Friday, February 29, 2008

Vernon Opts Out -- Betty Selin - Astral Media Radio News

The City of Vernon has given the Ministry of Community Services half a dozen reasons why they want out of Greater Vernon Water. Mayor Wayne Lippert says until the Ministry of Community Services responds, the city expects to continue to stay involved. The city says attempts to resolve water utility issues have been dragging on for over a year and a half, and there is a lack of accountability to city water customers.Lippert says he's hopeful they'll be able to get things back on target.
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Now that Vernon got everything they wanted and the rest of the partners got nothing, they grab their ball and quit the game. Lovely!

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Please remember the General meeting of the Coldstream Ratepayers Association!!!

Attention Coldstream Ratepayers!

(Please forgive the short notice.)

There will be a very important meeting of the membership this

SATURDAY, MARCH 1st at 1:30pm at the WOMEN'S INSTITUTE HALL

FOLLOWED BY REFRESHMENTS!

Items to be discussed include:

election of officers for 2008 (volunteers needed!)
tax and fee increases
outstanding municipal issues
upcoming November election

Please come, bring friends and neighbours, and lets get geared up to help ensure "Rural Living at its Best"!

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Selected readings from the Morning Star






















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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Valley governance moving forward.

The following article was plagiarized from Don Quixote's blog. It is an excellent review of the work of the Super governance group. I specifically enjoyed his reference to the "cross fertilization of ideas" and its benefits. Enjoy!

Castanet Feb 28
The committee studying possible area-wide governance options in the Okanagan Similkameen is moving forward and forming a focus in its work. It’s planning to complete a report for the Minister of Community Services by March 31st. At its meeting in Vernon Wednesday, the Regional Governance Study Working Committee received the results from consultations with all local governments in the North, Central and South Okanagan Similkameen regional districts. Consultant Allan Neilsen-Welch presented a report based on the sessions that were held during the past three weeks. The consultation process has found the most support from elected local government officials for a strong inter-regional authority or authorities within the governance study area. Neilsen-Welch says there was little support from municipal and regional district politicians for a single area-wide regional district model. His report also says local elected officials want more information and details regarding the proposed governance model options. In particular, they’d like specifics on the cost benefits for each option as well as voter representation and any voting structure.

Working Committee Vice-Chair Jerry Oglow, who chairs the Regional District of North Okanagan welcomed the consultant’s report. It shows some common themes and focus developing on the part of local elected officials throughout the Okanagan Similkameen as the discussion continues regarding possible region-wide governance options. More than 120 elected officials representing municipal councils and regional district boards in the Okanagan Similkameen have been invited to a ‘Council of Councils’ meeting. At the session in Kelowna on March 7th they’ll be asked to provide the Working Committee with feedback on the various governance options that are under consideration. This information will be used by the Working Committee to guide its recommendations in a report to the Minister of Community Services by the end of March. A link to the consultants report will be available in the next few days on the Okanagan Similkameen Regional Governance Working Committee website: www.valleygovern.ca. Residents may also go there to view information from past committee meetings and for upcoming ones. A direct email contact form is also available online for residents to complete, so that their thoughts, ideas and suggestions can be considered by the Governance committee. After the March 7th ‘Council of Councils’ session, the next regular Regional Governance Study Working Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 19th at 1:00 pm at the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen office, 101 Martin Street in Penticton. The meeting will be open for residents to view the proceedings.
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Don Quixote Note: Along with about 5 media types,and a handful of interested politicians mostly from NORD, I endured 2 hours of the gathering of the chosen 12 and their hired consultants as they received the hired gun's report, reviewed it and then tried to hammer out an agenda for their following meeting. Mercifully the Noon lunch hour intervened and my ride home desired to exit and so we left as the assembled Politicos hunkered down to barley soup and sandwiches. The chosen 12 actually was reduced to the heavenly 11 as Chairman Robeert Hobson of Kelowna was apaprently working hard in Malibu. The phrase that caught my ear was "cross fertilization of ideas". I know little about farming, but it always has been my belief that throwing different kinds of shit together on the same field doesn't necessary mean a bumper robust crop, it might just mean you wind up with a big pile of shit that has to be cleaned up.

These guys were still arguing about what the true purpose of the super regional governance committee was, what the 'leader' meant with her original decision to assemble and mobilize the chosen 12 (originally the Divine 9), and whether the electoral areas should be discussed in the open or their fate merely left to the capricious whims of the revered leader Minister Ida Chong.

To me it appears that we have three separate regional districts with different reasons for being told to come to the table by the leader. The nucleus is the Central Regional District (CORD) who has lost a good portion of their 'raison d'etre' when the Westbank opted to become a municipality and now have a surplus of bureacrabs and anointed politicians that must find new homes in which to work or rule. On the north end is NORD which is unraveling and is a dysfunctional version of its original being as it blindly stumbles through governance and personality issues and was ordered to the table by the provincial government. On the South end of the table is the
South Okanagan Similkameen regional district that appears to be working quite well and would like to be left alone but has been forced to endure this traveling circus probably in the hope that its functionality will serve as an example and will rub off on its Northern Cousins.

The next meeting tentatively called the 'council of council' (a ripoff of the loya Jarga in Afghanistan) will be comprised of 120 elected officials representing municipal councils and regional district boards will convene in Kelowna (Mecca?) on March 7. The Provincial Government has received special dispensation to suspend certain sections of the Kyoto protocol that prevents the large creation of artificially created hot air that contributes to global warming. The public is welcome but watching gramma's home movies might be a more entertaining choice.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

COLDSTREAM RATEPAYERS -- GENERAL MEETING.

