Saturday, 28 May 2016

CITY COUNCIL TO ANSWER TO TAX HIKES

Good evening Regina!!!
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UPDATE MAY 31, 2016: Well, it's officially on record, ladies and gentlemen, the entire current Regina City Council is in favour of continual property tax hikes and water rate increases, even though they continue to realize multimillion dollar surpluses.

To me, this is completely unacceptable, as it shows a genuine disregard for the well being of all residents of Regina, and completely misses the mark when considering the ability to bear these continued increases. Surely, for the Councillors and Mayor, these increases may not seem like a big deal, but to those barely scraping by, struggling to put food on the table, or trying to scrounge enough money towards a down payment for their first home, every single penny makes a difference.

This fall, you are going to have choice. 

The Status Quo is obviously okay with needless tax and water rate increases. The Alternatives will provide you the ability to make a real change at City Hall. This change has been needed for years now, and 2016 is the perfect time to do it.

Remind City Hall that they work for you, not the other way around.

This fall, remember:
It's Your Money. Demand Better.
#VoteJOE

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If you weren't already aware, there is a Regina City Council Meeting this Monday, May 30, 2016 starting at 5:30PM, and anyone is allowed to attend - so if you have a spare couple hours or five, come on down and see the excitement first hand! But, if you aren't so daring, and you subscribe to Access Communications, you can watch in on Access7, or if you don't have that, you can always watch the online stream - even though it's not always the greatest quality, and sometimes has "technical issues".

Anyways, onto the fun stuff. I have submitted three delegations, which I have included below for your review, and I'm hoping it brings some of these issues to the public, and if we are lucky, we might even get some real answers out of City Council and/or Administration. But...I'm not going to hold my breath.

One of the more controversial subjects year in, year out has been the continued "need" for property tax hikes, and endless water rate hikes. As you'll see by my delegation, average water bills have actually doubled in the past decade. What's worse? There was never a need for any of these increases, as we currently have nearly $80 Million in the Utility Reserve, with no plan in sight to deplete that.

Speaking of reserves, did you know, any year that the City of Regina realizes a surplus (actual net income is higher than budgeted), it is considered a "one time" item, and is automatically sent into our ever-growing reserve accounts. Apparently, for at least the past decade, we have had a surplus every single year! That has helped grow the Reserves over 500% in the past decade. Meanwhile, they keep coming back to you and I, saying they need more money to operate. There is absolutely no reason this needs to have happened, and I'm hoping that we actually get some answers out of City Council on Monday on this one. Do you think it will happen?

Here are the links, ladies and gentlemen! Have a great weekend and hope to see you Monday!!

2015 Annual Report Delegation (PDF)


Financial Report Delegation (PDF)


Westerra Development Application Delegation (PDF)

Thursday, 19 May 2016

City of Regina Continues to Cater to (Certain) Developers

Good afternoon Regina!!

Last Wednesday, I attended the Regina Planning Commission meeting, where on the Agenda was the Westerra Subdivision, and an application to rezone a parcel of land from Major Arterial Commercial to Designated Shopping Centre. I won't get into details on what the differences between the two zonings are here, because honestly, it's irrelevant to this discussion.

What is important here are the following two things:

1) The need for remaining consistent with our Official Community Plan

2) Who the developers are behind Westerra (and Aurora on the opposite side of town), and why they are being allowed to develop lands that, not even five years ago, the former owners were told the lands were "undevelopable" and "frozen" for the forseeable future (25 years+).

Further on Point #1, it seems that "Discretionary Use" applications come before City Hall more often than would sound reasonable to the average person, given the whole concept behind "discretionary use". If the point of this kind of rezoning was intended to be more of the rule than the exception, then why even have an Official Community Plan (OCP) in the first place? The whole point of an OCP is to lay out a framework for the next (insert number here) number of years. This allows developers, residents, industries, and most importantly, the City Planning Department, to have an idea on where our City will be in 25 years and how it is most likely to get there. Given that you are planning a quarter century ahead, you are always going to have one-off situations. Hence the need for "discretionary use" applications. If you review the past five years, however, you're going to see more of these on the books than almost any other type of development application. I'll leave this as is, because honestly, I don't know enough of the intricate details involved in this kind of situation, and I will put the trust in my elected officials to become learned enough to translate it into layman's terms for you and I. After all, that is what they get paid to do. I just do this out of the goodness of my heart.

Onto Point #2, and quite likely one of the most contentious - and least publicly talked about - situations facing Regina over the past few decades. And, that being the appearance of favouritism towards certain developers. Many presume, rightly or wrongly, that Harvard Developments Inc. basically runs City Hall. If you follow the trail of people leaving the City, from the Planning Department in particular, chances are you'll see them going to either DREAM Developments (formerly Dundee) or Harvard Developments. I'm sure City Hall would chalk that up to coincidence, but anyone with half a brain could connect the dots.

Speaking specific to the current development projects in the works, Westerra Regina and Aurora Retail Corp., these are two very interesting situations that most certainly deserve further investigation. Since the process to get a full investigation to happen legislatively is extremely prohibitive, hopefully enough candidates can come forward this fall to make an investigation happen that is worthy of taxpayers questions.

Both of these parcels of land were actually formerly owned by separate companies, theoretically "outsiders" when it comes to developing within the City of Regina. (For those that aren't aware - outsiders are very frowned upon at City Hall, but I'll get into that another day) Both of these former companies were told that, in essence, their lands were "frozen for development" and "undevelopable" (See Exhibit A) for the forseeable future, presumed to be 25 years or more. Both of these companies then sold, probably unbenounced to each other, to Harvard Developments and Forster Projects Inc. Both of these parcels of land, suddenly, were then deemed "developable" and the City of Regina even went so far as to annex the East lands for the Aurora Retail Corp. (Keeping in mind the lands don't need to be annexed to be serviced, but it certainly does help the private developer by increasing the value of the lands they can then re-sell or lease out to commercial entities)

Also very important to this discussion is the timeframe of land sales to development applications. But I'm leaving that with my legal counsel to discuss to determine the best method to pursue these concerns.

