Friday, November 30, 2007

AUMA Convention - GP Pushes Internet Voting Forward

We've had good success with our resolutions at the AUMA convention this year. Below I mentioned our 911 funding resolution that was passed yesterday.

This afternoon I had the pleasure of standing up to introduce our resolution on internet voting. The resolution read;

"Now therefore be it resolved that the AUMA encourage the Provincial Government to amend the Local Authorities Election Act to enable alternative means of voting for future Municipal General Elections, including internet or web-based voting, while preserving the integrity of the voting process and protection for voters of the secrecy to cast ballots."

I spoke to the experience of Markham, which I mentioned here before. The vote was called and the motion passed - but with a surprisingly narrow margin! I think it was something like 118 for and 76 against. Regardless of the margin it is now the policy of the organization and they will begin working on the province to get this moving. Hopefully you'll have the ability to vote online soon... The next city election is in 2010, stay tuned.

Helen Wins Another One

Helen also ran for a position as a Vice President for the AUMA this morning. In AUMA there are two positions for Directors AND one position of VP for Cities Under 500 000.

In the VP race helen was up against Councillor Len Bracko of St. Albert. They've faced off before and Helen came out on top again!

AUMA Day Two - More Elections

Helen Rice is running to be re-elected to the board ad director for cities under 500 000. There are two spots open, and Helen is in a group of three.

One of them is Linda from Strathcona County. By the way I think its pretty strange that we could have someone from a county on the board of the URBAN municipalities association. Strathcona county is trying to play both sides of the field as far as I'm concerned.

The second is Martin Shields from Brooks.

The third is Helen and she is speaking now - got a good laugh from the crowd to start... Results in just a few minutes..

The directors for cities under 500 000 are:

Helen Rice and Martin Shields!

AUMA Convention - Day Two

The convention is starting off with a bang this morning. The fisrt order of business is to elect the executive including the president. Three men are running for that spot; Bob Hawkesworth from Calgary (the current pres), Ed Gibbons from Edmonton and Lloyd Bertschi from thetown of Mornville.

I'd like to see Lloyd win, Ed from Calgary has been pres for the past three years and it's time to have the leadership rotate back to a community other than one of the two big cities.

Both Lloyd and Bob have spoken and Ed is on right now.


In a couple moments we'll vote electronically and have the results...

The president of AUMA for 2008 is; Lloyd Bertschi!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

AUMA Committee on Environment

I'm in a session reviewing what AUMA has been doing on environmental issues over the past year. Here are a few of the highlights that I could capture for you:

- They are working to develop a Water Conservation Strategy with in concert with AB Environment and the AB Water Council

- They are promoting a strategy to remove government barries to alternitive energy in the province.

- Have provided input to AB Climate Change Action Plan Review

- They are pushing the province to develop and implement Green standards in the provincial building codes

- Working to deliver AB's Environment Conference in April 2008

There's lots more but I can only type so much with my thumbs! AB Enviroment is going to give a presentation now that I want to listen to - so I'd better sign off.

911 Funding Resolution

Just a few minutes ago our joint resolution with Edmonton on 911 funding was passed with a huge majority.

So, now it is the official position of AUMA. When I get to a real computer I'll give you some more of the details on the background around the issue.

AUMA Convention Day One

I;m on my blackberry today from downtown Calgary for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) conference. AUMA is basically the provincial association for Cities, Towns and Villages. At the conference municipalities bring forward resolutions on different issues that affect the way cities operate and often these resolutions ask the provincial government to take some kind of action by changing some piece of legislation or program.

GP has two resolutions we are bringing forward:

The first is asking the province to add a fee to cell phone bills that would help operate 911 services. You already pay this on landlines but more and more of the calls are actually coming in from cell phones. Add that to the fact that more people are cancelling their landlines and moving just to cells (as I have) and you get a situation where there are more calls and less money to pay for the service. The city of GP runs the 911 call center in our area so this has a direct impact on our city budget - we can't do without 911 so we pay for it. Our resolution is being combined with an almost exactly similar one from Edmonton.

The second resolution we are bringing forward is to ask the province to amend the election law and allow internet voting in the next municipal election. I've posted on this before. I'm looking forward to speaking to the conference and bringing this forward.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

VSB Directory

I just received this email from Donna at the Volunteer Services Bureau (VSB) and I thought I'd take a minute to share it while council breaks for lunch.

