The Amalgamation Hipsters of New Westminster

In the 2014 December 13 Vancouver Sun, columnist Pete McMartin wrote this correction:

My apologies to Mayor Greg Moore for incorrectly identifying him in Friday’s column as mayor of Coquitlam. He is not. He is mayor of Port Coquitlam, which I am assured are two completely different communities. Mayor Moore informed me by email, however, that he will be invading Coquitlam and should be incorporating it into Port Coquitlam by spring.

Finally, a Metro politician in favour of amalgamation.

WOAH WOAH WOAH

“Finally, a Metro politician in favour of amalgamation?” Clearly Mr. McMartin has not heard about New Westminster mayor Jonathan “The People’s Champion” Cote, who showed his war-mongering side in November:

I have long believed that New Westminster would benefit from an expanded land base. The twinning of the Bailey Bridge should help facilitate the Royal City’s long desire to have an IKEA.

And what about Michael “Big E” Ewen’s comments about Richmond:

The New Westminster School Board has been in talks for months and once we get this silly election out of the way we will be announcing that we have annexed all of Richmond.

And don’t forget about what Mark “Tiny” Gifford had to say:

You think we’re stopping at Hamilton? We’re Queensborough and the Royal City, and as such, deem territories to the Knight Street Bridge to be rightfully ours.

Even candidates that didn’t get voted in are pro-amalgamation, like Jeremy “The Juggernaut” Perry:

…I am pro-annexation. We won’t need to add “New Westminster is better” to the curriculum, as that will be clearly known by all students attending this high school, as New Westminster will have expanded and annexed part of Richmond; clearly showing our superiority.

“Finally”, indeed! New Westminster politicians are like amalgamation hipsters: planning it before Mr. McMartin thought it was cool.

New Westminster Police Department Steps Up Traffic Enforcement

During his 2014 campaign, New Westminster Mayor Jonathan X. Cote promised to “target regular and consistent traffic enforcement to discourage drivers from cutting through local neighbourhoods.” Three days into his term, the effects of this promise were displayed as members of the New Westminster Police Department descended upon the Queens Park neighbourhood to apprehend a driver suspected of ‘rat-running’.

The above picture is courtesy Patrick O’Connor on Twitter, who also reported that a police helicopter was calling out with a bullhorn, warning the public to watch for a suspect on foot.

The truck was abandoned at the intersection of 2nd Street and 4th Avenue, along a common route taken by drivers trying to get onto the busy Pattullo Bridge, instead of sticking to the main arterial routes. The Queens Park neighbourhood is popular for these ‘rat-runners’, with some traffic calming measures already in place. 2nd Street has no speed humps or other measures, making it an ideal street for rat-running. Unluckily for the driver of this truck, this also makes it an ideal location for NWPD enforcement.

This police action is surely the first step towards stopping commuters from using New Westminster neighbourhoods as thoroughfares. Future actions will include deployment of spike strips and increased use of the PIT maneuver.

Found! The Missing Edits From Jonathon Cote’s Inaugural Address

While rooting through the recycling bins at New Westminster’s City Hall, I found what looked to be a speech printed out on the City’s letterhead. There are a lot of things crossed out with red pen, but it’s pretty obvious that this is an early draft of incoming mayor Jonathan Cote’s inaugural address. I’m going to share with you some of the things that didn’t survive the editing process.

This part looks like it was his opening:

Thank you all for being here today. Thank you to Wayne Wright, for building a city that we all love. Thank you for doing such a wonderful job that I have the freedom now to coast on your successes for the next four years.

This part was scribbled in the margin:

Note to self: do not, repeat DO NOT do double finger guns at the New Westminster Police and Fire Honour Guards. They are SERIOUS BUSINESS.