Attention Coldstream Ratepayers!

(Please forgive the short notice.)

There will be a very important meeting of the membership this

SATURDAY, MARCH 1st at 1:30pm at the WOMEN'S INSTITUTE HALL

FOLLOWED BY REFRESHMENTS!

Items to be discussed include:

election of officers for 2008 (volunteers needed!)
tax and fee increases
outstanding municipal issues
upcoming November election

Please come, bring friends and neighbours, and lets get geared up to help ensure "Rural Living at its Best"!

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Tax hikes rankle Coldstream residents -- by Jennifer Smith.


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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bank of Canada says focus remains on inflation on Yahoo! Canada News

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Bank of Canada said on Tuesday its focus, heading into next week's monetary policy announcement, remains on keeping inflation under control, despite concern the robust Canadian dollar is hurting sectors of the economy.

There are both downside and upside risks to the Canadian economy and targeting inflation is the best way to achieve economic stability, the bank's Senior Deputy Governor Paul Jenkins told a House of Commons industry committee.

'We have one tool at our disposal, which is interest rates, and we use that tool to achieve our objective, which is a 2 percent inflation target and we believe by doing that, we provide that best support for the Canadian economy overall,' said Jenkins.

The Bank of Canada has been less aggressive than the U.S. Federal Reserve in cutting interest rates in the face of the U.S. economic slowdown, which has allowed the interest rate differential to open up a full percent in favor of a stronger Canadian dollar.

The Canadian dollar has risen around 60 percent since 2002 and the country's exporters have been shedding jobs as they try to adjust.

The main factors influencing the strength of the Canadian dollar are high commodity prices and the interest rate spread, said Jenkins.

A recent Reuters poll showed that a majority of Canada's primary security dealers expect the central bank to lower interest rates by 50 basis points to 3.50 percent on March 4.

That would narrow the interest rate differential between Canada and the United States to 50 basis points. But the U.S. Federal Reserve meets two weeks later and it is expected to continue its aggressive easing to bolster its economy.

Deputy Governor John Murray told the committee that if the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar was dramatically lower, the manufacturing sector might be more competitive, but the economy would operating in very high gear, with resulting inflationary pressures.

"I guess the only observation I'd make from that would be that what you think you might have gained from a lower exchange rate, you could probably find yourself losing in the form of higher inflation, so your competitive position, ultimately in manufacturing, would not be much changed."

(Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Tap water from B.C. town, L.A. win global taste test. -- By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - A community in British Columbia's Fraser Valley is being tapped as having the tastiest tap water in an international competition.

More than 120 water sources competed in the 18th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, held Saturday in West Virginia.

A panel of 10 journalists and food critics sampled sparkling, tap and bottled water from 19 U.S. states and countries including Canada, New Zealand, Romania, Macedonia and the Philippines.

The title of best municipal water was shared by the former town of Clearbrook, B.C. - now part of Abbotsford - and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves Los Angeles.

Los Angeles won a gold medal in 1998 and has been in the top five in four other competitions since then, according to the competition organizers.

"It means they give special care and attention to their water and how it is processed," said event producer Jill Klein Rone.

The bottled-water trophy went to Tumai Water of Martinsburg, W.Va., which donates profits to AIDS relief and water needs in Africa. Best sparkling-water honours went to Slavus Mineralwasser Medium of Emsdetten, Germany.

Berkeley Springs, in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, is known for its own spring water. George Washington was among visitors in the Colonial era.

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Next they will take air samples and judge their quality.

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Multiplex taps into bar idea -- By Richard Rolke, February 22

Major changes are being proposed for the Multiplex.

Staff presented a list of operational and facility upgrades Thursday to the Greater Vernon Services Committee.

“Many of these things are initiated already and in various stages of development,” said Brian Fry, arenas manager.

Among the most high-profile suggestions is turning the Grand Room into a sports bar/restaurant.

“It would be a go-to place in the community,” said Fry, who envisions the bar being open seven days a week.

Fry would like to work with an architect to transform the space at the north end of the Multiplex into a bar with a patio, viewing area and sound, as well as a catering kitchen and a walk-in cooler.

Fry’s list also includes strengthening the relationship with promoters, providing more staff for cleaning the Multiplex, purchasing equipment to improve maintenance, building a lunch room for staff and evaluating how event tickets are sold.

He also recommends introducing an ice allocation policy that restricts the amount of ice time a seasonal customer can return to be not more than five per cent of their annual reservation package.

Fry said there has been a problem with some organizations blocking large chunks of time at the beginning of the season but not using it all.

“We want to create some room for more people to get into the building.”

The current 14-day return policy for adult sports groups could be extended to 30 days so there is more time to find new tenants, while lower rental rates may be introduced to encourage groups to use the Multiplex late at night.

“We want to find room for new customers,” said Fry.

Most of the items on Fry’s update list have not been budgeted for, and no action was taken by the GVSC board Thursday.

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Next innovation should be the introduction of Keno or Bingo so people, bored during the game, could entertain themselves by gambling.

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Readers write.

Corky Evans, MLA will be the guest speaker at the Okanagan Vernon NDP AGM March 14th. The meeting will be held at the Halina Centre, Vernon Rec Centre, at 7.00pm. Corky Evans is the MLA for Nelson-Creston, winning in 1991, 1995 & 2005. He is currently the Opposition Critic for Agriculture and Lands.
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http://www.corkyevans.kootenayactivist.ca/ for more info about Corky.
Rob Lauman, 545-3506 for more info about the meeting.

Thanks, Nick

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Presentation to Council -- Request for sewer rate reduction.

