My Blog

First ever Candidate Boot Camp in Maple Ridge

July 11, 2014 at 1:42 pm | Blog

Maple Ridge Councillors Bob Masse and Corisa Bell are bringing something new to Maple Ridge for the upcoming November election. “I had read that in Ontario some Councillors put on a Boot Camp, especially for ladies who want to run for Council, and that it was a big success. Councillor Bell and I talked about it and decided we could do something similar here, but open it up to everyone interested in running.” Says Masse.

Their idea is to make it a fun, interactive and informative evening, where all the candidates can meet to share and learn some tips, facts and strategies they might like to have to run in November. “We figure that we’re all in this together, so why not make it as pleasant and productive a campaign period as possible?” The meeting, (Not a District of Maple Ridge function) will be held at Chances Gaming Centre’s Board room, 7-8:30 pm July 24th, and will be primarily for anyone running for Mayor or Council in Maple Ridge. Everyone is welcome, from people running for the first time to any incumbents who may be interested in joining in. “We’re planning an interactive session, covering a broad range of topics, from campaign strategies, stress management, media, advertising, campaign finance realities, identifying the relevant issues, all candidates meetings and more.”

The tone will be positive and non-partisan. Having both ran for office for the first time 3 years ago, Bell and Masse say that it can be a scary, confusing and an uncertain process. For example, “Just trying to convey your message, in 2 minutes, at a crowded All Candidates Meeting is actually kind of frightening.” “New candidates will have some great ideas and real contributions to make, but may not know how to get their message across in a crowded field or amongst a sea of other candidates.” says Corisa. Our objective is to help make the election campaign period a more positive exchange of thoughts and ideas, where all the candidates can discuss and debate the issues in a positive manor. There is no charge for participating, but those interested in attending need to register by email, by July 15th, to: corisa@corisabell.com or robertmasse@hotmail.com

Media Contact Corisa Bell 778-861-9477 Corisa@corisabell.com

http://www.mapleridgenews.com/news/266677351.html




Business Needs People, People Need Business – My 1st Chamber Report.

February 25, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Blog

Prior to me speaking I had said that waiting for this meeting felt like waiting for Christmas and then with it snowing last night it was all just a little much to take in.  It was perfect.

I really wanted to be your liaison, for the last year and a half I bothered Mayor Daykin to allow me to allow me this position so frequently and it finally paid off. I hope to make you proud now that I am here.  I feel responsible and connected to our business community.  Not only did I have my own for the last 8 years, when I was working the Hst campaign, I got to know a lot of the businesses and I’ve kept a relationship with them and I check in and to see how they feel growth is being managed. Many of them call me on a regular basis and we discuss topics such as the need for a larger voter turn out which is something I have been very vocal and passionate about.   I believe the Chamber could play a large role in this as well.

Through my position on council I have been able to build even more relationships and still I keep hearing the same themes around unacceptable tax rates, legitimate transit concerns, traffic and parking issues, concerns about carbon tax, homelessness, and safety.  However, I continue to hear the complete opposite from Mr. Rule (Maple Ridge’s Chief Administration Officer and Council’s 1 employee). He say’s everything is fine, business is thriving.  So, which is it? What exactly are the issues? I am here because I want to listen and I would like communication from the Municipality to the chamber to improve so we can get these issues and other orders of business addressed and together be even more successful.

Reading over the chamber goals, locally and provincially I see there is a lot of advocacy work to be done, and I believe the timing is just perfect for me to be here to assist with this as that is one of the main ways I would define myself as an elected official, an advocate for progress, success and quality of life.

It seems the Chambers goal is to get government to work harder and smarter to relieve our businesses tax burden and I support this.  Business pays more tax for less service and I really like the approach of making government work harder to bring in revenue not just to simply ask for a decrease in taxes. I want to do everything possible to help advocate for this and educate the public as to why this is important.  The Chamber is offering a solution. Let me know what I can do.

