give them more cash to use, that while Council tries to figure out how to access money that they would seem to have there for the taking.

Had residents known previous as to the less than attentive nature to revenue generation over the years, they could have perhaps suggested a long time ago that such things as City Council pay raises and Vision planning funding be taken from parking revenues ...  that probably would have cleared up the issue quite quickly.

Themes of the City's financials can be reviewed from our archive page here.

Our notes on past Council Discussion themes is available here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Interim Parking Strategy a bridge towards Master Transportation Plan

The issue of parking, particularly in the downtown core has become a keen topic for much discussion of late, a focus item from the Mayor's recent State of the City presentation of June and on Monday night a lengthy forty minute plus review from Council members.

The Mayor's introduction to the topic from the Lester Centre, one that followed up on many previous council sessions over the last few years and a topic that city staff has offered up a few options towards.

Monday night, the theme returned as part of Council's review of an Interim Parking program, something that will in effect get things started when it comes to addressing the parking issues of the downtown.

That while Council explores the larger transportation issues through their Master Transportation Plan currently hosting a public engagement process.

We outlined the eight major themes from the Interim project on Monday, the full report available from the City's Agenda package for the night.

Management Action 1: Removing minimum parking requirements from a parking specified area (PSA) downtown. 

 Management Action 2: Encourage Shared Parking Agreements between private businesses, or private businesses and the City to optimize existing parking. 

 Management Action 3: Seek opportunities to develop public parking lots in the City Core as needed to serve longer term users through land acquisition or conversion of municipally-owned lots. 

 Management Action 4: Maximize parking on 2nd and 7th Street to serve longer term users and free up street parking along 2nd and 3rd Ave. 

 Management Action 5: Reconfiguring 2nd and 3rd Avenues W to increase on-street parking. 

 Management Action 6: Increase enforcement actions. 

 Management Action 7: Implement an Interim Parking Wayfinding Strategy 

 Management Action 8: Work to Implement Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

City Planner Myfawnny Pope stayed close the script of the report in her presentation which explored a number of the themes from the expansive document.

Among some of the highlights was a look at the status of the current management system and a fund that is in place towards downtown parking. With the pay in lieu one time payment program for public off street parking, which as Ms. Pope noted has some challenges:  

"Until recently the fee for pay in lieu has been far below the cost for equivalent stalls in a public parking lot."

Also noted from the report was the rather poor results when it comes to the payment of parking fines, with only twenty five percent of those ticketed paying their fines.

Two of the eight recommendations however seemed to dominate the councillors attention through the evening, a focus on the removal of minimum parking requirements for property owners in the downtown area and the reconfiguration of Second and Third Avenues to create more parking availability.

The areas where the current minimum parking requirements would
be lifted as part of the new Interim Parking Strategy 

The changes to the minimum parking requirements for the areas highlighted in red on the map above generated the largest volume of conversation.

"The first action removing minimum parking requirements downtown, you pointed out in the report that there's a history of how we've managed these things in the past and one of the places in that history that we've heard quite a bit about was  the parking in lieu requirements and the changing of fees ... there are people way back in the dawn of time paid what I think would have seemed like a significant fee and some of those people still run their business in those place. 

So I can only imagine that  if I was one of those people and I saw that all of a sudden now  it was going to be free, I might have an opinion about that. So I think that we need to ensure that we recognize that there's going to be some people who look at that and say it's not fair, why did I have to pay when somebody new establishing a new business is not going to have to. 

So I would like to think that there is some thought being put into how to present that in a way that maybe puts people's minds at ease, or helps them move towards a place where they might think that they're at least their being acknowledged in the spirit of fairness "   -- Councillor Nick Adey

City Manager Rob Buchan addressed that theme of fairness and equity for Council.

"Anytime we change our regulations, we change the rules and somebody can always ask that question. Council actually made a whole bunch of changes to the zoning bylaw parking regs a little over a year ago and in some cases the standards were lowered significantly. So they could have asked the same questions at that time. 

And historically there have been a number of variance applications that have been granted to folks that have had applications because they couldn't or didn't want to provide all of the parking.

In Council's deliberations, it doesn't always mean that everybody is going to be subject to the same rules, rules can change if Council believes that it's in the public interest to do that.

So this is proposing a rule change with respect to recommendation number one on changing the parking requirements. There will be a public process for that, to do this, this has to be a change in the zoning bylaw, so people will have an opportunity to express their concerns if any to Council. -- City Manager Dr. Robert Buchan

The City Manager also outlined that scope of the issue facing the city is one that requires that there is sufficient parking and how to achieve that.

"There's a trade off here, in terms of providing private parking or making sure the city has sufficient parking. And part of the way that sufficient  parking is achieved is by public investment.

In reconfigurating roads, in acquiring additional lands for public lots.  

So, this represents a change in approach, a significant change in approach from the Council, saying you know, where we think it's in the public interest to,  for us to be providing the parking in these areas through these different mechanisms.

Does that mean that you go back to everybody that built parking lots, or parking in the past and say well you overbuilt  for our new standard, we're going to make up that for you, no that would be really unviable to do.

And  by extension cash in lieu is, that again is unviable there's no mechanism for returning money, you can't do assistance to business. It's a change in approach, a change to the rules going forward and we go through a due process for that. 

The equity thing is difficult when there's changes in rules the question is, is it in the public interest to do it" -- City Manager Buchan

Councillor Cunningham also had some thoughts on the changes to the minimum requirements, noting of his opposition during the Official Community Plan process.

