Why You Should Be Skeptical of MSM Poll Reporting

I love to follow US politics…it just doesn’t get any more entertaining…

One thing I am always amazed at though is the level of obvious biases when it comes to MSM reporting.

Here’s just one example from today:

Politico’s website today reported the following:

Support for impeaching Trump hits new high

For the first time in POLITICO/Morning Consult polling, more voters back beginning impeachment proceedings to remove Trump than oppose.

President Donald Trump

Support for impeaching President Donald Trump is growing.

A batch of recent polling confirms the Democratic impeachment push is gaining steam — including a new POLITICO/Morning Consult survey that shows for the first time that more voters support than oppose proceedings to remove Trump from office. The uptick is primarily among Democrats, as Republican voters surveyed continue to have Trump’s back.

In the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 46 percent of voters said Congress should begin impeachment proceedings vs. 43 percent who said they should not. Eleven percent had no opinion. That support represented a 3-point bump from last week, when voters were evenly split.

The new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll comes as at least a half-dozen other media outlets have released surveys showing support for impeachment rising. The polls suggest that Democrats are gaining support for the impeachment inquiry as the Ukraine scandal unspools. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had resisted escalating the House’s investigations of Trump because of the political risks, but the latest surveys suggest the party is unlikely to bleed support from Democratic voters over the decision to challenge Trump head-on.

Still, the move isn’t without risk. The percentage of voters who disapprove of Trump’s job performance in the latest poll, 56 percent, still exceeds the 46 percent who think Congress should begin impeachment proceedings to remove him, or the 51 percent who say they support the current impeachment inquiry — a step short of actual impeachment proceedings. Those findings indicate that there is a slice of moderate voters who disapprove of Trump but think Democrats are going too far.

And when the polls ask specifically about removing Trump from office, voters are sharply divided or tilt against it. In a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday, 49 percent of voters called the impeachment inquiry a “good idea,” while 43 percent said it was a “bad idea.” But only 44 percent said Trump should be forced out of office, fewer than the 52 percent who said he shouldn’t.

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Tilting at BC Ferries

October 24, 2018 (NOTE – Only BC Ferries responded to this letter, and promised they would have flaggers for Summer 2019…which they did…didn’t solve the problem…but…)

Open letter to:

Ms. Tina Rogers, Area Manager

Ms. Haley Leach, District Development Technician

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI)

MLA Adam Olsen

Premier John Horgan

Mr. Mark Collins, President and Chief Executive Officer, B.C. Ferries

Minister Claire Trevina, MOTI

Dear Ms. Rogers, Ms. Leach, Minister Trevina, Mr. Olson, Premier Horgan and Mr. Collins,

I am writing to you all today with regard to a recent number of encroachment notices being sent out to Salt Spring Island property and business owners by MOTI.

I understand the MOTI is enforcing the ownership of their right of way on Salt Spring, and in at least two instances which I have been made aware of, are demanding vehicles, related to businesses be removed from the side of the road on rights of ways, notably on Rainbow Road and Beddis Road.

Given MOTI is enforcing against private individuals, I would appreciate it if you could ALL please explain why these individuals are being discriminated against, since the largest encroacher onto the MOTI highways themselves, not the sides of highways, is the BC Ferry Corporation with their now constant parking of their customer traffic in the traffic lanes at Fulford and Vesuvius.

THOSE encroachments present a clear and present danger to motorists and pedestrians alike, and have, for many years now.

It is my understanding that MOTI forced BC Ferries, at both Swartz Bay and Tsawassen to expand their parking lots in order to get BC Ferries customers off the highways, thereby complying with the Motor Vehicle Act.

This summer, lineups at Fulford and Vesuvius have each stretched back for over ONE-HALF MILE, creating unsafe traffic impediments from the one-lane traffic they create.

It is easy to imagine what a fire truck or ambulance meeting a fully blocked off road due to ferry traffic unloading in one lane and parked cars in the other would look like.

In BC any impediment to traffic flow on a highway, which results in a one-lane situation requires two flaggers to safely direct traffic around the impediment. Given however the nature of BC Ferries customers parking on the highways, the situation is abysmally unsafe.

It is with that in mind that with this letter I am putting the recipients of this letter on notice that should any traffic accidents, injuries, deaths occur at either location, directly or indirectly, ALL parties will be held liable for damages due to their participation in their refusal, as public servants and/or elected officials, to enforce the traffic laws of British Columbia, having been given sufficient notice of their responsibility and liability as public officials.