One thing I heard loudly in the summit report is that government needs to successfully get the province to advocate to the US to implement a carbon tax or cap and trade system with the priority being to Washington State.  The Chamber needs the support of local governments to make this happen.  Being on the board at LMLGA (Lower Mainland Local Government Association) I can bring this directly to that table as well, this is a big discussion. With a goal of reducing emissions 33% by 2020 across the province this is definitely a conversation we should be actively having locally.  Prior to my Chamber responsibilities I have been looking to my fellow Councillors for support on asking staff for an update on how we’re measuring this target, how we’ve been working to achieve this policy since it was implemented and I would like to start discussions about what the plan is from here in order to achieve our lofty goal.  This is not a discussion Council has had. With a letter to Council from the Chamber about how important this is to the business community, I believe it would provide weight to the need for the conversation to happen sooner than later.

The current reality of many industries is unacceptable.  Reading about the loss of 67 Million due to our Carbon tax in the cement industry is only one example and I believe government can do better. I am wondering if Chair Moore of Metro is aware of these Chamber concerns?

(((If not definitely write him a letter, even better if it came from the BC Chamber with a list of all the 125 chambers that support this dialogue.)))

I agree that local government should be working to create profit for fair and equitable taxation practices for all tax payers.  And I support the discussions around class four, six and one. Unfortunately, this isn’t yet currently a philosophy well accepted in the Maple Ridge Corporate culture however, it is Council’s responsibility to direct staff and in my opinion this is something that critically needs to change as soon as possible.  Some Municipalities have started their own property management companies, Councillor Hogarth needs support to look into having our own energy company, it didn’t make it to a discussion or awarded a place on the Matrix this term at all.  Through Councillor Morden’s dedication we are now looking into owning our own cell tower sites.  There are certain things happening but we need to put all these topics into one discussion with a focus on generating revenue.  I believe the Chamber can help support making that happen.

I am on the Finance committee and I would like to know if the Chamber would like to be added on the agenda at our next Finance meeting?  If so I will let Chair Morden know and confirm with you once I have done so.  Having a presence at our meetings in general will be important.  Developers do it and it works.  The public does it and it works.  When decisions are being made that affect the business community come present to Council and let us know, if there isn’t time then a letter goes a long way.
GENERAL UPDATES

-Deadline for Council to get resolutions to LMLGA is March 21st.  http://www.lmlga.ca/pages/events.php  I don’t know if you are ready with your resolution recommendations to send to Council really soon or if you need time to put them together.   Maybe this is something Terry can call me about later once you have had time to discuss.

-We will find out in May if there will be a change from a three year to a four year term.  However, the feeling is that changes won’t be until the next election, not in 2014. With that being said, this morning I received a Tweet from Surrey Councillor Barinder Rasode, “Good news @christyclarkbc announces 4 year term @PHeintzman @jasonlum @CorisaBell @bsteelesurrey @LMLGA #bcpoli @UBCM @LindaHepner

I  have found the announcement: www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/02/local-elections-reform-to-include-four-year-terms.html

There is rumoured to be big changes coming to the ALC in the very new future.  The Province is looking to do a core review. This is being discussed at UBCM (Union of British Columbian Municipalities) but most information is confidential at this table for now.

-2014 Homeless Count will take place on March 11th and the shelter count on March 12th.  People will be asked to participate in a short survey and they will be given cigarettes and candy for their participation.
“Housing First” will focus on moving people who are chronically and episodically homeless as rapidly as possible from the street or emergency shelters into a permanent housing with supports that vary.”Chronically homeless refers to individuals, often with disabling conditions, who have been homeless for six months or more in the past year. (i.e: have spent more than 180 nights in a shelter or place not fit for human habitation.)” – From a District report provided to Council.

Overall I am not sure I agree with the solutions or in my opinion, “bandaids” to dealing with homelessness and mental illness in our communities.   Councillor Masse and I haven’t given up on the discussion with the Province about reopening a new model of care facility at River View. I have confirmed with LMLGA that Maple Ridge Council can write a letter requesting LMLGA to lobby on behalf of our Resolution that passed 99.9% in favor last UBCM convention but was almost immediately dismissed by our current government.