Mr Mayor, Council members.

I hope this is the last time I have to come before you on the sewer issue.

I am not going to rehash my previous grievances. That said, I am not conceding that Council was fair and right in their decision to clean out our reserves and spend our operating fu
nds on providing easy access for Coldstream Meadows Development to sewer service. I trust you will consider this relevant issue that is going along with the twisted arguments and revealing the erroneous conclusions.

The previous Council based its decision to remove $625,000 (which ended up to be $665,060) from the Sewer Reserve Fund based on the assumption that there would be no grants from other sources. Not withstanding the facts, that if proper plans and procedures were followed government funds likely would have been forthcoming. There are all sorts of grants coming along
from senior governments for various infrastructure projects. However.............

The real fact is that you received 18% grant from the Okanagan Basin Water Board. Therefore, using your arguments, the reserve fund should only contribute 75% of the construction and other costs. I hope you agree with this statement, right?

Using the same argument the operating funds that were used by this Council to buy out CM’s latecomer’s fees should also contribute only 75% of that purchase price. (View overhead)

As it stands now with the 18% contribution from OBWB the original sewer customers are paying 113% of the cost of the new sewer system.
What should be done? Council should borrow the difference from MFA and repay the loan from the payments from OBWB and also from the taxes paid by the unwilling property owners. (Incidentally, why are you using parcel taxes when you decided earlier with the Fire Hall loan repayment deliberations that general taxation was the fair way to go? Consistency in decisions is important.) The borrowed funds should be returned to the appropriate funds (reserve and operational). This way you only have to collect fees based on cost of service.

The notion that the Director of Finance related to me is ludicrous. She told me that the reason we have to continue large increases in fees is to build up the funds so we can pay for the replacement of the trunk line delivering sewage to Vernon. That is preposterous!

First of all, the present sewer users have paid for that line. In fact, the last instalments of that loan appeared on my 2005 tax roll. The reason for its replacement is growth, which should pay for the replacement.

Second, if new infrastructure is required, it should be financed through borrowing. The loan should be repaid through general taxation. If we are amassing massive reserves for new infrastructure undesired consequences can happen. We might get a rogue Council that decides that the reserve should be used for a different project. I think our present situation is an excellent example of that potential happening. Besides, we have plenty of expensive projects to pay for now as it is and the notion that we pay for projects years down the road is insane. Just look what happened with the Master Water Plan! We have been paying ever increasing water rates for something promised but not delivered for six years.

If we use taxation for financing infrastructure, as we have been doing for years, we pay as we go like we do with the mortgage on our homes. Also, as new properties join in the financing, our individual payments are being reduced. With the system you employ with the water and propose to use for sewer infrastructure, more customers do not result in rate reduction.

Politicians of late seem to abhor consultation with those they supposedly represent. Examples are the City of Vernon’s ill fated attempts to build a new Civic Complex, Coldstream’s defeated Sports Complex proposal, etc. If Councils started to use meaningful interactions with their constituents our communities would be better for it. There are talents out there that may be of use even to this Council if they care to utilize them.

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Council Agenda -- February 25, 2008

REGULAR MEETING OF THE COUNCIL
OF THE DISTRICT OF COLDSTREAM

TO BE HELD ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2008
IN THE MUNICIPAL HALL COUNCIL CHAMBERS
9901 KALAMALKA ROAD, COLDSTREAM, BC
AT 7:00 PM

A G E N D A

1. DELEGATIONS

a. North Okanagan Restorative Justice Program
Year in Review – 2007

Margaret Clark will be in attendance to speak to this matter.

b. Guard Rails at the Corner of Aberdeen Road Near Venables Drive John Hegler will be in attendance to speak to this matter.

c. 2008 Budget and Municipal Sewer

Gyula Kiss will be in attendance to speak to this matter.

2. PUBLIC OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS COUNCIL
(Total Time Allotted: 10 Minutes)

NOTE: This time is to afford members of the public the opportunity to address issues on the agenda dated, February 25, 2008. Issues that are not on the current agenda will not be heard by Council.
If you have items to address that are not contained in this agenda, please contact the Municipal Clerk to make a formal request to appear as a delegation at a future meeting of Council.


3. APPROVAL OF AGENDA

4. ADOPTION OF MINUTES

a. Adoption of the Regular Meeting Minutes of Council, held Monday, February 11, 2008 (more)

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fun in the sun.

Baby boomers may relate to this! We need some fun in our lives!

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Divvying up the spoils.

It is a most frustrating experience sitting through a Greater Vernon Services Committee (GVSC) meeting and listening to the politicians arguing about how to split the spoils (your money and mine) among the various jurisdictions. Difficult, because I know that my ever increasing water fees. that rose two and a half times since 2002, produced absolutely no benefit to me and to most of my fellow Coldstream residents.

Directors representing the City claim that the overhead and yard costs agreed to in their contract (which never have been signed) is way below what their staff calculated. They conveniently forget that they (or at least their developers) are the only beneficiaries to date of the "Master Water Plan" (the biggest boondoggle ever produced). Don't they have any shame? The fathers of this fiasco should find a hole in the ground and hide instead of having this public argument about an unsigned contract.

Of course, we should be used to the ludicrous actions of our politicians. The Chair of this illustrious Committee tried to circumvent his taxpayers by requesting the Land Commission to approve the change of use of the Spicer Block for the ill fated plan of putting there a sports complex. The Commission reminded him that this was an issue for Coldstream Council. Council then voted on the issue of sending the request through proper channels. A large number of protesters convinced the majority of Council to reject the plan. However, he brought brought the issue back to Council for another vote and convinced Council to go to referendum, spending anywhere from ten to thirty thousand bucks (about $30,000 represents 1% of taxes). We know the results of this referendum -- defeated.

