Saturday, November 19, 2011

Court Approved Non Declaration of Conflict to Interest?

With the first part of the court judgment clearing Garth Hendren of conflict of interest, I say fine but as I posted to the Driftwood article:

Yea, no, I don't buy it. These so called "bullies" were merely attempting to get legal clarity on whether elected officials can set up their own societies and then vote to fund them without declaring their special interest in them. Apparently that's legal now, who knew?

I guess it is open-season on taxpayers who have now been relegated to being a mere ATM of discretionary funds in the hands of our politcians who are now court approved to go forth and multiply their societies ad infinitum.

Thank you petitioners for your valiant efforts on taxpayers' behalf.
The keyword for today is *exasperated* but at least we know one politician who put his balls on the line for taxpayers!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yes Minister and cozying up to Entropy

Politicians come and go, convenient fodder for the eyewash we like to call the democratic process but behind the scenes we have the ever-tenacious bureaucrat, planners and consultants with commissions and advisory committees who stay on from election to election. Often unionized there is a set rate of pay with benefits and expense accounts that are simply hardwired to the ever-increasing annual tax requisition with little that any politician can claim to control. Particularly if they are not leadership material.

In our coming election we would be wise to reconsider the commentary of those candidates who express a coziness to become part of this matrix in contrast to leading it. Compromise and concensus are all too often spouted as some kind of ultimate goal when in fact they are just as often the ultimate collusion with mediocre and ineffective solutions, maintaining the status quo and furthering redundancy of yet other levels of governance. We have seen countless examples of our Island Trustees funding redundacy of studies and issues quite outside their land-planning mandate. It is not in our interests as tax payers and it certainly is not in the interest of a community that yearns to grow and evolve towards a more prosperous future.

I would suggest that lack of leadership qualities are most easily assessed when you observe candidates who propose a too compromising concensus of community opinion on decisions that require far more professionalism and leadership. Someone with the audacity to challenge this corrupted notion that somehow the most agreeable decision is the best one when it may simply be more cozy eyewash for masking the entropy of the status quo. Community consultation is only one of many prerequisites to making an effectively sound decision on any given issue and if you are intimidated or cojoled by the process you are not a leader and may as well resign. The worst and most costly decisions are when you let staff overlook things like conflict of interest and opening up the bureaucratic flood-gates before a leader has done their homework.

We say 'we won't be fooled again' yet so many people vote the most 'establishment' candidates everytime! All I can say is look for candidates who really know the 'yes minister' cultural role they will be submerged in and assess whether you think they will understand the full depth of what it means to lead and ultimately rise above this cozy and expensive consensus that results in a community in entropy.

Sometimes you can't vote with your head or your heart but rather rely on your individual gut instincts. Therefore, for what it is worth, I will vote a well-known quantity in former CRD director Dietrich Luth for CRD, and for Islands Trust, most likely Grams while leaning towards Wyatt.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Salt Spring Extremism at its worst!

I would not have imagined when I started the POSSE blog that we as a community would actually need a POSSE! One that would go after issues that were more than ideological extremism.

This latest fiasco regarding our elected officals appearing to fund their own organizations without declaring their conflict of interest in being members of those same organizations is most egregious. It takes the debate out of the ideological and philosophical disagreements we may have into a terribly legal and ethical divergence. We have never really had to challenge or debate our elected officials on an ethical issue quite as blatantly as what appears to have transpired.

It is a painful community process for a lot of us who at least respected our differences without tending to question the trust we put in our elected representatives' legal and ethical positions or their moral character. We did afterall have a basic trust that our officials were working within legal paramters on our behalf, even if they were a little camera-shy.

Our fundamental trust may unfortunately have been broken with recent revelations. We can either confront the ramifications of not demanding the highest standards for our political representatives or we can take their position, and sweep it under the rug as just an innocent, good samaritan effort made to fund societies with legitimate and beneficial agendas.

I don't think we have the liberty of that kind of choice here. It is a very slippery slope to set any kind of precedent that would endorse such a blatant, conflict of interest modus operendi to prevail. It is just too fraught with all manner of possible consequences for abuse and gaming the system which is why the laws for politicians and organizations are there in the first place.

The problem with just looking at the good works of the Trustees' societies and disregarding the conflict of interest in their decision to self-fund them with tax dollars is that pet projects are often just that, pet projects. And in the case of something still controversial like a "Climate Action Council" one has to acknowledge that some of us simply reject the politically correct notion that the "debate is over" regarding who or what changes the climate on the planet Earth. Notwithstanding, the Federal and Provincial governments already fund 'climate change' research from our taxes which means the Trustees are yet again demonstrating their redundancy in budgeting funds for areas quite outside their land planning mandate.

The bottom line is 'good works' and claiming to have no idea the community had any objections to 'undeclared conflict of interest' voting procedures is more than naive, hardly appears innocent, and when it comes to spending our money, irresponsible to deny the accusation and force expensive legal action.

Any Trustee worthy of the name would have immediately apologised and acknowledged at least the perception of a conflict of interest. They should have rescinded the grants, possibly resigned from the Trust and/or the societies in question and then maybe had the societies re-apply for funding after they were out of office.

The events as depicted, taint both the Island Trust and the societies they helped to found.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Well what else could they possibly have said?

If ignorance of basic, common sense, conflict of interest law is in fact the excuse the Trustees and Mr. Hendren are falling back on (predictable actually) then it only tells the community just how deep the problem may be engrained in our broken governance model. Surely re-imbursement and a complete Trust-Wide review/audit should be the least the courts decide to do.

It is outrageously simplistic to say 'I did not know', when all three of our elected officials are clearly professionals and indeed should know the basics of conflict of interest rules regarding tax payers' money and their fiduciary responsiblities. It is difficult to imagine they are choosing to act so intellectually ignorant, like children caught with their hands in the cookie jar and it sounds like close to $50,000 worth of cookies too! Unbelievable!

It will surely be interesting to see who among the current crop of candidates come out in support of this kind of did-not-know-it-was-a conflict of interest. eeaaahhhtttt sorry, wrong answer Trustees and Hendren. Good luck with that one. Their little redirect that the community should have said something, well, how about declaring your conflict of interest up front and put the requests for funds on the agenda in advance so we could comment hmmmm? - the gall!

AND THEN to go further and say this is going to cost us to go to court to defend their ignorance? We can only hope that it will save us money in the long run by upholding the precident that this is NOT acceptable behaviour from our elected officials!

Thank you petitioners for bringing to the light of day this kind of blantant disregard for fundamental political principles of right and wrong. Clearly this demonstrates why the community has a right to have tax payer funded meetings videotaped. Once again thank you Jill Treewater for your perseverence in recording for posterity meetings few have time to attend.

Dismayed and concerned for Salt Spring's future. :(

Saturday, October 15, 2011

This is not a Witch Hunt!

It may behove those crying 'witch hunt' to maybe re-read the 'facts' at www.islandstrust.org where former Trustee Eric Booth has done an exemplary and objective profile on this issue. But look, I have to agree with George Erhing's 1988 quote "The rules are the rules. You will follow them and we will honour you. Break them and you are dust we kick from our cleats. You get what you deserve".

Certainly true in cases where your actions affect other people (and their taxes) , problem is with those victimless crimes like drinking alcohol or smoking pot after a solid day's work, relax and float downstream and all that...

But recent events at LTC meetings where video evidence appears to show a propensity to allocate tax payers' funds to pet projects that the Trustees themselves are directors and beneficiaries of is quite another matter! And it is not about highways paved with golden intentions here, it is about the fundamental precident it sets for disregarding conflict of interest protocals and that is all that is being addressed in the court action being brought against our local politicians.

If they are convicted, I think George's 1988 view holds and both Trustees probably would have to accept the consequences of their actions and hopefully apologise, possibly resign immediately, all in good faith... and return the money of course. He and Christine can re-apply once they are out of office, the Trust is still going to be generous to its friends with our money. Conflict of Interest law is pretty straight forward and I am rather surprised our politicians chose to look the other way when it was staring them right in the face. Just saying.

It will be interesting to see who comes out to support this kind of disregard for conflict of interest and I agree with Mr. Buckwald it will happen under a municipal model as well... human nature is what it is.

I am just suggesting that a more centralized governance at least gives tax payers one roof under which to monitor fiduciary impropriety. Imagine the job of monitoring what we have now? It is all over the map and it is getting very expensive to manage as islanders. No witch hunt here... no need to hunt in fact, it is all happening in broad daylight.

The citizens launching this court action are to be commended for paying attention to our political process, the players, and how our tax dollars are spent. Most of us are way too busy in our daily jobs to have the energy to scutinize what goes on in meetings held at 1:00pm in the afternoon. We can certainly thank Jill Treewater for keeping at least a video record of these meetings, otherwise how would we have ever known or had the evidence of what is happening at these meetings?

Let's not forget how the Trustees so fervently tried to ban video taping at publicly funded meetings.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flame burns Moths...

It would seem the flames of easily accessible taxpayer cash funneled by our politicians to various pet projects, set up by these self-same local politicians may have been too easy to resist.

It is actually not a bad little financial scheme, not quite a ponzy scheme but it certainly seems to work multiple times.