I would like to know if the Chamber would publicly support this and if you would consider taking it to your Provincial Board?  We are running out of time, if something was to be done it has to be this year. Maybe you can talk about this and get back to me.

A few things around town

Building permits in the Town Centre. Between Jan 2011 and October 2013 there was a total of just over $89 Million in building applications.

This includes:

-7568 square meters of new commercial space

– 495 residential units and 366 more to come.

Some of the larger numbers are: 6.8 M from the Gaming Centre and almost 9M from Target.

The commercial component of the TCIP has been extended to Dec 2014 but the residential has been discontinued.

(((The tax exemption is equivalent to 100% of property tax payable on the non-market change of the project.  For either a total of 3 years or if is a Green project (LEED) then 6 years.  Non-market is not due to real estate fluctuations but is determined by BC Assessment.)))

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the great interactive mapping tool provided online definitely do.

www.mapleridge.ca/DocumentCenter/View/2150 town centre map

– Callaghan Hotel 125 rooms, 3000m2 commercial space, 575m2 restaurant and it has completed third reading.

– Albion Water Front Development is being discussed at the table more than ever before and is in the concept phase.  Staff is currently working with land owners.

Business licenses so far for 2014 there has been 20 Commercial, 31 home based, and 24 non-resident for a total of 75. The online business directory is updated on a quarterly basis.

Last thing – Business vote

I want you to know I support the Business vote.  A data base built under provincial responsibility would definitely be ideal, this is something I see Elections BC could be responsible for as to me its no different than the way the voters list is handled now.  If before it was believed qualifying voters was too challenging, with the technology of today that should be now achievable. The conversation about tracking voters should, in my opinion, be moot at this point.

I understand Business is a stakeholder in the community and the down loading in government has reached our business community, having a say in your community is more important than at anytime, ever before. If the facts are communicated to the public openly, and always, I believe they will understand the position as I have.  It has been recommended that under such a system a business such as RBC would not get multiple votes as each separate branch is not an independent business but every Subway in a municipality would get a vote as these are franchised and therefore independent businesses. It is very important to communicate to the public about concerns of giving even more power to corporations. We are talking about supporting business in our local communities and finality of it is yet to be written.  I believe it is very positive that London has set a Precedent, that we can work with, I believe this is achievable.

I really like how the BC Chamber puts it.  Business is the Silent tax payer – taxation without representation.  You pay a higher rate of tax but you don’t use school or recreational facilities. And what is the reason business can’t have garage pick up included?  Is there a history here?  If not, I can look into this.  That right there seems like a good campaign topic for the Chamber to address.

I know there is a lot for me to learn, I am excited to be a part of this years work and thank you for allowing me the latitude while I grow into this role.  Know that I will work hard to represent the Chamber and its members and that I am open to contributing more than my position requires but I understand process and I will leave it up to the board to give me direction but know that I am open to having direct communication at anytime.

Since Mrs. Blue will be meeting with the board, providing a complete update in April, I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss the things you want to accomplish and how I can help as well as recognize our symmetries , allow you to understand who I am and where I am coming from and start off with an open conversation.

The topics you can prepare for Mrs. Blue (Manager of Strategic Economic Initiatives) to discuss are:

Town Centre Initiative results, Invest North Fraser partnerships and priority projects including business START and True North Fraser, Commercial/Industrial and Employment lands studies.

I have put in a request to have a Transportation Study update and Post Secondary Task force update provided. If you can think of anything else please let me know and I will make the request.

Next time I would like to discuss in depth business licensing (why is there a fee to begin with, what are you paying for and why can’t we have multiple year licensing available? Why do this every year?).  I will also discuss derelict and vacant buildings.  Please send me topics through email and I will come prepared to the next meeting with responses instead of you needing to wait if you would like.

I have one question for you and then I will open the floor for questions.

I was wondering if the Chamber has connected with the Municipal Auditor?