I might add that the solutions to getting BC Ferries customers off the highways is not up to the residents of Salt Spring Island, or the thousands of tourists who visit here every year. Fill in more of Fulford Harbour, put on another, or larger ferry at Vesuvius….but get the parking off the highway.

The responsibility to do so lies with enforcement by the government of the corporation involved.

The solutions to this issue are decades past their best before date. Show us what leadership WITHOUT excuses looks like in 2018.

Thank you for your attention to this issue, and I look forward to all of your responses.

Best regards,

Eric Booth

Salt Spring Island, B.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Response to Chris Dixon’s “More Safety Input Needed”

(Chris Dixon’s article is in italics below, with my responses in regular font. – Eric)

There has always been some level of vandalism on Salt Spring, just as there has always been a group of transient individuals whose primary focus is not their next retail experience. We can’t wish these people away, and more cops can only make their lives more precarious.

Uh, so, tourists are now “retail seeking transients,” and “more cops” can only make vandals and tourists’ lives more precarious….interesting perspective.

On the subject of a proposed new “security service” for the island, my first question would be whether this new service would benefit the entire island, or would it more specifically benefit the merchants and the landlords of Ganges who want it?

The security of Ganges includes its 3 public parks (Peace, Mouat’s and Centennial), and, the roads and sidewalks. It is not limited to the security of merchants (who rent from landlords) who exist to service the needs of entire community. The merchants’ businesses and services in fact benefit the entire community. Where did you buy the food for your last meal?

My second question would be: if the Chamber of Commerce wants additional police protection for their members’ businesses, why are taxpayers being asked to pay for it?

Public safety and security is fundamental to a civil society that wishes to have a community where it is safe for a 6 year old to walk down the street, as I did as a child here. “Additional police protection” is another term in this case for “sufficient police protection.” Salt Spring has one of the highest rates of mental illness, police related, incidents in B.C. If you don’t believe me, please, ask the next RCMP officer you see on the Island.

Then I would ask, how does the CRD, whom we do not elect, become the default provider of, and recipient of tax funding for, this service when we already have a contract for RCMP protection that benefits the entire island?

We elect a Director to represent us to the CRD. In this case, because we don’t have a mayor and/or city council, the closest we have to a mayor (other than the Minister of Municipal Affairs), is the CRD Director. In a municipality the CAO of the town can direct priorities of contracted policing. Currently, since we aren’t a municipality, there is no one from our community who has the authority to directly negotiate with the RCMP. That is why the CRD Director is suggesting the CRD become the “default provider.”

I’d need to ask whether a counter-petition, which will require productive people to invest their time organizing any opposition to the idea, is a credible gauge of public support?

I think the jury is in on that question, with a firm “no” verdict.

I’d ponder our priorities as a community. Could these funds subsidize a publicly funded laundry and shower facility? Now that it’s dark and rainy, could it pay for painting the centre lines on our roads? Would these things have a greater benefit to a larger portion of our population than an additional uniformed presence on the streets of Ganges?

Apples and oranges and pineapples. Yes we need a laundry, yes the lines on the roads should be painted, and yes there should be more police presence. These aren’t either/or questions.

Can we say that the businesses of Ganges are collectively a single-focus group and that their priorities are different from the priorities of the majority of island residents? 

No. Without the Ganges businesses this community would cease to function within a day or two. Close the food stores, the gas stations, and the restaurants and see what would happen. We have witnessed something close to this during a major snowstorm.

Can we contrast their desire for more business success with the reality that during the summer season, the feeding frenzy they cultivate is an equally unpleasant experience for residents and for visitors? 

The businesses don’t create or cultivate a “feeding frenzy”…the island’s overwhelming beauty, climate, rurality, and country charm along with artisans, craftspeople, farmers, (and even loud marimba bands in the park on Saturdays), etc. attract tourists. The “unpleasantness” which some residents may experience is primarily due to poor planning (e.g. failure to provide adequate parking), lack of traffic controls due to increased volume of traffic (e.g. roundabouts, 4 way stops or, traffic lights), and ferry lineups which are the result of a non-responsive ferry authority, along with a non-responsive Ministry of Transportation.

Can they admit that Ganges is maxed out; a casualty of their own relentless advertising which seeks to commodify every possible aspect of our shared island home? 

