It was a good week for dialogue on downtown parking last week. Two meetings were held, one on Wednesday and one on Thursday. The first was hosted by the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Area (KCBIA). Late last year, the KCBIA was endorsed by council to take the lead in recommending parking solutions for the downtown core. The second meeting was hosted by the Kamloops Voters Society (KVS). The KVS is hoping to become a neutral convenor of conversations on a range of community issues. It is fair to say, I think, that current KVS membership is quite different from the membership of KCBIA.
These two meetings resulted in a good deal of input. I need to dig up the parking recommendations from the KCBIA and post them here. Summarizing the key recommendations: partnering with private sector for building a new parkade, taking out the individual parking meters and putting in parking kiosks which would allow much more payment flexibility, raising on street parking rates, and allowing for three hour maximum parking for a little more money.
A number of people have subsequently asked about the role of transit and alternative transportation. This came up again at the KV parking meeting. We might be looking again at the idea, proposed in a few different city planning processes, of a downtown shuttle bus.
It will be useful to consider all the input as we solidify parking plans for downtown.
Crafting a community budget is always a balancing act. I'd say that the great majority of Kamloops value the amazing quality of life our community offers. The services that city hall provides to help maintain this quality of life obviously come with a price tag. This price tag has to be balanced with people's ability and desire to pay. I've also heard from many people who are what I would call "tax sensitive". They may not be quite there yet, but they are concerned about not being able to afford further tax / fee increases.
We talked about this balancing act within my council campaign committee and, in my campaign platform, we put in a committment about "carefully reviewing city spending". I brought forward this committment at the city council strategic planning session and, combined with other input from council colleagues and city staff, this is the committment in council's strategic plan (PDF file) - "Conduct a thorough review of city costs and fiscal accountability and the balance of user fees and taxes".
I think we had a much improved budget process for the 2012 community budget. Specifically, Mayor Milobar suggested a much enhanced public engagement process. I think this helped council a lot to make good final decisions on allocating resources.
For the 2013 budget, I am interested in further improvements specifically focussed on looking at potential cost savings and also looking at getting budget information to the public earlier in the process. Kelowna went through an interesting exercise in the past couple of years. Kelowna council asked their city staff to bring back a budget with a 0% tax increase just as a base, to see what 0% would look like. This was before last year's civic election. The newly elected council continued this budget process and, in the end, the tax increase was %1.1.
So, I made a motion at council about a month ago to hold a council workshop to talk about cost savings for the budget. I started off with a notion of getting close to 0% as possible but I am grateful for the input from council colleagues and city staff that putting that 0% idea out there might be both reckless and unrealistic for Kamloops. I am more than willing to see where we get, without jeoparding quality of life the community supports. I am also grateful for unanimous council support to hold a workshop to look at "reasonable and practical steps" to achieve cost savings in the 2013 city budget.
My thinking on this process continues to evolve. All the cost saving that might be achieved might not be achieved in 2013. This stuff takes time. I have a great deal of faith in the financial skill of city staff. I recently met with city hall's finance director, Sally Edwards, and with our Chief Administrative Officer, David Trawin. They are already working on some really exciting stuff. One example is the purchasing coordination efforts I first noted here in early 2011.
The annual Union of BC Municipalities convention is not only an opportunity to learn. It is also an opportunity to lobby, to network, and to generally take the pulse of the province on any number of issues. While the learning seminars can get a bit tedious, with long presentations and somewhat densely populated powerpoint slides, the information passed on is often incredibly useful.
I uploaded a copy of the convention pocket program guide into an online viewer called Scribd. Please feel free to take a look and let me know if you would like more info on any of the topics covered. I took notes at all the sessions I attended. I will be uploading my raw notes in the next day or two. And I will be providing personal reflections on the sessions over the next weeks. First, here is a list of the sessions I attended:
- Powering the Future (Energy sources for BC)
- Local Government Finance
- New Delegates Orientation
- BC Ideas: Solutions for Stronger Communities
- Large Urban Community Forum: Lessons from the US Experience, the BC Independent Investigations Office.
- Social Media and Local Government Leadership
- BC Policing Plan
- Provincial Athletic Commissioner Update and Discussion
- UBCM Policy / Resolutions Session
- Community Services Cabinet Panel
- Responsible Gambling Goes Grassroots - In Your Community
- Address by Adrian Dix
- UBCM Policy / Resolutions Session
- BC Public Libraries Assn interview with Min of Education
- Voting over the Internet in 2014
- Federal Address by Minister James Moore
- UBCM Policy / Resolutions Session
- Address by Premier Christy Clark
I am in at the tail end of three weeks of pretty intense learning and networking. As a city councillor, it was my honour to represent our community at the 2012 Union of BC Municipalities convention in Victoria. After 5 days in Victoria, I returned home for a very short "re-pack bags, see family" stop, and then I flew out to Halifax Nova Scotia.
As a community member, a strong believer in strong democracies, and as an entrepreneur, I spend a lot of my time learning about public engagement practices. I was in Halifax to attend the International Association of Public Participation North America Conference and to participate in the Canadian Community for Dialogue and Deliberation annual directors retreat. This involved no public money but I certainly hope I can serve Kamloops better, as a councillor, with the knowledge and skills I am acquiring.
I'm also travelling to Seattle at the end of this week for the US based National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation 2012 conference. I am really looking forward to this as well.
I hope to write a lot here about learnings from these conference. Of course, I will be writing for sure about the Union of BC Municipalities convention. And I hope to share key learnings from the public engagement conferences as well.