The VSB directory is a great resource for knowing what community groups, social agencies and resources there are in the city. From what I remember you can find contact info for everything from the men's basketball league to HIV North.

Check it out...

"The 2007/2008 Volunteer Services Bureau Community Directories are now available.  They can be purchased at our office in Centre 2000 (11330 - 106 Street) for $10.00 each.  Our office hours are 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday.  Outside of these hours, they can also be purchased at the Tourist Information Desk in Centre 2000.  Their hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, seven days a week.


Shipping to out of town purchasers is available, please contact the office for costs.


Please let me know if you have any questions.


Donna Durnford

Program Coordinator

Volunteer Services Bureau

#206, 11330 - 106 Street

Grande Prairie, AB T8V 7X9

Phone: (780) 538-2727

Fax: (780) 539-5986


City Budget Media Release

I thought since I had a short posting last night I'd also post this city media release focused on the budget process.

2008-2010 City Budget Deliberations Begin Today

Budget presentations for the City of Grande Prairie begin this morning at the Sandman Inn. Today and Thursday, capital plan items will be reviewed. There are a total of 217 individual projects being brought forward – 43 with undefined funding sources.

Capital items are non-recurring expenditures that can include larger scale purchases such as buildings and vehicles but also encompass functional and master plans and studies. Three days – Nov. 21-23 – have been allotted for aldermen to hear operational budget presentations.

Community groups will make submissions on Dec. 3 and 4.

A budget will be finalized on Dec. 17.

“During these presentations, aldermen are sitting as Council Committee-of-the-Whole and they make recommendations to Council,” explains City Manager Dave Gourlay.

“We operate on a three-year budget cycle, which allows for long-term planning,” adds Gourlay. “However, with our substantial growth over the past few years, Council will have a significant challenge dealing with the many needs of our municipality and the community as a whole.”

The City is operating with a $59 million 2007 budget.

I feel like I should note that the last line there is referring to the operational budget, as I mentioned yesterday the capital budget is in the area of $175 million over the 3 years. Also, City Manager Dave wasn't kidding - there are a lot of needs expressed in the budget, it was evident from day one. It's going to be interesting to see how this group on council responds to those needs and the resulting cost.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Budget Sessions- Day One

Today was day one of budget discussions, where council reviews the city's capital and operational budgets for the next three years. It's a big job, this year we have five full days dedicated to going over the plans and recommendations that administration has developed in their business plans. All the meetings are at the Sandman hotel down town, and the public is welcome to come and observe - although, I don't ever remember anyone coming who wasn't media or lobbying council for something specific.

BUT, you are welcome - we have chairs set up for you!

As I'm writing this It's getting a little late (I need to get to bed soon so I can be fresh for day two) so I'm just going to cover some of the highlights:

• Budget is broken into two parts, Capital (Buildings, Roads, Bridges and Vehicles we by for example) and Operational (Staff Salaries, Programs, and Vehicles we'd lease). Today was the first look at capital with operational to come next week.

• The years covered are 2008 - 2010 and over those three years the projected capital spending is $175 Million dollars!

• Funding for most of this comes from Taxes, Debt, Grants and different Reserves (pots of money, almost like a savings account, that are set aside for specific things).

• Some items are in the plan but are Unfunded - basically they are on the "to do list" but unless someone speaks up for them there isn't any money to do them and in my experience they never end up happening.

We go through the projects with a short description from the director of that service area. If a council member would like to change the status of a project, to fund it, remove it or change when it happens, we "red flag" it and come back to discuss and debate them later. The idea is that we can go through the whole list getting the ones that no one has a problem with out of the way first. Those that need a second look, positive or negative, are discussed after.

