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 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 based on a number of articles and letters I have analysed from people who have submitted their material online or in emails to me.


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!

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.


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...

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 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.
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.