Archive for November, 2006

the value of me

November 28, 2006

If you worked for someone else but had to choose your own pay rate, and no matter what you picked, a large number of shareholders would be indignant, how would you determine fair value for your work?

Some say that it’s none of my concern because I knew what the rate was when I offered to do the job. But what happens now that I’ve spent 4 years in the job and cannot deny or rationalize away the fact that the expectations are different than I thought it was, and now different than it was, when I started?

Some say that any pay change should take effect for the next council. Funny, no one seemed to mind when council made immediate cuts to its allowable expenses. Because serving as a councillor is a public service and paying taxes is not voluntary, it is assumed that, even if the councillor comes to realize the position is undervalued, out of compassion for the taxpayer, a councillor should be willing to make sacrifice for the remainder of the term. But how much sacrifice is reasonable?

Some say that someone else should choose the number. Previous councils had a committee of citizens determine the rate. Those committees looked to other cities to determine a market rate for a councillor. They looked for what they felt was a reasonable increase in the context of other cities. But there is no competition between cities to attract councillors, so if there is no market, how can there be a market rate? And looking only to determine a fair increase assumes that the rate is already generally appropriate. So how is the rate itself fairly determined?

The political reality is that there is no right time for an elected person to review their own pay. In our intuitive sense of fairness, no one should be choosing their own rate of pay – it is an obvious conflict of interest, fraught with opportunity for abuse – especially when the person paying has no choice but to pay whatever rate is chosen – that taking someone’s money for a self-interested purpose without their explicit blessing is akin to stealing.

So what is fair?

Though entirely uncomfortable with the process that got council to a decision last night – it certainly wasn’t an altruistic, idealist decision – but I do feel it is the right one.

The new rate would be measured against the average wage earning income for a White Rock citizen. The variable is the amount of time councillors spend on the job.

I believe this is fair because I would then be paid based on the community I serve. I was elected to represent the interests of the community, I think the fairest way to value that role is to reflect the community I’m representing.

I also believe that the manner in which the rate is calculated should acknowledge the time required to do the job.

While I agreed in the last remuneration review that the rate should be set for after the next election so that incoming councillors can infer that citizens have given them permission to serve in this role at the prescribed rate, I now believe that debating pay rates for councillors during an election would only serve to distract from more important issues and creates opportunity for political opportunism that does not consider with sober thought the value of the time and effort required to fulfill the role.

I admit, it is very difficult for me to turn away from that principle. It seems like I am having to choose between competing principles. And in that case, I am choosing based on how I believe those principles would relate to practice – based on my experience of what would really happen as opposed to what should happen in theory.

I think, when it’s thoroughly thought out, it’s fair to base council’s remuneration on the citizens we serve factored by time spent fulfilling those duties, and that the change be implemented to reflect the work I’m doing now.

think of a better box for the homeless

November 19, 2006

if everyone had to think outside the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing.


There isn’t enough money to go around, and to try to help everyone a little bit—to observe the principle of universality—isn’t as cost-effective as helping a few people a lot. Being fair, in this case, means providing shelters and soup kitchens, and shelters and soup kitchens don’t solve the problem of homelessness. Our usual moral intuitions are little use, then, when it comes to a few hard cases. Power-law problems leave us with an unpleasant choice. We can be true to our principles or we can fix the problem. We cannot do both.

– Malcolm Gladwell, Million Dollar Murray, New Yorker, February 2006

new tools needed

November 18, 2006

An item in a report to the GVRD Housing Committee (April 12, 2006) reminded me of a problem described to me by our Planner and CAO a few years ago. The report lists conclusions from a dialogue in the Sustainable Region Initiative series.

“There is a major problem in the planning process; the initiative is left to developers to make proposals in which they have to invest considerably and have no certainty of succeeding. The planning process and planners have been reduced to focusing on negotiating public amenities, servicing and other contributions to the municipality as a condition of success. This is a costly and uncertain process which discourages the needed densification process.”

“We need to put the planning back into planning. Municipalities need to identify and pre-zone areas suitable for densification and then charge the appropriate development fee.”

It sounds like there is a need for the province to provide better tools for cities. Zoning should be about land-use and building form, but cities are using the zoning process to ensure development pays for community amenities or changes to the surrounding area.

Things might work better if zoning was really about zoning and there were other methods or mechanisms available to cities for acquiring public amenities. The whole process would be much more deliberate and less confusing while providing greater certainty for both the community and developer.