His other action of extending the sewer line 1.5 kilometers along Kalamalka Road for the primary benefit of a single development took $665,000 out of the pockets of the existing sewer customers. Then they took a further $265,000 out of the same pockets to buy out said developer from his latecomer fee collection obligations.

The City Directors are following similar routes. They tried to sneak through an expenditure of over $30 million for the construction of a Civic Complex via the "alternate approval" process. When that failed by a huge margin they also went on an expensive campaign to have the plans approved via a referendum (expenditures on the failed project is estimated at around $250,000-$300,000).

It seems all of our politicians have a misguided belief that money grows on trees. At least the City has some reason for this belief as they are now selling some of the cottonwood trees produced by the spray irrigation trials. But for the rest of us money comes from our taxes and fees. We need some accountability from our politicians!

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Some thoughts on environmental matters.

Back in the 1980's there was a major fight by Save Our Lakes Society (SOL) to try to prevent the construction of a pipeline for the purpose if discharging treated waste water into Okanagan Lake. Officials at the time swore that this discharge would not have any effect on the lake. In fact, Kelowna is doing it big time even today.

It appears that no matter how much we know we keep finding out how much we don't know about the stuff we produce and dump into our environment. Instead of erring on the side of safety we rush ahead with incomplete knowledge.

The new BC budget introduced the "carbon tax". Does anyone believe that it will have any effect on our consumption habits? I personally doubt it but it is a good source of extra income for the government. To find a place to spend this windfall the government increased its subsidies to the oil industry.

The budget might have an effect on people with lesser means but will be just a bit of a hiccup for most. In the meantime the continued proliferation of all terrain vehicles, seadoos and other gas guzzlers will go on merrily.

When we consider the effects of military activities the world over we realize how little effect these efforts have on the overall carbon emission control. A good article on this subject can be fund on ZNet/science.

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District gains potential tax relief -- By Richard Rolke -- MS - February 22.

Coldstream residents could see their taxes drop as a result of increased funding from the regional district. On Thursday, the North Okanagan Regional District agreed to provide $162,368 to Coldstream and $733,907 for operational services they provide to the Greater Vernon water utility. With extra cash in hand, Coldstream council is expected to look at a way of whittling down a 9.17 per cent tax hike. “It will be something we will discuss,” said Gary Corner, mayor. Of the $162,368, Coldstream has already included $100,000 of that in its budget, meaning that it must determine the future of the remaining $62,368. A one per cent tax increase translates into about $30,000, so receiving $62,368 could lower taxes by two per cent or to seven per cent overall. “They have until May to make adjustments to the budget,” said Catherine Lord, chief financial officer, of council. Corner expects his council will take a look at the matter seriously. “I’d like to see any way to lower taxes but also to proceed with important projects. We are looking at a couple of ways to lower taxes and this is one of those ways,” he said. In Vernon, the $733,907 has already been included in the budget, placing the residential tax increase at 3.49 per cent.

The entire issue of fees for service was raised last year by the City of Vernon. It claimed that NORD, through the Greater Vernon Services Committee, was not paying enough to use city assets such as vehicles and buildings. Thursday’s board decision was based on a recommendation from the chief financial officers of Coldstream, Vernon and NORD.“If our three CFOs came up with something, what other recourse is there?” said Corner of accepting the recommendation.But opposition came from BX-Swan Lake director Cliff Kanester and BX-Silver Sar alternate director Mike MacNabb. Kanester believes the city shouldn’t have been demanding more money for use of its facilities because it had previously agreed to follow a NORD financial formula. “There is a resolution that they would use the regional district overhead policy and that’s not what this is all about,” he said of the staff recommendation.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fun and games at Greater Vernon Services.

If you wanted to have free entertainment you should have attended this morning’s meeting of the Greater Vernon Services Committee. Short of popcorn and pop it was the best show in town.

While the beginning was somewhat boring sparks started to fly when it came to decide how much GVW should pay to the City and Coldstream in lieu of overhead and yard costs.

Some explanation is necessary to understand what the disagreement was about. GVW contracts distribution and billing of water within Vernon and Coldstream to the City. In turn, the City subcontracts these services within Coldstream to the District of Coldstream. If you think this is a crazy system I’ll agree with you.

NORD has it’s own formula for determining overhead and yard costs which is different from the City’s formula. GVW used NORD’s formula to calculate these costs and the fun begun. Eventually, the three financial officers sat down and agreed on a formula that was brought in front of NORD. (Here is another crazy situation: the meeting starts out as a NORD meeting with seven NORD Directors, then it changes into a GVSC meeting where decisions are made. Theoretically, since they have seven Directors they have a quorum for a NORD meeting).

The problem was that some of the Directors disagreed with the bureaucrats recommendations. They also discovered that the contract between the parties have never been signed and some questioned the validity of the decisions. What a fiasco! After five years of operation they discover the lack of signed contract.

Eventually the majority approved the recommendation. As the result Coldstream will receive a higher than expected overhead and yard cost refund. Maybe we will get some reduction of the 9.17% tax increase? We can always hope.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Early Risers See Meteor..Lunar Eclipse on Wednesday -- Kiss FM News

Hundreds of residents across southern B-C --including some in Vernon---witnessed a fiery celestial display just before six Tuesday morning as a meteor streaked across the dawn sky.

Kamloops resident Gerald Haggerty says he was driving early this morning when the fireball lit up the horizon like a bomb.

