OpEd: Editor vents a good tongue lashing on himself – and others
By Don Elzer - MVS Editor - December 11, 2012
“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.” These are the words of Thomas Jefferson, and these are the same words that will frame the notions of this persons discontent – with himself.
I have neglected to notice a number of things that have been unfolding in our community because I have been attracted to current events which are pretty much impossible for me to change. These faraway events are much easier to write about because they are abstract and will not bring me complaints or knives in my back.
But alas, this is the pit – to become enveloped with things that cannot be changed, which then act as diversions moving me away from the things where I can make a difference.
Trying to address local issues, means someone who you know is going to deeply dislike you, and that dislike will grow to include many of their friends and associates.
At a Chamber of Commerce meeting, I was told that one of the executive members piped up and asked, “Does anyone know anything about this Brownfield Park, and I don’t mean the sh-t that’s been written on that guy’s website.”
Then there was the Mayor, who said at a Village Council meeting, “I don’t read any of that guy’s stuff because it’s just not accurate.”
Apparently at a Monashee Arts Council Meeting there are reoccurring comments like, “We certainly don’t want that guy involved with what we’re doing here.”
This is just a few of the examples that I have in my note book, always happening when I’m not in the room – but told to me by people who we’re in the room.
I will never get used to such brash comments behind my back, but I know it’s inevitable; what concerns me is that such comments are met without response from anyone else in the room.
Let me remind, all of those people who were there, and the many more who find comfort in gossip mills. This lesson is from Gulag 101 – bullies can only be bullies if there is no one in the room with the courage to stand up against them. There are not too many people in this area who are bullies, but there are many who tolerate the small number of them – and give them free rein. This allows the bullies to have control over us all.
This group dynamic, if left long enough, will eventually lead to a death camp or two. And I say this from having a direct family experience of such events – which always creeps up on a society and is seldom caught because the whistleblowers had already been sent to the gulags.
The majority of community leaders in the Monashee, do not want to see me at their meetings, because if I was there, and a board member or government official started running down someone in the community who was not there to defend themselves. I would have immediately stood up and given that person a tongue lashing like nothing they’d ever experienced before – and I would have embarked on another quote from Jefferson.
“Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.”
The Chamber of Commerce is recognized as a vehicle that represents business, not some businesses but all businesses; it also receives support from taxpayers, not some taxpayers, but all taxpayers.
An Arts Council is granted the privilege of being a “Council” by our government. By doing so, it is intended to represent all arts organizations, not just a few of them, or not just the one’s that show up.
A Village Council and its Mayor, has a social contract that goes beyond representing every single one of its citizens; it is required to help construct a nation – and that includes a respect for everyone, whether they are in the room or not.
So I am sorry. I let these acts and these people get under my skin. I chose the diversion of things like pipelines and the industrial poisoning of food instead of seeing the threats and opportunities that we are faced with right here – right now.
There’s too many issues happening here that need attention, it’s almost impossible to track all of them, but I’ll be posting a list of observations and questions that are upon us. Every person in this community needs to become engaged in the decision making process, we are at a terminus – the end of complacency is upon us.
Factory Farms deterrent to Local Economy
The hidden and not so hidden but little-known costs associated with these factories.
Huguette Allen - May 3, 2012
Factory farms are a threat to public health due to their heavy use of chemicals and antibiotics and to the toxic gases emanating from them. Chemicals are used to drench the surrounding monoculture fields that grow the GMO crops that feed the animals, and antibiotics are needed to compensate for illness resulting from extremely crowded conditions. These find themselves in the water, air, and soil as well as the food chain contributing to pollution and the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Factory farms are also a threat to the natural environment due to the toxic gases that emanate from them and due to the over application of manure that runs off the land and accumulates in waterways and kill aquatic life. In addition, factory farms "take over" communities by making it unattractive for any other kind of development to occur. They destroy the charm of rural communities, lower the values of properties, kill tourism, and make it impossible for small family farms and rural attractions to survive. It is telling that tourist brochures never showcase an area by showing these factories.
The hidden costs of factory farms are borne by all of us through our degraded environment and reduced health. We pay again through increased taxes for extra water treatment, farm subsidies that go mostly to factory farms, and for increased health care costs. The social costs are damaged communities, loss of potential tourism and business revenues, and loss of good farmland and family farms.
A proposal for council to evict Area D candidates
turns Lumby into La Mancha?