Using the rezoning process to obtain public amenities is a clever trick that’s become institutionalized out of necessity, but that’s not really what it’s for. Unfortunately it seems that using it for this end is compromising its real purpose — to encourage and provide direction for development — to move toward implementing the land-use principles in the OCP.

canary in the White Rock coal mine?

November 17, 2006

The stats presented last week by Clyde Hertzman show that children living in White Rock (proper) entering kindergarten are not nearly as healthy and school-ready as they were a few years ago. The change is so dramatic that it is among the biggest declines in the province. At the workshop following, I could hear surprise at each of the many tables reviewing maps for the whole school district that White Rock children were doing so poorly — an anomaly on the peninsula.

On the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) website there is a pdf that shows how children’s development has changed over the past few years for the worse.

I’m not as familiar with this one, but the BC Atlas looks like it offers suggestions on how to improve a community’s environment for children.

This pdf shows the difference between the two “cycles” – data collected in (I think) 2002 and 2005. The colour coding indicates province-wide standing.

I’m hoping to get some time to review this stuff closer. When I do, I’ll share what I find.

Having now collected a second ‘cycle’ of data, they are able to gauge change by comparing stats collected a few years ago to numbers from last year. The differences are interesting enough in themselves, but Dr. Hertzman explained that the first set of children have now completed their grade 4 standard test, so their development can be tracked.

Unfortunately, it has proven what academics have long theorized –- that a child’s readiness for kindergarten is an indicator of how successful they will be through their school career. This appears to be a bullet-proof argument for early childhood education.

Dr. Hertzman compared Canada to other developed countries. A chart of GDP:debt shows that we have gone from a critical point a decade ago to having by far the lowest ratio.

He described this as an “addiction” to debt reduction. Clearly, making sacrifices to further pay down the national debt is no longer necessary. It may be politically satisfying, but neglects investments that would make the country stronger.

This is likely not helped by the social sector’s tendency to “cry wolf” non-stop. For example, advocates for the health care system are constantly protesting that they need more money, but evidence shows that more money won’t make a significant difference. Canada, when compared to other countries, gets good value for a high standard of health care.

However, Canada is an absentee parent when it comes to early childhood education. Our level of investment in our children is embarrassing. And now that there is irrefutable evidence that their start in life is a powerful determinant of their health and success in later years, the current government’s failure to establish national childcare standards seems incredibly myopic. It underscores a fear that the Conservatives do not understand that early childhood education is not babysitting, and that their priorities for investing in our future are based on obsolete assumptions.

In contrast, Dr. Hertzman described Finland. It has some of the highest quality of life indicators and their economy is robust. Years ago, with the Soviet collapse, they were suffering 20% unemployment. Yet, their commitment to health care and early childhood education wasn’t slashed. And it paid off.

While Canada may brag of a lower national debt, Finland has higher literacy rates and other enviable strengths that bolster their economy now, and hold good promise for long-term continued success. On the other hand, Canada’s strategy for the future seems to be clinging to a delusional hope that having an exceptionally low national debt will offset an embarrassingly high illiteracy rate and mediocre workforce.

Dr. Hertzman’s HELP is world-renowned, pioneering research that is generating strong conclusions that are sobering and motivating, for White Rock and Canada.

clean-air entranceways

November 16, 2006

To assist with drafting an amendment to White Rock’s Smoking Regulation Bylaw, I have compiled information and examples from these jurisdictions with regulations on smoking within close proximity to building entrances: Delta, BC; Airdrie, AB; Beaumont, AB; Camrose, AB; St. Albert, AB; Stettler, AB; Strathcona, AB; Huron Shores, ON; Sioux Lookout, ON; State of California; Philadelphia, PA; Santa Fe, NM; Normal, IL.

I have no doubt that this list is not exhaustive. There are likely many other examples throughout North America. However, these are those I have found to date which have their legislation available on the Internet. Unless it would be of further assistance, I do not plan on researching further precedent legislation as I presume these form a sufficient body of reference.

Considering the material I have found and am presenting here, I suggest that the distance for White Rock’s amendment be a minimum of 6m(19.7ft). This would not be unusual in the context of the examples cited below (including the entire State of California) and is supported by scientific evidence currently available.


Regulations in each of these jurisdictions have sections regarding signage. However, none require anything more than a sign posted at the entrance. Most had criteria for the size, but not distance of placement from the entrance. Most stipulated certain text and a standard symbol.


Most regulations included sections on ashtrays. It appears standard, not that ashtrays be required, but that they simply not be located (or that they be removed from) within the area designated smoke-free.