I plan to speak further on these issues at the May 30, 2016 City Council Meeting, but suffice it to say for now, there are neighbour concerns that had been brought up in previous meetings that still have not been addressed adequately, and are still very much a concern. I present to you my video delegation and RPC's responses/follow up in Exhibits B and C.

Exhibit A
 
Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

City Goes on Defensive After Glaring Inaccuracies Noted

Hello Regina!!

Well, this week has been an interesting week at City Hall. Today, there was another application to change the always-evolving Westerra Developments - A joint venture brought to you by the great folks at Harvard Developments and Forster Projects. (Sarcasm intended) We all assume (know) that Harvard basically runs our great City, and I, for one, don't intend to let that continue to happen without at least a little pushback from the taxpayers. It's high time we had a City Council and Administration that didn't simply bend over backwards for one or two developers, and the rest be damned! Westerra is a very interesting project and I do plan to talk more about this in a future blog post.

Trust me. The wait will be worth it.

Yesterday, at the Finance and Administration Committee Meeting, there were a number of items on the Agenda, most notably for me was the 2015 Annual Report, Public Accounts and Financial Results. This is always a fun time for me, being a Chartered Professional Accountant, I love numbers. I love analyzing them. I love picking them apart. I don't, however, love arrogant fellow CPA members who feel they are impenetrable and not vulnerable to human error. Such was the case when I found a number of glaring errors within the 2015 Annual Report. The reason why this is so important is that if there are glaring inaccuracies in any part of the Report, how can you and I, the people who pay for that Report, put any trust into the reliability of the entire Report?

Simple answer - you can't.

Below is one of the most glaring inaccuracies, and no matter how much I pressed, City Administration (notably departing CFO Ed Archer who spent a whopping two years here - who replaced the now fired Brent Sjoberg - I'm sensing a trend here), and Finance and Administration Committee simply would not address it directly. Perhaps they will at City Council on May 30, but I'm not holding my breath.


As you can see above, when you look at the numbers from "Budget 2015", the four boxes add together to equal the total at the bottom. However, when you look under "Actual 2015" it is actually the top box that mirrors the total on the bottom, which is the other three boxes added together. Long story short, it's just wrong. Whether this was a typographical error, or someone messed up on putting the totals where they should be, in the end, this tells me the report did not get the scrutiny it deserves, and therefore I have a hard time believing the accuracy of anything else within the report.

One number that Administration better damned well have accurate is the SURPLUS. Unfortunately, there are at least three different figures found within the 2015 Annual Report. One says $9.9 Million (See Exhibit A), which is contained in the letter signed off by Mr. Chris Holden, our new City Manager. One says $5.1 Million (See Exhibit B), which is what Mr. Ed Archer insists is the actual surplus. And finally one shows a whopping $169.8 Million (See Exhibit C)!!! Which is it?? We'll never know, because apparently daring to ask that is akin to calling the entire City Administration liars and they simply take offense to the mere implication that they may not have the best report in the world. City Councillor Bob Hawkins took a good shot at me personally by making some pretty ignorant accusations against me that, if I were someone like Bill Boyd (google "GTH land scandal"), then I might have the audacity to take him to court for defamation.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:


But I digress.

Finally, this evening, here are my delegations for your viewing pleasure.


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Mental Health Focus Needs to Change

Hello Regina!! 

It's been too long since I posted last, and for that I apologize. With the Regina Municipal Election around the corner, I will try to make an effort to post at least once a week so that you are as informed as possible for the election coming up on October 26, 2016. And, no, I haven't made any official announcements as to what I intend to do for the fall election quite yet.

Since this is officially recognized as Mental Health Week by the Canadian Mental Health Association and the City of Regina, I decided to put together a brief Media Advisory on my thoughts about Mental Illness and the need to change the focus from the negative impacts of a Mental Illness to the positive influences that those who are affected by a Mental Illness have contributed to our society.



MUNICIPAL CANDIDATE FEELS MENTAL ILLNESS FOCUS NEEDS CHANGE


Regina, Saskatchewan – Former Mayoral Candidate for Regina, and anticipated Council Candidate for the 2016 Municipal Elections for the City of Regina, Saskatchewan, Chad Novak is proud of the accomplishments that the Canadian Mental Health Association has achieved in increasing awareness to the topic of Mental Health. He feels, though, the focus needs to change to emphasize the benefits that a Mental Illness can offer to society. All too often in our current society, the storyline is centered around the unfortunate negative impacts that a Mental Illness can have on a person, and rarely about the good things that have come from very notable people that happened to be affected by a Mental Illness. In fact, Novak feels that if it weren’t for certain Mental Illnesses, we wouldn’t have been blessed with some of the most innovative people that appear in our history books.

“As this week is Mental Health Week, I am very proud to stand up and openly declare that I am affected by Bipolar Disorder,” said Novak. “You will notice that I chose to use the term ‘affected by’ rather than ‘suffer with’ because you only suffer from this disease if you let it. If you recognize your limitations, but more importantly, the potential creative benefits of Bipolar, you can actually live a very positive and productive life.”

Did you know that many of our greatest politicians, celebrities and inventors have/had Bipolar Disorder? Novak is a strong believer in the idea that having a mental illness can actually be a great benefit to a person if they know how to manage it properly. “The downs are, at times, horrendous. But, the ups (or "highs") are absolutely mind blowing and this is where you realize your highest potential and creativity.”

It is because of these "high" times, that those who are affected by Bipolar Disorder can be some of the most influential and inspirational people in our lifetime. Just a few people of note are Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vincent Van Gogh, Francis Ford Coppola, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Ted Turner, Buzz Aldrin, Jimi Hendrix, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and Saskatchewan’s first Premier Mr. Walter Scott.


