Archives: October 2011

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Maple Ridge Property Taxes

October 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Blog

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Question asked at the Maple Ridge All Candidates meeting in Fraserview where candidates, including Corisa Bell, addressed specific questions.

Preamble: Going by election dates the increase in property taxes from the 2008 election to the 2011 election has been 11% for some residents. If we go back further and measure from 2005 election to the 2011 election the increase in property taxes is 28% for some residents. According to city documents the property taxes on an average strata unit in this area have increased 2.75%. This latest increase though comes on the heels of year after year property tax increases.

Aside from the need to develop more commercial opportunities to offset the residential to commercial tax base what can be done about controlling property taxes? These increases are especially hard on seniors with a fixed incomes and families starting out. Holding the line on property taxes means either cuts in services or scaling back plans for the city, and yet increasing property taxes creates hardship and provides funds for initiatives that some in the city don’t support or benefit from.

Question: Please state whether you consider yourself to be someone who is more comfortable raising taxes to ensure current planned expenditures are covered, or more comfortable holding the line on taxes so that households have more disposal income to spend as they see fit.

People’s ability to pay increased property taxes has become essentially maxed out. The list of houses being sold due to failure to pay property taxes this year is extremely long. The cost of living is at an all–]time high, we are being hit with never ending taxes, user fees, service fees and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. I think of what it would be like for me to spend my paycheck to accumulate more and more monthly bills, and each month expect my boss to give me a larger paycheck.

At some point we have to evaluate our current expenditures (not just services) and determine what we need and what we can do without, what we can do better or do differently, and start looking at making things more efficient instead of looking for more money. We need to do more with less. We need to involve the community, we need to create more volunteer opportunities, and we need to get everyone on board to move our community forward. The leadership and that example needs to come from the city, so people feel like they are part of a much bigger picture for their community.

Lastly, from an economic perspective, we are in a recession and people without disposable income arenft going to be able to stimulate the economy. I question whether or not some people in politics have any idea what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck or to have to plan for life as a senior without a government sized pension.

To summarize, as a city we need to grow within our means and plan accordingly.

Corisa Bell (http://www.corisabell.com/)
Click here to download responses to all 9 questions in PDF form




Maple Ridge Staff Salaries

October 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Blog

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Question asked at the Maple Ridge All Candidates meeting in Fraserview where candidates, including Corisa Bell, addressed specific questions.

Preamble: As it stands the sum of the top ten paid city hall employees is over 1.5 million dollars a year. This amount does not include benefits, pension contributions, the other 340 employees or consultants. The argument has been made that Maple Ridge must stay competitive when it comes to hiring but how does our city of 75,000 compete with Vancouver and Surrey, both of which have populations above 500,000 and a large business tax bases to support these higher salaries. Since Maple Ridge has a large population of seniors on fixed income and young families trying to get a start in life how can we afford the current level of salaries that are being handed out?

Question: Should there be a salary cap at Maple Ridge city hall for senior staff. If yes how will this be implemented, if no at what rate should salaries increase?

While I understand the need to be competitive, I don’t feel wage should be the primary factor in hiring. We need people in this city who are passionate about Maple Ridge, that are excited about what our city is doing, and who want to be a part of it. Maple Ridge is unique and can’t be treated and run in the same way someone hired may have done for Surrey or Vancouver.

With regard to wage increases, I feel that in general an increase with the rate of inflation is reasonable, but in tough economic times like these where we are having to be frugal, and politicians are telling us we don’t have enough money for services, they shouldn’t be giving themselves raises. I feel that gives people the impression that the government officials put themselves first. As a member of council I would put forward at our first meeting to strike the decision for the previous pay increase for council.

Click here to download responses to all 9 questions in PDF form




Theft of recyclables in Maple Ridge

October 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Blog

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Question asked at the Maple Ridge All Candidates meeting in Fraserview where candidates, including Corisa Bell, addressed specific questions.

Preamble: The situation in some areas is that putting out recycling bins is asking for someone who is not from the recycling depot to show up on your personal or strata property and rifle through the bin to take the most valuable recyclables. This situation is beyond someone down on their luck grabbing some empty cans. Some individuals use vehicles to access recyclables before the recycling depot can arrive for pick up. This situation negatively affects the amount of revenue that the recycling society can bring in to fund its programs, and it also perpetuates the problem of trespassing on what is often private property. If people put their recyclables out in the bins and bags that are designated for the recycling depot then that should be respected. On the curb does not mean open season so is it time for city hall to act?

Question: Do you think it is time that Maple Ridge city hall creates a bylaw to deal with the issue of recyclables that are being taken by individuals who are not from the recycling society?

I’ve experienced theft of recyclables at our house and share your concerns. I spoke with Kim at the Recycling Center and was informed that this is an issue across communities. They have taken steps to track down license plate numbers, and provided them to bylaw officers, but were informed the cost of enforcing those bylaws outweighs the revenues generated.