An ex-councilor with bad timing demonstrates questionable motivations
OpEd by Don Elzer
February 19, 2012
Past Village of Lumby councillor, Elinor Turrill believes she has a better idea, and she may have enough support at village council to move her idea forward to a larger audience.
Turrill claims she’s representing the citizens of the Village and she’s going to ask council to support her belief that only village residents should be able to hold elected office in the Village of Lumby. If council supports her effort they would then be required to advocate her idea beyond the village so that such a policy would be the case everywhere.
Ms. Turrill has found both her skinny horse to ride and her windmill.
She in a Don Quixote-like fashion will adorn her Spanish armour and lead a charge towards all that is in-just – which translated means she doesn’t want anyone from Area D holding office in the Village of Lumby.
And for most of us, except of course a band of Sancho Panza’s - we simply would ask the question, “why try to slay this particular windmill?”
I would suggest the answer is very clearly part of a pattern of dysfunction where a handful of people in Lumby, know what’s best for the rest of us.
They knew that the prison was the best thing for us and would have preferred if we would not have had a say.
They knew that a community forest was best for “them” and prefer that we should not have a say.
Now, they would rather not have the citizens of Lumby be free and able to make the choice of who they want to represent them in the village.
Democracy and the freedom to choose appear to be endangered – at least in Lumby.
Ms. Turrill may have won a seat on this present council if the slate was without candidates who were Area D residents; but that idea remains an assumption because all of the people who were elected resided in the village. I would suggest Ms. Turrill lost fair and square.
As far as having fear of those barbarians from the outside coming into the town to pillage its politics – that’s just nonsense and a windmill for sure.
Ms. Turrill needs to recollect that in the past, village voters have chosen Area D residents as village council members on many occasions. Councilors Ron Neufeld, Deb Leroux, Tracy Williamson, Ben Winters and Matt McLenehan all shared the distinction of being outlanders. All of them contributed a great deal to the community.
Oh yes – and then of course there was Councilor Larry Thompson who lived in Whitevale (Area D) and who could probably to this day, top the polls in any village vote.
Because he got things done – a detail which seems to have eluded Ms. Turrill in her Quixotesque realm of thinking.
Thompson tirelessly moved issues and projects forward, and he would argue with me if I said he single handedly delivered the skateboard park – but I’ll say it anyway.
Why isn’t he on council anymore?
He couldn’t stomach the politics and a certain handful of people in the village who talk and complain much – and do nothing themselves.
And of course in the realm of the Quixotesque there is always a reversal of dimension, and in this case its village resident Dave Simpson who had been the Mayor of Lumby, who then later served one term as an Area D Director – without living in Area D.
Now isn’t that a brain twist?
That’s almost like the end justifying – no means.
We all have a soft spot for the Don Quixote’s of the world, so compassion must be evident with regards to this issue. Like all instruments of democracy, the village council should thoughtfully ponder the proposal from Ms. Turrill.
But at the same time, this proposal is not about eccentric misgivings belonging to a harmless journey into fiction. Council must consider that the residents of this region whether they live in the village or outside, have no stomach for divisive nonsensical issues. These issues represent an effort carried on by a few to enhance their own layers of unhappiness - which have been amplified by the loss of a jail.
I might be wrong – but I think that this proposal is nothing more that an act of revenge against the residents of Area D.
Ms. Turrill should embrace her character and discover the true journey of Don Quixote, which in this case could be summed up by a quote from the story, "Liberty, Sancho, my friend, is one of the most precious gifts that Heaven has bestowed on mankind."
This is the time, when a true leader should emerge on village council – a peacemaker, one who will stand their ground, move beyond these vengeful acts, and bring about the healing process so that people can once again come together and do good work.
Let’s let the light shine in, let’s move away from the darkness and most of all, let’s all leave the windmills alone, there’s enough “real” work that needs attention right now.
Let’s get on with it.
The Jail Decision: Mayor continues to be out of touch
The village needs to build bridges not divide
OpEd: By Don Elzer
February 6, 2012
Lumby Village Council would be wise to put a temporary gag order on Mayor Kevin Acton before he further divides an already split community that is now eager to mend fences.
It’s like night and day when one compares the comments between the Lumby Mayor and Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino. Perrino was gracious and realistic, as she talked to CBC news regarding the prison decision going to Oliver.
"Our site was a good location but unfortunately the infrastructure costs would have been huge. And I was told by Brent Merchant (Deputy Minister to the Solicitor General) that really all of the sites, other than this Oliver site, had major infrastructure issues. So for them, in the end, that is the reason why they picked it," said Perrino.
