November 30/12 Letter to the BC OMBUDSMAN

  1. 1. Which authority (ministry, municipality, school, college, or hospital, etc.) is your question or complaint about? 
  1. (Please identify by specific name) 
  2. (* required field, please separate lines/paragraphs by pressing the enter key for every 15 lines of text
    Municipal – City of Abbotsford
  1. 2. Who have you dealt with at the authority?
  1.       (list any names, titles, phone numbers or addresses that you have. If none then please state “None.”)
  2.        (* required field, please separate lines/paragraphs by pressing the enter key for every 15 lines of text
    Mayors, Councillors, and staff
  1. Phone (604)853-2281
  1. 3. Summarize your request for information or your complaint. List any steps you have taken to try to resolve it:
  1. (* required field, please separate lines/paragraphs by pressing the enter key for every 15 lines of text
    Over the years, I have written, spoken directly and gone as a delegation before Council.
  2. 4. Did you file an appeal or apply for a review?  If yes, when was the last appeal or review and what was the result? (please separate lines/paragraphs by pressing the enter key for every 15 lines of text) 
    Some years ago, a number of Abbotsford residents contacted the Ombudsman’s office , to ask for your help, in our quest to stop the abuse of public funds.
  3. 5. Why do you believe the organization’s actions are unfair? (please separate lines/paragraphs by pressing the enter key after every 15 lines of text) 
    I will copy the letter I just sent out to Council, some media, and a variety of people……..
  1. Today, Friday, Nov. 30/12, the Abbotsford News informs us there will be an opportunity for public input on a proposal to GIVE AWAY, a rather significant amount of our tax-dollars for a new YMCA.
  2. This ‘opportunity’ is set for 3PM, on Monday.  That seems to be the only opportunity for public input see Bill Flitton’s answer to me below,…..The YMCA funding approval does not require a Public Hearing.
  3. John Smith, Les Barkman, Dave Loewen, and it is assumed that the absent Bill MacGregor, and the mayor Bruce Banman will all approve this.
  4. They propose to pay 50/50 of the capital cost, which they estimate to be $17.5 million.  But sadly, when private builders can tap into a government-funded project, those initial estimates shoot wildly up from those original figures.  (It’s called padding)
  5. So what will the true figure be that this Council plans to GIVE.  Will it be 20, 25, 30 million?  Who knows?  I think this Council’s rash actions are a serious breach of trust.
  6. At the Council meeting the finance people said we will have $15. million in our reserves by 2015, but the News quotes Bruce Banman as saying “we already have close to $12 million that could go towards this project now,”
  7. Well Mayor Banman and Councillors, do you not think that the people of Abbotsford should be well informed, well in advance, before you go handing out another huge chunk of money, money that does not quite belong to you.
  8. When Council wanted this City to approve Plan A, they spent many months, and tens of thousands of our dollars to advertise, ‘Vote Yes’.  They used the public schools, the libraries, highway signs, constant newspaper ads, etc. etc. etc., to ram through a ‘yes’ vote.  Oodles of time and money.
  9. Now we are given a piece in a Friday paper, for a Monday afternoon meeting.  And will that be it???  Will council intone, as they have in the past, “The public has spoken”.
  10. Lets do a quick review.  This Council said we did not have the money to do the necessary upkeep for a wonderful, loved, outdoor pool way out near the Fraser river, for all those outlying country folk in Matsqui. (originally only $70,000. was needed)
  11. This Council said (three years ago)  we did not have the money to maintain the ditches and culverts in the municipal uplands.  (said to be between 2 to $800,000.)
  12. BUT, this council does have the men and equipment to service the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, (profits heading south with Global Spectrum) for big name shows, and endless tax-dollars for the privately-owned Abbotsford Heat hockey team.
  13. This Council wants to spend $15 to $20 million to give Tourism Abbotsford a bigger Tradex building.  
  14. Now Council wants a mere (starting figure) of $17.5 million to be given to the ‘non-profit’, YMCA.   The YMCA may provide services to a community, but it assuredly is not altruistic.  The Y has paid directors and many paid employees.   The building will house a variety of other organization, staffed by paid employees.  The Y is a business.
  15. Though we propose to give them a free chunk of tax-dollars, we will not be privy to seeing where that money goes, or how much those ‘non-profit’ folk earn.   An example would be Dan Stephanson, who wants a bigger Tradex.  Dan won’t reveal his salary.
  16. No one should have to reveal their salary, or how much their buildings cost, ……..unless that money is being extracted from the public’s pocket.   Then the public must have the right to know.  The wish to have public funds must be tied to the RIGHT of those who pay the bill, to see exactly where their money is going, who is getting it, and why.
  17. Four times a year, I as a resident of Abbotsford, can ask for a 10 minute delegation to Council.  I can summarize my significance before this august body this way, “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”
  18. However, that journey has taught me a few things.   One of them is this,  I must have all my documents in by High Noon, TEN DAYS before that delegation date.
  19. When Council wants to throw millions of our dollars at another of their ill-thought-out building projects, apparently a little ad, read by very few people on a weekend, for a meeting to be held during work hours for most people……………72 is plenty of heads-up.
  20. By the way, any of you folk who will bear this financial burden, and might want to attend this hastily-called meeting, take a deep breath and allow yourself time to head to TWO locations.   The News tells you the meeting will be at City Hall at 3PM.   The City Web-site tells you it will be at the Library at 3PM.  (see enclosed,.
  21. ……..Meeting first announced in Abbotsford News  says it will be, Nov. 30/12  to be held Dec.3 AT CITY HALL.  
  22. The City web-site says it is AT THE LIBRARY.
  23. http://www.abbotsford.ca/Assets/Abbotsford/Agendas+-+Executive/2012-12-03+Agenda+for+the+Special+Executive+Committee+meeting+on+December+3$!2c+2012.pdf
  24.    
  25. ———- Forwarded message ———-
  26. From: Bill Flitton 
  27. Date: Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 10:45 AM
  28. Subject: RE:
  29. To: Gerda Peachey 
  30. The YMCA funding approval does not require a Public Hearing.
  31.  
  32. From: Gerda Peachey [mailto:gerdapeachey@gmail.com
  33. Sent: Friday, November 30, 2012 10:44 AM
  34. To: Bill Flitton
  35. Subject:
  36.  
  37. Hello Bill:   Monday is an ‘opportunity’ for public input.   Has a date been set for an official ‘public hearing’?     Gerda 
  1. 6. Describe the result or outcome that you seek. (please separate lines/paragraphs by pressing the enter key for every 15 lines of text) 
    I hope the Ombudsman will come to Abbotsford and listen to people here share their concerns.
  1. We need your help to slow down, and hopefully stop this Council bent on empire building.
  2. Millions are spent on glitz projects, while the bread and butter needs of our community go wanting.
  1. 7. If you consider the matter urgent, explain why. (please separate lines/paragraphs by pressing the enter key for every 15 lines of text) 
    Council is poised to give away whatever 50% of the capital outlay will be for a new YMCA.  Half is currently estimated at $17.5 million, but many of us see another financial disaster, down the road.
  1. Council repeatedly puts off the needed $5 million for a new police building, but want to give away, over three times that amount to the Y.
  2. The plan is seems is to go through a P3 for the police, thereby tying us up again with private money, that take longer to pay back, and cost us much more in the long run.
  3. Council also lists as a priority authorizing a $15 to $20 million  expansion to Tradex, our facility which is run by the private association. ‘Tourism Abbotsford.’
  4. The purported need for this expansion is based on wildly inflated, very dubious extrapolations, as to that economic benefits accrue to our City because of Tourism Abbotsford/Tradex.
  5. Any meaningful data we ask for is almost always kept from our eyes.
  6. That is the fundamental problem in our City.   The liberal (and foolish) use of our money to benefit private operators, while obscuring the details of those financial transactions.
  7. The land to be granted for the Y is being ‘given’ as well.  The land in an open-market sale would generate millions of dollars.   Money that could and should be applied to the debt we incurred to build the new hospital.
  8. Health care does not generate money, rather it is a consumer of tax dollars.  So for Fraser Health to  claim the old hospital grounds as their own, and then to magnanimously ‘give’ a portion of the land to the Y is another, very, troubling aspect of the proposal to build the Y in Abbotsford. 