First, you start a pet project on a topical fad like Al Gore's 'climate change', you make informal application and motions at a Local Trust Committee yourself because you are not only the representive chair of the pet project but conveniently, the elected Trust representative too, then you say things like 'no problem we have done this before' and speak about the project in glowing third person terms... "they this and they that', don't post it as an agenda item to advise the public, wait for an LTC meeting that is almost devoid of an audience, (after making them the most boring events ever) then slam bam thank you taxpayer, you vote yourselves the cash with barely a discussion or sign of even an application with details as to deliverables.

It is all very nice, TRUSTEE <> CASH <> PET PROJECT <> ADVISORY REPORT <> TRUSTEE and then it all appears to loop back for another dip into the bottomless cash pot at our expense! Yes very nice indeed...NOT!!!

I am sure we can look forward to the double-speak explanations. Cries that this is some kind of witch hunt and various other redirects down the highway of 'good intentions'.

One wonders how the basics of their civic understanding of 'conflict of interest' emblazened in their own pet project rules (article 13) could have been stretched to rationalize such lack of fiduciary behaviour?

Not to mention that we have all wondered why the Islands Trust budget has been ballooning year after year after year to almost $7,000,000 million???? The Trust is a simple land-planning function for crying out loud, that's it, and it is commanding a municipal sized budget? (Check Trust Budget Clock top right)

Well if any of these allegations are true, heads should roll before the election this fall and they should roll rather quickly if the video evidence for all to see is as matter-of-fact as it looks, not to mention cheques cashed, recent 2011 dates of the formation of these pet projects and who knows how far this house of cards will fall!

Folks, Salt Spring has come of age, we really need to move towards a Municipal model of governance and centralize our services and tax expenditures. All of these little groups are going to be impossible to monitor and hold accountible for the tax money they absorb and now if true, some of them seem to in effect be simply giving cash to themselves!!

Unbelievable if true and certainly unconscionable!

They always say "follow the money trail", ideological differences aside, this latest news is just sad and embarrassing for our community political persona.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Like Moths to the Flame

There are a lot of ideas floating around out there about strategies for changing the composition of the Islands Trust with fresh and thoughtful new candidates this fall. I liked the TAG team's book idea that might be used to explain the Islands Trust in layman's terms to the general voting public. If you are part of the non-voting majority who are not 'into' politics, believe me, you would hardly know the role of the CRD, who your MLA is, your MP or what Trustee goes with which bureaucracy, so maybe at least an in-the-mailbox pamphlet of some kind might not be a bad idea.

The hierarchy of governance and the idea that Salt Spring is different and creative enough to come up with something unique is now seen as an almost impossible task without legislative changes at the Provincial level. Despite what former Bowen Island mayor Lisa Barret floated to us during our last incorporation study, the Province's ministers are pretty adament that if we want local change we have to work within the existing Trust/CRD structure.

So what is the best approach? Personally I think ALL ideas should remain on the table since we are now a multi-tasking society. We can accomplish in shorter order any number of things through the existing technological network and in that we are indeed unified.

As the panorama of blogs increase exponetially it is clear that self-expression and networking presents us with the challenging concept that 'disunity can be a force that unifies us', Expressing and sharing what we are thinking and feeling individually benefits an increasing community awareness that reflects on itself. This will result in change for the better simply due to a broader sampling and exposure to diverse opinions.

Afterall, Look at recent events on the island of Iceland!

Oddly enough our 'unified disunity' has inadvertently caused a rethink of important changes to the RAR bylaw 449. It has also observably changed the way our Trustees treat 'we' the rest of the community and exposed deficiencies in a Trust mandate that cannot represent all our needs and services requirements. Neverthless we should still make every attempt to elect candidates who will be onboard with a better balance of environmental, economic and social priorities.

In our particularly rural perspective, from the extreme notion that "you can just get offa ma property' to the more expensive thrust of recent court challenges, we have made it clear that we are not amused by what is happening to our property rights!

Across the spectrum of our intellectual understanding of what we think is needed in governance, sadly bureaucracies epitomize the eternal fight with 'city hall'. I still don't really buy that incorporation would change this dynamic or the cost but a broader mandate of representation is critical at this point.

So be careful all you moths who might choose to fly close to the flame of power, assimulation seems the better part of valour once you are in the driver's seat as an elected representative. The fickle public who thought you were so great to vote in, inevitably will turn and toss you out with barely a thank you. See Obama Optimism 101.

That said I wish to thank our local Trustees for their public service and wish them well in their retirement this fall. I am sure they did the best they could under the circumstances of our broken governance structure, a structure that as yet has no mandate to speak for the economic and social problems we face in the future. No matter who we vote in, we cannot give our Trust representatives powers they don't have, they already presume erroneously to expand their mandate. It's a mandate that needs legislative updating or we need to become a municipality.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Robots Should Pay Income Tax too!

Off topic... Perhaps it is time that robots paid Income Tax too... I mean, mechanization hardly adds anything to the community otherwise... would it not be fairer to ask robots to pay their fair share too? We are taxed when we work, why shouldn't mechanized robotics contribute too? This is an area where the economy absorbs a bunch of invisible dollars that are no longer circulating in the community, yet the work is still being done... products are still being created... profits are up.

It used to be that more people had day jobs, they left work, stopped off at the grocery store or picked up a new item of clothing or whatever... machines don't do that, they just keep busy producing the stuff we consume and yet why don't they pay an Income Tax on what they are 'earning'? Seems extremely unfair, especially since they would hardly care or notice.

The tax collected could be used to pay people for a lot of evolving new 21st Century jobs that have yet to be acknowledged or compensated for. Like uploading globally accessible data to the Internet, photos, videos, writings etc. ad infinitum. This is obviously the 'new work' so many people are doing and they are adding immensely to our cultural and societal enrichment. Now that the information and content is digital and forever, it has its own intrinsic long term value to all of us who love doing a Google search and benefit from the results.

I think it is time we recognized the time and energy people put into adding to this global database and I think we can fund it by creating an Income Tax for all the robots, all those mechanized entities that earn but don't contribute back to the community.

Afterall it was the promise of the future that we would only have to spend a few hours a day working and the rest of the time doing what we love to do. I say NOW is the time to look at innovative strategies for redefining what "work is" and compensating anyone who is adding something to our cultural enhancement. I certainly appreciate the vast wealth of data I have access to and I hope it grows. An income tax for Robots would provide the funds to eliminate this illusion we have that there is an unemployement problem when in fact people are still working... they are just not getting paid!

We need a new employer, perhaps a "Ministry of Content and Information Dissemination" (actually why not just rename Ministries of Social Services and Unemployement Benefits?). And we do not need further value judgements on the value content and of work whether it is home-making a family or uploading a video for all to enjoy. Work done that benefits others is work that should earn a wage, a minimum wage at least! Extraordinary effort should be rewarded more of course.



Sunday, August 7, 2011

Great, yea, super, but...

So the Trustees did manage to pass Bylaw 448 without too much caffuffle, holding a public hearing timed as it was on a beautiful summer evening in August (luckily my car battery had died when I went to try and attend). I think the community can thank the few others who showed up to oppose aspects of this bylaw for coming out and ACTUALLY INFLUENCING our Trustees to change their tune a bit! Thanks Norbert and Drew especially for pleading our case, economic needs and desire to see the Trust work with us as opposed to agin us.

Notwithstanding their compromise, I still believe the Trustees are over-reaching their original land-use planning mandate once a permit to build is acquired. I do no accept nor regard any attempts they make to pass redundant noise bylaws, already covered by the CRD taxes we've paid, or more importantly, who and how many people may be employed in a home-based business. Just how many complaints have warranted the expense to us for this bylaw adventure into social engineering?

Since all my employees are 'virtual' I doubt it will ever affect me personally but I still hope the general public is not just accepting these over-reaching bylaws as anything more than additional, unchallenged, presumptive, Islands Trust policy notions. I think most of us can see that they have stretched themselves pretty thin here trying to make work for themselves and their planners as the Budget clock approaches 3 million tax dollars spent since March 11th...

Attacking businesses like Mr. Blaire Howard's is an unconscionable waste of our tax dollars. It is not Mr. Howard's role to be policing who signs up for his services. If the Trustees feel a property is being rented to vacationers illegally then they should have the responsibility to challenge the land-owner individually, not a business that is merely a liaisoning service and one that indirectly infuses our economy with much needed tourist dollars.

And speaking of extremism, why on earth is this case inconveniently being heard in North Vancouver? Is this the Islands Trust's strategy for keeping individual challenges to a minimum and expenses high for unfortunate individuals caught in their web of mistrust? If so I would say "Bring the Trust Home" so we can all witness their inappropriate spending of our tax dollars while attacking productive members of the community.

When are the Trustees going to stop trying to criminalize, contain and restrain the energy needed for healthy community growth? Would it be asking too much for them to stop imagining worse case scenarios and rather show the community a little Trust? This last bylaw compromise may have seemed like an olive branch but it really only re-inforces the notion that their mandate extends now to internal business operations, employees needed etc. One wonders during the harvest if 10 grape pickers would now be considered 'illegal'?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

NEW CHAPTER: Hang em and Drown em? Geessh!

This week's Driftwood featured a disturbing accusation, albeit unsubstantiated, by our local Trustee Christine Torgrimson wherein she claims threats of hanging, drowning and being kicked off the island! This is certainly a matter I would hope she has advised the Police of, as they are serious charges against community members and we need to know who precisely is behind such threats... to anyone on this island.