"The site that they picked is flat, it's serviced, it's big, it's beside the highway. You know, once you saw that, it certainly made sense as to why they picked it," she said.
On the other hand Mayor Acton’s first words were stated in the Morning Star.
"I'm choked. The whole North Okanagan will lose out on a huge economic opportunity."
He added, "It's frustrating because I know how badly Lumby needs the jobs."
Mayor Acton then went on to blame the no-prison side of the debate where he stated that he believes that the deep division among Lumby residents over a prison played a role in the government's decision.
"You have to look at the resistance. The First Nation did an incredible job pitching it and there was absolutely no resistance there," he said.
If the Mayor continues to not recognize reality, he will continue to divide the community as issues emerge. The reality is that residents are allowed to have differences of opinions, they are allowed to exercise protest, and it is up to governments to listen to those differences and to make sound decisions based on them.
Mayor Acton and previous council didn’t listen to the cross-section of the wider community. In order to move forward with a project like a prison which would impact the fabric of the community, they required a significant majority – they didn’t get it, and they ignored concerns regarding that fact.
There is also the core reality of competition between proposals, the Oliver site is much more suited and ready for construction, the due diligence has been done, and for the most part the province must have cringed when Lumby council was telling residents that the provincial government would be eager to pay for water and sewer to service the proposed Lumby prison site.
And then of course we really didn’t know where that proposed site was.
Mayor Acton says he’s eager to move on, insisting that with a decision on a prison now known, that council and the community will have to look at ways to attract new businesses.
"A goal of mine is to start working on the economy," he says.
But Acton’s behavior continues to be questionable. Today, he once again cites how bad things are in Lumby, without really knowing if that’s the case.
How many people are unemployed and actively looking for work?
What are they trained to do – and what sort of work are they looking for?
What is the state of small business in the community, what are they saying they need?
What are the real facts?
The mayor has ignored the details of the problems that are at hand, that he continues to expound in the media perceived facts that cannot be backed up by substance; and he’s poised to cause further divisions as the Village attempts a land grab in Area D which is a constituency that he needs to build a bridge with.
If the Mayor is out of touch, Lumby council needs to take charge of the direction of the Village business in order to return competent, cooperative government.
That’s my opinion.
Like everything else now the Community Forest raises questions
A remake of the jail dysfunction as the Village grabs land
in Area D - will it cost village taxpayers 400G a year?
November 17, 2011 - By Don Elzer
We are on the eve of a civic election that will serve as a pivotal point in our local history here. Every reader of MVS will know by now that I am a staunch critic of the jail proposal and have been so from the beginning – why?
Simply, because it’s such a bad idea, and even the most simple of research scans will confirm that point. Some people are saying, “Well, its up to the provincial government anyway, they won’t pick Lumby – so the whole thing will go a way on its own”.
The belief of most of the Lumby council candidates is “The jail decision is now in the hands of the provincial government”.
So this is what I tell those people.
There have been a lot of people over the years who have worked hard to empower this community so that we’re not caving to the whims of the provincial government. Any platform from any elected official or candidate that hands local community interests to other levels of government, in this day and age, is irresponsible.
When Pat Duke was mayor of Lumby he was a man of small stature but he had a giant personality, his gruff and graveled voice boomed over others when necessary and he was one of the few people in the province who could actually talk above the voice of then Socred Premier WAC Bennett and its why Pat ended up as President of the Union of BC Municipalities.
I think if Pat were alive today, he would be helping me punch the keyboard here.
Pat inspired pushing the village limits out so that the big mills would be paying their land taxes to the village instead of elsewhere – the mills never argued – NORD didn’t argue – the province didn’t argue. He knew ahead of anything else that to get things done you had to have all of the people on your side, not just 20, 30 or 50 percent, you had to have everyone on side because then you had the power required to slay the dragons.
Pat would have never tried to sell a jail to Lumby, and he most certainly would not have disenfranchised the Area D residents, because he knew that if the region were to become morally divided he would lose his ability to get things done.
He would have walked from the jail idea very early on, and in retirement, would have clearly opposed it.
But at the same time, if the Pat Duke’s of this province would have become immortal, sawmills would not have been separated from Tree Farm Licenses. That sin from the BC Liberals is why the mills are gone from Lumby today.
So Pat never had to deal with that particular dysfunction.
That brings us back to the present, and the choices that have emerged.