U-S Federal Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Fergus says a pilot reported seeing the meteor hit the ground and an impact area has been located 280 kilometres southeast of Seattle, but remnants of the space rock have not been found.

The fiery event was seen all the way from Boise, Idaho, through Washington state and into B-C as far north as Kamloops.

Meantime, fans of celestial shows have a good reason to stay up Wednesday night.

Astronomers say the night will feature the last total lunar eclipse until 2010.

Skywatchers will also be treated to cameo appearances by the planet Saturn and the bright star Regulus on either side of the veiled full moon.

Those viewing through a telescope will have the added treat of seeing Saturn's handsome rings.

Weather permitting, the total eclipse can be seen from both North and South America.

It will begin at 7:01 BC time Wednesday night and will end at 7:51.

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New Budget Includes Carbon Tax -- KISS FM News

The British Columbia government is easing taxpayers into a new carbon tax with a carrot-and-stick approach.

B.C. consumers will be the first in the country to pay higher gas and home-heating costs to help save the environment.

But they are also getting a hand from government to cushion the blow.

In July, a 10 dollar-per-tonne carbon tax will see gas prices rise by 2.4 cents a litre.

But in June, every British Columbian will get a 100-dollar Climate Action Dividend, in effect getting the benefit of a strong economy before the tax kicks in.

The new carbon tax, the first of its kind in Canada, will escalate over the next five years.

However, the B.C. government will set in law conditions that will see every dollar raised by that tax returned to taxpayers through personal and business tax reductions.

The government is also committing more than $1 billion to support climate action.

New measures include tax relief for conventional fuel efficient vehicles, sales tax exemptions for a variety of products including EnergyStar appliances and incentives to promote biodiesel production in B.C.

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WARNING!!!

WATCH OUT FOR AN EMAIL THAT PRETENDS TO BE FROM SHAW HOME TEAM REQUESTING YOUR EMAIL PASSWORD. THE MESSAGE THREATENS WITH DISCONTINUED EMAIL SERVICE IF YOU DON'T COMPLY WITH THE REQUEST. IT IS FRAUDULENT MESSAGE NOT SENT BY SHAW!!!! REPORT IT TO SHAW AS SOON AS YOU RECEIVE IT THROUGH TELEPHONE!

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Story of Stuff.


You might be interested in knowing how your goods are produced and what happens to them after you throw them away. Watch the Story of STUFF.


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Friday, February 15, 2008

New sewer rate in the offing for Coldstream -- By Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star - February 15

Coldstream is flushing out its current sewer billing system to make everyone pay for what they put down the drain.

A new sewer calculation rate will come into effect for users in June 2009 – moving from a flat sewer rate to a lesser base rate plus consumption fee.

Currently sewer customers are charged a quarterly $135 flat sewer rate and that amount is increasing to $142 under the 2008 budget.

The new billing system is based on an $85 base rate plus a consumption rate, which isn’t expected to exceed $1 per cubic meter.

Therefore under the current system everyone, regardless if there is one or 10 people in the home, pays $568 a year. But based on the district’s average consumption of 59.75 cubic metres per quarter, under the new system costs for low usage would be around $460, average usage would be $579 and high usage would cost $700.

These are estimates based on a consumption rate of $1 per cubic meter.

“Those are not final numbers,” said Catherine Lord, director of financial administration.

“But I think it’s going to be pretty close to that.”

Whatever the final consumption rate number ends up being, the new system aims to make billing fair to what people are using.

To prepare customers for the change, a note will be made on utility bills starting June 2008. It will indicate what the sewer charge would be if the billing was based on consumption.

“It’s the beginning to sort of get a feel for it,” said Coun. Jim Garlick.

“We’re doing it gradual instead of just leaping.”

The base rate of $85 was chosen as it is close to the fixed costs required to operate the system.

Charging a base rate plus consumption versus a complete metered rate is also important to reduce the initial impact on families.

Then once the new billing system is implemented in June 2009 the base rate can be reduced over time and the consumption rate can be increased.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Potential for tax reduction in Coldstream (tongue-in-cheek).

During the February 11th Council meeting Council dealt with a Development Variance Permit (at right).

The Director of Development Services recommended NOT to approve the variance and provided an elegant set of reasons for his recommendation.

After a brief debate during which Councillors tried to find errors with the Director's reasoning they decided to ignore his recommendations and approved the very suspect variance. What was the most surprising aspect of this decision was the fact that they did not offer ANY reason for approving the variance. Councillor Williams made some half baked comment that went something like this: it is nice to plan for the future but we should consider the present need of the applicant. They even ignored a letter of complaint from the neighbor.

This action is nothing less than a slap in the face of a very competent and dedicated employee who is trying to do his job as he is supposed to do. The only one voting to deny the variance was Councillor Firman.

As the attached document states Council has done this several times before which makes me believe that they think they are better experts than the expert we hired with a salary of $80,000. So, if we don't need a Director of Development Services we could save $80,000 and reduce our taxes by over 3%.

What is wrong with a Council that regularly ignores it's expert planner and acts against his advice? If they think the bylaws are wrong and too restrictive they should change the bylaws so everyone else will live with the same rules. When Council approves some applications and rejects others there is a perception of favouritism. Looking at some of the other decisions, such as the extension of sewer at the expense of the existing sewer customers, this perception is reinforced.

Councillors and Mayors are elected to represent all taxpayers fairly and equally. I find much discrimination in applying the laws in the District of Coldstream. This practice must stop!

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Budget comparison -- Coldstream vs. Vernon.