However, Trustee Torgrimson's astute political instincts still seem sufficiently sharp enough to use these vague and unsubstantiated threats to further attempt to divide our community's voices of reason. She seems content with leveling yet more accusations of being ani-Trust and anti-American rather than actually hearing the serious concerns of the local citizenry.

It has been said that we did not reject the Trustee's bylaw 449 because we did not understand it, rather we rejected it because it was convoluted in its definitions and lacked a credible foundation of mapping. It was a blanket approach which did not clarify precisely which lands and fish needed protecting from development.

The Trustee's article goes on at great length to attempt to tie-in bylaw 449 in with a popouri of 'world problems', from the tragedy of 9/11 to attributing 'climate change' to the rainy days we tend to have here on the wetcoast. Unfortunately we are left with an evolving portrait of someone attempting a global perspective (or is that a Google perspective?) yet demonstrating a serious lack of local perception as to what is relevent to our actual community right here.

Too much information in a global information age needs a clear and objective mind and back when Ms. Torgrimson revealed she was worried about "industrial and commercial sprawl" when reviewing Mickey's Coffee Company's application, she was clearly hallucinating a distorted American perspective onto a small island business proposal which was the cleanest, greenest proposal to cross any Trustee's desk in years!

And speaking of this American perspective and her claims of outbursts from people about not being "born in Canada"; as an expatriot American myself, I appreciate and firmly believe that Canadians have a right to ensure that American or any other country's politics do not unduly run or influence local governance. We certainly saw what happened when the Trustees used American municipal pay-rate models to justify their own 100%+ pay-raises in their last budget!

And isn't it interesting how the very discord Trustee Torgrimson complains about is of her own making even within the body of her article? We've all seen how the Trustees, post-Artspring debacle, have continued a mission in the press to fuel disunity. They continue with negative accusations and generalizations about the majority of us who opposed bylaw 449. It has been called "divide and conquer" and we see now first hand how it works, subtle? NOT!

In my opinion the Trustee's July 20th, Driftwood article "Can the community find some common ground?" shows a classic portrait of an overly sensitive, guilt-ridden-sharing, almost evangelical environmentalist who has lost her perspective on local issues and feels threatened by a community that disagrees with her.

Extreme Trustee's hysteria over the problems of the whole planet are simply not what homeowners are paying taxes to support. This little multi-million dollar Trust land-planning committee that Christine and George have been elected to is merely about our local island land use. Any attempt to expand that mandate out to the infinitely eternal nature of the world's problems is a legally questionable waste of our tax dollars!

As much as Trustee Torgrimson's article was supposed to be a plea for finding common ground, it seemed off-the-wall, accusational, continued to demonize opposing opinions and then managed to lay a lather of worldly guilt and uncertainty onto a paradisical part of the world that is pretty removed from such conditions.

Ultimately 10,000 people on Salt Spring Island can do very little to change global climate (assuming we should be tinkering with the weather at all), and even IF we all went back to horse and buggies, how is that going to influence millions of people in New Delhi, New York City, LA or Hong Kong? or their local weather patterns for that matter?

The Trustees seriously compromise their fiduciary responsibility to islanders when they expound on questionable science and then try to design bylaws based on 'world cafes' of environmental opinion. These bylaws are locally binding and affect real people and property values and we certainly did not misunderstand that much about bylaw 449!

PS. No matter how much redirect we see, it is important to keep our eye on the local ball game, the Trust Budget has now spent something to the tune of approx. $2,501,081.82 since March 11th! We need to continue to question the appropriate spending of our tax dollars and any attempt to expand the Trust mandate beyond the original legislation.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Forward to the Past?

After listening to the local radio interview with George Ehring and Garth Hendren on the future of Salt Spring I was only mildly amused that for most of the show we heard little about the future besides some foreboding logic that it was going to be really different (duh) but it did not sound like in a good way.

Oddly enough George alluded to the notion that the future of Salt Spring might very well look more like the 'sixties' than anything else... which we were amused to note was before the Trust came into existence!!! Nice one, maybe those really were the good ole days.

The reality is that for all the efforts of the Islands Trust to slow growth in these islands both of our elected representatives admitted that growth patterns here in the islands were pretty much the same as anywhere else and that there was nothing unusual going on. Except when we realize that they would both like to be paid double for guarding our precious drawbridge from potential development in the coming, post-baby boom environment.

Seemed like a lot of double-speak and incoherent logic was spoken by both representatives and for all their intellectual understanding of the machinations of local governance, they still seem, and I would say particularly, George seemed incredulous that anything they are doing or not doing might cause a general public disapproval of their performance.

The fact that George can, with a straight face still stand by his 11th hour flipflop on the Coffee Company decision blows the proverbial mind. Such a trigger issue as that one can not be just swept under the rug and forgotten in a 'nameless' reference. Saying "we approve 95 percent of business applications" without qualifying how many have been submitted is pretty suspicious math too I might add.

How many complaints about Vacation Rentals are worth all the legal fees we as tax payers are going to have to pay (over $100,000?, $200,000?) for yet another example of Trustees attacking a local business and venturing into social engineering. These Trustees are way over the top in disturbing the otherwise peaceful tranquility of this wonderful paradise.

Now, unsatisfied with a summer respite from their horrendous bylaw 449, their attempts to test legalizing a few rental suites will surely be encouraging the chosen few that are made legal to 'anonymously' snitch on those which remain competitively illegal. Can anyone else see that this will only result in more divisiveness and acrimony?

THEN... when people complain, they will be demonized as anti-Trust when it is the Trustees who demonstrate time and again that they simply don't trust us!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sequester the Islands Trust?.

The Provincial Liberal Government should realize that the Islands Trust, (once defined as merely an associated NDP agency of the Provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs), has gained an extreme, autonomous independence from Provincial control. And they appear to have done so directly proportionate to reductions in Provincial funding over the years. What was once an over 95% Provincially funded entity has, over the years, completely reversed proportion of responsibility onto Gulf Islands taxpayers with the Province hardly contributing anything anymore!

Should we not as taxpayers be asking the Province to step back into funding the Trust's budget? Certainly the Province should at least acknowledge accountability and control of the Islands Trust budget and they should do so for fiduciary reasons on behalf of all those British Columbians the Trust was created to protect these fair lands. The Province has a responsibility to regain the reins of Governance from an independent NDP entity that is not actually mandated to govern, particularly in an unincorporated district where the decentralized costs of services and redundant bylaws can otherwise run wild.

Under the original agreement, the Islands Trust Act legislation was created to simply advise on matters of environmental concerns and only later on was it given its limited mandate to serve as a land-planning function through its Local Trust Committees. That certainly does not provide a balance of local government services worthy of the name governance.

Clearly as the Province has stepped back from its responsibility, the 26 Island-wide Trustee's have had free range to squander tax dollars for years on all manner of issues quite outside their land planning function. While it may have served the Trustees well in increasing their self-proclaimed 'governance' power base and bureaucracy, I'd wager they have done so at our expense and to the detriment of our fragile local island economies.

The pattern of performance we see now is less service, fewer and fewer development permit approvals, undefined guidelines within application requirements, 100% non-refundable fees and a recent bylaw 449 suggestion that homeowners might be responsible to fund their own mapping of waterways on their properties! All this less service with more regulation along with increased budgets year after year is quite unacceptible, no?

Add up the millions of dollars spent on annual Trust budgets since 1974 ask yourselves what have we got to show for it? Has the Trust purchased one tree?, one acre of land?, saved one molecule of clean air?, one degree of so-called global warming? Nada. The Salt Spring Conservancy has a better organizational track record for that and they do it all through donations! Imagine if we gave them our millions.

ONE POSSIBLE SOLUTION IF WE DON'T GET A PROVINCIAL REVIEW
As a unified group of island Canadians and British Columbians we should consider, after the debacle of the Salt Spring Coffee Company decision and this last RAR bylaw fiasco, that the Islands Trust may need to be sequestered through a court action brought against it by island taxpayers. The charge might be two-fold; a charge of fiduciary mis-management of our money, inadvertently affecting our local island economies, and a constitutional challenge to the presumption that they are a local government where none can legally exist in an unincorporated district.

Afterall, since when is a single-function, associated agency of the Provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs, a bonified local government? 'Elected' Trustees do not define a Trust as a Government no matter how many times you let it roll off your tongue, and ultimately the Province should not be allowed to stretch the definition either!

The reality is that since the inception of the NDP legislation that created the Islands Trust Act in 1974, the Islands Trust is no longer perceived by many island residents as acting in the interests of residents but rather in the interests of expanding its own power base and bureaucracy.

Of course to add insult to injury, our tax dollars are used against us in funding organizations and advisory commitees that result in an increasingly regulatory rural lifestyle. In many respects we fund their legal fights with those of us who resist their often innane policies and bylaws. Policies and bylaws I might add, that easily target the little guy and simply do not apply to the real and larger environmental culprits! What up with that?

Once again I have to apologise for the length of this entry, it is a complex issue.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Watch For Clones

It bears repeating a mantra that the 1996 Marcano and Clarke Expedition to find the Object of the Trust came up with... at election time we should once again "Watch for Clones".

It is also important as I learned on this evening's radio broadcast of Trust Matters (AKA "The Troublemakers") that we all need to avoid referencing the faceless entity organization we know of as the Islands Trust and rather begin referring more directly to the politicians themselves.