Contrary to most of the village candidates who believe we should enter into a healing phase and just simply forget about the prison, I say their playing the denial card and as a result, have been allowed to escape the hard questions. In the current MVS feature titled “Forking over the Future” there is a quote from Village of Lumby Council Minutes from March 1, 2010 which includes a report where the Village Council voted unanimously to waive fifty (50%) of the Development Cost Charges (DCC) on Eligible Developments (By-law 708-2010). This motion was followed by another set of motions that included all three readings that would approve the Village of Lumby Financial Plan for the period of 2010-2014. On this motion the vote was “recorded with Mayor Acton, Councillor Williamson and Councillor Winters in-favour; while Councillor Green and Councillor Mindnich were opposed. No reason was cited for the dissention but my guess is that Green and Mindich didn’t want the tax increase that the Financial Plan offered up.
So on one hand, councilors don’t want taxes to go up but on the other hand they cut DCC’s by 50 percent. When a community cuts DCC’s there are always serious consequences, rarely do governments clearly explain how much money will be lost when DCC’s are chopped – when you do so you are directly impacting the long-term revenue contribution for replacing capital projects. How do you make up that lost revenue when its time to rebuild a road or sewer?
You either raise taxes, or go into a deficit.
Then there’s the evil-doers who live outside of the village limits. This relationship between Area D and the Village will probably become more challenging as time goes on. Village Council is trying to secure a Community Forest License entirely in Area D and without the Electoral Area being a partner in the current application. When I went to the Village Community Forest Open House, I asked where is Area D representation in the plan? The village representatives told me they never really thought about that.
I was shocked to see how large the area was and that the Annual Allowable Cut negotiated with the province was 20,000 cu.meters of wood. It’s been suggested that the Village would share a profit of $400,000 annually with their Indian Band partner. That shared profit would help the “village” revenues but not those in Area D. I suggested to the village reps that 20,000 cu.meters a year might mean a loss of $400,000 a year. I told them they would require 50,000 cu.meters a year to generate the money that they are seeking – and even then there is a risk, depending on the cost for managing such a large territory and ever-fluctuating wood prices.
The village reps argued with me, and I suggested to them, “Presently, you are telling the public that the village is going to make a profit, but what happens if it loses money – how will those losses be paid?”
They didn’t answer the question, insisting that the scenario wasn’t a possibility; so I answered it for them – I said that it would be village taxpayers paying the short-fall. I then asked them, are they sharing that scenario with village taxpayers before they put the application in?
The answer I believe is clearly “no”. Now I heard at the All Candidates Forum that the Mayor has discovered that they need 50,000 cu.meters in order to be feasible – yet the only person that told them that – out loud, for all to hear, including the councilors in attendance was myself.
This tells me that the Community Forest Proposal is without real input and that there is no real well thought out “plan”. This is not surprising since there are only Village council members and their consultant on the Community Forest Committee, which consists in part of a hospitality worker, health practitioner and a retired healthcare worker.
From what I was told, there are no local forestry workers and value-added producers on the application committee that oversees the plan. I find this astonishing.
This places Lumby taxpayers at risk.
Area D residents are at risk because they are not involved in a public resource extraction license in their governance area.
Also, nobody really knows if that area can withstand a 50,000 cu/meter harvest because of all the difficult and sensitive riparian areas which can add a great deal to harvesting costs even if the wood was available.
I believe the errors in judgment that have surrounded this council occurred because the council has internalized its decision making to the point where it’s satisfied with delivering government to a few entitled people.
This is the very worst local government dynamic that one could ever imagine when negotiating for a community forest or a provincial jail – or whatever else.
Lumby will negotiate from a place of ignorance and weakness while provincial bureaucrats have their way with us.
It is potentially a tragedy that continues to unfold.
Just how badly do we need the jail?
June 14, 2011
Just how badly does Lumby need the jail?
The proposal process itself has done long-term damage to relationships in the community; tourism operators have already lost millions; we’ve learned that some of us will easily exchange sensitive ecological habitat for an incarceration economy; and public officials comfortable with taking the attitude that if some of us don’t like it – we should leave town.
Lumby village council continues to pursue a prison after a majority of village residents supported the concept during a referendum while a majority of Area D residents who voted in a separate referendum came out against a jail. Between the two jurisdictions, there was a 56 per cent “no” vote – but the council doesn’t really care, they’re going ahead anyway.
Now NORD Area D director Rick Fairbairn, wants the province to halt a review of correctional facility sites in Lumby.