Outdoor environmental tobacco smoke has not been extensively studied, as has indoor smoke. A report titled Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Indoor and Outdoor Public Places from the Provincial Health Services Authority in Vancouver BC, June 8 2006, references two studies. This is an excerpt from the conclusion of an unpublished study by James Repace, MSc.

Smoke levels do not approach background levels for fine particles or carcinogens until about 7 meters or 23 feet from the source. Therefore it makes sense to post signs warning smokers not to smoke closer than about 20 feet from building entrances, and to place ashtrays at that distance and no closer. Moreover, because some persons suffer from severe asthma, and secondhand smoke is a known asthmatic trigger, this is another good reason to keep smokers from congregating closer to building entrances than 20 feet.

In the following examples, the radius from an entranceway designated smoke-free ranges from 2m(6.6ft) to 10m(32.8ft) — the shortest distance being in Sioux Lookout ON and the greatest in Delta BC. Most simply state that smoking is prohibited from within a certain distance from an entrance or exit. Delta BC, Santa Fe NM, and the State of California treat the area outside of vents and windows the same as they do doors. The intention seems to be, not just to prevent unwanted exposure to tobacco smoke for people accessing the buildings, but also to prevent smoke from entering the building.

Delta, BC — 2006
There have been media reports of outdoor smoke-free zones being established in Delta. But it seems the only information available is a report to Council from the Chairs of the Parks and Fields Committee, and Civic Properties and Buildings Committee dated August 25, 2006. My understanding is that their recommendation was adopted but I was unable to find any resulting regulation or bylaw at this time. These are the paragraphs that seem most relevant to White Rock’s requested bylaw amendment:

RECOMMENDATION: That establishment of smoke-free zones for exterior areas of municipal facilities and parks, where the public must pass to enter a building, a ventilation system draws air into the building, or where the public tend to congregate to participate or view regularly scheduled events.

Identifying locations that should be smoke-free is a relatively easy task. A distance of approximately 30 feet (10 metres) from access points to buildings, from windows that open, where people congregate, playgrounds, sport field bleachers, directly behind backstops and players benches are the most likely areas. Communication of the smoke-free zone is proposed by way of signage and painting on the walkways leading into the buildings.

Establishment of smoke-free zones would mean that employees who smoke would also be asked to follow the same practice. Relocation of ashtrays to areas further away from the building entries may be necessary. It is suggested smoke-free zones be established at recreation centres, park facilities, and the front entrance to municipal hall, as they are locations where public use is most concentrated.


Airdrie, AB — 2004, 2006
3.1 …the following are Designated Public Places for the purposes of this bylaw:
a) Public Buildings and those areas within 3m of an entrance or exit to a Public Building;
b) City Buildings and those areas within 3m of an entrance or exit to a City Building;
d) Workplaces and those areas within 3m of an entrance or exit to a Workplace.
3.2 No person shall Smoke in a Designated Public Place, whether or not a ‘No Smoking’ sign in posted or visible.

Beaumont, AB — 2003
2.14 “Public Building” means any enclosed building or structure to which the public can and does have access by right or by invitation
2.19 “Town Building” means any building owned, leased, operated or occupied by the Town;
4.1 …the following are Designated Public Places for the purposes of this bylaw:
a) Public Buildings and those areas within 6m of an entrance or exit to a Public Building;
b) Town Buildings and those areas within 6m of an entrance or exit to a Town Building;
c) Public Transportation Vehicle Shelters; and,
d) Workplaces and those areas within 6m of an entrance or exit to a Workplace.
4.3 No person shall smoke in a Designated Public Place, whether or not a “No Smoking” sign is posted or visible.

Camrose, AB — 2003
201 (2) Except when on a public sidewalk, no person shall carry or possess a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe, or burn tobacco in any manner within three (3) metres of an entrance or exit to a public premises.
(4) No person shall provide services or allow services to be provided to any person who is carrying or possesses a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe in an area or premises in which smoking is provided by this By-Law.