 




Response to questions about Financials, responsibility, and Governance.

February 17, 2014 at 12:45 am | Blog

Hello, everyone, I saw I was tagged in this post, I have read all the comments and would like address direct questions as well offer a few comments in return. There is a facebook group called Maple Ridge Council watch, if you are on Facebook lots of great conversations are taking place!

It was recent that Council approved to have wages and benefits. If you ask Ceri or Human Resources I believe it was last term or the one prior. We also are provided cell phones and Ipads. The intent of Acting Mayor the way it was explained to me which I thought was great, is so that Council members can gain the experience as Mayor and be better prepared if/when wanting to run for the position in the future. This past Dec/Jan I was acting Mayor and my pay went from $1354.27 every two weeks to $1,944.32. I wasn’t asked to attend any events as Acting Mayor but did chair a few Committee of the Whole meetings. In previous years I would be asked to maybe attend 2 events on his behalf. I think it would be wonderful if he provided more opportunity for us to attend events and gain experience with Public Speaking etc.

When I was first elected I attended the Newly Elected Officials Forum put on by LGLA (Local Government Leadership Academy) http://lgla.ca/ this is where I learned that Maple Ridge was well over the population for increasing the number of Councillors. I was discussing this casually in Chambers at a Council of Council meetings (where we are also paid to attend) with Greg Moore from Metro and I was just thinking aloud saying that we could totally fit two more Councillors, one on either end and this is when Councillor Dueck informed me it was decided on during the previous term this wouldn’t be happening, I didn’t take it further, I DO know how to pick my battles and the public wasn’t requesting so I left it, later I realized, we don’t need more Councillors we just need to want to work more. We currently work one less meeting a month than what we were asked while campaigning to prepare for in our schedules if elected.

I am having a hard time digesting listening to a fellow Councillors perspective that one of our two roles in local government is Governance. I mean obviously it is however, the governance practised by Maple Ridge in my experience is inconsistent, and at times Council has literally voted based on made up policy to shut down discussions, and basic governance is not followed correctly. I was so frustrated by this I turned to other Councils to learn from but I am still faced with the frustration of this inconsistency because regardless of what procedural evidence I provide, it does not seem to matter. I have many examples of this and if we practised proper Governance we would be incredibly more effective with our time. This Council has many “Practises” that previous Council decided on and it is non-negotiable (because they have majority) but is counter productive to good governance. Here is just one example, but then we also don’t exercise basic concepts of Robert’s Rules of order. When I was first elected and would show up having done hours of research completely understanding the history of a topic that we were to discuss it was referred to by one Councillor and agreed with, as unfair and that they weren’t provided with all have the same information. I understood what she was saying but totally disagree. I was under the impression that it was our responsibility to come to debates prepared with knowledge, not to just to reiterate or dilute the conversations from Workshop based on information provided by staff. It is from my experience we basically make things up as we go along and there is no procedure to hold anyone accountable. I believe Maple Ridge would benefit in copious amounts if the Auditor General was called to look at our procedures.

If Leadership is one of our roles (which I agree it is) then I believe Council should support the work of individual Councillors and their methods of demonstrating leadership and connection in the community. I couldn’t get support (except for Masse) for adding social media to our business cards, or to have put on the District website, even in my own write up to advise the community of my Friday morning coffee meetings (again, only Masse supporting). It is so unfortunate that it is looked at as having a competitive edge and I really hope that the competitiveness of politics becomes less and politicians can focus on working together, for the people, for the community in all capacities. I was starting to think if based on my experience that if this was what a Council does then I was under the wrong impression of what being a local elected official was and perhaps I was not the right person for the position because I needed to contribute and educate through leadership not stamp work provided by staff and have a presence of a couple committees. I started to wonder if this was the right fit for me to contribute my energy and passion. I don’t know how to do bare minimum it is not in any bone in my body. And I was feeling we were doing the bare minimum based on the Local Government Act and the Community Charter with a huge reliance on staff. It is in my opinion that we are failing our citizens, our businesses and our development community. We have so many applications to approve and our red tape is even worse than I expected (remember my election sign about red tape by the A&W!) What would take 6 weeks in other communities will take about 8 months in Maple Ridge. This in my opinion does not make us “Open for Business”

