"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chamber Business Excellence Awards

Not-for-Profit of the Year 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Truck-route traction

Please bear with me, because this is going to take a few minutes.
You might have heard or read about the big controversy surrounding Council's late-July decision to approve, on a two-month trial basis, a full truck route along the north end of Mariner (essentially, the big, twisting hill from Como Lake to Dewdney Trunk Road) and along the full length of Como Lake Avenue. 
Council did this by a 6-3 vote (with Mayor Stewart, Councillor Brent Asmundson and me opposed) even though there had been no public consultation and the GM of Engineering said he couldn't recommend it.
Council took the action following several long and lengthy meetings with Coquitlam Concrete owner Jim Allard, who aggressively pushed for wide-open truck routes through Coquitlam to help his trucks avoid traffic congestion caused by Evergreen Line construction and also to take a more direct route to the Centennial Secondary construction site from his Coquitlam River-area operation on Pipeline Road.
The issue was on a slow boil through the summer until candidate Teri Towner distributed a pamphlet earlier this month alerting the residents to the decision. Then all hell broke loose. The folks in the affected area were of one voice: No Way!
Coquitlam Concrete owner Jim Allard. 

Surprisingly (to me, at least), three councillors who voted for the trial, Lou Sekora, Bonita Zarrillo and Chris Wilson, accused Towner and Mayor Stewart (whom Towner had invited out for a few minutes of door-knocking to see the reaction for himself) of sensationalizing and misrepresenting the issue, but at the same time they could point to no factual error she had made.
Zarrillo and Wilson also alleged that the publicity had tainted the trial-period process--a startling assertion which led me to conclude that they believed the trial period would have been a more authentic one if only people were not aware that the trial was occurring in the first place. It also led me to quip  that they were essentially saying that the trial had been "tainted by the truth." Bizarre!
Anyway, after Councillor Zarrillo said during our Committee meeting on Monday that the trial should be abandoned because of the alleged tainting, I quickly moved just such a motion. I originally had trouble getting a seconder to the motion (Councillor Asmundson was absent on personal business and the mayor can't move or second motions), but ultimately I  found one, and the motion passed unanimously.
To provide some for-the-record context (and, yes, a little bit of "I told you so"), what follows below are 1) a rough transcript of relevant portions (mainly, my comments) of the late-July meeting which produced the original decision; 2) a rough transcript of my comments on Monday. (My thanks go out to the self-described nerd who provided these transcripts to me!)

July 28 meeting of Council
Councillor Wilson: [Moved] That Council direct the Engineer to issue a general temporary truck route exemptions for a trial period ending Sept 30, renewable on a monthly basis at no cost, as follows: Mariner Way between Barnet and Como Lake; And Como Lake Ave. between Mariner Way and Clarke Rd.
[Seconded by Councillor Sekora]
Wilson: So the first trial period would be two months from now to Sept 30, and renewable after that, but it could be revoked at any time if there are problems or issues.

Councillor Sekora: I seconded the motion, but I’d hoped that we went beyond Sept 30, but I’d hoped that it would be at least three months, maybe even a six-month trial. We’re too restrictive with two months... [Comments from other councillors and GM Engineering follow.]

Councillor O’Neill: I’m going to oppose this, not vote in favour of it.  I just still feel that I’m not in any position to judge all the technical things that come into consideration in making these decisions.  I’m not persuaded that it’s an undue hardship for trucks to go a longer route and follow the existing truck routes.
But primarily I’m just not comfortable wading into something where I don’t know have all the information.  I certainly don’t know what the people along Mariner and Como Lake are going to think of this, and I don’t want to wait to respond to the avalanche of criticism about a parade of trucks grinding up Mariner there, and all of a sudden we have to react and there’s the headline, you know, Council does quick retreat from late-night motion to allow truck route. [NB: my predictive powers proved to be perfect!]
We’ve heard that the existing truck routes were based on well-considered criteria dealing with all sort of technical things. I’ve got to believe that. I haven’t seen those reports, but I have to believe there’s been significant time put into that.
If the GM Engineering decides in his wisdom with access to all that information that an exemption is warranted, then that’s fine.  But he has that technical expertise and background, and I’d prefer to be in a position to let him use that.  That’s what the bylaw has done, given him more discretion.
And in a way we’re saying if this motion passes is that, well, we don’t actually trust our GM of Engineering to make the right decision, so we’re going to make that decision for him.  And I don’t want to be in that position either.