“I implore the province to consider the wishes of the entire community by recognizing the no position…Electoral Area D envelops the Village of Lumby with a significant number of residents living within the first few kilometres of the village boundary,” he wrote in a letter to Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond
“Area D is an integral part of Lumby’s social and economic well-being with children attending schools in Lumby and residents supporting local businesses and belonging to Lumby community clubs and churches.”
Fairbairn also stated that an influx of inmates will place pressure on public services like waste disposal.
“The Shuswap River and the rural beauty of Area D have given rise to numerous tourism businesses which have already been, and will continue to be, severely impacted by the stigma attached to a prison town,” he said.
But Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton is indifferent when he responded to Fairbairn’s demands by telling media, “He feels he’s representing the majority of his constituents.” He added that there was a low voter turnout in Area D and the referendum results may not actually reflect the view of most residents.
“A lot of people who voted no live 25 or 30 minutes away from the village. That would be the same as us saying we don’t want something in Vernon.”
Which is what Mayor Acton did when he said “no” to NORD and pulled the village out of a number of regional services. The mayor’s view of the local landscape continues to astonish locals. Voters living 25 or 30 minutes from Lumby would most likely live in Area E on the outskirts of Cherryville. In fact, most of the residents in Area D live within 10 minutes of the village which might be a comparable drive time as Okanagan Landing is to Vernon City Hall.
There’s a lot amiss with regards to what Mayor Acton says to the world – and he gets away with it because nobody checks what he says – or does.
Well Mayor Acton meet Citizen Al.
Citizen Al is poised to become a nightmare for both Mayor Acton and MLA Eric Foster - a local resident fed up with lies from government, injustice and the lack of investigative journalism – and being so bold as to revert to one of the foundations of honest government – the ability for a citizen to launch a formal legal complaint against public officials.
Alan Goettemoeller, is Citizen Al who lives in Area D, and he’s actually doing what many area residents have only thought about doing – he has gathered the courage to enlist the RCMP to launch a formal investigation and in doing so has most likely brought an end to any chance that Eric Foster will have in gaining a second term as MLA.
A photo in the Morning Star newspaper showing Foster, Acton and Fairbairn in a shower together might be an indicator of the downpour of discontent about to spill from voters who are demanding that they come clean on past events.
For Foster the vultures are circling as local disgruntled Liberals are positioning themselves to challenge the former Lumby Mayor for the BC Liberal nomination. For many of them enough is enough when the RCMP opens a file to investigate complaints of alleged collusion on the same week that secures a half a million dollars for his old stomping ground, while an overcrowded hospital gets ignored.
No doubt there’s a little voice saying to him “Your done” and he’s heard it. Given official letters against the prison and now a formal complaint to the RCMP, the Vernon-Monashee MLA, now believes the conflicting positions from Lumby and Area D could make it difficult for the ministry to make a decision on the prison.
“It doesn’t make the situation any easier. It certainly will have an impact,” he said.
So as the prison proposal comes apart at the seams and political careers slide into an abyss, Citizen Al may bring to the surface a dysfunction that is plaguing democracy – the process of government hiding behind closed doors.
For nearly a year Lumby Village Council was unanimous on their stance on the prison and eager to attract one, yet time and again it was demonstrated that at least half the residents from the village and beyond were against it. One would think that if there was fair representation that council should be divided on the issue, but it wasn’t, until after the referendum when only one councilor broke ranks.
Even recently at the NORD level, it wasn’t at all logical when Electoral Area Directors debated for less time about the placement of a provincial jail in Lumby as they did about their per diem and conference pay. In fact, with very little discussion and a near unanimous decision, they chose not to support a rigorous examination of the village’s jail proposal - which makes one wonder if that decision was made well in advance of their public meeting.
It’s a possible trend that residents should be following closely. Are our elected officials holding policy and decision-making discussions behind closed doors and out of public view? Are they in fact holding unannounced in-camera meetings discussing decisions related to their role as elected officials? Are meetings of record already rehearsed and simply staged for the benefit of an audience? If any or all of this is true, perhaps this behaviour has become part of the political culture in British Columbia?
Who or what is to ask whether this is all acceptable to you and I?
There was a day when the media would rigoursly examine such occurrences and investigate, but in today’s journalistic world, stories are framed with “he said” – “she said” interviews, without really checking whether there is any truth to anything that he or she are saying.
People are eager for the truth – and we are becoming impatient.
Go get‘em Citizen Al.