"Less than a year ago we did the OCP and I strongly voted against it because of the Parking in lieu of 12 thousand and five and less than a year from now we're sitting  here saying we're going to do away with it and I know of one project that was shelved simply because of that 12 thousand  five hundred parking place" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

The City Manager spoke to the councillors commentary related to the Parking in lieu issue.

"This is a challenging problem, and I recall Council during the revision of the zoning bylaw and doing the Official Community Plan talking about,  expressing concerns, about well some or our,  a lot of our properties in the downtown, they're completely build on, we can't put parking on. 

So are we going to enforce parking requirements on those buildings for a change in use, if they want to add onto the building or change the use which would result in a higher parking standard, that was identified as a problem by council ...

Council will recall that we discussed this solution at that time, which was greeted with some interest I would say generally by council as a way of solving that Parking standard problem. 

Now it's not just removing the parking standards, it's saying for these properties we're going to remove and the city is going to invest in alternative parking locations. Through street reconfiguration and through acquiring property so that the city can provide on street parking that's an approach that has been done successfully in a lot of communities ... -- City Manager Dr. Robert Buchan

One of the recommendations on parking is to reconfigure
both Second (above) and Third Avenue for more parking

The other elements that generated some expansive discussion was the concept of shared parking which was suggested by Councillor Cunningham as not a workable option, as well as the road reconfiguration plans.

The road plan changes which would reduce the travel lanes to allow for the angle parking, brought out a few observations, one from Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa who noted of some safety issues, particularly for emergency responders travelling on Second Avenue in particular. 

Councillor Wade Niesh offers up his own suggestions towards improving on the Parking options for Second and Third Avenues.

Councillor Cunningham also noted of some design flaws as he sees the proposal, offering up a view as towards an option to consider. 

The conversation was brought to a close with a reminder from Councillor Skelton-Morven that the term Interim was key for council to consider towards the motion.

The City Manager had noted that theme previously, observing as to how the Interim Parking plan feeds into the Transportation Master Plan which offers up the opportunity for fine tuning and vetting and process towards the larger approach towards Transpiration issues in the community. 

With that Council voted to move forward with the Interim Parking Strategy.

The full presentation and Councillor overview of the plan can be explored through the City's Video Archive page, starting at the 46 minute mark.

A larger overview of the Talking points for the Parking program from Monday night can be reviewed through our Council Timeline Feature.

The city has provided for an information sheet on the themes of the Interim plan which you can review here.

You can review some of the city's work to date on the Master Transportation Plan through their Rupert Talks portal.  

More notes on past Council Discussion themes can be found as part of our Council Discussion archive.

Parks and Recreation Review still on the horizon in Prince Rupert

Parks and Recreation spaces could be the next area up for
consultation with the public as the City staff prepare to move
forward on their review plans

One of the many elements for review noted this year by City Council has been plans to explore the current parks and recreation options in the community and look towards the future.

The project was one of many studies that have been taken on by the city in recent months, though as was noted by Councillor Nick Adey on Monday evening, the progress for the Parks and Recreation version has yet to be fully introduced.

"Reflecting on the fact that the City is currently seeking input from the public on Transportation planning and I recall that there was a second area in which the city was going to look for input and that was Parks and Recreation. 

And I know that there are at least two groups that are awaiting that opportunity and will have some input, so Im just wondering where we are with the timing of that"

City planner Myfannwy Pope assured the Councillor that the plan for review is still in motion, noting of the arrival of consultants from Urban Systems and that residents may see some introductions to participate coming up in the next few weeks.

"We do have a consultant. We're working with Urban Systems and that allows us to coordinate with the transportation and asset management plan that we're currently working on.

The process started a bit later that the Transportation, so right now, the consultants are coming up for a day of learning and taking a tour of our parks this week.

And then after that, within the next couple of weeks, I believe we'll be putting out some social media posts and  starting engagement at that time" -- City Planner Myfannwy Pope

In April we took note of the Call for Bids towards the study, which highlighted the scope of what the city plans to explore when it comes to review of existing space and creation of new recreation areas in the community.

Promote access to nature and viewpoints for people of all abilities (including those in wheelchairs, strollers and walkers)

Plan parks and open spaces to serve a variety of users and increase interconnections between different areas of the community

Recognize and celebrate local First Nations' territories and Peoples

Ensure an active or passive park is located within a ten-minute walk of all residences

Support climate change mitigation and biodiversity through providing park infrastructure with a smaller ecological footprint and maintaining "free" ecological services such as carbon sequestration and wetland filtration

Establish a "flagship park" in Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert's recreational facilities are well maintained and attractive

Coordinate parks and recreation planning with the City's Active Transportation Plan currently being developed.

The Bid document was previously introduced in March,  it had outlined some of the other elements that the city is considering, elements such as a new waterfront park, public wharf and expanded trail system to name a few.

The April version added a few amendments to the scope of the project.

As they have in the past, it's likely much of the community engagement on the theme will come through the Rupert Talks portal, which you can review here, which has provided for past commentary on civic themes.

You can follow the city's Social media stream here for updates on the project as it continues to evolve.

The short discussion on Recreation themes can be reviewed through the City's Video Archive at the Two hour six minute mark.

More notes on Monday's Council Session can be explore through our Council Timeline Feature.

Further background on Council Discussion themes is available here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review.