Sunday, 27 March 2016

PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS - ARE THEY GOING TO THOSE WHO REALLY NEED THEM?

Happy Easter Regina!!

This Tuesday, March 29, 2016, Regina City Council is set to vote on a number of Property Tax Exemptions, as happens every year around this time. Upon review of the proposed exemptions, there are many questions that come up every year, and this year is no different. The theme that I am looking at this year, being an election year, is the concept of providing fair and equitable treatment to all taxpayers of Regina. Are these Property Tax Exemptions going to those parties that truly need them? Are there parties out there that could really use them but aren't being offered them because they simply don't know they are eligible? Is there a better way to handle this going forward? 

This and more to be addressed starting at 5:30PM Tuesday at City Hall! Be there or...tune into my blog for more!

Here are my delegations for that evening. I have also provided a PDF of each for you to download if you are so inclined.

Boundary Alteration – 2016 Property Tax Exemptions
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. The first item I would like to address this evening is the 2016 Property Tax Exemptions for properties that were included in the approved November 2013 Boundary Alterations.

A common theme you’re going to hear from me this evening is the concept of providing fair and equitable treatment of all taxpayers of Regina. To that extent, I feel strongly that the overall concept of tax exemptions for properties brought into City boundaries is fair to an extent, as it can be quite a jump in property taxes going from an RM to a City the size of Regina. With that said, the question becomes just how much is fair, for how long, and should it make a difference if the property owner did not want to be annexed versus those that had explicitly requested to be annexed.

Based on my research, the general consensus is the exemption amount and the time contained within this framework is more than fair, where the amount and length of exemption is dependent upon the anticipated timeline of when the affected lands may be used for City purposes rather than RM purposes. However, there is serious concern amongst taxpayers regarding property owners that specifically requested to be annexed versus those that were annexed against their wishes, as well as differentiating between commercial and residential property owners. Also, and we can’t stress this enough, the ability to pay should be a major factor, and like is policy for other city services, it is felt that any affected property owners should have to demonstrate that the additional property taxes will cause “unreasonable financial hardship” as a result of the annexation. And, in fact, this clause was included within this very policy as you will see in Appendix A. We would be remiss to not mention the fact that, according to real estate experts, the mere act of annexation immediately increases the affected property’s value because of the fact they are now within City jurisdiction and have access to City services. Keeping this in mind, it is a fact that a major property owner East of Tower Road very quickly flipped some of their affected lands to the Province for the Regina Bypass and to the City for the Pacers Ball Park relocation for upwards of 10x the value immediately prior to annexation. This was with absolutely no improvement by that property owner.

Further on the concept of “unreasonable financial hardship”, it seems only reasonable that a homeowner who has lived in the RM for decades should be considered moreso for relief from the additional property tax versus, say, a giant multimillion dollar corporation who explicitly requested to be annexed into the City for undisclosed reasons, who ought to have anticipated and budgeted for the additional property taxes. A reasonable person would argue that they most certainly have the ability to afford the higher taxes, even before taking into account the financial benefits that is realized because of that annexation. As you can see in Appendix B, one of these companies, publicly traded AGT Foods on East Primrose Drive, which is amongst a group of companies associated with Alliance Pulse Processors, Long Lake Investment Inc. and Nutrasun Foods Ltd., is set to receive over $80,000 in property tax exemption this year alone. When factored over the anticipated 15 year life span of this exemption, barring any further extensions, that translates to over $1.2M in lost property taxes to the City of Regina and in turn, its residents. For a company with annual revenues nearing two billion dollars, as outlined in Appendix C, I would hardly consider them to have realized any “unreasonable financial hardship” due to annexation.

It is also important to note that the aforementioned properties were never previously included in any long-term (25 year) Official Community Plans prior to 2013. The question that a reasonable person would have to ask is – why then were these lands annexed and why did we not stick to the 25 year plans as previously designed up to 2011?

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

2016 Annual Property Tax Exemptions
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. I am here to address the 2016 Annual Property Tax Exemptions.
 
As I said before, a common theme you’re going to hear from me this evening is the concept of providing fair and equitable treatment of all taxpayers in Regina. To that extent, I feel strongly that the entire listing of annual property tax exemptions, and more specifically the policy behind it, needs to have a thorough review and a complete overhaul. A quick review of the list of properties subject to exemption will show you what I mean. There are some sporting organizations receiving tax exemptions, where others are not. There are some cultural organizations on the list, where others are not. There are some non-profit organizations on the list, where others are not. To me, this suggests one of two things – either the treatment of all applicable groups is not being applied fairly, or more likely, not all organizations that may be eligible for a tax exemption are aware that they could apply and be granted an exemption.

Tonight, we’ve seen a prime example of this with the Saskatchewan Multicultural Centre Association. Their worthwhile cultural organization has paid property taxes for decades, and now, only when they are in financial dire straits, they have applied for an exemption. At first Administration recommended denial, but thankfully the Finance and Administration Committee not only saw this as a fair request, but also recommended approval of the exemption request for at least three years. With regards to their specific situation, I would personally like to see the City of Regina provide a rebate to their organization for the property taxes they’ve paid over the past 25 years, as a goodwill gesture. I am confident that this would be a welcome financial boost to their group, and by the taxpayers of Regina, since they unfortunately lost a significant portion of their annual funding because of a short-sighted action by our Provincial Government.