St. Albert, AB — 2004
2. (a) “Building” means a fully or substantially enclosed structure constructed such that it may accommodate human occupation. A bus shelter shall be considered a building for the purposes of this Bylaw;
3. (1) Unless an exception applies under this Bylaw, no person may engage in Smoking activity:
(a) at or in any City-owned structural facility;
(b) within a Building;
(c) within 3 metres of any Building entrance or exit, except on a public sidewalk adjacent to a roadway;
(d) on the grounds of an Outdoor Public Event, except in an area reserved for motor vehicle parking;
(e) on a Patio

Stettler, AB — 2004
3.1 Subject to Section 3.2, the following are Designated Public Places for the purposes of this bylaw:
a) Public Buildings and those areas within 6m of an entrance or exit to a Public Building;
b) Town Buildings and those areas within 6m of an entrance or exit to a Town Building;
c) Public Transportation Vehicles and Public Transportation Vehicle Shelters; and
d) Workplaces and those areas within 6m of an entrance or exit to a Workplace.
3.2 No person shall Smoke in a Designated Public Place, whether or not a “No Smoking” sign is posted or visible
4.1 The proprietor and employer of every Designated Public Place shall ensure that no ashtrays are placed or allowed to remain in any Designated Public Place.
4.2 The proprietor and employer of every Designated Public Place shall, if employees or members of the public from time to time gather to smoke at a location outside the Designated Public Place, ensure that ashtrays are placed more than 6m from the entrance or exit of the Designated Public Place.

Strathcona, AB — 2006
2.2 (t) “Public Place” means all or any part of a building, structure or other enclosed area to which member of the public have access… including, …
(iii) within 3m of the main entrance or exit to a Public Place;
4.1 no Person shall smoke;
(a) in a Public Place

Huron Shores, ON — 2004
1.3 “entranceway” means the area within a 4 metre radius surrounding any public entrance to a public building or workplace, but does not include a street, road or highway;
2.1 No person shall smoke in any workplace or entranceway to any workplace within the Municipality, whether or not a No Smoking sign is posted.
3.1 No person shall smoke in any public place or entranceway to any public place within the Municipality, whether or not a No Smoking sign is posted.

Sioux Lookout, ON — 2003
2. (2) The outside area not forming part of the street, road or highway that is within two metres of an entrance to any public place as designated pursuant to Subsection 2(1) hereof is also designated as a public place for the purposes of this By-Law.
3. (1) No person shall smoke in a public place.

California (State of) — 2005
7596. (a) “Public building” means a building owned and occupied, or leased and occupied, by the state, a county, a city, a city and county, or a California Community College district.
7597. (a) No public employee or member of the public shall smoke any tobacco product inside a public building, or in an outdoor area within 20 feet of a main exit, entrance, or operable window of a public building

Philadelphia, PA — 2005
(3)(a) No person shall smoke in any of the following places
(xiii) (.7) Outdoors within ten (10) feet of any entrance to any Enclosed Area in which smoking is prohibited under this Section.

Santa Fe, NM — 2006
10-6.2 E. the city council finds and declares that the purposes of this section are
(1) to protect the public health and welfare by prohibiting smoking in public places of employment;
(2) to guarantee the right of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air; and
(3) to recognize that the need to breathe smoke-free air shall have priority over the desire to smoke.
10-6.7 (1) Smoking shall occur only at a distance of twenty-five (25′) feet in radius from the entrance to any enclosed area where smoking is prohibited to insure that tobacco smoke does not enter the area through entrances, windows, ventilation systems or any other means.

Normal, IL — 2006
17.6-7 Smoking is prohibited within fifteen feet of any public entrance to an area in which smoking is prohibited.
17.6-8 … the following areas shall be exempt from the provisions of Section 17.6-7.
5. Outdoor patios, except for that area of an outdoor patio within fifteen feet (15’) of a primary public entrance to an area where smoking is prohibited.


• Provincial Health Services Authority, Vancouver BC: Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Indoor and Outdoor Public Places, June 8 2006
• Repace Associates, Bowie MD: Measurements Of Outdoor Air Pollution From Secondhand Smoke On The UMBC Campus, June 1 2005
• Airdrie, AB
• Beaumont, AB
• Camrose, AB
• St. Albert, AB
• Stettler, AB
• Strathcona, AB
• Huron Shores, ON
• Sioux Lookout, ON
• Berkeley, CA
• Calabasas, CA
• State of California
• Philadelphia, PA
• Santa Fe, NM
• Normal, IL


November 14, 2006

I got a call last week from a lady who said she had been the first female School Trustee in Abbotsford 40 years ago. She had to deal with the prevailing attitude at the time that a board room was no place for a lady. Sure enough, she introduced some novel and apparently disturbing ideas. She argued that, in order to be good role models, there should be no smoking at the meeting table. She was ridiculed.

What seems ridiculous to me is that it was only one generation ago that women were believed subserviant and the convenience of a nicotine addict was more important than a school trustee being a good role model or the health of the people around them.

