Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Letter to the Editor and the response.


Re: Letter to the Editor, NOT RIGHT, from John Hegler Sunday June 5th, 2011

Dear Mr. Hegler.

In response to your recent letter in the Morning Star, and your concerns about my expenses, expressed at the May 24th Coldstream Council meeting, I am providing here, an explanation of the total number of meetings I attended and reasons for them. As I have already stated, "I make no apologies for trying to be better informed, in order to make better decisions".

Courtesy of Vernon blog, I have pasted below, a chart listing remuneration amounts for Greater Vernon politicians (I have confirmed that these figures match those reported in Coldstream, Vernon, and Regional District (RDNO) financial reports). The chart speaks for itself: In terms of expenses as well as total remuneration, I am 5th from the bottom in relation to the others.

I reiterate that in 2010, I attended 196 meetings. Some of these meetings were shorter but for the most part they were 2 hours or more, plus preparation time before, and follow–up time after. Of these meetings, 41 qualified for the $139 meeting pay, 151 meetings did not. Of those 41 meetings, only 24 meetings were for RDNO or GVAC (Greater Vernon Advisory Committee) and the rest were for the Okanagan Regional Library (ORL).

The RDNO and GVAC meetings are often long, and have important presentations from staff and public on Parks and Water. For Coldstream taxpayers, RDNO and GVAC taxes are 30% of our total tax bill. Another way to look at this is that, the dollar value of these taxes is equivalent to 62% of the dollar value we pay for the municipal Coldstream taxes portion of our tax bill. The one designated Coldstream rep. on the RDNO Board has a large responsibility, and does a great job, but often another set of eyes and ears helps for more informed discussions and decision making at our Council meetings. You cannot capture all the information in the Minutes and a 5 minute summary.

As for the Regional Library(ORL), it has been a very busy year - in great part because they are building the new Vernon Branch. (Incidently, I am happy to say, I believe that I may have been instrumental in helping to keep the Vernon Branch in downtown Vernon.) I made many trips to attend meetings in Kelowna for the Vernon Building Committee, plus I sit on the Library Finance, and Strategic Planning Committees. Further I attend 4 ORL Board meetings per year. On top of the 17 meetings in 2010, I was compensated in 2010 for 8 ORL meetings from 2009 because I had never put in for pay for those meetings (theses are not included the 196 meeting count). The reason I had not put in for meeting pay is that I was not told that these meetings qualified until September 2010, when the policy was clarified by an inquiry made by another Councillor.

So perhaps this clarification can help explain to you and the electorate, Mr. Hegler, why my wages at $15,996 may seem high compared to Councillor Cochrane’s $8,885.

As for my 2010 expenses of $3,360, these are calculated as the expenses attributed to me for attending meetings or Conferences sanctioned by Council. For 2010 these were: a 1day transportation meeting in Kelowna; a 3.5 day Southern Interior Local Government’s Association (S.I.L.G.A.) Conference at Sun Peaks; and a 3.5 day Union of B.C. Municipalities (U.B.C.M.) Conference in Whistler. These expenses include the 'Conference Fees', and the 'accommodation fees', (paid through the office and generally out of a Councillor’s control), and a 52 cents per km mileage charge (for wear and tear on your private vehicle); and a $100 per diem for any other expenses – note there is NO meeting pay for these meetings. Is it any wonder why Councillors who have a regular job or business, are not falling over each other to attend? If you have to take time off work to attend, it actually costs you money and more importantly in my case, time, to go to a conference.

Now you may wonder why my fellow Councillors, Enns and Cochrane, actually defended my salary and expenses. I believe the reason is because they know and value how much work I do, and they realize that it is beneficial and necessary for Coldstream to be represented at these conferences. (witness the Grid Road funding, Hwy 6 improvement funding, SILGA resolution for Agriculture, support of RDNO resolutions at SILGA, UBCM resolutions, meeting and networking with other elected officials and ministry staff). Our Council works as a team, some of us offer expertise, some of us offer our time, some offer wisdom, it is all a balance.

I know that there have been some politicians who have abused expense accounts, meeting pay and perks. I am not one of them. I welcome it when the public holds those people to account. For my part, I know that my Council has full knowledge and support for all the meetings and conferences that I attended - otherwise I am sure they would not have approved my requests.

Mr. Hegler, I offer no apologies because I have a clear conscience. If you think you can offer better value to the voters, I would welcome you running on that platform at the next election.

Maria Besso
Coldstream Councillor


No comments:

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


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

About Me

My photo
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.