We desperately need a complete overhaul of our policies for property tax exemptions, so there isn’t any further confusion by community groups as to their qualification for such exemptions. Most importantly, we need to implement a clear policy on charitable and non-profit organizations, since one does not currently exist (See Appendix A). Further to this, we also need to implement an “ability to pay” clause into these exemptions, because as we’ve seen in recent years, there are organizations receiving continued property tax exemptions simply because “that’s what they’ve received in the past” – even though their financial circumstances had changed significantly from when they first applied for the exemption. One glaring recent example of this was the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who in the 1990’s most certainly needed a hand up from anywhere they could get it. However, in recent years, their financial situation had significantly improved which called this exemption into question, and rightfully, it was finally removed. The same can be said for other organizations like the Cornwall Centre for their parkade, or the Regina Airport Authority (RAA). What I find interesting about the RAA is, based on the current formula (See Appendix B), when it comes time to determine their property tax exemption, it would appear that the more financially successful they are, the higher their property tax exemption actually is. This seems almost counter intuitive, at least on the ability to pay premise.

On the concept of fair and equitable treatment of all community groups, I can’t help but question the exemption for the Regina Trades and Skills Centre (RTSC). Granted, they provide assistance for certain trades, similar to how Sask Polytechnic might, but I don’t think they are an accredited educational facility. Not to take anything away from their ability to help the construction industry, but they are nothing more than a glorified training room at a construction company as shown by their “Who We Are” section of their website, as shown in Appendix C. Their organization is quite similar, in fact, to the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology Career Centre, which operates just down the street from the RTSC. As far as I’ve found through my research, they do not receive any sort of tax exemption. My question for you is, why is this, and what can we do to level the playing field for all groups?

Finally this evening, in a situation that appears to have attempted to level the playing field for a particular group, let’s take a look at the Caledonian Curling Club’s tax exemption. I note that the original reason they were granted a property tax exemption, as shown in Appendix D, was actually to pay for a 99 year lease that the City of Regina entered with them in exchange for the use of their facility as a clubhouse for the Craig Golf Course - a golf course which is no longer in operation, and the future of which is subject to review by your organization. That said, I can’t help but wonder, why then are we still giving them a tax exemption? What’s even more bizarre is that, to be “fair”, other curling clubs in the City applied for, and continue to receive, a similar property tax exemption. I think the taxpayers of Regina deserve to know why these clubs receive tax exemptions when there are other groups that can barely make ends meet year over year and could desperately use these kinds of exemptions and financial assistance. 

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

Regina Property Tax Exemption Review
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. I am here to address the Regina Property Tax Exemption Review.

Once again, I am working hard to ensure our City provides fair and equitable treatment of all taxpayers in Regina. To that extent, I must say that I am very pleased to see this report not only being initiated by City Council, but also being reviewed in detail by your Administration and brought back for a full public review. With that said, I think we need to take it to the next step and develop a consistent policy to ensure that there are minimal questions and confusion behind what groups can qualify and how they can become aware of their ability to apply.

If I am reading this correctly, according to this report, there are a total of approximately $6.5 Million in property tax exemptions from 2015, with $3.7M of that being the City’s share. Is this accurate? The question that taxpayers want answered is, is this a reasonable amount? To answer that, there are many variables that would need to be looked at, but to me, the more important question to ask is, how much of this is truly necessary, as every dollar that we exempt, we must make up elsewhere, which is often in the form of additional property taxes to residents who are already taxed to death.

When I look at this report, the one item that really jumps out at me is the $2.8M for the Housing Incentive Policy in 2015, spread across 569 accounts. While I applaud you for taking steps to encourage rental housing development, this number is just outrageous and unfortunately, many of these properties are not tied to truly “affordable” housing. I know it is your hope that increasing the supply will cause the market to adjust accordingly, but handing out millions of dollars in tax incentives to an industry that is hardly “just scraping by”, to me is just a slap in the face to the individual property owners in our great City that desperately need truly affordable housing in our community. There are so many people that can barely scrape enough together to put food on their table, let alone pay their property taxes or rents. I’m sure the residents of Regina would love to have that $2.8M put towards even a fraction of their annual property taxes being exempted, which to me would have a far more reaching impact on our cost of living and housing supply than anything.
It is also very important to note that the original intent of the Housing Incentive Policy (See Appendix A) is very commendable, which talks about encouraging development within existing communities. What it appears has happened, though, by the reviewing the list of affected properties, is that this is now expanded to any development anywhere in the City (See Appendix B). This goes against the original intent of the policy altogether, as it doesn’t do anything to encourage infill development or reduce urban sprawl.

Further into this report, there is a specific property tax exemption that Economic Development Regina is now apparently in charge of, and that’s for Economic Development Incentives. I understand that the authority for this tax exemption has been delegated, but do you have a current copy of the criteria required to be met, to get this exemption? The reason I ask is that it seems rather subjective, and given there is only one account taking advantage of this incentive, I have to wonder why more aren’t being granted and what justifications are being used. I recall there being some sort of complex matrix the last time I reviewed this issue, but I’m wondering if that’s still being used.

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

ACTUAL PHOTOS OF PROPERTIES RECEIVING TAX EXEMPTIONS:



Tuesday, 1 March 2016

CITY OF REGINA NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR BYPASS

Happy March everyone!!