If we want change it is the Trustees that wield the power of the brush and it is they we should be addressing and attributing responsibility. For instance in Volume 1 of our Community Plan... section A.9.1 reads: “This plan can be amended by the Trust Committee at its own initiative...” I never thought that was such a great clause but maybe it has some merit if the right Trustee takes the initiative to create a little balance in their bylaws.

Also, when I send feedback via the Islands Trust website to a Trustee, the submission form asks if I would like an email response, having clicked yes... the silence has been long and deafening even though I am generally my usual cordial self, albeit critical of Trust policies, yet so far never a response to a genuine submission. hmmmmm, perhaps I will try a form letter ;-) Knock Knock who's there?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trust gets the feedback they deserve: Mostly form letters?... pfft.

Islands Trust chair Sheila Malcolmson at times reveals a certain disdain for the public process through a generally condenscending demeanor at meetings and in particular, her extremely transparent, read-between-the-lines public statements.

Recently the Islands Tides, wrote in another read-between-the-lines fashion, that "The Local Trust Committee has received 30 individual letters in favour of the bylaw and 60 letters (mostly form letters) against it". "Form letters" commented Malcomson "are less helpful for understanding the issues".

Of course we have all seen plenty of form letters promoted by both supporters and non-supporters of this bylaw 449.While I am not personally partial to form letters, for many people they simply help encapsulate issues for them and offer a legitimate articulation for how they feel regardless of their own writing skills. Given that the Islands Trust and Trust Council has more than amply demonstrated that they look at public feedback not on the basis of its content but rather whether it is simply a yea or ney, well, let's face it, a form letter may be about as much effort as anyone should bother with when communicating with this legislative aberration.

Who knows what it is?, what exactly can it be in an unincorporated district? Is a Trust a Trust or a body of governance by committee?, is a ditch a stream and visa versa? We still await a Provincial Review of the Trust Act to help us out here. Me thinks it is just another overblown committee.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In a Nutshell

The Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce has put the Trust's proposed bylaw into a clear and concise context: "The legislation as now written will cut a wide swath across service industry workers and substantially impact jobs on the island. This will further differentiate and stratify economic and social classes, negatively impacting the social welfare and fabric of the island".

We the residents applaud these insights and are gratified that more and more organizations are speaking up on issues of local governance and well they should in our unincorporated district. It is our Chamber of Commerce, the Conservancy and Social housing groups who are all part of a balanced perspective that can harmonize the community around sound Economic, Social and Environmental principles. The Islands Trust is but a small part of the total picture of local governance and should stop demonstrating otherwise.

FEAR: A Predictable Trust Redirect away from their failed bylaw.

Lest anyone presume otherwise I don't dislike the police, among other valuable services, they protect our property rights and civil liberties, unlike the Islands Trust who show a continued propensity to trample on those rights.

Further to the issue of a unique police presence at the last meeting (and I am not suggesting the Trust called the police themselves), the Islands Trust chair certainly made no diffusive efforts to ask the police to wait outside with their guns. She thus could have assured the attending public that this was NOT a 'dangerous to be at' public meeting. In fact the Trustees and their followers have predictably gone on in interviews with the press (watch and see tomorrow's Driftwood focus) to promote the fear factor that "some people felt unsafe" when in fact the only unsafe feeling people have had regarding this bylaw's distortion of the RARs is the threat it has to jobs, property rights and costs to homeowners!

Remember, that with the removal of the defining words "fish bearing" in the Trust's version of the original Provincial legislation, the Trust has effectively defined all trickles, rivulets and waterways, ditches etc. ad naseum as 'protected wetlands of some kind'. The absurdity of this and the impression the Trust promotes that those opposing this bylaw are somehow dangerous or a threat to the community safety. That is what I really dislike.

We can now all see from Trustee Malcomson's statements in the Times Colonist that the Trust wasted no time in getting out to promote the fear factor predictably wanting to redirect attention from their failing bylaw, only to try and marginalize people opposed to it as being Trust bashers to be feared.

But you know what? we who oppose this bylaw are still part of the greater community at peace, living in paradise. Perhaps we are only the silent majority waking up to find that we've allowed a small group (who can attend 1:00 PM Trust meetings when everyone is at work), to speak anonymously, off-camera on our behalf for far too long.

We are no threat, in fact many of us are normally of the laisse-faire crowd when it comes to regulations and yes, we get offended that we would be characterized as unruly for speaking out about our concerns, whether it is this bylaw or another, that is what we dislike.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Trust cancels RAR hearing "Until Further Notice"

In a sudden press release, I found it a tad disingenuous of Trustee Sheila Malcomson to insinuate that perhaps now that the 'larger' community is showing up at Trust's meetings, that some people felt 'unsafe'. “We did our best to accommodate the large group interested in the proposed bylaw, but after Wednesday night’s meeting we heard two things that changed our minds about re-opening the public hearing on Saturday. We heard that Saturdays in the summer are too busy for residents to attend meetings at short notice. We were also dismayed to hear after the meeting at ArtSpring that some people felt unsafe". I know I felt 'unwanted' and intimidated with the strong police presence they had there.

True enough the majority of the crowd was not on-side with a bylaw that stretched one's nightmare imagination so easily by deleting a simple qualifying couple of words... 'fish bearing' - once they removed that important qualifier from the original Provincial RAR waterways legislation, all bets were off and suddenly they had a 'custom' bylaw regulating ditches as streambeds, bogs and swamps and rivulets and runoff from peoples' roofs and home gardens all catagorized as 'protected watersheds' - totally bogus and absolutely over the top, another 'classic' Islands Trust attempt to expand its "NO land-use planning mandate". Geesh!

But one always likes to hear officials say "cancelled until further notice" when it comes to incessant regulation creation and maybe now residents can get on with enjoying their summer and be refreshed and alert to voting this bunch out in the fall!

I do not remember a group of Trustees who have agitated our community as much as this LTC, from their arrogant approach to our needing their permission for free inter-island dialogue with other Trustees, to admonishing video recording of speakers at publicly funded meetings, to their suspicious post-editing of minutes of meetings and their seeming disregard for public 'content' submitted. Even Trust Council seems perversly ignorant of acknowledging content in submissions in favour of merely counting them as yeas and neys over any given issue. It seems we are not actually heard or listened to, rather 'we the little people' are only counted as agreeing or disagreeing and if we disagree we are of course characterized as rabble-rousers.

Hopefully the over 100% higher pay increases they voted themselves on March 11th will bring on a vast hoard of unemployed islanders to apply for these Trust positions. Afterall, it is one of the few job openings left and it is certainly free for anyone to run for the position, one needs no particular credentials to be 'environmentally minded' as we all know. Maybe we will luck out and vote in some regular rural lifestyle candidates more interested in enabling our community rather than shutting it down. With only 13 inhabited islands in the Trust area and over 100 uninhabited islands why doesn't the Trust focus on those islands?!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Community offended by Police presence at Trust meetings!

It is an absolute outrage that the Islands Trust would allow police to intimidate community free speech in a publically funded forum!!! One can't help but reflect back on the Ehring Bunker Video on YouTube and wonder if it was not in fact a preview of things to come. Anyone on either side of the Islands Trust debate who is not outraged by this blatant display of police authority to intimidate community debate is seriously somnombulent and oblivious of basic civil liberties in a free and open democracy. Of course it remains to be found out as to who actually called the police to be at this meeting? Do they usually go to Trust meetings?



AND BY THE WAY: None of the so-called video rules the Trust attempts to convey apply to publically funded meetings. If someone is out in the public domain they should be expected to be captured by any number of recording devices. If I am capturing video for personal use to share with friends and family who cannot attend meetings, it would be ludicrous not to record the person speaking. We are perfectly at liberty to video tape anyone at a public meeting and the courts will support that in a democracy. I urge videographers archiving these meetings to capture the speakers too, otherwise we have no way of knowing without body language just what the total communication picture is. Besides, the Trustees are not what these meetings are about, it is about the community and its right to speak freely.

Yesterday's overflow of people concerned about bylaw 449 should have been treated with more respect and the Trust and its followers should realise there is afterall a community outside their little private club. But what I found most interesting is that islanders en masse somehow have managed by sheer numbers to delay passage of this unpopular "Salt Spring customization" of the Provincial RAR. Unfortunately now that the meeting has been moved to 10:00 AM Saturday at the school gymnasium, the likelihood of overflowing that venue with over 700 people does not seem likely... but who knows? In principle I would not have thought 'showing up" for a meeting would be so strategically affective... hmmmm --- but again it is important to realize that the Islands Trust has always promoted a peculiar silence at their meetings which according to Robert's Rules ensures that they get the consent they are look for.

Silence is always taken as consent so speak up, write in, demonstrate how you feel or forever hold your peace and of course silently pay ever higher fees and taxes!

Police at Trust Meetings now? what next? jail for videographers? Geesh.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Does the Islands Trust suffer from 'solipsism syndrome'?

Apparently NASA coined the mental illness know as 'solipsism syndrome' - the overwhelming feeling that nothing is real, that all is a dream. Perhaps living on an island paradise can sometimes bring this on and although they say 'no one is an island unto themself', our local Trustees sure exhibit aspects of this syndrome when they imagine they are an autonomous entity unto themselves with no sense of understanding the reality of what healthy communities need to survive in the 21st century.