Two budgets are compared. It seems, Vernon Council is better equipped to identify ways to crop their budget than are our Councillors. 3.45% sounds a lot better than 9.17%.


As the article by Jennifer Smith indicates you can still voice your opinion to Council. Remember the Annual General Meeting date and time for the Ratepayers Association: March 1, Saturday at 2PM in the Coldstream Women's Institute Hall. There will be an election for new executive.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Another milking of the cash cow.

Councillor Malerby's passionate speech at the last Council meeting was impressive as far as it went. However, I see no evidence to support her contention that Council had major debates over the budget and "combed the budget up and down" to whittle it down to 9.17%. Council minutes do not contain any record of serious debates. Coldstream has no finance committee where they generally debate issues relating to the budget. Since budget issues are not issues for in-camera debates it is unlikely that it was debated in-camera. Where did the great debates take place then? Perhaps Council can enlighten us taxpayers.

Councillor Malerby is probably right that staff made the best effort of what they had to work with. However, there are important issues that need to be understood. The budget is just the final product of decisions Council made during their terms in office. Those decisions come back as liabilities at budget time. Every time money issues come before Council each Councillor must consider how their decision will affect the eventual budget. The $8,000 grant awarded to the Women's Curling championship represented a third of a percent tax increase. Grants to the Film Commission and to the O'Keefe Ranch were also expenditures that had little benefit to Coldstream taxpayers. I am sure there were many other grants here and there that could have been saved at the time decisions had to be made.

Increases to fees are also debatable. Consider the sewer rate increases. The previous Council decided to empty the reserves of the Sewer Capital Fund when they awarded the sewer extension contract as their last action in Council. The new Council did not have to honour that contract. The present increase of $28 per household would yield about $56,000 for the District. If the $650,000 was not spent on the sewer extension project we would not have needed a sewer rate increase for years (at the $56,000 basis we would not need rate increases for over 11 years).


The additional expenditure of $265,000 for the buyout of the latecomer fees is another reason sewer rates are going up (an additional 4 years could have been without increase).

Who should have paid for the sewer extension? The developer who needed the extension for his project (Coldstream Meadows). There was precedence for that: when Trintec developed the Inverness Drive subdivision the developer had to pay for the nearly 1.5 km long sewer line, lift station and sundry expenses. This development had under 50 lots while Coldstream Meadows have well over 100 lots. Growth should not cost taxpayers, growth should benefit taxpayers. Council provided a privilege to the developer, taxpayers should have received something in return. A 9.17% tax increase coupled with a 5.2% sewer rate increase and an unknown percentage of (5-7%?) increase in water rate is a big bite to swallow.

Taxpayers of most other communities would be up in arms if they faced a 9.17% tax hike. It is surprising that Coldstream taxpayers take this increase so calmly.

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Council meeting -- February 11, 2008

View agenda.

Note: Final approval of Budget increase. Also, proposed user pay sewer plan. It is a preposterous proposal. Totally ignores everything I submitted to Council earlier.

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Readers write.

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, the leading candidates for the next President of the United States became clear. They are Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and the winner will decide whether the nightmare of the Bush foreign policy is reversed or continued for another 4 years.

US citizens will choose their president, but global public opinion matters to them--they know that US respect in the world has plummeted under Bush, and they want a President who can deliver change. In the next few days, our uniquely global community has a real chance to influence the finalist candidates as they develop their campaign strategy. Click below to read and endorse our letter to the candidates. We'll publish it in US newspapers and deliver it personally to the Clinton, Obama and McCain campaigns--we need at least 100,000 people to sign it this week – so please sign and forward this email to friends right away:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/us_change_course/8.php

The message of the letter is simple: we are all in this together. The world is ready to partner with the US, but we need to see a real change of course from the Bush years. The letter is based on a poll of the Avaaz community, which found that our top 3 requests for change in US policy are:
  1. Help the world stop global warming
  2. Respect universal human rights
  3. Use diplomacy to prevent war and resolve conflict
There is a real chance that the candidates could adopt this simple agenda for change, but every day brings more risk that they will commit to another direction. Sign below and forward this email to all your friends and family:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/us_change_course/8.php

American power is declining in the world, but it still has enormous ability to do good or do harm. It will take decades to undo the global harm done by George Bush's disastrous Presidency. Let's help make sure America's next leader takes a different path.

With Hope,

Louis Christi

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

New Product at the Big Boxmart.

With thanks to Don Quixote.



"They Must Go" Rough on Rats Canadian Market Debut.

To honour the Year of the Rat the following product will be offered to customers to use as they see fit at the Next Federal, Provincial or Municipal Election.

It has been used for over a century to clear out Rats, Roaches and other useless and ineffective pests.

Have a laugh!


Even kids become voters!


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Romney drops out of presidential campaign

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican candidate Mitt Romney dropped out of the U.S. presidential race on Thursday, a decision that makes Sen. John McCain the all-but-certain nominee of his party.

"I feel I have to now stand aside, for our party and for our country," he said in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference. ..more

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Some crums are getting to some Coldstream residents.

Wonders never cease! Some of the properties in Coldstream will soon receive improved water from the Mission Hill treatment plant. Unfortunately these are the customers who have already been on Kalamalka Lake water although the quality was less desirable.

Those on Duteau Creek water will continue to receive water from the same source although they will be paying the same rate as those on well treated water. They must enjoy hamburger at the price of prime rib!


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The price of democracy -- Richard Rolke.

Kudos for Richard Rolke. Democracy has been attacked left and right by politicians of late. Perhaps a seminar should be held to refresh the memory of those who have forgotten the democratic principles and teach them to those who never knew what they were.

