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.