After attending the NEO conference I asked to be provided a copy of both governing documents (LGA and CC)and the secretary (she is lovely, a sweat heart of a person, my comment isn’t intended to reflect her negativity) had to get back to me as she wasn’t exactly sure how to do it as in her almost ten years she had never had this request before. I have had conversations with our Mayor trying to get him to realize that these documents are the bare minimum requirements of local government and that we can and in my opinion, should be doing more. I tried to initiate us doing town halls, the response from the Mayor was that Mayor Morse (2002-2005) tried this and it wasn’t successful. WHAT?!! I had by this time observed many other Councillors in other communities by attending conferences and reached out to find leaders to look up to. In my second year I decided to put my name forward to run for LMLGA where I was voted in by my peers across the lower mainland to represent their 33 Municipalities, the second year I was encouraged to run for 2 nd Vice President which I am now and I will run for 1 St Vice in May (This is not a paid position). This year I was asked to be the Convention Chair for the conference in May, this is a HUGE responsibility and an honour to be trusted by my peers from other communities who sit on the board to know that I am capable. It is so exciting building conference content and having influence directly at what will be offered as relevant knowledge to local government leaders and shaping the future. Check out details at http://www.lmlga.ca/pages/events.php

I am the only Councillor on our Council that currently doesn’t have other employment. I have for many years made approximately $100,000 a year and I have lived my entire life being fiscally responsible. I have paid off my $30,00 in student loans, I have zero debt except the exception of my home of course. I grew up in poverty and I have done very well so for me to work on Council full time was acceptable, I am not a person that needs much to be happy. Due to my decision to have a massive pay cut, I have had to make different personal life style choices in order for it to work and to me it isn’t even looked at as a sacrifice to do this because I believe in what I am doing on behalf of the community so much I see it as necessary and I am happy with that. I do not believe we need to add more Councillors. We spent 45 minutes discussing not having more meetings even though 3 Councillors really felt the need for it. One sat on the fence and three opposed for various reasons. I have the recording if anyone is interested. If anything I believe Maple Ridge would benefit from having an independent (from staff) researcher, this wasn’t my idea it was another Councillors idea, and I think it has merit.

I want to be clear that I am not reliant on my income provided by the tax payers. Yes, I took a significant loss finically but I could work if I chose to but I choose not to because the work I am doing for the community would suffer and I wouldn’t be able to take on greater responsibilities for the community and local government like LMLGA. It is my opinion that Council should be working more, please don’t forget that we also get almost the entire month of August off, and we absolutely don’t do any work as a Council over this break or Christmas break not even by email which again is something I produced legislation that we can do but it was refused. We have sat on critical issues for weeks instead of addressing them until our break was over.

So I share this information not to take away from the other Councillors but to offer my perspective on what my experience has been and how I see it could be. I was asked repeatedly to run for Council, it was because of the people in our community that I decided to run to begin with, it seemed like a natural progression of giving back with all the volunteer work I did within the community.  I had also become a strong local voice and I considered for months if it was the right decision as I take responsibility very serious responsibility. I didn’t accept this responsibility to be a politician I accepted it to contribute. I made the decision to run but only if I could focus on it 100% in the first year, my family supported this, and I put my name forward. Ten months in I realized just how much work needed done as well I am a full time advocate for public education around local government in order to increase voter turn out (this will be a way I contribute to society for a life time, prior to ever having anything to do with politics I was attending meetings to launch a local group called 1000 Friends and the entire purpose was to increase voter turn out).  I am also able to spend time with our youth in order to inspire them to be leaders in their lives. It is deeply important to me to pass this on to those that will inherit our earth and become our decision makers. One of my life long goals is to contribute to having non-partisan politics taught in school starting in Kindergarten.