“Relentless advertising”? Where? The local Driftwood?

Can they see how local residents subsidize their commercial success at a cost of personal discomfort and safety? When a laundromat can’t afford to pay rent, is that success?

The primary reason the laundromat was shut down (apart from it being a marginally profitable business) was the North Salt Spring Waterworks District’s moratorium – which, you, as a Trustee of the NSSWD, are partially responsible for. I understand a number of potential locations for a laundromat have been turned down by NSSWD. Please correct me if I’ve been wrongly informed.

I have been involved in two traffic incidents in Ganges this summer that could easily have had fatal consequences. Had there been a police cruiser present, each driver would have faced stiff penalties and possibly criminal charges.

It’s tempting to dismiss both these road-rage incidents as being caused by mannerless tourists, but it’s equally likely that the driver in both vehicles was a frustrated local. Driving and parking in Ganges, especially this year, has been a fundamentally frustrating experience.

Poor land use planning of Ganges, including lack of parking, changes to traffic patterns and controls are at the heart of the downtown traffic problems. Who owns the roads in Ganges? The Province. In virtually every other community in BC the roads are owned by the communities, and, as such can make any changes they want. Here, a property owner can’t even apply to put a sidewalk in front of their property.

In my opinion, a broader base of residents should be engaged to assess the issues and to make decisions regarding safety, comfort and livability in Ganges.

Better still, why not a broader base of elected representatives? Considering you vocally opposed and voted “No” to incorporation, I’m going to suggest you are partly responsible for there not being broader representation.

Personally, I’d advocate for less craziness, rather than more cops.

Great, wave your magic wand and make the craziness stop…because, and with all due respect, that is about what would be required. We need “enough” cops…and, that is something we don’t currently have.

Chris, a couple of years ago, you stated, “Our island stands out as a beautiful exception to the corporate model. I think we need to design a government structure that no-one needs to be afraid of. I want a form of government that reflects and builds upon our unique and successful history….We can start working together immediately after the referendum.https://saltspringexchange.com/2017/07/25/incorporation-which-side-are-you-on/

So, two years later, what is the proposed design of government structure you’ve been working on?

Part 5 – CRD Building Inspection – 10 Times More Efficient than Islands Trust?

Efficiency

The CRD underwent  a “cost recovery” review earlier this year (CRD Cost Recovery May 8, 2019) to determine the estimated costs associated with the primary building inspection function in the Electoral Areas (Juan de Fuca, Salt Spring, Southern Gulf Islands).

That investigation indicated, on average, while the CRD had a goal of 80% cost recovery, “that over the last 10 years the actual average fee cost recovery has been approximately 70%.”

Compare that cost recovery to that reported by the Islands Trust development application processing (coincidentally in March of this year) of 7.1%.

In other words, the CRD operations in recovering the cost of processing applications was either:

(a) 10 times more effective, or

(b) 10 times more efficient, and/or

(c) had an application fee structure which was followed, and resulted in greater cost recovery, or

(d) a combination of all of the above.

I am going with (d), and the following is my rationale.

CRD building permit fees are structured in a basic fee + estimated cost of building based on $/sf. The larger the building, the greater number of plumbing fixures, bathrooms, etc. the greater the application fee.

“In determining the appropriate cost recovery for Building Inspection services, an analysis of the building permit fee structure used by other municipalities within the CRD was completed….[using] fees for a Single Family Dwelling (1200 square foot, 2 storey, full basement home, 2 bathrooms, 10 plumbing fixtures and 1 hot water tank)….Building Inspection cost recovery for 2018 was 75.39%.”

Islands Trust’s application fees on the other hand are standardized, and are supposed to be based on an average cost per application (e.g. development permit application).

Why the magnitudinal difference then between the two government bodies?

IMO, and based on both personal and reported experiences, there are three prime reasons – (a) inefficiency, (b) overabundance of requirements, (c) failure of senior management to ensure (a) and (b) are kept to a minimum, and (d) failure of senior management to track and ensure that planners properly estimate the cost of any particular application, using published the “work order” forms, specifically designed to assist in estimating the complexity of applications.

These “work order” forms are the equivalent of the building inspection estimate forms used by CRD Staff to determine the cost of any particular building permit:
Here is an example of such a form:
Appendix 5 Jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since these forms are the mechanism which is intended to ensure that taxpayers aren’t picking up the bill for development applications, it is clear, by the dismal 7.1% cost recovery, these forms have not been used by staff.

