Mayor Froese’s Public Engagement Committee…. Is Nothing but a CHARADE! Question – When will we finally wake up to reality? Here is the latest!!

Posted: July 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

The whole idea of a Mayor’s Standing Committee on Public Engagement was created in the Froese political back room before the last election (by those who are truly running him, the majority of Council and this municipality) in an orchestrated attempt to deflect the severe criticism (well deserved) being thrown his way over a variety of issues – What were they? Off the cuff they are the Brookswood/Fernridge OCP, Coulter Berry, Willoughby, Aldergrove, Landfills on ALR and refuting any public display or input of rejection by the taxpayer. Unfortunately for all of us, he was successful in selling his bill of goods, or put another way the public bought into drinking his Kool Aid! A sad reality but true!

In another display we have his idea of Public Engagement on the Translink Tax which the Mayor was campaigning so hard for. It was defeated by a large 74+% of Township voters. Had anyone of you ever been asked your opinion of the Translink Tax? Where was this Council?

Mayor’s Standing Committee on Public Engagement:

So from being in the middle of the Mayor’s Standing Committee on Public Engagement the community gets NO relief from bad decisions and ignoring the communities message of dissatisfaction in the last election. 7 months ago!!! The latest examples follow:

Question – to those who were politically active in the last election:  So you were convinced that politics would be done differently – Well are you happy now with who was elected?

I believe the worst is yet to come.

Now clearly I have not been shy about sharing my opinion of the Mayor’s idea / charade of a Standing Committee on Public Engagement from the outset. My opinion is based on knowledge gained through three years in the Mayor’s office. In one of this committee’s first action, they conducted a survey of other municipalities and cities to research their current public engagement process. The result was clear, there are no magic bullets, politics is a people business, and always will be. The tried and true long standing approved methods have stood the test of time – Public Hearings, Public Information Meetings, Community Drop Ins, Public Forums, Petitions, written, oral and video submissions and the TOL Website.

Message to Mayor and Council: The one and only thing that has been missing in the Township – is a Council that listens to the voters! I really think the Mayor’s true intention was to find a way to educate the taxpayer into his way of thinking. No Jack, the public are a very educated group that can come to their own conclusion through the communication vehicles that are in place.

It doesn’t require a Standing Committee, the hiring of a consultant at significant expense to go through a report writing process (which I might add have proven to reach VERY underwhelming conclusions) and months of meetings with a costly report to Council at the end of the exercise when all that was ever required was to LISTEN to your residents (not just developers) through all of the Public Engagement options allowed under the Community Charter!

Conclusions from Consultants Report – Before I get to a few of the latest prime examples (it has only been 7 months since the last election) of ignoring the public’s wishes and/or Council’s complete lack of consultation, here are a few of the Consultants Conclusions and my response –

Langley Township politicians and staff lost the trust of residents (Brookswood/Fernridge and Coulter Berry) – NO, you have to be kidding us?

Even though they (Council) acted properly. – WHAT? The only thing the Council of the day did correctly was to hold the required Public Hearings because they are mandated to by law! They didn’t listen, they didn’t consult!

The redevelopment of Willoughby into a high-density residential region cast a long shadow over the Brookswood/Fernridge planning process. – Well that is stating the obvious isn’t it. The shadow that was and still is cast (more on this later) is the approvals of bad development despite public outrage, end of story.

The consultant partly blames the media coverage (Langley Times). – On this he has a point in that for far too long the local media have been decidedly biased  (perceived as pro development, just view all of the display advertising in every issue), at the very least not utilizing their communication product to present more facts, more community opinion and more challenges of Mayor and Council.

BUT – Blaming the confusion on the Times using incomplete Community names or starting the Griffiths Plan before the Brookswood/Fernridge plan being interpreted as the Township considered the Community Plan being a fait accompli engendered mistrust of the Township. –  This conclusion by the consultant insults the intelligence of the community of Brookswood/Fernridge. This was all about a disjointed, poorly planned and a poorly thought out process which DID NOT embrace or involves the citizens of the community. Its results were pre-designed by the involved principles (developers) involved.

Summary of the Consultant’s Report – The report goes on and on with quite a bit of nothing more than filler but suffice to say this report was and is intended to look like they are doing something when in fact it is an exercise in futility. Anyone with an ounce of experience understand what is required and that is members of Council willing to stand out above the crowd on Council willing to stand up for what is right and continue the fight meeting after meeting issue by issue. Easy, NO, but it is what is and has been missing from Council for decades. A Council members simple NO vote is and never has been enough. It takes guts and determination in debate on Council to either sway others on Council to your way of thinking or at the very least to light a fire under the media and the electorate. A simple NO vote doesn’t cut it!

So how is this so-called NEW (as promised) Public Engagement working out (You know, listening to the public)? Remember it has only been 7 months, enough time to either show the public there will be change or there will be more of the same –

I can only guess based on a couple of the latest examples (that follow) that Mayor Froese didn’t expect to change his attitude at all, coming out of his committee sometime next year? But then again, whatever is added or subtracted from the process, listening to the public will always be the key ingredient missing, based on past and present practice. Words are cheap, actions are what matters!