It was suggested to me to not put out my valuable recyclables, as the organized people doing collections come to know quickly which houses do and do not put out items that carry a deposit. I would encourage you to do the same, and if you are in a strata encourage a collection service that could see recyclables delivered to the depot in bulk. It could even become a source of revenue.

Click here to download responses to all 9 questions in PDF form




Transparency and timeliness of council responses to Maple Ridge citizens

October 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Blog

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Question asked at the Maple Ridge All Candidates meeting in Fraserview where candidates, including Corisa Bell, addressed specific questions.

Preamble: From the issues around small business and signage downtown, to the problems around trailer lengths on private property, there are citizens who feel they are not listened to by staff or council. Empty buildings that are eyesores, to sidewalk maintenance, to trees on city property that are damaging private property, it appears the only way to get action is to become the squeaky wheel. A local strata council had to pay upwards of $16,000 in fees to the city for repairs that were never inspected. When enquiries were made as to what constituted the $16,000 charge the response by city staff went from being hostile to outright ignoring the issue. A year later this Strata council is still waiting for an explanation of these charges.

Why is it citizens have to go directly to petitions, and rallying their neighbours to action, or try and get the local papers to broadcast what often are issues that could be dealt with openly, transparently, and quickly by staff. Without a doubt some people are happy with the job city hall is doing, yet voter turnout for elections is below 30%, and often when city hall has an open forum less than 1% of the population turns out to participate. It can be argued that the only way to get city hall to respond to an issue in a reasonable amount of time is to become a squeaker wheel then other groups and individuals who are also trying to get issues addressed by city hall.

Question: Do you feel that city hall is open and transparent when dealing with issues if so what is being done right, or what do you feel is being done wrong and how would you improve city hall to citizen communication?

I have spent the last couple of years calling for transparency in government and a government that works for the people who elect it. I fall into a generation that primarily was raised hearing comments such as ”What’s the point, they’re all the same” and ”It won’t make a difference anyway, they just don’t care.”

It should come as no surprise that voter turn out is hitting all-time lows, and the younger generation feels more disenfranchised now than ever

I’m running for council with the intent of being a voice for you, for us, so you can have somebody to come to when you have an issue and feel that you are being heard and know that you have a valid concern that will be dealt with. I want to be your squeaky wheel in government while advocating for greater efficiency to increase public confidence in their government.

I have many ideas for improving communication at City Hall including a blog where citizens can voice their opinions, and a public record of what is being worked on, what is completed, and what is not being done. Further, I would like to arrange to have a regular update in the local paper outlining the positive things being accomplished so people are aware of the work council is doing. I intend to keep my personal number public after the election so I can always be reached. I understand we live busy lives or physically can’t always get to a council meeting at 7pm at night.

If you want to be heard, you have to vote for people who care, not people who tell us one thing to get elected and then don’t accomplish the contents of their platform. We need to vote in people who volunteer because it’s a part of their heart to help, not because it looks good on their political resume. We have to encourage others to do the same; we can’t give up.

Click here to download responses to all 9 questions in PDF form




Maple Ridge Council term limits for elected positions

October 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Blog

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Question asked at the Maple Ridge All Candidates meeting in Fraserview where candidates, including Corisa Bell, addressed specific questions.

Preamble: Term limits for elected officials exist in other democracies but currently there are no limits put on how many terms and individual can be elected to office at the municipal level in Maple Ridge. Is this a case where if voters are unhappy with the direction city hall is going the impetus is on the voter to get organized and change the makeup of council, or is the current set up which allows multiple terms to be served by the same individuals driving voters away because they don’t think their vote will matter and the results will be the same.

Question: Do you support the creation of term limits for elected municipal positions? If yes how would you bring this about, and enforce these limits, if no why do you feel that it is better for the city to have open limits on how long a person can serve on council?

I’m in favor of terms being limited to two in succession. I feel that not having term limits tends to cause politicians to think in terms of what will get them reelected, instead of in terms of what is best for the constituents and our community.

When you work for a company, you have to work hard to keep your job, make decisions in the best interest of the company, and increase profits in order to earn raises, be given bonuses or to advance to a better job.

Currently by not having term limits, an elected politician just has to stay “acceptable” or “under the radar” to constituents while keeping happy the special interest groups that donate to their campaign to ensure enough money for reelection. The rest is just name recognition.

Implementing term limits would increase competition, encourage new challengers and new ideas, encourage citizen participation over career politicians, and improve tendency to vote on principle rather than on reelection. Terms limits would also discourage incumbents from forming slates.

Click here to download responses to all 9 questions in PDF form




Who in Maple Ridge decides about the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve)

October 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Blog

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Question asked at the Maple Ridge All Candidates meeting in Fraserview where candidates, including Corisa Bell, addressed specific questions.