I pointed out in my1996 campaign something I referred to as The Creed of the Cult : " Members of the Islands Trust and its closed circle of a few hundred associates have, through a form of intellectual incest developed such a fear of outside interests, that ‘development and growth’, so natural to a community has slowly assumed ‘evil’ connotations. These outward fears only further confirm a lack of inner growth and development that is so important to the human condition. "

I have not moved from that perception much since and for all intents and purposes feel it has gotten infinitely worse as Trust Council has incorporated policy upon policy further entrenching the Trust into island community discourse in our unincorporated area. Whether it is a 'code of conduct' not to allow free and open discourse between communities and Trustees without their permission or their attempts to control video taping at meetings, they continue to become more and more insular and autocratic.


Back in 1996 when I ran for Islands Trust and garnered maybe 300 votes out of 3000 there were 8 candidates running so I did not feel too bad knowing about 300 people might have agreed with my platform
archived here: http://www.isleofviews.com/mcexped/election.html
Running for office was fun and I highly recommend it to people so inclined. Lately I have even fantasized about 1000 people march of unemployed suddenly deciding this fall election to run for what is now a comfy $30,000 position on Trust Council. Looking at what happens when a 1000 people show up for a Trust meeting one can only imagine the fun of 1000 candidates!!! And Why not? it is a job up for grabs and costs nothing to run. But the bottom line is that running for Trust is a chance to really participate in the democratic principles of free speech with a bonus that win or lose you can indirectly influence public opinion and other candidates to perhaps address issues they might not otherwise be inclined towards speaking about.

I should point out though that in 1996 I found it rather appalling to hear from voters that Trust supporters by and large were of the mindset to support bureaucracy for bureaucracy sake, seeing it at as a simple panacea for uncontrolled development on the islands. There were also a good number of people who having themselves found paradise on our island, felt it was time to pull up the drawbridge.

Of course such notions as a Tsawwassen like Ferry solution in Fulford or a Tidal Electric Dam bridge to Maple Bay don't get taken seriously on Salt Spring as "Simple Solutions to Salt Spring Problems". Convenience and Efficiency are afterall not part of our rural lifestyle, yet paradoxically tons of Trust regulations and an Official Community Plan bigger than Victoria's are!!!

The result is we see their continued adventures at tax payers expense into all manner of areas beyond their land planning mandate into air, water, the Feds shorelines, the CRD, transportation and now private home vegetable gardens! Perhaps the 'accountability and transparency issue' that should be number one is to request a forensic audit of legitimate expenditures by our Local Trust Committee. See a comprehensive list of the millions of dollars spent on Trust individual "suppliers" at http://www.islandtagteam.com/

Clearly the Trust as an Institution is exhibiting some kind of mental disorder in their blatantly unrealistic disregard for community economic needs and I am just putting it out there, perhaps for any doctors qualified to form a diagnosis, but it looks to me like "solipsism syndrome".

HARBOUR HOUSE POLICY: NO VIDEO RECORDINGS????

This would be ridiculous if it were true but apparently one of the Islands Trustees supposedly tried to float a new policy on behalf of the Harbour House of 'no video taping' (UNTRUE according to the manager) in an attempt to yet again shut down public recording of events at a publically funded meeting over the contentious RARs. Oddly enough the event was cancelled and rescheduled for ArtSpring due to the incredible mass of public agitation and interest that extends far and  wide even to those of us who avoid meetings to keep our blood pressure down. ;-)

It never ceases to amaze me how thick our current Trustees are in understanding that public meetings funded by the public are inherently PUBLIC and even people who attend imagining that they are not in the public eye. Trust meetings are not their own private club.

I would suggest that if everyone came to the June 22nd meeting Wednesday with a recording device of some kind, it would not only help spread any news that might be conveyed wider but help very much in showing the Islands Trust who is boss and who pays for this little charade of ill-begotten NDP legislation that continues to echo down through the timeline from those far away hallucinogenic 70s.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An Oath without mention of the people represented.

We have often heard Islands Trustees voice the point that their allegiance is not to voters but rather the Trust itself and therin lies the lack of essential democratic representation once the public is 'allowed to vote them in". The Trust Act itself makes this clear when it says: "The trust council, executive committee, local trust committees and trust fund board are continued for the purpose of carrying out the object of the trust."

Appearing as a guest on Eric Booth and Drew Clarke's radio program "Trust Matters", also known as "The Troublemakers" at 5:00PM Thursdays on our local radio station (audio stream at http://www.cfsi-fm.com/) I made a friendly bet on-air with former Trustee Eric Booth that there probably was not any reference in the Trustee's "oath of office" pertaining to a Trustee's responsibility to represent the interests of constituents. He dug up a copy of the oath and correct me if I am wrong but I certainly see no evidence yet that the Oath of Office to the Islands Trust includes 'people':



A Review of the Islands Trust Act might clarify some points like this and may even reveal that the original NDP legislation went beyond what constitutional law allows in terms of establishing maverick notions of local governance in an unincorporated district.

Meanwhile the Trust redirect is always away from their essential impotence and currently remains focused on extreme agitation of local islanders over redundant legislation already in place since 2006 at the Provincial level regarding RARs.

It is sad that our longest most beautiful summery day will be squandered for even one minute on this grossly inept Trust hybrid of Provincial RAR waterways legislation (did they really remove defining 'fish bearing' which was the original intent of the RARs? ).

Alas, there is rarely any balance possible when special interests get even a smidgen of power because they are myopic and lack a full spectrum understanding of community needs.

Happy Summer Everyone, don't let em bring ya down if they can't bring us up!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

1970s NDP Nightmare Flashback persists!

Given some distance I had from Salt Spring recently on a trip back east about 4600 kilometers, the Gulf Islands appeared officially under a quasi fiefdom of power hungry environmentalists spawned of an old 70's flashback hallucination that the NDP managed to actually get legislated (quite likely under the influence some exotic herb they were smoking at the time). The NDP may have decided to call their great idealistic notion "The Islands Trust" yet everything the 'Trust' has ever presented to us by way of bylaws has essentially characterized residents as untrustworthy children with the added inuendo that somehow we are not grown-up enough to know when we are devaluing our substantial investment in property on Salt Spring. Where is the love? where's the "trust" when we are deemed environmentally guilty before being proven innocent!?

Regardless of how the Islands Trust characterizes themselves in a snowblinding public facade that they are "local governance" in an unincorporated district or that internal policies they set for themselves re: their little 'code of conduct' rules hold water and even whatever bylaws they continually intimidate their tax-supporting residents with, ie: their Riparian Area Restrictions etc etc ad naseum, people should keep in mind that rules and regulations are only as effective as affordable enforcement. Keeping all things in perspective, your blood pressure will thank you. While they may appear to be creating all the conditions of a police state, they are afterall is said and done, almost totally reliant on their neighbourhood's busy-body snitch system.

Imagine getting a bylaw 449 citation for digging in your own garden? Imagine the cost of hiring a 'professional environmentalist' to do a study before building a fence to protect your children or farm animals from a ditch. Imagine a citation for not being able to prove you already had a goldfish pond before bylaw 449 was inacted?... Imagine the Draconian headlines and public redicule directed at the Trust. They really would be shamed and shunned into non-existence.

Without properly pre-mapping the existing Salt Spring Island official waterways (what are they relying on Google Earth?) all residents will suddenly have to archive and photograph conditions currently existing on their properties... what an excellent opportunity for future computer graphics artists to 'photoshop' and backdate photos of peoples' properties 'pre-existing' conditions!

As our future unfolds under this quasi Trust fiefdom in an unincorporated district, the power struggle is between anyone who has the temerity to seize power and the laisse faire among us who came here to enjoy the freedom from endless encroachment on our lives from those with nothing better to do with their independent wealth. Unfortunately we cannot simply sit down and shut up and let things devolve, afterall Roberts Rules dictate that silence and a laisse faire perspective is apparently taken as assent! It is Not!

In the sixties we used to say...

Are we back to that madness?

Honing in on 1.8 million dollars spent!

I don't know if anyone has checked out the Islands Trust Budget Clock lately but it is incredulous that since March 11th the over 1.8 million dollars has been spent by our

Friday, June 17, 2011

Trust Review or Legislation Review?

Lest we become a highly regulated 'zoo-illogical' garden for humans we should consider becoming a municipality ASAP!

It was 'heart warming' to see a majority poll recently in the Driftwood supporting an Islands Trust review however as much as that may seem the answer to all that ails the community regarding more effective local governance, it has a downside. The discussion could devolve into years of a naval gazing exhaustive review of the history of the Islands Trust, when the focus needs to be kept squarely on the Islands Trust 'Act' itself, its legality and ramifications line by line.

As we all know, Peter Lamb has, through the Driftwwood and Islands Tides more than adaquately documented the growth of this bureaucracy over the years, essentially providing a pretty good review of the Trust already. I don't think anyone has quite the Trust allegiance or knowledge base to compare to this exhaustive study Mr. Lamb has done. That said, the focal point of a Trust Act review should rather be to study with great clarity and precision whether the original legislation passed by the NDP in power at the time, had enough foresight to empower a balanced approach to the future needs of island communities?