Below are some of the items I flagged today. With all of these I am hoping we can do them sooner, or save them from that unfunded/never gonna happen category:

• New buses to expand the Transit Fleet, improved bus stops and shelters and a transfer terminal.
• Twinning 116th Ave from Lakeland Drive to 92nd Street (north of Crystal Park School to the entrance of Crystal Lake Estates)
• Walking paths, (west side of 102 Street from 117 Ave to 120 Ave and 108 Street from 116th Ave to Royal Oaks
• Coca-Cola Centre upgrade, to add a viewing area in the 3rd level. (This is a big unused space looking on to both ice surfaces that could be earning money from rentals)
• Fixing the Leisure Centre Tennis Courts
• New Park space for the Morgan Meadows area

So tomorrow we'll go through these and all the other flagged items (there are lots) and we'll debate what should make the final cut.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Aquatics Centre: Maintain Your Holding Pattern

Well, we're just about through the first official week of the "holding pattern" that has been imposed by council on the Aquatics Centre and Fieldhouse at the CKC multiplex.

I know, I know - I haven't been doing a lot of blogging lately and so it might feel like this issue has just wizzed by. Well rest assured that even though I haven't been blogging on it people out there are talking about it. Since the council committee of the whole vote by a 5-4 margin to delay making a decision I've had about 45 emails. Some support holding off on the decision and other are saying "What the heck are you guys doing? Get it built already!" I really appreciate the input from both sides and I respect anyone who takes the time to let council know what they are thinking - no matter what side of the issue they are on. It is, after all, about the conversation.

There have also been two Facebook groups started in support of going ahead with the CKC site.

... I have to share one of the emails I (and the rest of council) received, the email was entitled: "Decisions by Facebook?"

"My 14 year-old has been on the receiving end of a Facebook blitz to “Build the Aquatic Centre NOW”. I am not sure who is behind this, but there are three issues that have to be explored here:
1. Plans for the CKC were begun 10 years ago, and the city has grown by about 15 000 since then. I think it’s called “change”, and it definitely creates a domino effect, so DEAL WITH IT, don’t ignore it.
2. Council should involve themselves in approval of projects--not design (unless of course, they have extensive building, architectural, and business experience.)
3. Trying to create a false impression of support (such as last summer’s skewed survey or the present Facebook panic) is totally undemocratic. The voices that must be heard are those of taxpayers and others of VOTING AGE. Clearly, a large number of respondents to an anonymous newspaper survey or Facebook request do not fit either category.

As a new council with a fresh, inclusive approach to the many issues we must deal with in Grande Prairie, I hope you can judge any of these “surveys” on their merit, and not bend to any contrived result presented to you."

Wow, ok.... First off I think it's great that younger people have a way to get involved in discussions about the future of their community. People shouldn't be barred from being involved important issues until they are voting age, after all young people are certainly a group that we hope would use a facility like this - their input should be important and they should use all available mediums to express their opinion.

Second, the plans at the CKC have evolved and changed over time as has Grande Prairie. The proposed Aquatics Centre wasn't designed 10 years ago - it's been designed over the last year or so with input from the users of the current pool and it reflects the best examples from other buildings across the province. The design of the Aquatics Centre is BIG, bigger than anything that currently exists north of Edmonton. It is built for the future of our region.

Finally, to suggest that people actively talking about issues and trying to round up support though a new medium like Facebook is undemocratic is like saying that using a photocopier to print up handouts and pamphlets for a cause is undemocratic. The way I see it the more people are talking, writing, blogging, Facebooking, texting or even podcasting about an issue the better off democracy is! It's not about the medium, it's about the conversation.

Whew, felt good to get that off my chest! : )

Anyhow, while I've been away from the keyboard someone has been actively blogging on the topic.... GPConservative has two posts here and here. The first covers a little perspective of what council members said during the election. (Most supported going ahead with the CKC project pretty clearly, although there were a couple who wanted to shut it down) The second posting looks at the Peace Country Wellness Facility Society and the impact they've had on the project.

I think I've been pretty clear in all my prior postings, I totally support going ahead with the CKC site. Changing location at this point in the project is not in the best interests of the public. If there was an organization that was going to come on as an equal partner an pump in an extra $40 million dollars - that might be a different story but my experience tells me that that is not going to happen for a number of reasons.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

For Goodness Sake, Slow Down!

You'll start seeing this new device around the city. The Public Works department has had problems with people speeding through construction projects. They are hoping that seeing what you speed is will remind people to take their foot off the gas pedal.

And if that little reminder isn't enough how about the fact fines are doubled when you speed through a construction zone?


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