 

Mayor and Council are only mortals, like the rest of us.  As such they should be forgiven for honest mistakes and poor judgment, from time to time.  It is when we see City Hall treat the people who pay for the buildings, services and their paycheque, with contempt that ordinary people begin to lose patience, and lose faith in local government.

In Richard’s 2012 letter below, you can see that Councillor Braun had a common-sense attitude toward funding Ledgeview, but last Monday he signed an MOU with Kinder Morgan that greatly benefits Ledgeview.

Given that we can see by old minutes that the KM-Ledgeview pact was being discussed years ago, it is extremely disingenuous for Mayor Braun to call this “a gift”, when we know now that this is a negotiated, long worked on deal.  That Memorandum of Understanding is not an innocuous ‘present’ from Kinder Morgan.

This is Richard’s letter, May 17, 2012:

From: Richard Peachey <r.d.peachey@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, May 17, 2012 at 7:37 PM
Subject: Ledgeview — a “core service”?
To: aholota@blackpress.ca

Dear Editor:
 
Re: Ledgeview golf course gets $115,000 in city funding (The News, May 17).
 
  Let me get this straight: Abbotsford councillor Patricia Ross sees Ledgeview golf course as a “core service” — like water, sewers, roads, and city parks.
  Her fellow city councillor Henry Braun has pointed out that there are two other private golf courses in Abbotsford. And both of them are successful tax-paying businesses, whereas Ledgeview is, amazingly, losing money on alcohol! (A key aspect of being a “core service,” obviously.)
  Yet we are asked to believe that Ledgeview with its “many” affluent members (according to Braun) is a “core service,” while the now-defunct swimming pool in Matsqui Village, which served generations of ordinary children and families, was a dispensable non-necessity.
  When will our city governors get their priorities right!
 
– Richard Peachey, Abbotsford
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