And yet, there is specific Islands Trust Policy with respect to Cost Recovery.

5.6.i applicationprocessing June 2004

This all begs the rather fundamental questions “Why not?” and “Why would senior management not be concerned by a failure to collect over $2,000,000/year in the processing of applications?”

Let’s look at some of the most reasonable potential answers to those questions:

  1. Senior management have been willfully negligent in ignoring the Islands Trust Cost Recovery Policy.
  2. Senior management have been ignorant of the Islands Trust Cost Recovery Policy.
  3. Planning staff have been willfully ignoring the Islands Trust Cost Recovery Policy.
  4. Planning staff have been ignorant of the Islands Trust Cost Recovery Policy.

Let’s be clear – this is not about a couple of hundred thousand dollars in a nearly $8 million Islands Trust budget.

This involves over $2 million/year of taxpayer monies, representing over 25% of the ENTIRE Islands Trust budget.

And, it is not as if this is a newly reported problem. As I have detailed in Parts 1 through 4, this has been going on since before I brought it to the attention of Trust Council in 2004.

It has been going on since after the 2007 Stantec Report on the issue.

It has been going on since the 2007 Islands Trust “Focused Review” on the issue.

It has been going on since the Trust’s 2012 “Model Fees Bylaw” report.

The larger question…the most important question…the most relevant question, however is this – When will the Province step in and conduct the independent core review/audit of Trust operations as it promised us back in 2001?

 

Oh For A Magic Wand…

I was recently asked, “I am curious, what changes to the Islands trust would you recommend? more trustee’s?..etc…and please don’t turn this into an incorporation debate. If you were elected again to the IT, what structural changes would you advocate for?”

If I had a magic wand (because, based on my previous experience as a Trustee, it would require one), and I could make changes to the Islands Trust, what would I do?

That’s a challenging question, but I will do my best to express some ideas:

  1. Implement representation by population at Trust Council. e.g. One Trustee for every 2,000 (or portion thereof) population. That would result in (if I’ve got the populations right), 1 Trustee from each of Denman, Hornby, Gambier, Saturna, Galiano, Thetis and Lasqueti, 3 from the Penders (combined), Gabriola and Bowen, and six Trustees from Salt Spring, for a total of 22 Trustees.
  2. Trust Council’s sole functions would be reduced to (1) establishing/maintaining policies, (2) electing a 3 member Executive Committee (reduced by one from 4 – 3), and (3) budgeting.
  3. The Executive Committee would continue to review any proposed bylaw amendments being made within the Trust Area to ensure they meet Trust Policy. (To the best of my knowledge there has only been one case in the history of the Trust refused – a Galiano OCP amendment, which lost because Trustee Tony Law couldn’t make up his mind, and his “vote” was declared a “no,” the vote ended up being declared 14-12, instead of a tie. https://islandtides.com/assets/reprint/trust_20080821a.pdf )
  4. North Pender and South Pender would become one Trust Area.
  5. There would be a total of 44 Local Trustees elected throughout the Trust Area.
  6. Three member Local Trust Committees would exist everywhere except on Bowen (incorporated) and Salt Spring, where there would be 7 (to avoid ties).
  7. The Chair of the LTC’s would not be appointed by Trust Council, but, would be one of the elected Trustees from the same Local Trust Area, and appointed as Chair by the other two Trustees…which is pretty standard practice for choosing a chairperson.
  8. Contract planners would be used for the smaller islands to reduce costs of fulltime staff wherever possible.
  9. Contract planners for land use applications would also be encouraged to be used by applicants wherever/whenever possible. That would achieve two goals (a) speed up processing of applications and therefore decisions, and (b) place the efficiency of processing applications into the private sector, similar to hiring any other professional as part of the process – e.g. engineer, geotech, or hydrologist.
  10. The preservation of the Agricultural Land Reserve portions of the islands would be transferred to the Local Trust Committees, and all decisions would be made locally in the best interests of the individual islands. The Trust’s mandate arguably includes the preservation and protection of farming already. It is interesting that 30% of all active farms on Salt Spring are outside of the boundaries of the ALR. We have a ton of farm land on the island.
  11. The Chief Administrative Officer would be given the mandate to ensure the entire organization was running efficiently…which it currently, IMO, is not…and asked to provide quarterly updates to LTC’s on performance.
  12. The Trust would change the Policy Statement with respect to being involved with issues surrounding potable water, and recommend the LTC’s remove any proof of water requirements from OCP’s and Land Use Bylaws. Now, just before someone starts screaming, proof of water is required at time of subdivision in BC, and proof of sufficient water is also required at time of CRD Building Permit application. And now, the Ministry of Environment requires licensing of all wells. There is no need for the Trust to be pig-in-the-middle in this duplication of three other regulatory bodies. This would eliminate the Trust’s “fresh water specialist.” The CRD Building Department already accepts rainwater catchment as an acceptable form of potable water, and, since it rains everywhere in the Trust Area, there is no “area” that has a problem with access to potable water…all that is required is a property designed system.
  13. Eliminate the mapping department of the Trust and transfer all mapping info to the CRD’s Regional Area mapping department to be incorporated into their layers. There is no reason why the Trust needs to be involved in mapping.
  14. The time tracking software which I first proposed to be used in 2004, and which the Trust subsequently purchased in 2006, would be implemented as I had suggested, and intended it be used, to track the expenditure of time used, on all Trust staff, on every file or project they are working on, on the same basis as how lawyers track their time – in 6 minute increments. That would achieve two goals – (1) it will act as a monitor of staff performance, and (2) highlight potential inefficiencies. Currently I am led to believe that all tracking of planner time is clumped together, providing us with nothing other than the knowledge there is a $2,000,000 black hole in time.
  15. Each Trustee would be provided with a laptop and computer software that would allow them to participate in online meetings to reduce travel time and expenses. There is no need for quarterly get togethers.
  16. Trust Council would meet once a year in March on Salt Spring to discuss suggested policy changes and the budget for the following fiscal year.
  17. The Islands Trust office would be moved from Victoria to Salt Spring.