This is just another attempt to divert attention from issues created by the establishment of the Greater Vernon Services Commission (now Committee) which presently is having major problems.

As Richard said, if those amalgamations materialized existing conflicts would be just simmering within and not be resolved. The further away one gets from the center of governance the less his/her needs are addressed.


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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Are we over-governed?

“No one can argue that we are over-governed for the size of the North Okanagan population,” said Jack Borden, society spokesman.

An interesting comment from a former Councillor of Coldstream who was considered to be the brain behind the Greater Vernon Services Committee. No one can argue that the GVSC was an additional government agency that proliferated the bureaucracy for Greater Vernon.

What Mr. Borden and his group are advocating is that those of us wishing to have our own governing agencies should forget it. Imagine, what would have happened to the Spicer Block in Coldstream if we were part of Vernon. The recommendation to the ALC from Council would have been a foregone conclusion.

Mr Borden points out that the entire North Okanagan has 45 elected politicians for a population of 77,301. What he does not mention is that 26 of those politicians are elected for Armstrong, Enderby, Lumby and Spallumcheen. Each of those communities could elect to join an adjacent community if they desired but they likely prefer to maintain their unique identities.

The commonly held belief that we are governed by several layers of government is erroneous. A brief review of the legislation should clarify the role of the Regional Districts (or regional governments) as intended by the legislation. The following summary should provide a basic information.

“Prior to the introduction of the regional district (RD) in 1965, land use and planning were done directly by the British Columbia (BC) government, whereas local services (such as fire protection, lighting, water management) were provided by independently incorporated improvement districts or municipalities under contract with the province. Rapid expansion in urban and outlying rural areas highlighted the resulting fragmentation in the provision of—or planning for—services. There was no general-purpose local government, or any statute or procedure facilitating aggregation to achieve benefits of regional service delivery. In 1964, the Municipal Act was amended to authorise the incorporation of regional districts and over the next three years, 28 would be created. Due to restructuring and further amalgamation, at this time there are 27 regional districts in British Columbia.” (Regional District governance in British Columbia: A case study in aggregation. By David Cashaback, 2001).

For a more detailed review please visit the entire document (click).

The RD’s have taken over the provision of services for unincorporated areas (Electoral Areas or EA’S) within the province. Political leadership of these RD’s are provided by elected Directors from the EA’s and appointed Directors from member municipalities. Voting power is based on the size of the population each Director represents. For instance, Coldstream’s population is just under 10,000. It is represented by one Director with five votes. When Coldstream’s population surpasses 10,000 an additional Director will be appointed and the voting power will increase to 6 and will be shared by those two Directors (2,000 is the magic number, representing one vote).

Services are delivered through “functions”. Each Director votes on wether they wish to join any particular function on behalf of their constituents. Cost of functions are shared equally by the members (mill rates are the same for each property). As an example, the Multiuse facility is taxed on improvements alone (land values not included) and in 2007 the mill rate was 0.4181 for all participants. Obviously, properties with higher values were assessed higher costs regardless of location.

So, are we really over-governed?

Joining a function is voluntary and is based on (perceived?) cost effectiveness of the given service. Naturally, there are debates and arguments as each Director has his/her opinion and tries to get the best deal for his/her constituents. Often these healthy debates are overblown by some members of the media. If every politician had the same idea all the time we would only need one person running the show.

Each community is governed by its democratically elected Council or Electoral Area Director. NORD is governing only the Electoral Areas and carries out the functions that were agreed upon by the participants.

If a community decides that they no longer wish to be autonomous they can call a referendum and decide to join an adjoining municipality (provided the taxpayers of that municipality agree). That’s the freedom of choice and that’s the democratic process and Mr. Borden is right that it should not be forced upon any community. If they are willing to pay the extra cost of having their own Council and administration they have the right to do so. The larger the community the less say an individual has in the communities affairs.

One statement from Mr. Borden puzzles me. He states: “Efficient and effective service delivery starts with minimizing bureaucracy and minimizing the number of elected officials throughout the region”. Is there anyone who feels that Greater Vernon Services, especially Greater Vernon Water provides an efficient and effective service delivery?

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The verdict.

Court decision.

CITY OF VERNON'S TRANSPORTATION PLAN 2008 -- VERNON & DISTRICTS TAXPAYERS' ASSOCIATION.

Vernon City council is allowing City Administration, WITHOUT real input from the general public, to ram through a bypass of Vernon which will cost over $600 million. Administration's Transportation Plan focuses on a western bypass and ignores vital issues.

It's business as usual with four 'open houses' in February to ram through a proposal that will be finalized in early March. These open houses will be an attempt to sell the Administration's favoured option.

All the alternatives have not been put on the table. Staff are putting the pressure on citizens, in a tight time frame, to answer surveys that require a great deal of reading and consideration with a marked bias in favour of the western bypass. There will be NO REAL PUBLIC INPUT. It will be business as usual just as with the Civic Complex issue.

The western bypass as outlined is a development corridor. The Ministry of Transporation and the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission are on record as NOT endorsing the current western bypass proposal. This is a City of Vernon initiative. Truckers contacted are highly critical of such a bypass and will not use it due to the increased length and additional grades.

The Vernon & Districts Taxpayers' Association demands that Vernon Council--STOP. They must make available to the the public ALL the information and they must hold public hearings followed by a referendum.

We demand public hearings that will address ALL the options.

We call on Council and Administration to cease and desist immediately.
We call on Council to rein in Administration from imposing projects on citizens without the support of the taxpayers.

There must be real public consultations in this process and an appropriate length of time for this process to be concluded satisfactorily.