Preamble: The following is taken directly from the Agricultural Land Commission Act –

Section 26[1] of the Agricultural Land Commission act states the following:

The commission may enter into an agreement with any of the following to enable a local government, a First Nation government or an authority to exercise some or all of the commission’s power to decide applications for not-farm use or subdivision with respect to lands within the jurisdiction of the local government, First Nation government or authority.

Further Section 26[5] states the following:

If the commission delegates its power to decide application sunder section 25 to a local government, a First Nation government or an authority by an agreement entered into under this section, the decision of the local government, First Nation government or authority is a decision of the commission for the purposes of this act.

It appears that if Maple Ridge city hall were so inclined it could apply to have a much greater say over Agricultural Land Commission Act decisions. As Maple Ridge council is made up of Maple Ridge residents it could be argued that this is a better way to go about ALR decisions that have a direct effect on local employment, tax base, and development would be made by local elected officials.

Question: If elected would you push to use section 26 of the ALR and have decisions made locally or do you support the current system that has ALR decision made by a non-elected body.

Council has the ability to assert influence over ALR decisions with or without formal legislation. I feel that a lack of term limits has fostered an environment where politicians do not want to stick their neck out on controversial issues in order to keep the peace and to try and win reelection. I feel this is why, at least in part, we have so many interest groups fighting over land, and why such groups turn to public petitions.

People elect council to make decisions on their behalf, and council themselves should study the reports, listen to all sides, and be able to make the tough final decisions. They can then be voted in or out in the next election based on the decisions they make, instead of riding the fence for reelection. If we have council members who can’t make decisions for the people, then what are they being elected and paid for?

I’ve proven repeatedly that I am not afraid to stand up and make tough decisions, regardless if it is in my best interest or not. I did this in the Fight Against HST and when presenting against Pitt Meadows council when I won the right to put up referendum signs.

If you elect me to represent you, you can count on me to do so.

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Click here to download responses to all 9 questions in PDF form




Prostitution in Maple Ridge

October 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Blog

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Question asked at the Maple Ridge All Candidates meeting in Fraserview where candidates, including Corisa Bell, addressed specific questions.

Preamble: Currently there is a case being heard at the level of the Ontario supreme court as to whether the parts of the criminal code that pertain to prostitution and keeping a common bawdy house are in violation of the charter. Though prostitution is a federal jurisdiction it’s dealt with at the municipal level. Maple Ridge is not immune to the dealings around prostitution and there are a few streets in the downtown core that are well known as ‘strolls’ where a John could engage with a prostitute. As it stands countries such as New Zealand, the Netherlands and parts of Australia have introduced municipally based licensing in regards to prostitution; as well the state of Nevada has a similar structure in place.

Question: As prostitution has been occurring in the city for years and shows no sign of stopping should the city be proactive in planning a licensing system, if not what should the city do about prostitution?

As a criminology major I have studied prostitution in detail. Due to the potential Supreme Court ruling we looked extensively at the pros and cons of licensing and studied various academic journals citing entries both for and against licensing and the success of their implementations in other countries.

In concluding my research I feel that while licensing could make sense for indoor sex workers it will have a negative impact on street workers who generally work in prostitution due to poverty and drug addiction — which make up the majority of the prostitution problems here in Maple Ridge. Making it law for each prostitute to be licensed would prevent street prostitutes, who usually have previous criminal charges, from being licensed creating a greater disconnection from the community and from assistance which puts them at greater risk and in fact makes the prostitution problem worse. I feel the best course of action for such street workers are social programs that encourage change rather than enable their addictions.

After spending four months in a 400 level university course studying this exact concept, I would like to see some changes made. Though prostitution is currently addressed at the Federal level my hope is that one–day the municipality would have greater control and could deal with the issue at a more relevant case-by-case basis.

Click here to download responses to all 9 questions in PDF form




Maple Ridge Park maintenance and capital upgrades

October 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Blog

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Question asked at the Maple Ridge All Candidates meeting in Fraserview where candidates, including Corisa Bell, addressed specific questions.

Preamble: Maple Ridge tax payers and certainly local seniors around Haney have donated time and money to local parks in the way of sponsoring trees and benches in the names of their departed loved ones. Yet some of the park pathways and sidewalks leading to them are very difficult to navigate for seniors and anyone with mobility issues. In Brickwood Park city staff spray painted the area where work should be done on the path, but this occurred many months ago. The paint is now fading and seniors are still hobbling over the broken up asphalt humps like they have been for years, without complaining. For all the talk city hall does about protecting citizens from liability there doesn’t seem to be much of a rush to ensure that pathways and sidewalks are useable for all members of our community, and if someone falls and breaks a bone or worse what kind of liability is the city then facing? These types of capital upgrades and maintenance take money and residential taxes are already too high and hurting resident’s means of living which means it is time to think outside of the box for park upgrades and maintenance.