That’s a short list…I could probably come up with a dozen more suggestions…but you get the idea…and I welcome any other suggestions to the list.

Part 4 – Former Islands Trust CAO Defending the Indefensible

The Former CAO of the Islands Trust (Dec. 2003- Jan. 2016), Linda Adams recently responded on Facebook to the “assumptions” I made in Part 1 of this series, with respect to the Islands Trust’s own March 2019 data/reporting to Trust Council that, on average only 7.1% of costs of processing development applications are captured, with the following statements (in italics). (My comments are in blue):

“Eric you seem to be basing a lot of this on an assumption that other local governments have a 100% cost recovery on their development application fees. [No, I did not make that assumption. I have pointed to the Islands Trust Policies and Bylaws which direct Staff to safeguard against $2,000,000/year in overcharges to taxpayers do not occur, BUT, which have been ignored.]

This is simply untrue. In 2017 [the year after she retired], I did a survey of the 24 municipalities in BC with populations between 10,000 and 24,000 to find out just this sort of data. [This is an interesting comment, given what I share just below.]

Of the 24, only 11 tracked the relevant data (or were willing to share it). Of the 11 that shared their data, the cost recovery ratios varied significantly (see graph below) While this was for one fiscal year only, it’s important to keep in mind that application revenue and expenses swing wildly from year to year – sometimes the fees are paid at the end of one fiscal year, but the work is done in the next, for example. A study would need to be done for several years to actually get an accurate picture of the revenue/expense ratio – either at the Islands Trust or at any local government. 

[I provide a comparative analysis of the eleven jurisdictions Ms. Adams provided below.

However, one could very well come to the conclusion thata study…done for several years to actually get an accurate picture of revenue/expense ratio had never been done by the Islands Trust. Ms. Adams’ memory seems to be selectively forgetful, considering that just such a study was commissioned under her watch by Trust Council in September 2011 and presented to Trust Council in September 2012.

Quoting from the report, “Staff undertook a review of the estimated average
actual costs of processing applications over the past three years (January 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011) to determine the extent to which fees charged by local trust committees (LTCs) cover these costs.”