For anyone that hasn't heard, the Regina Bypass is the province's biggest infrastructure project in history, with the P3 Contract Price being $1.88 Billion. Of that, approximately $680 Million is intended to compensate the P3 Consortium for financing and "potential" unforeseen extra costs that may come up, say if the price of asphalt skyrockets tomorrow. Although, with the price of oil plummeting lately, it's far more likely that the Consortium will get even more profits from this lucrative project than anything. Off of the backs of you and I, the Saskatchewan taxpayer. Don't worry though, at least the Saskatchewan Party isn't tacking it onto our already ballooning debt, because anything financed through a P3 doesn't get counted against the provincial debt. Sneaky, hey? (Remember this come April 4, 2016 Provincial Election Day)

Getting to the point of this post, the City of Regina continues to act as though they are a victim in this whole project, trying to point the arrow of blame away from them, and onto the Wall Government. Most recently, this past Monday, City Council allowed the Province of Saskatchewan to "bypass" six million dollars in Service Agreement Fees that any other developer would have to otherwise pay. While some may argue that it's all tax dollars, in this instance, it's important to differentiate between provincial and municipal tax dollars, and the City taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick on this deal. (NOTE: The City may also be heavily responsible for the controversial land transactions swirling around the Bypass and GTH, but that's to come in a future post)

The Mayor felt obligated to reiterate that it's not the City's doing to locate the Bypass where it is, along Tower Road, and thus not their fault that they had to uproot (again) and relocate (again) the Pacer's Ball Park, which was the reason for this six million dollar issue being brought up. However, it seems that the Mayor forgets, and continues to forget - assumably deliberately - that, while he was on Council, it was actually the City of Regina that went out of it's way, even commissioning an expensive study, to have the Bypass located at Tower Road. This was against the recommendations of the Provincial Government of the time, the surrounding RM's, the general public, and surrounding First Nations. All of those other parties said that Gravel Pit Road was where it should be located, approximately 3KM further East of where it is. But, no, the City of Regina was deadset against that, and they wanted it at Tower Road because it would service their needs better - even though that's not what a Bypass is supposed to be at all.

Just in case the Mayor needs a reminder, here are a couple snapshots for his memory. I plan to meet with him this Friday at his Open House. I encourage you to as well, between 9AM and 11:30AM at City Hall. Just ask at the Commissionaire's desk to see him - you can't walk on to the elevators without a security badge now, because that's just how accessible our City Hall likes to be!





Thursday, 7 January 2016

IT'S 2016 REGINA - CHANGE IS IN THE AIR.

Happy New Year Regina!!!

It's been quite a while since I've posted on this blog. I've been updating my Facebook page quite a bit, but have sadly neglected this page for too long. Well, now we're officially into 2016 and that means....

It's time Regina.

Time to take back your City!!! Time to demand a shift in the focus at City Hall from the developers back to the great citizens. Are you tired of paying more every single year and getting less in return from your elected officials?

Well, 2016 is officially the year of CHANGE.

CHANGE your mind on what to expect out of a City Council and Mayor.

CHANGE your understanding of everything you currently know about downtown parking.

CHANGE your thoughts on our outdated and poorly neglected Transit system.

CHANGE the concept that costs and taxes must go up simply for the sake of going up.

CHANGE the flawed vision from the Regina Police that more money somehow magically means more safety.

Finally, CHANGE the name on that ballot box on October 26, 2016. 

Vote with your heart, not what others tell you to. (Yes, even me.)

#‎Chad4Regina ‪                  #‎Vote4JOECitizen

More details to come...

Saturday, 17 October 2015

More Questionable Land Dealings for Massive Profits

PRIVATE INVESTORS TO FLIP LAND FOR TOWER ROAD BYPASS FOR MASSIVE PROFITS

After extensive research, I can now say publicly, with the utmost of confidence, that LONG LAKE INVESTMENT INC. stands to profit significantly by flipping over 390 Acres of land along Tower Road for the proposed Regina Bypass. While sale prices are not yet being made public, we have confirmed that the minimum sale price offered for lands in that area is $100,000 per acre.  

This would translate to a total profit of at least $35 MILLION for the investors behind Long Lake Investment Inc. for the full 390 Acres. (Potentially up to $95 MILLION)

For a backgrounder, Long Lake Investment Inc. (LLI) was formed in 2011 with the apparent express intent of acquiring large amounts of land prior to the Bypass route being made public. These lands were presumably purchased knowing full well what the plans were for the Regina Bypass and with no intent to do absolutely anything with the lands other than hold them and sell them to the City and Province only a few short years later.

As per City of Regina Administration (See below), LLI made an arrangement with the RM of Sherwood to purchase lands at an agreed price of $12,500 per acre. In total today, LLI owns a minimum of 390.86 Acres. Do the math, and you will find they stand to gain nearly $35 MILLION in pure profit. And all they had to do was purchase the lands and hold onto them for a few years. Resulting in a 700% return on investment.

 
Further to this, file the following under the "what are they thinking?" category. On October 26, Regina City Council will vote whether to allow LLI to purchase a few select pieces of land, that are virtually worthless to any developer as they are Road Right of Ways. At least one of these pieces of land just happen to be smack dab in the middle of the new site for the Pacers Ball Park.

Then, LLI will immediately sell that very same land BACK to the City for an "undisclosed" price. Don't worry though, according to Mayor Fougere, the Province "should" be covering the cost of purchasing this land (back), so it won't impact the City's finances. (Apparently that's okay because provincial tax dollars come from some magical land and not from your back pocket as well)

Yes, Regina, this is how bold these guys are. 
They are literally allowing a private investor to buy and sell the same parcel of land for an assumably substantial profit right before your very eyes

Why isn't the media reporting on this? You tell me. Any other city in North America, they would have seen this and been all over it before an individual such as myself had to do the legwork to report on it. 

This particular land transaction is set to go before Regina City Council at the next City Council Meeting on Monday, October 26, 2015 at 5:30PM. As it is a Public Bylaw, you can attend the meeting and address this issue without a prepared speech. Keep in mind, however, that you are still subject to the five minute time limit and the typical rules of decorum apply. 
I've put together this handy dandy visual for the new Pacers Ball Park questionable land deal. The very interesting part of this is the land in the middle that is set to be sold to Long Lake Investment Inc. below market value ($12,500/Acre) and without public offering on October 26, 2015. This very same land is then set to be sold BACK to the City to allow for the new park development. The prices are TOP SECRET at the moment, but it would be fair to assume market rate which is currently between $100k-$250k/Acre.

I've noticed some on Riderfans.com are questioning the current market value, and I thought I would do them a favour and share a current listing to demonstrate lands in the area going for $250,000/Acre.