Thank you, Ms. Henson, for pioneering women’s civil rights and the promotion of health responsibility. 40 years later, we’re still battling the same selfish attitudes. Hopefully my grandchildren will be just as surprised with my story about how, back in 2006, people felt entitled to smoke tobacco on restaurant patios despite all the obvious risks and discomfort to everyone around them.

marketing subsidies

November 7, 2006

Should our residential taxpayers be paying for ads and brochures to promote local businesses?

At least 90% of White Rock’s tax base are people’s homes. In the tax pie, everything other than residential is a very thin slice. And that small proportion is shrinking due to the construction of new homes rising much faster than new commercial spaces.

So what do our home owners gain from helping to pay for White Rock advertising?

I don’t know the answer to that question, which is why I think it’s a waste of your money. We should leave the marketing campaigns to our business community. Our BIA and Chamber of Commerce should be tasked with promoting local business. That’s what they are there for.

I think our residents have higher priorities for the property taxes we collect from their homes before helping businesses promote themselves.

Dear Grandchildren,

November 4, 2006

It is now 2050. I wrote this letter in 2006, before I even met your grandmother, to apologize for the mess that my generation has left for you.

The government of Canada, 44 years ago, proposed a plan to deal with pollution. They seemed to believe that it was best for the economy if we didn’t make difficult choices too quickly for reducing pollution. Instead, for decades, we continued to pump more and more toxins into the air. The government figured you should clean it up.

I am very sorry for all the health problems and environmental challenges you’re now having to deal with. It was thought that someone would probably have eventually invented new technologies for fixing our messes. But they didn’t see irony in the fact that it was technology that was creating the pollution in the first place. Now you’re having to make the hard choices and challenging changes that we didn’t have the guts to do. You’re having to do it now because it has an immediate and obvious impact on your quality of life.

As unbelievable as it may sound, back in 2006, there were still a lot of people who were fiercely resistant to sustainable land-use planning. In their choices as consumers, they were reluctant to buy things like efficient light bulbs because they were more expensive. Also, most people wouldn’t buy diesel or hybrid cars, which was the cleanest technology available on the market at the time. There wasn’t much sense to their reasons. I think it was just a cultural resistance, like the Greenland Norse and other societies that refused to accept that their cultural identity or consumer preferences were suicidal.

I am so sorry you are now having to live with the consequences of my generation’s stubborn refusal to risk our quality of life in order to protect yours. We made a big mess and left it for you to clean up. I agree, it was very selfish and ignorant.

Matt Todd
Your Grandfather

no mercy

November 3, 2006

Yesterday’s Province had an editorial by John Martin titled “Anti-smoking bullies have gone far enough in their regulatory jihad”

This is my reply.

As instigator of the proposed smoking ban in White Rock, Mr. Martin implies that I am a “righteous bully in a regulatory jihad”. He is correct.

I believe very strongly that every person should have the maximum degree of freedom possible. But what if one person exercising their personal freedoms impairs the freedoms of someone else?

What happens when a person who chooses to feed a nicotine addiction in public causes someone else discomfort or bodily harm? Is it righteous to choose health as a priority over drug addiction? If it is, then I am.

It sounds like the underlying assumption supporting Mr. Martin’s opinion is that smoke outdoors simply disappears: no harm, no foul. He doesn’t believe outdoor smoking is a problem. So, since a jihad is a holy war against unbelievers, then maybe that’s what this is.

As a smoking diner indulges their nicotine addiction on a patio, indeed the breeze takes their smoke away. But en route, it is carried past the faces of others and often blown into the restaurant’s open windows, doors and air vents. Perhaps Mr. Martin’s opinions would be different if he had asthma, a heart condition, or appreciated the risk to children and expectant mothers?

It is becoming better known that tobacco smoke kills over five times as many people as the sum of all car accidents, suicides, murders, and illegal drugs every year in Canada. Though historical tolerance makes us blind to it, nicotine addiction has a very serious and significant negative impact on our quality of life. Research proves smoking bans as the most effective tool for preventing exposure to smoke, and the second best for reducing smoking rates.

And so, if a bully is a person who uses power to intimidate those who are weaker, and if knowledge is power, and if confusion or lack of knowledge constitutes a weakness, then I suppose I am an unintended bully since I apparently have a greater understanding of nicotine addiction issues than Mr. Martin, who appears to be confused as to why I would want to restrict someone’s freedom to poison the air that others have to breathe.