Looking at the evolution of Islands Trust bureaucracy it is clearly askewed to address environmental concerns in land planning and that is not an adaquate basis for providing comprehensive governmental services. Good local governance is about harmonizing the community balance between our social, economic and environmental needs. If what we have seen transpire over the years is any indication, then I suspect that a review of the Islands Trust Act may reveal that it simply cannot, as it is legislated, empower balanced community growth. History shows that it overly politicizes land planning and destroys social and economic growth from within by slowly regulating and eroding the democratic rights of residents and businesses in favour of the environment over peoples' needs. As things stand, existing Trust policy based on the original Act may be best applied to parks not inhabited areas of any significant population such as Salt Spring Island and that is where we should perhaps draw the line; population density within a given region = incorporation no need for a referendum!

So my point is to keep our eye on the ball (puck?) to those of us interested in comprehensive local governance, to ensure a review of the Island Trust Act itself not the Islands Trust per se. It is this cornerstone NDP legislation that allowed for the creation of this EXTRA layer of bureaucratic taxation that needs clarification. A serious review of both its original legal promises and retraints and even its constitutional legitimacy in being applied exclusively only to islanders for the the so-called benefit of all Canadians.

Any seriously effective challenge to the power base of the Islands Trust will need to be found at the legislative root creation of the institution. Clues to be found within the Trust Act itself, the Object of the Trust and the oaths Trustees take upon being elected, otherwise we are wasting our time on a minutia of redirected energy away from finding solutions to our growing community needs.

As Trust bureaucracy has grown and as Trust Council has more and more been co-opted almost exclusively by enviro-centric Trustees we are seeing a huge negative impact on social and economic balance so neccessary to the survival of island communities.

I think Eric Booth made an excellent point on his CFSI Trust Matters Radio program (on at 5:00 PM Thursdays) when he indicated that the Coffee Company application to the Trust may have been the trigger point when the community woke up and 'smelled the coffee" so to speak. Since that time people have been informing themselves and starting to pay attention to just how detrimental this organization has been to natural community growth.

Salt Spring Island has reached a critical population mass where a simplistic Trust-based local governance is not adaquate to address the wider range of community services that the Islands Trust Act was never intended to address. The taxpayer cannot continue to afford to support this unincorporated disarray of services as we currently fund on Salt Spring Island. The reality is that only a municipal option is available to us to bring all these services under one fiscally responsible roof. Incorporation may be the lesser of two evils but it is expedient, efficient and most importantly provides representation from a much wider field of intelligent people who might run for office especially if it were not for the limitations of the Trust Act mandate itself.

In other parts of Canada, the community land planning function is not confused or pointedly politicized by being an elected position, they are appointed and yet still serve as adaquate commissions to regulate development.

Sorry for the length of this folks, I have been away for awhile ;-)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Distance Time and Space

Vacations are a chance to see things from afar and as such it is easier to see how our little sphere of concerns can often take on a magnitude of importance beyond the paradise we know and love.

If it were not for the Islands Trust running roughshod over our lives, constantly provoking us to check to see if we are being abused, losing our property rights or being asked to love the Trust or leave our homes, we would all co-exist rather nicely I suspect.

The Salt Spring Community is a vital wellspring of intelligence and opinion on all matters of local and worldly affairs and although we feel polarized, it is that contrast that brings clarity to so many issues.

Unfortunately we do not have an adaquate democratic representation to coelesce around and move forward with any kind of unity expected in a community of this size.

We remain powerless to control the endless squandering of our tax dollars on completely defragmented groups of special interests from our water systems, to our recreation facilities to our notions of a bigger library (post Google and eBook revolution) and all the socio-economic needs so fundamental to our best interests.

True the Islands Trust Act needs reviewing and many are optimistic that such a review will improve it, however, you have to remember that no other Candians are asked to live under such an extra level of governance which presumes we are guilty of environmental crimes before we are proven innocent!

Despite our unincorporated status and our lack of foresight in voting down incorporation in 2005, the Municipal model still has inherent advantages and fundamental democratic prinicples that encourage a council to govern with a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers or be voted out.

We have no such freedom under an unincorporated structure of the Islands Trust Act, those tax dollars are in no way controllable or spent with any sense of a fiduciary responsibility to voters, rather they are squandered meaninglessly on delusions of ideological political correctness.

But there is an awakening in our sphere as we touch on the matters that matter and I for one am optimistic that if we all continue to voice our concerns, our concerns will be heard and if change is possible we will see it in this next election cycle.

If we are not yet of one mind, then let us at least act as a unity of minds towards a greater and greater clarity.

Cheers

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Trust is a Trust, Trustees need to forego their delusions of Grandeur

A compelling question to ask is how a 'Trust' imagines it is a government in an unincorporated district? Unincorporated districts are by definition without local government because the only legally defined form of governance in BC starts with the formation of a Municipality. Despite former Bowen Island mayor Lisa Barret's councilling to Salt Springers during our Incoproration Study; that we might come up with something more imaginative, there is in fact no alternative to the Municipal model if we choose to incorporate.

So just because Trustees imagine they fit the definition of a government certainly does not make it so, any more than School Trustees can claim to be a government. A Trust is a Trust.

Regardless of the facade created by being publically selected, confusingly during Municipal Election time, Trustees are still confined to belonging to the narrow mandate of a specific Trust and its policies, end of story. This is further illustrated and verified by the fact that when pressed, Trustees will admit that they are NOT elected to represent the interests of the taxpayer like a Municpal Council is required, rather they are elected to ultimately represent their land planning mandate the Trust Act and policies of the Trust itself. A Trust is simply a Trust.

Consequently a Trust in no way defines a democratic governing body and visa versa. The Islands Trust is simply an abberated form of taxation without actual representation and therein lies the central legal challenge for islanders. It is a question of constitutionality and tax equity in that the rest of our fellow Canadians only have the burden of Municipal, Provincial and Federal taxation. So why do Islanders have to endure and support an entirely extra and I dare say redundant level of taxation? It is not fair at all! Are we less "green" or particularly anti-environment? Why are we so suspect and treated like potential eco-offenders?

I would wager that a Provincial review would reveal and refresh a lot of memories that the Islands Trust was never legislated as an official branch of governance per se. Rather they were created to encourage and enable the formation of environmentally aware Municipal councils, should any islands choose to incorporate as Bowen Island did years ago. "Governance" as a concept is certainly not part of the wording in either the "Object of the Trust" or the original "Island Trust Act". Even Trust council is careful not to use the term lightly in reference to itself. See Bylaw 42.

This is the strongest challenge islanders can make and in the interim, we should continually remind Trustees that they are taxing us to exercise a land-planning function and fulfill mandated duties. Duties such as proper and required Raparian land and waterway studies we've provided funds through taxation to have done! The Trust is inappropriately trying to offload their responsibities for these studies onto property owners somehow forgetting that they have a record number of highly paid land planners with a close to $7,000,000 budget! (See my Islands Trust Budget Clock, upper right column to see what is already spent since March 11th 2011)

The Island Trust does not fit the definition of a democratic institution any more than any Trust does. Repeated proclaimations to being our 'local governance' may sound nice, but they are really just more Delusions of Grandeur by a tired and outdated organization with less credibility and support every day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Are We Green Enough Yet?

Under a fair and normal governance structure islanders might safely consider a Green candidate like Elizabeth May, a seemingly reasonable choice to be our federal representative. However, I suspect if we make the mistake of empowering the Islands Trust with such a federal advocate in Ottawa that we might be responsible for spreading this Trust ideological nightmare throughout all Canada... and our fellow Canadians would never forgive us!!!

Also, given what happened in the last Federal election, I think a Green vote would virtually ensure a Conservative Majority with yet another throw-away-vote on a Party that is splitting the opposition with the Liberals and NDP three ways now. The Left never learns the wisdom of unity. Gary Lunn must be in 7th heaven. Remember last time, much loved 'Green turncoat Liberal' Briony Penn, even without the vote-splitting NDP could not over power Gary Lunn - close but no cigar, some NDPers still voted for a non-existent candidate!!! :-| - much like the Trust party faithful, the NDP can be a maniacal bunch too. THE NDP AND GREENS SHOULD MERGE!, they are not that different.

Furthermore, does anybody think we need any more Green, armchair environmentalism around here? We are already showing signs of starting to get too green around the gills now that The Islands Trust has more than effectively destroyed local island economies here in the Gulf Islands. With the Trust recently voting themselves a juggernaut budget of almost $7 million, every 365 days, should we really be risking empowering them any further with an advocate in Ottawa?

Just saying, THINK. Even stoners should reconsider despite Ms. May's claims to support Marijuana legalization. Like the NDP's Jack Layton's similar promise when he needed the 'socialist green' vote, check the current official drug policies of the NDP on that one. (See Jack Layton on POT TV here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5-x6NVYBYM . One Green is not going to change the law on that one.

Sadly a good possible candidate like Ms. May is just going to further split the centrists and left and if that doesn't ensure a Conservative Majority then it will almost certainly assure Gary Lunn is with us for a long time. That may not be a bad thing while we wait for the opposition to realise how futile disunity is. Vote with your mind not wishful thinking, governance is not a game for emotional fuzziness.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Taxation that only Represents Trust policies not the taxpayer and voter.

We watch helplessly as even long time residents like John Quesnel are "ingraciously" expected to move off-island to make room for the Island Trust's ideological notions of an environmentally correct society.