Just a few of the latest examples –

Aldergrove Pool –

A review of my last BLOG Post reviews this issue in total, but in summary after years of PROMISING an indoor pool facility, Aldergrove receives an Outdoor Pool. This was probably one of the most insulting decisions to the residents of Aldergrove in decades.

Willoughby Development – 1st and 2nd Reading Last Monday –

In a stunning act of community neglect and rebuke, Mayor Froese and the majority of Council approved the following development at 208th and 80th (SE corner) – (A Poets Wynd Development)

Two Six-Storey Condos

Two Five-Storey Condos

Total of 286 apartments

Plus

Total of 138 Townhouse Units

The issues? Where do we start?

The approval of a separate and NEW Community Plan Amendment by-law at 1st and 2nd reading.

The approval of a separate and NEW Zoning Amendment by law at 1st and 2nd reading.

(Because both of the above are being passed in one process they only require one Public Hearing.)

1st and 2nd READING AND PUBLIC HEARING DURING THE SUMMER – This process of 1st and 2nd reading of BOTH by-laws (at one time) were initiated, passed and will go through a Public Hearing during the summer, prior to Council’s Summer break, when a vast majority of the public are on holidays. NOT ONE member of Council objected to this development being handled during the summer. Another example of VERY poor Public Engagement, which feeds into that cloud of mistrust citizens have with this Council. Clearly nothing has or will change.

SERIOUSLY DEFICIENT PARKING BY-LAW – This development is being guided by and incorporating a SERIOUSLY DEFICIENT PARKING BY-LAW requirement that continues unabated. Continuing with this development under the current parking by-law will devastate Willoughby.

NO NEW SCHOOL DEVELOPMENT – Lack of planning for NEW SCHOOL DEVELOPMENT, no provincial support. Does everyone remember the infamous letter of interference from our two MLAs during the Municipal Election? How do you like the Province delivering on our needs so far?

NO COMMUNITY INPUT (A community consulting process promised during the election) into needed changes to the Neighborhood and OCP.

NO RECONSIDERATION OF DENSITY LEVELS being accepted by staff and Council. Our Mayor suggested in his debate that this area allows for up to twelve storeys. That is encouraging Jack.

NOTE: In typical fashion, in answer to a few Councilors concern over parking, there will be opportunity for changes down the road and that the first phase of the project will be the Townhouses. A Development Permit request for the Condos will come to Council when they are ready to proceed. Councilors Richter, Davis and Arnason voted against this project following what can only be described as a less than inspiring public debate (in one case NO debate)

To Council – Why would you #1 accept dealing with this project during the middle of the summer?, #2 Not deal with a motion from Council to refer this back to staff to impose a significant change to the parking by-law given this should be dealt with in September or later in any case? And #3 Given the so called interest in changing the Public Engagement process (can’t imagine what that would be) why would nobody on Council refer to this process?

OH and by the way Councilor Richter and Council – Yes an improvement in the Parking By-Law would mean a reduced density to the developer, as was answered by Mr. Saifi to a question from Councilor Richter. Message to Council – It is not your responsibility to deliver any specific density, it is your responsibility to act on behalf of the Public. A foreign concept I know to some members of Council.

Salmon River Uplands Development by Infinity Properties? – While this is only at the community information stage by the developer (Meeting scheduled for Wednesday July 15th, 2015), if you believe this hasn’t been thoroughly discussed with the powers that be at the Hall I have a bridge to sell you in the Sahara. This is a further example of the stranglehold the development community and some major insiders have on this community. Stopping this kind of unbridled development will take a grass roots revolt from all areas of the Township of Langley. It will also take more than a simple unimpressive vote against by a couple of members of Council, it will take a no holes bard willingness to fight the wrong doing. Spare me the we must be nice routine!          

Conclusion –   

I am not sure what it will take to shock residents into action, but I will continue to raise these issues of importance hoping upon hope that there might be a public uprising. From everything I am hearing there is much more to come from friends of the majority of this Council. It is ultimately going to take nothing less than a very public backlash to change what has been happening in this Municipality for years. It will take some guts to stand up and be counted, are you in for it?

RG

Stay tuned for discussion of top of mind topics that directly affect us in the Township of Langley and our region to be published in the months ahead and much more….!

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, stay involved and VOTE!!!

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Comments
  1. My opinion is that this committee was conceived as a repository in which Froese et al could dump unwanted waste, or look like they are doing something (“referring to a committee”) when they have no intention of doing anything at all. In time, the committee may assume a quasi-legislative role, like a mayors inner cabinet, and subvert the good governance of the community even further. From the popular side I do not personally perceive any thrust from the electorate for reform; that is just who the mass of the people are. If you need to know more about the identity of the electorate, look no further than the complacent cloned personalities they have elected as MP’s and MLA’s

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