I know this is long and I appreciate you taking the time to read this, I feel like I could write a book about my experience on this Council in order to convey what is really happening. If at anytime you have questions for me I am happy to respond!

Corisa,




Today’s paper – Councillors at odds over gala ticket.

January 24, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Blog

Hello Everyone!

I am disappointed with Councillor Cheryl Ashlie (I have confirmed this) for going to the papers about this in order make my life difficult. I have demonstrated consistently that I act in a complete transparent manner and I love when the public asks me questions about anything but especially my choices as an elected official because that means they are engaged. I have been saying for two years, “The biggest problem in Politics is Politics.” I went to this Gala as Councillor Bell, and was introduced as Councillor Bell. When I went to what was a very productive meeting with the school yesterday, I wasn’t there as Corisa Bell I was there as Councillor Bell and I signed in as such. Living in a small community being as involved as I am, I wear many, many hats. Does this perspective also mean I should stop all the volunteering I do? Many of the organizations I have spent years volunteering for receive District funding. That could be perceived negatively as well. I will continue to to think through my decisions very carefully and will only make decisions that I believe are good and beneficial choices on behalf of our community.

After you read the article I am interested in any discussion and of course if you have questions that is what I am here for!!

www.mapleridgenews.com/news/241739801.html

Corisa,




Tax increase 3.25% – Statement I made prior to voting against – 6-1 Vote FINAL

December 10, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Blog

First off I would like to compliment staff particularly on the Financial Overview Report. I really look forward to the feedback from the public!  I appreciate the time and work that went into this years financial process and thank staff for bringing back to Council an even lower increase than was suggested by the majority of Council.

With that being said I will explain why I will be voting against this increase tonight.  When being asked to approve the budget, the entire time I am reviewing it, I ask myself is this the best we can do? Have we had all the conversations as a council necessary in order to get taxes their lowest possible. Unfortunately,  I do not believe that we have.

We as a Council seem to have accepted the Corporate philosophy that line items do not have an impact on the bottom line and that only major cost drivers are where we can have any influence over reducing taxes.  As a business person I completely disagree with this mentality but being an objective thinker, if that is the case (that we only need to be looking at major cost drivers), then why aren’t we discussing staff wages and benefits.  I have asked to have this put on an agenda several times. Secondly, we have multi-million dollar decisions that were made a decade ago, and although I appreciate the concept of it being already approved and in the work plan from that long ago, again as a business minded person I would never not revisit the financial implications of multi-million dollar decisions a decade later. When I was first elected I was told by both members of council and members of staff that you cannot run a municipality like a business and I completely disagree and believe that is exactly what we should be doing.

We are making a 100 M dollar decision tonight. Although staff has had direction from Council, I believe we as a Council need to be having more discussions prior to approving the budget.  The final version was presented to us yesterday.   We moved approval for the financial plan the same day. I disagree with having the final budget presented to us and then being asked to vote on moving it forward to council on the same day for the next night. I believe Council should have at least one more conversation and have a working session to still be able to have influence prior to its finality.  And I believe this should be done without every senior manager in attendance.

I find that most people accept taxes are a part of life and don’t mind paying them as long as two things are happening:

1) They are getting a Value for their tax dollars
2) They can afford further tax increases

What I am hearing from the public across all economic spectrums is that we can’t afford further tax increases.  The way our society is operating has double income families paying 42% of their annual income to taxes at one level or another.

What about our citizens on fixed incomes?  They absolutely can’t afford increases.  When are we as a council going to have the discussion about those who can’t afford our increases?  I believe the consequences of our decision making is our responsibility also. We are always comparing ourselves to other communities, other communities are doing better with their tax rates and I believe we absolutely can do better too.

One last comment, I would like to see all budget planning discussions be recorded.  This is one of the most important meetings we have and it is during work hours it should absolutely be recorded.




