Councillors head off to a resort in the face of a 8.29% proposed tax hike
A very brief two-page report was written by newly appointed City Manager Penny Ballem that will go before Council tomorrow for consideration. The report asks Council to approve funding for Vision Vancouver Councillor Geoff 'Mayor' Meggs and his colleague Heather Deal to head off to the picturesque town of Harrison Hot Springs to attend a workshop. The optics of this funding request look bad given Council is also debating a report regarding the merits of raising residential property taxes by 8.29% during the same meeting.
The brief report doesn't give us any insight as to the Councillor's goals and objectives, nor whether they even plan to report back to Council on their findings. All we know is the conference relates to building "inclusive" and "sustainable" communities and is being organized by the Columbia Institute.
The Institute's Board of Directors is a veritable who's who of the labour movement. You might recognize some of the names: Ken Georgetti, Jim Sinclair, Barry O'Neill, John Shields, David Levi, Ken Neumann, Tom Dufresne, George Heyman and Andy Ross. Speaking of 'inclusive', there appears to be a notable absence of women from the Board. Not sure what Councillor Deal will think about that?
According to the Columbia Institute website:
Columbia Institute is a national charitable organization established by Working Enterprises, a group of companies owned by the labour movement.
As for the goals of the Institute:
"At the Columbia Institute our goal is to foster inclusive, sustainable communities. We believe that communities that value social justice and the environment, as well as the local economy, are healthier, happier places to live. Fostering individual and organizational leadership is essential for achieving strong communities."
A quick review of the workshop agenda reveals some interesting topics such as:
- "How Big is Your Wand?"
- "Building an Economy of Enduring Happiness"
- "Setting priorities and getting them done"
- "Supply Chain Activism"
- "Living wage - What is a living wage?"
We anticipate unanimous approval of this expenditure at the Council meeting tomorrow. 'Mayor' Meggs and Deal are seeking reimbursment for their accommodation and transportation costs out of the councillor's travel budget. We could not find any details on the conference website regarding the cost of registration fees.
CityCaucus.com will be following this one in the weeks to come and will attempt to get a full report back from the Councillors on how their trip to Harrison Hot Springs went. It truly is beautiful at this time of year.
Given other cities across Canada are grappling with the economic recession by freezing wages and limiting programs, we think in the future, it would be prudent for Mayor Robertson to ask his caucus colleagues to be a bit more sensitive about these types of field trips.