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".


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 ;-)