On page 4/18 it clearly states that rezoning applications were costing, on average, $11,122. (The current Salt Spring Fees Bylaw charges applicants $4,400). So, even back between 2009 and 2011, the Trust was only collecting 39.5% of the costs of processing. And remember, the Trust was ignoring Islands Trust Policies while doing that. According to the 2019 figures, it has continued to get worse.] Sept 2012 Model Fee Bylaw Amendments

Also important to remember that many factors affect this. In the past 12 years for example, the province has imposed a lot of extra work on local government planning departments – with requirements that didn’t exist 12 years ago. Plus meaningful consultation with First Nations is much more the picture than it was previously. And as far as I know the Islands Trust hasn’t changed its application fees much or at all in the past 12 years – so they will have quite a different ratio to costs than they did in the past. [The problem isn’t the application fees, it is the gross inefficiencies and mismanagement at the senior levels of the Trust which have led to the $2,000,000/year over charge to taxpayers, and which, with all due respect, was allowed to continue under Ms. Adams’ entire 12 year watch as Chief Administrative Officer.]

So, first, I don’t think you can assume the changes you suggest have actually happened in the past 12 years (without a lot more data). Second, you’d need a lot more comparable data with other local governments. And third, you’d need to consider all of the factors that might have influenced changes, if there are any.”

The following is the graph Ms. Adams included in her post:

Adams 1

Let’s compare the efficiency of these 11 jurisdictions with the efficiency of the Trust:

Linda Adams Comparison of Jurisdictions jpg.jpg

I think the picture painted here is fairly clear.

A few comments on the comparisons.

  1. The ratio of fees collected to costs of processing should trend towards a balance as the number of applications increase. Jurisdictions 9-11 appear to support that. (Jurisdiction 8 is obviously an outlier)
  2. The trend to capturing costs would also be in keeping with the Local Government Act, the Islands Trust Policies (as shown in Part 2), and the Salt Spring Island Fees Bylaw.
  3.  Jurisdiction #9 is the closest “Fees Collected” by a jurisdiction to the fees collected in 2018/2019 by the Trust.
  4. None of the 11 jurisdictions come close to the amount of costs the Islands Trust took to process applications.
  5. The highest cost, with the closest relative application fee level to the Trust, was #9, with $677,384 compared to $2,252,000 the Trust spent in 2018/19…a difference of $1,574,616.
  6.  It is unknown whether any of the 11 jurisdictions have “Work Order” sheets, policies or bylaws, like the Trust, to instruct their staff to ensure the taxpayer does subsidize development applications.

Given this “tax scandal” has been going on since prior to 2004 when I first brought it up, no matter which way you look at it, the Trust, and, Ms. Adams in her role as CAO,  have failed miserably to protect taxpayers.

The following are extracts from the 2014 Salt Spring ‘Trustee Toolkit.

Keep in mind as you scroll down to the bolded sections, that this was written 10 years after Ms. Adams became CAO of the Trust, and two years before she retired.  Defense of the indefensible is bolded in red. My comments are in blue.

5.7 A different management culture

Recently, the planning unit has started to track time spent on various tasks [Given time tracking software was purchased and utilized by the Trust in 2006, why did it take so long?]. While this will help balance workloads between staff and to understand the changing needs of different local trust area, it provides an additional benefit of being able to determine performance levels.

5.16 Setting appropriate fee levels

While there are some staunch supporters [Taxpayers?] of a system of fees whereby revenues cover the costs of processing applications, there are other perspectives to consider.  Fees that are too high discourage applications and people may just not bother making applications, thereby causing other issues, such as bylaw enforcement.  [This is a damning statement. It deflects from the gross inefficiencies of processing applications by suggesting low fees are the problem, but, it also suggests that the Trust was concerned about people NOT making development applications. Think about that for a moment and see if that fits with your impression of the Trust – a pro-development government body?]

A strong case could be made that there is an overall public benefit in addressing development applications,so there should be some degree of public subsidization of the review process. [“Some degree” of subsidization? We are talking about a 92.9% “degree” of subsidization]

Given the geographic spread of the islands, actual costs of considering applications are higher than other municipalities because of required site visits and meetings with the local trust committees. With a typical yearly intake of fees of about $170,000, it appears that the level of subsidization is quite high and there is some room to increase, provided it is met with higher levels of customer service. 

The tracking of staff time should continue to determine true costs, and then this should be addressed in the future when more long-term information is available.[The tracking had already been done in 2011! And now, it is another 5 years later. “The future” is here, and its not better, its worse.]

5.17 Setting the application bar

There is a need, in the re-engineering of the development application review process, to define appropriate submission requirements for the islands. [Was that done, because there is no indication anything has changed?]

5.18 Developing Consistency

Many people through the interview process have complained about the lack of consistency in the organization – applications are treated differently in different areas. Planning processes are redesigned for each local trust area. Words are defined in different ways. Some issues are addressed on an island by island basis, rather than resolved by an overall consistent approach.  

