Saturday, September 17, 2011

To the Editor, Sat. Sept 17 2011

The tenure of the current Nanaimo Mayor and Councilors is coming to an end. As the November civic election approaches it might be a good time for this administration to reflect on whether or not they leave the institution — one of the key governing bodies in our democracy — in better shape than they found it. At the end of their watch is our City Hall more or less respected and trusted by Nanaimo citizens?

They might want to consider some or all of the following:

The City's top public servant — then City Manager Jerry Berry — was allowed to walk away from his post with a very rich severance package the details of which, though often promised, were never made public.

The contract to construct a very expensive state of the art City Hall Annex to house City departments and workers has been awarded in a behind closed doors process without consultation with any stakeholders who might be impacted by this decision.

Social Housing projects have been imposed on neighbourhoods, again without consultation, or attempts to explain and develop support for the policy decisions behind these initiatives. This like or lump it approach has not surprisingly resulted in loud public opposition to the point where the City has had to retreat and start from scratch.

The mid-summer sham "reverse billing" referendums like the recent ones on financing the Water Treatment Plant and the Emergency Water Connection Agreement are seen as cynical and shifty.

Just weeks before the civic election, not a single Councilor has declared his or her candidacy, and shown an eagerness to engage in the badly needed public conversation about neighbourhood issues, social issues, development issues and the deep economic funk we find ourselves in.

Frank Murphy


Email Thread With Councilor Fred Pattje

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: BUlletin Letter to the Editor
Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2011 19:34:33 -0700
From: Fred Pattje <>
To: Frank Murphy <>

Hi Frank,

Quite the letter to the Bulletin's editor and I'm a little hurt......

Not here to defend Council's record, just my own:

1) J.Berry's departure. Severance package was determined in 2006 and to have challenged it would have cost immeasurably more. Did not agree with the gag order. 

2) Annex is not "state of the art" it is "design built" and if you want to take seismic responsibility for the lives of some 200 employees, be my guest. The process was not closed-door in that the ten or so EOI results clearly showed who could, and who could not, build a building that would be suitable for an ever- growing municipality at a price that was relatively "affordable" and completely in compliance with Frank D'Ambrosio's guidelines. 

3) The Housing First process is flawed, I agree. As is about to happen again, BC Housing announces a location without having the Operator in place, which makes it almost impossible to explain who the clients are going to be and Council is left hanging again to try and explain Provincial initiatives, As a consequence location is being discussed/trashed rather than what happens once we get the vulnerable segment of our citizenry in safe housing in order to give them a chance at a sober and better life...... 

4) Both Loyd Sherry and I wanted proper referenda on the water treatment plant, the emergency connection with Harmac is a no-brainer and I reluctantly agreed to the AARP process on that one. 

5) I will run again, though Derek Spalding seems to already have announced that for me in a DN issue, a few days ago. Once I have the website up and functional I will announce. 

6) We're roughly two months before the November 18 election, not weeks, and there is plenty of time to discuss, agree and disagree.........

I guess it comes with the territory but I just hate being thrown I with the " rest ".

Your friend Fred

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: The hand you've been dealt
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2011 11:14:55 -0700
From: Frank Murphy <>
To: Fred Pattje <>

Hi Fred -- OK, your email doesn't challenge my premise that our City Hall is not held in high regard by the ordinary Nanaimo citizen and that this administration has given us even more reason to have even less respect for and trust in it. So we'll leave that for the moment.

If I was to distill your comments I'd come up with something like: -- I should be clearly differentiated from the collective failures of this Council. --

To understand where I'm coming from, let's revisit a coffee chat in my kitchen about a year ago when I talked to you about "the hand you've been dealt". I hope I made it clear that I would not be surprised or have less respect for you if you declined to build on it. "The hand" I'm referring to is your election being the singular accomplishment of the Friends of Plan Nanaimo. The conference centre and referendum battle lost, the urban containment boundary battle lost and opposition to Cable Bay and South Nanaimo Lands unsuccessful. But the process was unique in my 20 years experience here in that it was actual overt grassroots politics with it's origins in among other things real neighbourhood organizing.  As I said at the time, when you look around the Council table, you represent a political element unlike any of your colleagues. It was a wonderful opportunity to entrench real, positive, change inside the institution. The political phenomenon that lead to your election resulted in you being parachuted into Council as its first in many years opposition -- in a governing body that to its detriment -- unlike the senior levels of government -- doesn't have a structural function of the opposition designed into  it. Again, I said I could certainly understand someone in your position saying "no thanks" to running from there with this particular ball.

Having declined to build on this momentum, you can't have it both ways. The work that could have been done, particularly in the last year, to stand opposed and make it publicly clear that you were not to be lumped in with the rest of the group and its collective actions was not done. You can point to a voting record and make the case that there are difficult issues to wrestle with but so can all your colleagues. But politics is a public business -- if you don't take your message -- I stand opposed -- out to the public where you can be identified with it -- it doesn't add up to much. No one knows better than yourself, having stood in front of previous Councils taken their derision and arrogance, where the structural problems lie that hold back  this fine little city. Broad brush strokes: they're in the relationship  between the legitimate authority of the elected Council and the City's professional managers. There was the opportunity to stand opposed including building support and consensus and working toward the next election. Remember Harry Rankin? Now you're certainly under no obligation to be Harry Rankin -- Jewish Communist lawyer with the hide of a rhinoceros -- but here's an example of the single voice in opposition relentlessly advancing -- by tiny increments most of the time  -- the ideas he believed in.

So I'm afraid you will be painted with the same brush as your Council colleagues. The consequence, I think, of a quite understandable but in my view unfortunate decision to work from within the system and somehow not get co-opted and compromised as so many before you have instead of standing publicly opposed to bring attention to the real structural problems so many of which reside on such desks as the one belonging to the GM Development Services.

We could discuss the points you make as you say to defend your record, but they're less important to me the bigger picture stuff I guess... But I will add that in my view this election was lost about a year ago. That was the last opportunity to get to work on the grunt work of getting important issues into the public discussion and advancing progressive ideas. I hope you don't really think that 2 months every 3 years resembles meaningful public debate. In November there will be another Grade 12 popularity contest which will elect some version of the hockey coach, free newspaper publisher, jock, travel agent and it really holds very little interest for me.

Oh, and the stand alone capital investment projects Port Place and the annex -- without consultation or collaboration --  are by any objective measure failures of urban planning. I highly recommend Canadian Architect Ken Greenberg's "Walking Home -- The Life and Lessons of a City Builder". To invoke D'Ambrosio's name here really gives me cause for concern. A misreading of the guidelines I think and the kind of appropriated urbanist-speak that your planning department excels at to have phrases mean the opposite of what they were originally intended to mean.

Speaking of me, I'd like to think that my website indicates that I am in fact an irrepressibly positive person -- my interest in progressive urbanist ideas results every day in something happening elsewhere that I find delightful and for which I'm enthusiastically supportive.

Take care

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