Islanders are beginning to suspect too that the Islands Trust have simply become an armature of the NDP and environmentalists. We as taxpayers simply have no control over how they choose to direct our tax dollars. We have no town council of representatives. There is no mandated way to seriously influence their spending decisions (witness recent 120% pay raise for Salt Spring Trustees). We can speak but they are only required to listen. Their mandate is solely to act in the interests of Trust policies not the taxpayer or voter.

As a homeowner, I am appalled that the Islands Trust seems particularly intend on singling out local businesses as something to be erradicated from the islands.

They are destabilizing Salt Spring and other Island economies and we are at their mercy. We need to insist that the Province re-open our case for Incorporation and help us move towards the Municipal option and broader representation of the voting public. We need a legislative review of governance in the islands and how best to spend our tax dollars on necessary services, for safety and fiscal efficiency. This current 6.85 million dollar Trust Budget is being outrageously squandered on expanding their empire and power base, putting a stranglehold on the entire Trust area!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Effectively Saving Green Space?

So the question arises as to whether or not Canada or the United States should be attacking Libya?. And it occurs to me that Obama has always wanted to get out of Afghanistan, get out of Iraq and focus on job creation at home. Still waiting for that great infrastructure rebuild of America. Harper may have bet on the wrong strategy to gain a Majority government 'worthy of his name' ;-|

Meanwhile, here on Salt Spring Island we have an Islands Trust that is running an autocratic self-proclaimed local governance with no officially sanctioned democratic opposition and no recourse to appeal their decisions. Sound like the structure of most middle east Arab countries? Talk amongst yourselves.

So is it just a coincidence that on March 11, 2011 an earthquake and tsunami hits Japan on the same day the Island's Trust votes our Salt Spring Trustees a 120% pay raise? No, just classic observable syncronicity. In my opinion Trust decisions have created their own tsunami of public resentment and a corresponding community climate change we have not seen since the 60's.

They are an outdated remnant of 1970s thinking, born out of a shrill NDP socialism and misguided paranoia of how progress might change the Gulf Islands. And as long as Trust followers continue to demonize people for simply voicing fundamental opinions about this facade of governance, they will be responsible for the divided community dialogue.

Most Salt Springers know the reality and that is that non-profit organizations like the Salt Spring Island Conservancy have long been far more effective in preserving and protecting more acres of green space than the Islands Trust has ever done. That will hardly change, even with the Trust's new 2011 budget of over $6.85 million.

The Conservancy is by and large more effecient with dollars, supported by public funds and donations, they continue to be the prime force behind our growing Parks system. They have a believable "preserve and protect" strategy, something The Islands Trust does not. For all the millions of tax dollars spent on their bureaucracy they've barely managed to buy or save a single acre of land or protected anything of any significance.

Unless of course, its their own existence, but then who couldn't with that kind annual budget? They really appear to use our tax dollars against us and if we dare challenge them, they hand out extra $15,000 bonuses to beef up their propaganda machine. This is the kind of extremism we need to expose and challenge regularly, we have a right, as Canadians to speak out when we see such waste and unfairness even at the local level.

Friday, March 18, 2011

WORD CLOUDS: So What is it we are trying to say?

Anyone who writes knows the importance of staying on point unless of course it is merely a creative exercise in word association as an artform. I found this website that creates Word Clouds from your written material and I think a lot of people would be surprised to see the key word content of much of what they write in blogs and to letters to the editor etc.

If you go here http://www.wordle.net/ you will find a nifty place to insert your writings and configure as many words to analyse as you wish. The default is 150 words randomly displayed however I usually set the maximum to 50 words or less, formatted half vertical and horizontal to more easily identify what I am trying to get across in various documents I am wordsmithing. Try it, you will enjoy copying and pasting just about anything into it so you can see what is really being said when you look at the word content priority of written material, speeches by politicians or whatever.

Here for example is a word cloud of my recent Submission to Trust Council.


You can see that obviously the Trust was a huge aspect of what I was addressing and as the words reduce in size you can see the priority of my concerns about issues of Land Planning, Governance and taxes. The Word Cloud was another way to confirm that what I was submitting contained the proper proportion of keywords relating to the thrust of my presentation.

Anyway, I thought others might appreciate the tool (link above) as a way of refining their writings. I've posted a few more at http://www.trustchange.com/wordclouds based on a number of articles and letters I have analysed from people who have submitted their material online or in emails to me.

Cheers

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ISLANDS TRUST 2011 Budget Clock

Back by popular demand!

Many years ago (1996) I created the first Islands Trust Budget Clock approximately illustrating the real-time draining of our tax dollars being spent to support the annual Trust Budget. Mathematically, if you simply calculate 8 hrs. X 5 day work weeks X 52 weeks in  a year, you get about 260, 8 hour days for a total of 2080 hours of operation for this organization.

The current cost for this preserve and protect insurance policy is roughly $3293.00 an hour when you divide 2080 hours into their new annual budget of $6,850,000 or if you like, about $54.88 a minute!

Anyway, I managed to hack a javascript to recreate a reasonable facimile of this old standby for those who like to watch tax money evaporate or, at least be aware of how much is involved. Sure, it is kind of  approximate but hey, visualization is the first step to fighting the source of dis-ease in our community.

Dream a new Tomorrow today! http://www.trustchange.com/TrustClock/Budget.html

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Local Trustees get double salary hike!

As expected it was not really about a budget increase, it was all about a bait and switch up of their salaries. We thank the Salt Spring delegation for their efforts, especially Ms. Lucich's finely worded critique and that very detailed revelation by our Chamber of Commerce.

As the Trust budget now moves towards that magic 7 million dollars a year budget, surely we are seeing that we could do a better job budgeting as our own Municipality.

Btw, with the online Driftwood now deleting entire comment response forums re: those 114 lil' bylaws, I feel a need to duplicate some here, this one re: the Chamber's excellent presention to Trust Council.

"An excellent presentation, thank you for the updated data regarding Salt Spring's business climate change. Alas all this budget increase redirect merely allowed for a better headline while they slipped in a record salary hike for themselves! Are Salt Springers really not ready to incorporate now? With the Trust's 42% budget increase since the referendum we surely would have budgeted better on our own! Is there any doubt whatsoever about that? I rather doubt we would be missing all these fundamentally original to Salt Spring businesses either. Time to change our priorities folks!"

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Consulting the Ancients

Long ago I wrote a little program for consulting the Ancients, no it is not some weird mystical fantasy, it is based on the logic that meaning, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In an extreme sense one might just as well consult Mad Magazine, however this program consults the Ancients who simply studied human nature and nature herself for wisdom and they wrote their insights down.

Anyway this morning's query was on how to best approach Trust Council and I thought perhaps our Salt Spring Deligation might appreciate the extra coaching from 1000's of years ago.

It read like this:

When revealing inner truth, sensitivity
succeeds when dealing with those who would
otherwise resist it. Openness, ensures
the initial contact necessary before one
can have an influence. Transient, common
interests are not enough to maintain unity.

Because meaning is in the I of the beholder each of us will read their own meaning into the above, it is pretty straight forward but it is the last sentence that held a special focus for me because I know it so well. So many unified efforts from marriages to corporations and business partnerships, if based on transient common interests may not have the flexibility to succeed or overcome differences of opinion and personal changes in individual growth and experience.

The Ancients go on to clarify that:

When discerning the truth in a situation
one must weigh the particular circumstances
as well. This sympathetic understanding
has a far reaching and deeper influence.

I have always seen context as far more important to understanding what momentarily is happening and so I hope the Salt Spring deligation is prepared to adapt to the circumstances and look the tiger in the eye of nowness and immediacy.

Furthermore:

Those who follow and speak inner truth
have a subtle influence far beyond their
immediate circumstances. As a result there
is also a need for great caution.

This implies the serious conundrum of decisions that influence the space time continuum almost forever and why one can regret such decisions as I have, in working so hard to vote down the Salt Spring Island referendum on incorporation. It is next to impossible to claw back such actions even if at the time one feels they are making the best decision possible. Like droplets in a pond the rings radiate out proportionate to the intensity of the splash and that referendum was a pretty big splash decision. Many of those 70% of islanders now regret not having taken a more positive spin on the concept of a Municipality. Trusting in the Trust to contain their costs was a huge error in judgement as we have seen an almost 300% jump in their appetite for tax dollars. It is easier to say we won't be fooled again, but as the songs says perhaps we would only now be saying "Meet the new boss Same as the old boss" Hard to say.


Finally the Ancients are almost cold hearted in their insights:

Words without action even if based on
inner truth have little effect.

How could they have known the vast reach we would all have through the Internet to dialogue and share our words? And also know how vacuous words are if not accompanied by action! Perhaps our in-your-face deligation will have more effect on Trust Council that the barrage of words we have sent them and to that end I wish the deligation from Salt Spring profound success.

End of program, End of Line.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wednesday is Budget Decision Day For the Islands Trust.

I think we all know that it is a rather Extreme fait de compli that the Islands Trust will increase its budget for 2011 on Wednesday, yes, legally they are required to field opinions from the public and I applaud the Salt Spring Island Deligation for  making the inconvenient trek to Galiano to speak on taxpayer behalf. I sent a detailed written submission earlier to meet the deadline and have consolidated a few more thoughts below.