Developing consistency throughout the organization is a valid objective. If the best practice is adopted throughout the organization, there should be considerable savings in efficiency with improvements to the quality of work. Consistency in things like definitions would go a considerable way in providing more flexibility in moving staff from project to project and island to island. It would make bylaw enforcement more standard and, therefore, more effective.  [Have changes been implemented? I’m not aware of any.]

Our Priorities

Our Council has established the following strategic priorities;

Part 3 Excellence in Governance

We will strive for excellence in governing the Islands Trust Area:

  • We will provide leadership in seeking sustainable and fair forms of political representation for the Islands Trust Area.
  • We will provide good value, implement fair taxes and fees and seek new and diversified funding sources to support special initiatives.
  • We will strive for excellence in public service and work to attract and retain a strong and skilled workforce.

Provide good value, implement fair taxes and fees….yes, but there is no indication “striving” of any kind has happened.

The current state of affairs is, in a word, indefensible.

Excellence Not…. 

 

 

Part 3 – How Islands Trust Ignored Trust Policies

Yesterday, in Part 1 & Part 2, I reported, by using Islands Trust data, apparently just how inefficient the planning department is when it comes to application processing.

Now, to add to the glaring inefficiencies, is what, in my opinion, borders on negligence by senior Trust management for over 15 years. 

When I first brought forward my concerns in December 2004 (coincidentally at the first Trust Council Meeting in Victoria where the new Chief Administrative Officer, Linda Adams, was appointed), there was in existence Islands Trust Policies (still in existence today), which clearly set out direction for Islands Trust Staff to follow when considering a land use application (rezoning, development permit, subdivision, etc.). The following is a link to the relevant sections of the Trust Policy Statement, which I will be referring to:

Application Fees Processing

 “Application Processing Services” is the title, and you will note that it was first introduced in 1993, and has not been changed since (coincidentally) 2004.

The Policies make it clear that:

(a) Some services are provided free (Section 1.1)

(b) There are 11 services which are included in the application fee (Section 1.2.i)

(c) The 11 services are funded primarily through fees as per a local trust committee’s Fees Bylaw. (Section 1.2.ii)

(d) The fees will be based on average processing costs as per Section 931 [2] of the Local Government Act (Section 1.2.ii)

(e) The costs of processing an application are calculated as the product of staff labour costs X processing time.(Section 1.2.ii)

(f) Service activities beyond the scope of a general processing service and the required fees require that additional fees be paid on the basis of a cost recovery agreement between the Islands Trust and an applicant (Section 1.3.i)

Now, here’s where it begins to get interesting.

The Trust wasn’t going to leave it up to planners to wonder when, and/or if, a “cost recovery agreement” was necessary with respect to a particular application.

Staff were instructed by the Fees Bylaws (of each Local Trust Area). The following is from the Salt Spring Island Fees Bylaw 468:

4. Extraordinary Costs

4.1 In the event the costs of processing, inspection, advertising and administration in respect of an application are estimated by the Islands Trust to exceed 150% (percent) of the applicable fee, the Applicant shall pay to the Islands Trust prior to the processing of the application the estimated actual costs of processing, site inspection, advertising and administration.

“150% prior to the processing of the application.” 

Now, lets take a look at “how” a planner would estimate whether extraordinary costs would be applicable to any particular application.

The Trust wasn’t going to leave too much to the imagination of Staff, so 15 “Work Orders” were created.

Below is an example of one of those work orders – for a “Zoning Bylaw Amendment” application.

You’ll note there are 3 columns.

The total number of hours is 60 hours for “Regular” and 70 hours for “Complex” applications, with the 3rd column left open for filling in estimated “Cost Recovery” hours.

So, here are the $2,000,000 questions –

Do Staff ever use these work orders, and if so, how did they underestimate by $2,000,000+ the cost of processing applications last year (and the years before)?

If they haven’t been using the work orders, why has Trust management not enforced their usage, since it is clear numerous applications must have grossly exceeded the 150% threshold?

This is just one more reason to have the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and/or the Inspector of Municipalities conduct a complete core review of the Trust. This nonsense has continued since I brought it to light in 2004. Why has nothing changed, in spite of previous, independent reviews such as the 2007 Stantec Report?

Sorry….I mean why have things gotten far worse, not better?  

Appendix 5 Jpg