[More discussion follows. Council votes 6-3 in favour of the truck route, with Mayor Stewart and Councillors Asmundson and O'Neill opposed.]

September 15 meeting of Council in Committee
Councillor O'Neill: It’s really regrettable that this has become so emotional.
You know, in the first part of my journalistic career, I was quite content to sit back and record notes.
Basically “He said this, she said that”, put it in the newspaper and let the readers make up their minds based on what people said.
Everybody got cynical about the news then, because the news started to be about who said the most outrageous thing, whoever acted the most outlandishly, whoever made the most outlandish charge. So a reporter that doesn’t try to get through this, to find out what’s really going on, is really not doing the job... 
But to get to the nub of the issues, you really have to start saying, Well, does that make sense, is that right, is that wrong? Is that factual, is that not factual?
The number one thing that all of this debate hinges on is the allegation that there was a deliberate or some sort of attempt to stir this thing up and make political gains on it, but I have not seen a shred of evidence to support that and as a matter of fact, one of the people who was so offended and shocked by what’s going on said that, The pamphlet in question circulated was completely accurate but was misleading, (that’s a paraphrase), without specifying which ways it was misleading.
 It has been often said around this table that the process, this trial period has been tainted.
Well, if that pamphlet is entirely accurate ... then we’re in a position where the process has been tainted by the truth! Now how can that be?  How can something be tainted by the truth.
 If this is truthful and accurate about what Council did on the last meeting in July, on a 6-3 vote--allowed this truck exemption to happen on a temporary basis--and if that’s truthful, then how could the truth taint? This is what I just really don’t understand
And I’m disappointed that people think that a process, a trial period in which nobody knows anything about what’s going on or that the public doesn’t know about a trial, would somehow be [the better one].
I would think that if anything were to taint a process, it would be the “cone of silence” that was over the procedure, that was over the trial.  That would have tainted it.  Shouldn’t people have the right to know what’s going on?  Citing from my journalism background again, I’d say Yes.
 And in the matter of setting the record straight here.  From the time I’ve been on Council I’ve been very uncomfortable about moving forward with stuff when I don’t have all the information, don’t have staff reports.
One of the very first things that I got really upset about was something that happened when we were trying to rush through something without, I thought, due consideration.  And that was my point for not going along with this trial period, because I certainly I understood the logic behind the trial period, I understood what people were saying, and I understood Mr. Allard’s point of view as well. [Business owner Jim Allard was pushing for widespread exemptions.]  But I didn’t want to make a decision when we weren’t getting . . . when the engineer involved was not saying yes, this is something that’s valid, it won’t cause traffic disruptions in a new sector, it won’t damage the roads, it won’t be a safety problem and all that sort of stuff.  It wasn’t just [the safety issue I was concerned about, as has been said in committee earlier].
That’s something that the Mayor and Councillor Asmundson may have talked about, I haven’t looked up the record, I’m not going to speak for them.  But I certainly know what my feeling was; my feeling was just, I’m just not comfortable going there.  I know, we’ve got a lot of big hills in this community, and we’ve had truck routes that were set out in the past, I wasn’t persuaded that it was crucial enough for Council to preemptively, without the proper background, to make a decision to, even for a trial period, to override those existing routes, in an area as contentious as Mariner.
So mine was just a matter of process.  It wasn’t a matter trying to say that this would be leading to death and destruction or anything like that.
 And I resent – this is a personal comment – I resent the suggestion that it’s somehow my responsibility to talk my Council colleagues out of a decision that they made simply because they have been receiving a lot of negative blowback on it.
I’m sitting here saying I’m on the side of the angels on this one.  Thank goodness I voted the way I voted.  It was no certain thing.  I’m seeing all these emails and letters coming in and I’m saying These guys have to make their bed and they’ve got to lie in it.
I’m thinking if they see the need to change  this, please go ahead and change it.  I didn’t think any of you would change your mind, but it sounded like you wanted to end it, I din’t think you wanted to change it because you didn’t make a motion.  But I go the impression that you were were ready to change, so I said Ok, good, and I made a motion, and no seconder. And I don’t really get that.
And the fact that there’s so much angst about this.  We didn’t start this fire, folks.  I didn’t start it.  The Mayor didn’t start it, Councillor Asmundson didn’t start this fire.  If the fire was started, the fuel was put there by Council’s decision.  Maybe somebody lit a match to that fuel, but we didn’t put that fuel there, we didn’t start this fire folks... 
 There was a quote from Macbeth“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Well what does that mean?  Well it’s something about human nature.
You find it with somebody who’s maybe trying to explain away a decision. And they’re protesting. No this, no this, no that, no that.
All they have to do is admit that, "You know, maybe I shouldn’t have made that decision. I guess I shouldn’t have made that decision in the first place or taken that action in the first place," instead of accusing this and having that innuendo that and insulting language there.
If you still think you made the good decision, stick to it!  That’s fine.
I wasn’t happy with the decision to begin with, it was more a process thing for me, and I’m still in that position right now.
I told you I had a conversation with Mr. Allard, after this happened, to let him now that I voted against what I thought he really really wanted, because I didn’t want him to find out second-hand. I told him I voted against it. He said “I don’t blame you.  I would have waited until after the big forum at the end of the month with truckers.”  I said “Oh, good.”  I don’t like being shouted at by Mr. Allard any more than anybody else does.  But you know, we all have to live with our decisions, and I thought I’d face up to mine with Mr. Allard, I’ve known him ... seen him in the community a lot. 
And he’s all of a sudden saying “I don’t blame you Terry.”... 
Did you make the right decision or not?  If you made the right decision, stick to it by all means.
In the face of this massive public outcry, stick to it if you think the right decision, and if you think you’ve made the wrong decisions, second my motion and let’s end this right now.  That’s the way I see it.
Councillor Sekora (interrupting the last two sentences): What massive outcry?  What are you talking about?  Massive outcry. You’re drinking your own bathwater!  Massive outcry. Massive outcry, big deal.
[Soon after, my motion was seconded, and council eventually voted unanimously to end the truck-route trial immediately.]