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I posted the following on my Facebook page just over a week ago, before the above information came to light.
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TOWER ROAD BYPASS - FOR PUBLIC SAFETY OR PRIVATE PROFIT?

The current route for the Regina bypass has been touted as the best option - but the question is best for whom? It would appear private developers have been pulling the strings of this project all along.

What can you do? You need to ask some very pointed questions of your Saskatchewan Government about the TWO BILLION DOLLAR BYPASS that doesn't even "bypass" the City!

If this was truly about PUBLIC SAFETY:
- the overpass at Pilot Butte would have been the #1 priority and begun long ago. Traffic lights would have been implemented years ago. This would have prevented so many tragedies that have occurred in recent years.
- the bypass would actually BYPASS the City of Regina. Where it is currently planned, homes and businesses will be smack next to it. Not to mention new neighbourhoods that will only be built IF the bypass is built along Tower Road.
- the initial stage of the bypass would be routed where it would actually take the heavy trucks off of Victoria Avenue. The majority of heavy trucks don't even go south of Regina. The majority are destined for the industrial area, which would not be helped in any way by the current proposal. The logical route would have been NORTH via the already existing Highway 46. It would also save taxpayers about a billion dollars.


It appears the current bypass is more about PRIVATE PROFIT:
- majority of lands along Tower Road between Arcola and Victoria were purchased in 2012 by a private investment company PRIOR to the official route being made public. This investment company is headed by a known ally of Mayor Fougere, Premier Wall, Prime Minister Harper and also happens to be a current board member of a City of Regina agency.
- Harvard Developments, DREAM Developments and Forster Developments all have neighbourhood and/or business developments in the immediate area of the East and West legs of that bypass.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

REMINDER: CIVIC MUSEUM MEETING SEPTEMBER 28, 2015

REMINDER: CIVIC MUSEUM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Monday, September 28, 2015 5:30PM

Just a friendly reminder that the City Council Meeting is upcoming on Monday, September 28, 2015 at 5:30PM. On the agenda is the funding for the Civic Museum of Regina (AKA Regina Plains Museum). It is currently near the top of the agenda, so it should be discussed within the first hour of the meeting. PLEASE do not show up late if you plan to attend.

Remember, the more physical bodies in attendance, the stronger the message will be that this is a very important issue to citizens!

If you are wishing to speak to the topic (i.e. delegation), then you are REQUIRED to submit your prepared speech (word for word unfortunately) to City Hall prior to 1:00PM on Thursday, September 24, 2015. You can either drop a copy off in person to the Ambassador's desk, or email it to clerks@regina.ca. REMINDER that you are only allowed to speak for five minutes, so please keep this in mind when submitting your delegation. You can submit as much (relevant) information as you wish, but remember you will only be allowed to TALK for five minutes, and you are not allowed to divert from your submitted speech.

You can find the Agenda by following this link: http://www.regina.ca/residents/council-committees/meeting-calendar-agenda/ - I cannot post a direct link to the document itself, as it is a live link and thus changes often and you would receive an error.

If you need any assistance to prepare for this meeting, please feel free to contact the City Clerk's office directly (306) 777-7262, or contact myself, and I would be more than happy to help out where I can.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

CIVIC MUSEUM OF REGINA TENTATIVELY SET TO REOPEN!!

Good evening Regina!!!

Something that I have been posting a lot on Facebook recently, but not on my website, is the issue of the Civic Museum of Regina closing - otherwise and formerly known as the Regina Plains Museum. As you may or may not be aware, the Museum faced closure last month because they simply didn't have enough funding to keep the doors open for the rest of the year. They had asked the City on a number of occasions over the past few years for a review of their funding situation - each time getting delayed or the run around. It's obvious that the closure certainly had an impact on the City's decisions, and it raised a much needed awareness around our great City (and province and country for that matter) of the great resource that is the Civic Museum of Regina.

I want to extend a HUGE congratulations to Rob Deglau, Scott Cheston and the entire board at the Civic Museum of Regina, as it is obvious that they have a great passion for Regina's Heritage and they have put a tremendous effort into getting the museum to where it is today.

Here is a video of my delegation from today: 

Here is a great story on the situation from CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/civic-museum-of-regina-gets-money-to-stay-open-and-plan-future-1.3220751

 DISCLAIMER: The reopening of the Civic Museum of Regina is tentative only, and subject to final approval by City Council on Monday, September 28, 2015. If you want to see City Hall approve this request, then be sure to be in attendance to show your support!

If you don't follow me on Facebook (why not??), here is the upate I posted today.

CIVIC MUSEUM UPDATE:

GREAT NEWS!!!!!! Although it still has to be approved by City Council at the end of the month, the City has tentatively APPROVED interim funding to enable to the Museum to reopen it's doors ASAP. I will be meeting with the board in the next few days to find out exactly what their plans are, but the City approved a one time additional $60,000 grant which is exactly what they asked for many months ago. This is in addition to the $25,000 to hire a consultant to develop a business plan.

Where do we go from here? Simple. Publicly show your support. Call or email your councillor, the Mayor, or members of the Museum board to tell them you fully support this motion and you thank them for their recognition of the importance of our Civic Heritage. Also, buy a membership for the museum! They are only $25/yr and a portion of it is tax deductible. Donate more than that, and it's all tax deductible!

Finally, please, if you have the time,
Attend City Council on Monday, September 28, 2015. 

The meeting begins at 5:30 PM, and depending on how many items are on the agenda, it could be a long evening. If you want to speak to this issue, you must abide by certain rules and submit your prepared speech (word for word) by the Thursday prior. If you aren't comfortable with public speaking, throw your ideas my way and I would be glad to include them in my speech. Regardless of whether you plan to speak or not, your attendance would mean a lot and show that there is strong public support for the museum.

