Response to questions about Financials, responsibility, and Governance.

February 17, 2014

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,

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