Evening reading! – Financial Overview Report – MR Budget Planning Mon/Tues

December 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Blog

Hello Everyone!
I am really interested in your feedback on staff’s Financial Overview Report. What are your thoughts? Specifically what do you think about the section discussing why we shouldn’t decrease our taxes any lower than they already are? This is a 46 page report and I encourage everyone to read it!!

http://www.mapleridge.ca/assets/Default/Finance/pdfs/Business~Planning/Financial
_Overview_Report_2014-2018_Final.pdf

You can also provide feedback to mayorandcouncil@mapleridge.ca or participate tomorrow from 5:30-6:30 pm in the District’s live Q&A session.

Details here:
http://www.mapleridge.ca/EN/main/municipal/2300/financial_planning_2014-2018/live_qa.html

Let me know if you have any questions!




BC Hydro Smart Meter Deadline December – Your options!

November 25, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Blog

Hello Everyone!

If this isn’t something that is of interest to you please just disregard my email. I felt compelled to reach out through my mailing list as I have had 100’s of phone calls and emails about this over the last 5 days.

This is the last week we have to respond to the BC Hydro letters in regard to the three options they have provided for us.

What I am advising those who do not want a Smart Meter and what I have done myself are the following:

  • Take the stub at the bottom of the letter they provided with the options and write void across it. (This will prevent being charged $65 for not responding).
  • Print the SM Installation Refusal letter off http://www.citizensforsafetechnology.org/
  • Mail both of these back to BC Hydro prior to Dec.1 st.

On their website this is also where you can find information on joining the class action lawsuit, this now includes commercial customers also. If you have been given a SM but would like it removed, you want to participate as well. CST along with their lawyers are going to continue to fight for the rights of British Columbians and do everything they can to prevent what many are calling extortion from our Public Utility Company.

If you have any questions please email corisa@corisabell.com or call 778-861-9477,

I hope this is helpful!

Corisa,




Potential Maple Ridge social media policy sounds more like censorship

October 22, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Blog

I am very concerned about a potential social media policy in Maple Ridge that could prevent councillor engagement with the public and instead funnel social media interaction through the District communications department.

I ran my campaign largely on accountability and transparency and have used social media extensively to engage in discussions with the public to keep them informed and to receive their feedback.  The public appreciates this, as do I.  I feel our Maple Ridge local government as a whole can do much more to engage the public.

When first elected, two years ago now, I wanted to list my social media accounts on my business card and wasn’t allowed.  I started a weekly public coffee meeting and was discouraged to continue even after suggesting others could join me and we could make it a Council initiative.

I’ve consistently requested forms of public consultation that have been denied.  I asked to put our Regional Context Statement prominently on our home page for public feedback but was told the link buried in a PDF of the meeting agenda was sufficient.  I put forward a motion to send out a press release about proposed bylaws and changes to Federal Legislation involving medical marijuana when information had changed after it had already been to public hearing.  We were voting with different information than what was available at the time of the public hearing and I was told the press release couldn’t be done because we didn’t want to go outside normal communication policy procedure.  My motion was voted down based on a stated communications policy that at October 21st Workshop meeting I confirmed doesn’t exist.  Why didn’t the Mayor, CAO, or Member of Legislative Services know that there was no such policy?  How is it possible to have a council vote based on policy that doesn’t exist?

Such events prompted me to request a review of our communication policies, including social media. This discussion took place in workshop on October 21. Rather than making our policies more inclusive as was my intention, the discussion was instead turned into ways the District should control social media and the flow of that information.  A current practise in Maple Ridge council is that all emails addressed to Mayor and Council, unless addressed to a specific councillor, be responded to by the Mayor only.  It is being suggested that the social media policy which will now be created for Council would take this further to have all social media go through and be responded to by the District communications department while preventing involvement of individual councillors. District staff are working on the details of such policy, which will be brought back to council in early 2014.