In closing, I wouldn't say the coast is clear now, but I definitely can say I've gained a lot of respect for City Council today. The hardest part is done. Getting that extra funding to simply allow them to reopen the doors is HUGE! 

Thank you everyone for your attention and passion shown to this matter. Your support has not gone unnoticed.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

FREE PARKING FOR ALL! - CITY EMPLOYEES THAT IS

Happy Weekend Regina!!

FREE PARKING FOR ALL! - CITY EMPLOYEES THAT IS

One of the major discoveries of the Downtown Parking Study - and probably one of the prime reasons it was hidden from public view for so long - was that a significant contributor to the Downtown parking nightmare is FREE parking provided to City Employees and "VIPs". It should be noted that this does not come as a shock to the downtown parking enforcement officers, as that was the #1 complaint when surveyed about the downtown parking when I ran for Mayor in 2012.

While it is not discussed exactly how many city employees and "VIP"s get this privilege, it does equate to an annual revenue loss of $1.4 MILLION! This translates to 55% of downtown parking spots being occupied by City employees or "VIP"s while you are driving around, struggling to find a spot that you have to pay two dollars an hour for!

What's worse - If you factor in the total permits issued, which includes free and significantly discounted permits, they account for a whopping 91% of the 1,250 metered spots in Regina. NINETY ONE PERCENT! This means that at any given time, there may be only 9% of the metered parking spots available for you to use. Without question, this is one of the key factors that should have been addressed long before the meter rates were doubled. Thankfully, the consultants also agree.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: As there are currently no repercussions to these permit holders for parking longer than allowed, on average over 50% of them are overstaying their welcome compared to an average of 20% of coin parkers. Not only are they taking up valuable space that the rest of us pay for, they are staying far longer which multiplies the problem.

For those that don't want to read the full document, here is a clip for your ease of reference:


Why, then, has the City done nothing to address this situation?!



STAY TUNED FOR MORE!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

CITY HALL IGNORES CONSULTANT'S PARKING RECOMMENDATIONS

Good evening Regina!

CITY HALL IGNORES CONSULTANT'S PARKING RECOMMENDATIONS

UPDATE: It turns out this report has never actually made it to City Council, let alone the public's eye. It was only because of a Freedom of Information Request by the Regina Leader Post that this report is even available for the public to now view. (As of April 2015) This is a very unfortunate situation, and one that needs to be addressed. Surprisingly, no other media outlet has touched this story yet. The City's public response to this has been that there are a lot of "administrative" tasks included in the report. If you take a read yourself, you will see this is certainly not the case.

In recent months, the City of Regina has become famous for it's overly strict parking enforcement, and in recent years, has made moves that has made the Downtown a parking nightmare. It has gotten so bad, in fact, the metered parking use has dwindled by a whopping 30% since the new rates went into effect.

Speaking of new rates, did you know? Your tax dollars (125,000 of them in fact) went out to a consulting company in 2013 with the sole purpose of studying Regina's parking and making recommendations on how to make it more palatable.

Well, it turns out that someone at City Hall didn't feel this report was worth the paper it is written on, because the City has chosen to do things their own way anyways - $125,000 report be damned. Sadly, this isn't a shocker, because it happens more often than we would like to believe.

One of the recommendations was to increase meter rates to $2/hr. But wait - isn't that what they did? Yes! However, the consultants recommended some very key upgrades to our parking infrastructure long before that was to be implemented. They recommended the new rate go into effect sometime between 2015-2017. Only AFTER off street parking is addressed to give more capacity for those that work or live downtown.

If you think this is atrocious - just wait! In the next while, I will be posting about more items of note that the City really ought to have done months upon months ago. 

STAY TUNED!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

MISPLACED PRIORITIES: PARKING ENFORCEMENT "EDUCATION"

Hello Regina!!!

After a pretty long absence from the "City Beat", I've decided it's time to start posting a little more frequently once again. There are some pretty insane things happening at the City of Regina, and election time is just around the corner. What better time to remind those on Council and the great residents of Regina what issues are important and need better attention!

Briefly: Have you heard about the "oops" by the City of Regina lately? Apparently, they said they released "only" 1,000,000 Litres of "filtered" sewage into Wascana Creek, which flows into the Qu'appelle River, but they made a slight miscalculation, and it was actually 15,000,000 Litres. I'm not sure about you, but that discrepancy needs to be considered more than just an oversight, and someone at the City of Regina needs to be held accountable. Will it happen? Probably not.

Getting to today's big story, however, a story that has garnered much attention on Facebook through the Global and CJME posts today - one which was brought to you first by yours truly on my Chad4Regina Taxpayers Facebook page - the City of Regina turning their attention from Parking Enforcement to Parking Education. Wait....what?! What the hell is "parking education"?? My sentiments exactly. As I've said on Facebook, if you need an "education" program to explain your parking bylaws, perhaps your bylaws are too complex - or even more to the point - ludicrous and needless. (DISCLAIMER: They are by no means reducing enforcement here, they are simply reallocating current resources to "educate" people about the City's ludicrous parking bylaws while still ticketing the hell out of anyone that dares park an inch further away from the curb than they are allowed, or have their bumper hanging past the "no parking" signs)

For those that really want to know, it is the City of Regina spending your tax dollars to get parking enforcement officers to tell you "how best" to park. For example, if they approach you and ask how long you plan to be downtown, and you say all day, their "education" is to suggest parking in an off street parking lot. Apparently, citizens of Regina are assumed to be too stupid to figure that out in their own. 


Speaking of education, perhaps they should be educating their own staff?
 
The Million Dollar Question is:
What is the true purpose of this alleged education strategy? 
One can only wonder. 
Proactive planning for parking tickets perhaps?