Question: Given that residential tax dollars are stretched thin please explain why as a member of council you would, or would not support financial contributions to park maintenance and upgrades if it meant an advertising or marketing promotion from a private or public company?

I have a bench at Whonnock Lake in honour of my Great Grandparents. It’s one of my favorite places to go and sit and I would be devastated if I wasn’t able to get to it.

Unfortunately, as happens so often, it may take a serious injury and a lawsuit before prompt attention is given to such matters. I hope that I have the opportunity to make a difference before such a time.

The idea of corporate sponsorship is viable, but I would like to see other attempts at solving the issue before resorting to having my children ask to play at Coca–Cola park.

Our city officials – especially Parks and Rec – are very active in networking with community groups in order to achieve city objectives. I’ve been involved heavily with volunteerism in our community, and I’m sure with the right organizer we could work within our community to have much of this taken care of outside of city hall. You can even post your groups particular volunteer needs on a website created by Volunteer Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows. If for any reason this did not fully provide a solution to these upgrades, I would want to see priority given to local businesses and/or citizens with attempt to locate people and businesses whom are already invested in our community be given first priority in marketing promotion and ensure that any such implementation was done tastefully.

Click here to download responses to all 9 questions in PDF form




Vacant Lots in Maple Ridge

October 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Blog

Corisa Bell for Maple Ridge Council
Question asked at the Maple Ridge All Candidates meeting in Fraserview where candidates, including Corisa Bell, addressed specific questions.

Preamble: There is one consistent pattern about boarded up buildings and houses in the area of Haney. They accumulate garbage and refuse, provide homes for mice and rats, are consistently in a state of unsightliness and they are rarely secured. Over the course of the summer three abandoned structures all within walking distance of each other were on fire and required attention. All three of these structures though damaged by fire are all still standing. The boxing club that was on 224th and 117th ave became a grow-op that was shut down. This building had no exterior south facing wall for over a year and yet it took years for the city to finally get it torn down and the site cleaned up.

If there are existing bylaws to deal with this issue they are not being used, or they are simply not effective. One viable solution is that city hall commit to annual engineering inspections of all abandoned structures, and any structure that is found to fail inspection be fully repaired or torn down with in a 6 month period of failing the inspection.

Question: How will you work with the rest of council to ensure that city staff is onside and diligent in creating, or adopting from other municipalities, bylaws that make engineering inspections automatic for boarded up buildings and houses?

The builder of my home heavily damaged the sidewalk out front way back in 2008. It was marked with a pink strip for repair not long after, and to this day our neighbourhood is waiting for that sidewalk to be repaired.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know why it takes so long for some of these things to happen. Is it red tape? Is it lack of priority? Is it lack of delegation? I don’t know, but assure you that if elected to council I intend to find out. Bylaws are meaningless without the ability to enforce them, so before proceeding on fixing this issue I would like to know better how the city works to understand the source of the problem so as to create an effective solution.

I want to note however, that the vacant buildings referenced are situated primarily within an area where a Port Haney Association has been created and funded to improve the neighborhood. I attended a meeting there last night and as council would intend to work with them to make further improvements and to discuss the status of these buildings.

The current government is relying on the Port Haney Association to clean up the neighborhood surrounding you, so I would encourage you to get involved in the association and to support councillors who attended this meeting instead of other community events which took place on the same evening.

Click here to download responses to all 9 questions in PDF form




Change is in the wind…

October 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Blog

A fresh spring breeze is about to liven up the municipal political scene in our beautiful Maple Ridge.

We all know Corisa Bell, she is the brave affable young wife and mother of two children that stood up front and centre for us in the fight against an unpopular HST and won, not only surprising a whole lot of people but making history in the British Commonwealth by doing so.

Regardless of your stance on the HST, you have to admire the political courage and freshness of someone willing to stand up for what they believe in.

I first met Corisa Bell in the fight against the HST and was immediately impressed by Corisa’s winning personality, boundless energy, drive and high moral standards that even stops her from taking campaign contributions from businesses, all because she does not want to owe someone that could become a conflict to her high ethical code.
Corisa is smart, attractive, articulate and not afraid to speak her mind, comfortable in a position of responsibility and wants more than anything to serve the people of Maple Ridge to the best of her ability, which we have already seen is quite considerable.

It is my opinion that Corisa would be a most valuable asset as a Maple Ridge councillor for the citizens of Maple Ridge.

In the coming weeks get out and meet Corisa or you can read her website CorisaBell.com and if you like what you see and hear, support her in the coming municipal elections.

I certainly know my X will be going next to Corisa Bell in the next municipal election and I expect great things out of Maple Ridge’s council because of that decision.

– Wayne Clark






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