Soon to be retired Metro Vancouver CAO Johnny Carline
On Tuesday, Vancouver city council gets back to work with a discussion on how much City Hall (and Metro Vancouver) plans to collect in fees we pay for water and sewer services. Water utility rates are spiking up another 9.9% to pay for – among other things – $800 million worth of water filtration infrastracture most voters have little knowledge about. Combined with garbage collection fee increases, that will work out to be over $100 per year more for many Vancouver households.
Vancouver's City Engineer reasons that we need higher water rates to curb usage, but their own report shows that water use per capita has been declining for a generation. The graph to the left (click to enlarge) shows that while Vancouver's population has gone up over 50% since 1986, the overall amount of water used by the city has gone down during that same period.
Additional bureaucracy will be needed to manage the installation and reading of water meters in the city, a Vision initiative that the NPA was highly critical of during the recent 2011 campaign.
Despite operating budgets in the billions, Metro Vancouver is the level of local government that has virtually no accountability to voters. This is due to the fact that all directors are appointed at the discretion of governing mayors and councils. However, with the election of new leadership at the board on Friday, and the replacement of the powerful Chief Administrative Officer in the spring, perhaps it's time to engage on the big changes taking place at the regional district offices. Especially considering this news reported by Jeff Lee:
In July a Metro Vancouver finance report said the cost of services will climb 44 per cent over the next five years as taxpayers pay the price for clean air and water, sewer services, parks and garbage collection.
The only discussion I've noted in recent weeks about the Metro Vancouver leadership issue have been this tweet by Daniel Fontaine (follow his new personal Twitter account @Fontaine_D), and a subsequent report by Charlie Smith at Straight.com. Jeff Nagel of the Surrey Leader newspaper – arguably the region's best reporter on Metro matters – is currently on a short leave.
The two choices for Metro Vancouver Chair will supposedly boil down to Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore (a former BC Liberal candidate), and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan (an NDP stalwart), which will make the politics of who wins the job of running the board very interesting. Metro's longstanding CAO Johnny Carline (dubbed "Cash" for his high salary) is stepping down in March. Vision councillor Raymond Louie, the man touted to be Vancouver's next mayor by Larry Campbell, is rumoured to have struck a deal to land the job of Metro Vancouver Vice-Chair.
Back at Vancouver city council, the City's 2012-2013 Budget is being discussed on Thursday. There are a number of red flags which might make taxpayers nervous, such as a shaky global economy, and flat revenues from development levies and parking fines. Oh, and there is the matter of all the city's major union collective agreements, which expire this month. Given the effort CUPE put into Vision's re-election, don't count on anything near to the net-zero mandate of the B.C. government seen during the recent economic downturn.
It will be interesting to watch how council's new opposition councillors handle themselves during these important discussions about public spending.
- post by @MikeKlassen.