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.

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.