Of course the EXTREMISM here is the crazy wordsmithing the Islands Trust is doing this time around in calling it a "Reduction in Budget Increase". Hehe, a truly remarkable piece of double-speak that can only massage the least media savy minds in the community I am sure. Fact is, hidden and probably within a single overall vote is whether to give most Trustees a modest increase on the smaller islands (which I could go along with I suppose) yet we find a disturbing proposed 120% increase in salaries for our local Salt Spring Trustees from approx. $12,000 to $28,000. Nice huh? Who would not work for an employer with those kinds of lottery winning pay raises in the wings?  Well the silver lining here may be to bring every unemployed applicant near and far to run for the Trustee position in November! I say great, the more the merrier, maybe it will increase our odds that we get an actual democratically minded candidate to run and dissolve this ridiculous presumption of so-called  'local governance'! Yea right, I guess if you keep saying it, somehow a Trust becomes a government? Hardly!

Anyway, I wanted to share a consolidated viewpoint on this budget increase if only to put it into an alternate context to the double-speak we hear from the organization itself, and I certainly extend to all those going to Galiano Wednesday Mar. 11 my best wishes for a successful impact on the proceedings. Trust Council is a tad more attentive and responsive than our local Trust Commitee and there is always the CHANCE that the odd comment will trim a few cents off the general increase, afterall, the Trust just needs a headline like "Trusted Reduces Expected Tax Increase" for us all to remain cozy and happy paying yet another 6.4 million dollars for year 2011.. what is that? over $3000.00/hr. protectionist money from imaginary clear cutting homeowners currently raping our island? hmmm will have to consider that, I am sure it will increase my property's value! Geesh. Anyway I digress...

TO TRUST COUNCIL: YOUR BUDGET 2011
In my opinion your budget and salaries should not be increased at this time and another policy statement should probably be added to your ‘code of conduct’ book. Something to the effect that; Trustees should continually be mindful that taxes are collected to be spent specifically on community land planning issues and that it is a Trustees fiduciary responsibly to ensure this on behalf of taxpayers who fund and place their trust in this Trust.

To all Trustees I simply say this: review the Islands Trust Act, look at the parameters of your land planning function with a critical eye and then look at all the extracurricular activities and personal interests that so many of you presume to squander our taxes on. Know that your budget requirements have far outstripped any danger of development among these fair islands, especially in this economy. That your land planners are actually planning how not to use the land and that the peoples’ Trust has become increasingly anti-Trust.

I propose that if you work within your actual mandate, you will see that the workload and costs are not nearly as grandioise as you claim.

Our Island Driftwood honed in on a key point... "The Trust has not worked for the betterment of our island communities but rather as a scared symbol of humankind's battle to save the planet"

 

Although that was printed in the Driftwood 15 years ago it was as true in 1996 as it is today, with one caveat, your budget has grown 300% since then and that is not your tax payer supported mandate!

As a tax payer it is also my hope that you will reject the notion that our Salt Spring Island Trustees need an over 100% increase in salary, especially for any kind of chosen personal adventurism into areas outside their land planning committee duties. I am advised that there were only a small handfull of development permits entertained last year.


ON LOCAL GOVERNANCE:
On another issue…We have recently been hearing this often parroted notion that the Islands Trust has somehow made the intellectual leap from being a land planning trust to being some kind of broader island governance. I think you will agree that a Trust is not a government and visa versa, even in an unincorporated district. Trust Council in their own bylaw 42 specifically acknowledge that they are not a form of governance but rather that they have been legislated within Trust Act to work with governing bodies, communities and Municipalies. That is the only Trust we can Trust. So what’s changed?

Even when citizens give you feedback as they will on Wednesday, it seems more of a polite formality, one you are simply legally required to extend. In the end however, your members have to vote in the interests of the Trust itself, its policies and the Trust Act. Anything we say at variance with that will tend to be discounted. So where are our real options for change? There appear few, because in the end, The Islands Trust, while paradoxically made up of democratically elected Trustees is not beholden to the electorate who votes for it but rather its ideological principles. This is a huge problem when you attempt to put forth the notion that you are a local governance representing the people.

No matter how far and wide local Trust Commitees attempt to extend their reach into the wide swath of services required by a community, I suspect that only a bonified Municipality is duly authorized, under our current Provincial legislation, to collect and spend our taxes on such ‘other’ services. Trust Council should explore any tax dollar savings to be had by staying on point and on mandate.


Thank you.
Artist3d
Salt Spring Island
 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Just Between Blogs - A response to Let'sStopTheMadness (in case you missed it)

Just to be clear, when you talk about anonymous bloggers.. who are you exactly? I do appreciate your comments however as it certainly clarifies the depth of misunderstanding people have about what defines a governing body in contrast to a Trust.

I think a lot of people are frustrated by the unilateral nature of Trusts in an unincorporated district when compared to the advantages of a democratic Municipal system which allows for participating candidates from a wider sampling of the community. I think we can all agree that  Trust followers are almost religious in their blind faith, certainly NDP politically and are simply convinced that pure bureaucracy will somehow stave off development.

Certainly when I ran for Trustee twice I heard all about the draw bridge mentality that Trust followers generally hold to. My proposal to build a hydro electric tidal dam/ combination bridge between Saltspring and Maple Bay was roundly sneered upon ;-). Just an idea folks to free us from Ferry Corp. travel costs and add to our power grid.

Elections are not about failing to win so much as choosing to participate in a process that requires a broad brush of ideas to be put forth. I have never felt disenchanted at not winning an election, it is enough to participate, in fact I even voted for Kimberly and Eric when I was running against them because I felt they had a better and broader handle on what we needed as the time. In discussing this idea that more ideologically similar trustees equates to more democracy I think a lot of people understood that that was a silly notion.

I generally put forth reasonable debating points in my blogs and letters to the Driftwood editor and I appreciate but rarely get anyone willing to dissect or devalue what I am actually saying. I presume many people are beginning to comprehend that the Islands Trust Mandate is simply unable to legally address the wider services and requirements of a growing community the size of Salt Spring Island. I think a lot of people admire the comraderie of Trustees and councillors shown on Bowen Island, it is refreshingly open and mature. I think people agree with me when I say Trust meetings are inconveniently scheduled during working hours and that people who have gone ahead and videotaped  and posted these publically funded meetings are to be thanked on behalf of those of us who work during the day. I think people would agree too that free association of ideas and debate should not be compromised by Trustees who might choose to disallow a visit from other Trustees to chat with the community about their experience on other islands in the area. Most of what you have pointed out about more aggressive expressions of discontent that we see in things like the bunker video and the odd blogger rants and frustrations is directly proportionate to what people perceive is happining to our democratic rights and lack of any appeal process regarding Trust decisions.

A lot of people like myself (who fought against incorporation rather strongly last time) have changed their opinion about incorporation. Seeing the way a unilateral Islands Trust system is so deficient and expensive, people are starting to see that under a Municipal system there is a lot less acrimony simply because a council addresses a wider field of services we require. And quite frankly, councillors are generally not preemptively bound to a particular ideolological focus. Community is all about the equal interaction between elements of the social, economic and environmental concerns we all share.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What if people desire change?

If the Islands Trust wants to continue to act like a local governing body then it needs to consider that democratically there needs to be an effective 'party' opposition established within the Trust Area otherwise elections themselves are rather pointless and unfair aren't they?
 
Paying Trustees more or designating more Trustees per island does not solve the essential inequity here.
 
The negative extremism of holding to a one party governing system is evident throughout the Middle East. Why Gulf Islanders themselves have put up with a one-sided, undemocratic local governance all these years is completely beyond comprehension.
 
It was popular in the 50's to post one clear message: THINK!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We the people... yea right.

Years ago I mentioned to someone that it was sad that the Islands Trust for all the implications of its namesake simply does not trust the people to protect their own homes and lands. They voluntarily expand their mandate as if they were a legislative body and then propose a hefty pay raise to accommodate their extra curriculer activities using our tax dollars.

A thorough Provincial review of the Islands Trust Act is clearly needed! Something that will clarify for the Trust and the public, precisely where their mandated parameters extend to.

With all due respect to most all volunteers picking up the slack, allowing our services to be run by so many decentralized volunteer organizations becomes a double-edged sword especially in regards to safety and ensuring qualified personel handle things as important as our water supply.

But beyond all that, it is about fundamentals and fiduciary accountability. John Ralston Saul once wrote a cautionary note about a weakening democratic input by the people: "Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the √©lite citizen's imitation of  noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens."

What is so difficult to contend with, regarding the Islands Trust, is that it appears to use a benign 'community concern' style of encroachment on our property rights. The spread of volunteerism within hand-picked advisory committees however well intentioned and 'harmlessly' made up of our own citizens, makes it almost impossible to ascertain whether they really represent the greater community. Unfortunately they may only be providing a fuzzy smokescreen of so-called 'community input' for an otherwise closed-loop ideological autonomy. With no appeal process in place for Trust Committee decisions, the picture grows exponentially less attractive.

The answer is easy to surmise if you  ask yourself whether you are happy with our current decentralized network of groups, each asking for their own tax requistions or whether you feel our taxes could be more efficiently spent under a single Municipal Council? It is not new or rocket science but maybe it makes cents ;-).

People require an apolitical governance structure with checks and balances that consider all our community needs without wasting tax dollars on 'things we can do nothing about' under the current limits of the Trust mandate. A municipal governance model ensures a wider diversity and number of candidates to feel  like they can run for an elected position without necessarily bowing to a single party line.