Monday, September 15, 2014

Making it official: I'm running for re-election

Well, it's official. With the encouragement of countless supporters, friends and family, I've just declared that I'm running for re-election to Coquitlam City Council. I've dropped off my newly designed re-election brochure at the printers and I've distributed a news release to the local news media (text below). I've also re-engaged my completely new and redesigned primary website, www.terryoneill.ca. For the past three years, visitors to that address have been redirected to this blog. For the next couple of months, at least, terryoneill.ca will take you to the campaign website, while this blog can be reached at its direct address, electterryoneill.blogspot.ca. Wish me luck!

COQUITLAM – Coquitlam Councillor Terry O’Neill has announced he will run for re-election in the Nov. 15 general election. O’Neill, an award-winning writer and editor for 35 years before entering public life, was first elected to Coquitlam Council in the 2011 general election.
 “We’ve accomplished much over the past three years, but it is crucial that the gains we have made, in areas such as budget restraint, be protected,” says O’Neill, 63, who is not affiliated with a slate. “The taxpayers of Coquitlam cannot afford to go back to the days of recklessly high annual tax increases.”
Property taxes increased an average of 5.1% over the three years before O’Neill took his seat on council. Since then, the rate of increase has declined each year, averaging 2.8% annually, and was just 2.4% this year. All this, while the city improved roads, added parks and trails, and built a new fire hall.
“I’ve also worked hard to ensure that the city moves quickly to meet the demand for new housing,” O’Neill says. “It means more families can put down roots in our beautiful community. As well, increasing housing supply is the most efficient way to make housing more affordable.”
O’Neill also points to accomplishments in the area of democratic reform. His motion led to Coquitlam’s first e-Town Hall meeting. And, when the provincial government asked for input on campaign-spending reform, he argued successfully for regulations ensuring a level playing field for all candidates.
“Terry’s hard work as a City Councillor demonstrates his deep commitment to his constituents,” says Senator Yonah Martin of Coquitlam, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. “I am certain that Terry’s re-election will continue to provide a strong, independent voice on Council that will greatly benefit the citizens of Coquitlam.”

Council has some important decisions to make in the coming four years. “With change coming so rapidly to Coquitlam in so many areas, it is imperative that proper public consultation occurs before Council takes action,” O’Neill says. “I will work diligently to do what’s best for Coquitlam. That’s my promise, and you can count on it.”