Why is the City not investing it's time and resources and, more importantly, OUR MONEY, where it would be better served? Like actually working to provide additional off street parking locations for those that desire it. Leaving the on street parking for those that actually need it. You know, the customers that provide the necessary business to keep downtown businesses thriving? 

DID YOU KNOW? The City has experienced a 30% reduction in parking meter hours as per the 2014 City of Regina annual report. This means that either people are parking off street more (unlikely), simply not plugging meters (the data suggests this is not the case as parking ticket revenues have not skyrocketed), or are just avoiding the Downtown altogether. All data (straight from the City's own documents) point to the latter being the case. Surely downtown businesses have noticed this, and yet the City continutes to pretend it is not an issue!

 The solution here has to be far simpler than the City of Regina makes it out to be...

And the good news is that it is!

Come 2016, I plan to unveil a revolutionary plan that will allow all Regina residents, downtown visitors and downtown businesses to survive and thrive together in harmony.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Summer Fun in Regina!

Happy Summer Regina!!

How is everyone's summer going so far? It's been very hot and dry so far, which can be considered both good and bad, depending on your outlook. Good that we can be outside and enjoy the evenings without mosquitos, the sunny days in the park getting some rays and hit Milky Way for that cool, refreshing treat! Bad, however, for those of you who rely on precipitation for a livelihood. The fact is that farming is a way of life in Saskatchewan, and this hot, dry weather would be great if it was split up by a few odd days of rain in between to help the crops grow big and strong. In contrast, however, last year was a virtual monsoon which didn't help the farmers much either, so it's really a balancing act.

How about your kids? Have your kids been hounding you that they are "bored" already? I remember when I was younger, it would only take a week or two out of school until I was already looking for something exciting to do to keep the summer from dragging. Well, GREAT NEWS everyone!!! We brought it to you in 2012 and 2013 - and we are so happy to hear through the grapevine that the Jurassic Attack MONSTER RIDE TRUCK is coming back to the Queen City for another summer. This time, they'll be here giving rides in a more permanent location, on Eastgate Drive by the old Maxwell's Amusements - the old North Star Motel lot - SEVEN DAYS A WEEK!!

That's right, ladies and gentlmen, for the low, low cost of $10 per ride, you can give your kids the experience of a lifetime and let them blow off some steam. 

This is FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY folks!! Starting this week until September 30, so get out there often, because you know the summer will fly by before you know it.

For more information, visit their website at jurassicattack.com.




Tuesday, 3 February 2015

City Council's Discretionary Decision Making

Good afternoon Regina!

There have been some comments made by our Mayor and Council Members in the past few days that are pretty concerning, regarding the proposed strip club that the Regina Planning Commission approved (Councillor O'Donnell was one of those voting members), and City Council subsequently denied. These comments, coupled with a review of the January 26 City Council Meeting, bring up some serious questions that few have asked, and certainly deserve further attention.

The first comment I refer to is Mayor Fougere speaking to how a "future application" may be granted. For those that aren't aware, the applicant for this strip club is from out of town, and thus would be considered to be an "outsider" by many. This is important because of the fact that City Hall is well known in the development industry to be "less than cordial" to outsiders. Outsiders are given a much harder time when wanting to develop in Regina, than say, Harvard Developments or Dundee Developments. One prominent example is that of Wascana Village, which is looking to develop just outside of Regina. I recall speaking to the developer at one meeting, where it was made very evident that they wanted to do some work within the City of Regina, but it was made virtually impossible and they were given many roadblocks that they had not experienced in any other jurisdiction where they had developed previously.

What is concerning to me is what could possibly be that "future application". If you review the City Council Meeting video (available on the regina.ca website), you will note that City Council members focused far more on the actual business plan, than whether or not it fit with the required bylaws and guidelines. Was this to gain more of an understanding of a business venture they (or friends/associates) might be looking to get into? Was this to force an impression that this kind of industry was not welcomed in our City, but may be "in the future" when they (or their associates) have their business plan ready to go? What, exactly, did this application lack, that a "future application" may include that will meet the very-discretionary judgement of City Council?

Given Council's reputation for not giving into the "vocal minority", it is very difficult to believe that they would simply give in to a few delegations and a petition that is certainly lacking in any validity, in comparison to those of say the WWTP or the Stadium petitions and pushback. This leads me to believe that there is certainly an ulterior motive in their decision on Monday. If this is the case, there are even more questions than there will ever be answers.

In the end, the big questions that have yet to be answered:
What, exactly, was lacking from this application?
What could be done in future applications in order for Council to approve it? 

After everything is said and done, the point of these applications and subsequent approval or denial is to learn for the future. If Council is unwilling to provide recommendations for future applications, and leave so many questions in the air, then they should not deny any such application. Simply denying because it is "unsavoury" behaviour (their words) is not in their jurisdiction. Simply denying because they don't like the idea of acknowledging an industry that is already very prevalent in Regina is not in their jurisdiction. The fact of the matter is, as a business - a legal one at that - let the residents demonstrate if they want this in our community or not. And, not by a select few attending a meeting, but by providing support in the form of patronage. If enough residents support the business idea, then the business will be successful. If they do not, then the market has spoken, and it will have to close.

Finally, Mayor Fougere, and other Councillors, made it perfectly clear on January 26. They claimed they didn't see much public support of such a facility. I'm not sure which sand dune they had their head buried in this time, but could the same not be said for the WWTP and Stadium projects? Where was the public support there? Mayor Fougere claimed that those in support of projects "don't go to rallies". This is selective listening at best, and if they truly wanted to hear from the public, well, now they are getting their chance through the Petition that has quickly garnered over 2,000 signatures in only a matter of days. Far more signatures than those that were submitted to Council on January 26 in opposition to this application.*

*Note: Councillors claimed that there were "thousands" of signatures on submitted petitions. If you review the Council documents, it appears there were more like 200-250 that signed the three petitions (in total) that were circulated, some of which were even duplicate signatures.