The stated reasoning to have all social media flow through the District includes:

  • “Social media perpetuates issues that should be done with”
  • Only the district opinion should be stated publicly
  • There is a fear of litigation if council is to speak freely and it isn’t an opinion of the District
  • Committee work is our engagement tool as councillors, not social media
  • Information is not safe from corporate data mining unless it is put through the district website
  • Privacy is at risk for citizens engaging in public discussion. If monitored through the district then when discussions between the public get personal they can be directed to take the conversation off line
  • Social media is “misleading” and “disrespectful” and “it’s important to only have the facts (not opinion) out there.”
  • There is worry that the public will misconstrue what an elected official has posted on social media and end up discussing inaccurate information and “there is enough of that happening in the newspapers already”
  • We should “keep the meeting in the room it is actually supposed to be, that is what the public pay us to do”
  • “There’s no benefit to tweeting”
  • “Tweeting is self serving”
  • If elected officials use social media during meetings, they could accidentally tweet during a public hearing resulting in litigation or having to hold another public hearing
  • Social media on business cards gives some councillors an election advantage

The reasoning behind changing the social media flow seems to be full of fear, misunderstanding, and lack of realizing that the world has changed and government in other communities is changing with it.  There’s no evidence of increased risk of litigation in social media over any other medium.  Corporations can mine data from the district website with ease.  Citizens don’t typically engage in public discussion to share opinions they wish to keep private.  Social media is an indication of an entities ability to communicate and monitor their image; if there is misinformation being spread social media should be used as a medium to communicate, discuss and inform through meaningful engagement.

Elected officials are public servants who serve their constituency and the people who voted for them.  I believe our job is to listen to and engage the public and direct the functioning of Municipal Hall to serve the interests of the people.  The public wants to hear and understand our personal opinions – that is why they elected us as individuals.  Elected officials are not employees of the corporation and should not be spoken for by the District.

Social media is a very powerful tool for public engagement and the benefits should be obvious.  In todays day and age, social media policy should govern interactions to safely and effectively make use of social media, not to try to discourage or prevent it from taking place.  After yesterdays meeting it feels like the proposed social media policy would prevent councillors from engaging in public discussion, or in other words, keep us from doing our job to the best of our ability.




Maple Ridge – Council Meetings, Agendas & Minutes

July 7, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Blog

Here is the link to Council’s meetings this week! If any of these items are something that you really support or are an area of concern for you and you can’t make the meeting please email mayorandcouncil@mapleridge.ca and/or comment below!

Monday:

9 am Work Shop – Business Planning 2014-2018, Medical Marihuana Production bylaw amendments recommending this as a permitted use within lands of the Agricultural Reserve, and a discussion on the new PPP extended producer responsibility program.

1 pm Committee of the Whole – Translink and the CEED Centre are giving delegations. Quite a few one year extensions on applications, DVP for 24426 102 Avenue, Community Amenity Program/Amenity Reserve fund bylaws be given 1st/2nd recommended to be sent to Public Hearing in September, Black Sheep Pub would like an increase in seating capacity, Downtown Enhancement Project are just some of the items Council will be asking clarifying questions on in order to make decisions Tuesday night.

Tuesday:
7 pm Council.

http://www.mapleridge.ca/EN/main/municipal/council/council_meetings.html




Clarifying the initiation of lawyer involvement in withholding the public video

July 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Blog

In reading the recent article in the Maple Ridge Times, “Lawyer views comment,” I got the impression that the District lawyers happened to hear my comments and took the initiative to let the District know my comments were “serious.”  In the interest of transparency, I wanted to make a point of clarification as to how the District lawyer became involved by making mention to a letter I received from the Office of the Mayor, signed respectfully by Ernie Daykin.

Mr. Daykin stated:

“Legal counsel was requested to review the video of this meeting to provide an opinion on whether any of the comments made by you during the meeting could be considered defamatory…”

Click here to view the Letter.
(Please note that I have blocked out information not directly pertaining to the
lawyer involvement and information pertaining to my HR claim.)

As the city has not yet responded to my question pertaining to what legal rights or protection I have as a Councillor, I informed the District and the Mayor not to correspond with me on anything I was unable to share with the public.  I trust that Mayor Daykin is ok with my sharing this clarification with you.






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