Contact:

Jane Weixl 545-4915 or 938-1297
Vernon & Districts Taxpayers' Association

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Coldstream bus route changes.

Perhaps the needs of the customers should supersede the convenience of the Vernon Regional Transit. Running empty buses is not very cost effective.

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Wiarton Willie fails to see shadow, predicts early end to winter -- By Allison Jones The Can. Press

WIARTON, Ont. - It was a week of severe weather across the country as the Prairies hunkered down in bone-chilling temperatures, an ice storm struck Prince Edward Island and a blustery snowstorm dumped on Ontario and Quebec, but according to Canadian weather forecasters of the furry variety, the end is in sight.

Wiarton Willie, Canada's most famous weather prognosticating rodent, failed to see his shadow when roused from his slumber Saturday morning in the small southern Ontario community.

Folklore has it that if a groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, he'll flee to his burrow, heralding six more weeks of winter - if he doesn't, it means an early spring. more

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Friday, February 1, 2008

A chess game in our forest is just the beginning. -- By Don Elzer, The Other Beaver.

February 1, 2008

It’s a blessing that our economy is more diversified than it was 30 years ago. There was a time when this current downturn in the forest industry would be considered a sign of a complete economic collapse in the province.

As healthy as our economy appears today, the forest industry is still at the core of community economies particularly in BC’s interior and the total sum of that industry still drives this provinces economic engine; even if that fact is overlooked by most of us.

As industry players walk a fine line between closures and acquisition we’re witnessing a chess game of sorts. With revenues dropping, each major licensee is gambling that it may be their turn to acquire their competitor at fire sale prices.

Provincial decision makers are in a game of hardball on this one; Forests Minister Rich Coleman’s coastal forest “action plan” came out just as industry players announced temporary or permanent mill closures across the province.

Coleman admits that there aren’t many mills left to protect on the north coast, and shipping raw logs to Asia will at least keep loggers employed in areas where jobs are hardest to come by.

Sources tell me that one of the coastal majors is beginning to move surplus milling and extraction equipment to China ready to set up shop there. I suppose it’s a common corporate philosophy today that if you can’t compete against them…join them.

The interior looks a bit more promising for Coleman since he’s dealing with more modernized operations, but still closures are happening, we now have Interfor buying a piece of Pope & Talbot, and joining the parade of companies cranking out pine beetle killed wood for markets that are sparse to say the least.

But even getting creative doesn’t appear to be working for Coleman, two huge 15-year forest tenures were awarded to Ainsworth Lumber in exchange for a promise to “construct or significantly expand” oriented strandboard (OSB) plants to convert the beetle-killed wood into building products.

Then just before the last provincial election there was the award of four 10-year harvest licenses to Swedish owned TallOil Canada Inc., to make wood pellets for export to Europe in an effort to consume beetle-killed wood. The pellets would replace coal to generate electricity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions while generating hundreds of construction and logging jobs in the BC interior.

It seemed like problems were on the verge of disappearing, but it was all for not. Ainsworth backed out of one of the two harvest licenses, and agreed to build only one OSB plant in the Prince George-Quesnel area by 2009.

But even that promise was short-lived as our dollar zoomed and the US housing market collapsed. Now Ainsworth has closed two OSB plants in Minnesota, one in Ontario and its newest OSB plant in Grande Prairie, Alberta.

Needless to say, there’s probably little hope for a new OSB plant in BC. I wonder what will happen to that other tenure license?

There’s still some hope for the pellet idea but the deadline for TallOil to have “substantial completion” of a pellet plant passed on November 1st and the ministry confirms that TallOil has asked for an extension on the forest licenses, but with no mention of a start date for constructing a pellet plant.

It appears as though the beetles have the best of us and especially the minister.

Now there’s a desperate attempt at creating power generation using the wood, and then planting fast growing genetically modified* species so we can keep stoking the fires for those boilers long after the dead pine is gone.

Coleman might be going from being the architect of an economic disaster to an environmental disaster as a third of the province gets planted into some sort of strange plantation with stunted trees growing so close together that moose would need retractable antlers to survive in it.

Since 2005 the ministry has been subjected to the influence of political strategists rather than forest strategists. Desperate measures require competent solutions, not solutions from spin-doctors searching for feel good announcements that keep the public in an artificial comfort zone.

But really it’s not his fault, timing is everything in politics, and for Rich Coleman it’s just bad timing.

External market conditions, pine beetle epidemic, an increasing dollar, should the government be let off easy on this one?

Not a chance.

It’s times like these where strong leadership is required that doesn’t sell the farm. There’s more that could be lost if we’re not careful. The last time this happened the provincial government allowed big companies to close sawmills in communities but yet keep their tenure. This time they might allow companies to move off shore and keep their tenure.

Premier Campbell should put someone in charge of the ministry who has a forestry background and who understands communities that depend on forestry so that common sense can prevail during the storm.

* Correction: Those are not genetically modified, they are bred by conventional tree breeding methods. (The Eagle).

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Coldstream Ratepayers News! All Coldstream residents are ratepayers!

The opinions expressed by "Coldstreamer" are strictly his own and do not represent the opinions of Coldstream Council!

Because I value your thoughtful opinions, I encourage you to add a comment to this discussion. Don't be offended if I edit your comments for clarity or to keep out questionable matters, however, and I may even delete off-topic comments.

Gyula Kiss
coldstreamer@shaw.ca;

***Coldstreamernews***

***Coldstreamernews***
We must protect our rights and freedom! (Photo courtesy of D. Gibson) Click on eagle to watch EAGLECAMS

About Me

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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.