This part was crossed out with “FUCK THOSE COQUITLAM PEOPLE” all over it:

As I promised during the campaign, my first order of business will be to increase the size of the Ancient and Honourable Anvil Battery, increase the size of The Royal Westminster Regiment, institute the draft for all able-bodied citizens between the ages of 18 and 40, and expand our land base into Coquitlam, completing the Royal City’s long desire to have an IKEA.

Mr. Cote shows off his geek side in a second “first order of business”:

As mayor, my first order of business will be to declare SimCity as the Official Video Game of New Westminster, and to give the keys of the city to Will Wright.

I think he was going for the English Nerd vote here:

I envision a city where all citizens can properly pronounce “pecuniary”.

And more for the English vote. Scribbled in the margin is “oh man definitely use this for the next council meeting”:

Peace, you ungracious clamours! peace, rude sounds! Fools on both sides!

An ending inspired by Key & Peele?

I’m the leader of New Westminster. *drops mic*

On the Great New Westminster Envelope Scandal of 2014

Back story: New Westminster had an election. During the election campaign, three candidates (mayoral candidate James Crosty, and council candidates Gavin Palmer and Scott McIntosh) sent this to New Westminster residents:

When it was delivered, some people on Twitter called it “deceptive” and “misleading”. See, the crown used on this envelope is actually the trademarked logo of the City of New Westminster:

…which lead some people to think that the three candidates were misleading people into thinking the city sent out this mail.

Outgoing council member Betty McIntosh had this to say:

If you lived in the city of #NewWest longer you would know that is the same envelope the labour slate used in 2011

Here’s what the 2011 envelope looks like:

I’m not sure what definition of same she’s using, but those don’t look the same to me.

Sameness aside, it turns out that the City of New Westminster doesn’t like it when other people use their trademarked logo, and they’re currently looking into their legal options. I have to wonder if Mr. Crosty is going to be documenting that news story.

That’s not the biggest news to come out of this saga. The Royal City Record reached out to Mr. Crosty to comment, and “Crosty… told The Record [he] had no comment about the use of the crown.”

No comment! From James Crosty! That’s the biggest news to hit New Westminster all year!

When Is a Stop Sign Not a Stop Sign?

Trick question: it always is. But unfortunately, some people in New Westminster seem to believe that it magically ceases to be a stop sign under some circumstances.

The intersection of Sixth Avenue and First Street has a pedestrian-controlled flashing green light on Sixth, and stop signs on First. If you need pictures, here you go:

When a pedestrian wants to cross Sixth Avenue, they press the button, wait for the light to turn red and the walk signal to appear, and then they can cross the street.

When this happens, the stop sign stays a stop sign. But it turns out that this subtle point is lost on some drivers, as they see the red lights on Sixth Avenue and assume they have a green light.

This is best seen in this See Click Fix report, where a number of people have reported that drivers are failing to stop at the stop sign, in some cases nearly hitting pedestrians. This is particularly dangerous as Herbert Spencer School is on that corner, and that intersection is on the Safe Walking Route map for children to get to and from school.

First, this is primarily an education issue, although I don’t know how you can drill it into people’s heads that a stop sign is always a stop sign.

Secondly, it could easily be an enforcement issue. Park a traffic cop there, start handing out tickets, and people will eventually get the point. I don’t see this happening on a consistent basis to drive any sort of change in behaviour. Luckily New Westminster’s incoming mayor made enforcement part of his platform:

Target regular and consistent traffic enforcement to discourage drivers from cutting through local neighbourhoods.

Is there anything the city could do to make the stop sign more visible? The sign isn’t blocked by tree branches, and it’s right at the corner. Big STOP painted on the street, maybe? Extra markings on the road would be cheap and visible. Red flashing light on top of the stop sign? That would improve visibility of the stop sign, but those are typically used in locations where the stop sign is unexpected or where it often gets foggy. Neither apply to this situation.

One relatively expensive solution is to raise the grade of the crosswalks across First Street. Instead of bringing the sidewalk down to the road, bring the road up to the level of the sidewalk. This is already used on First Street at Fifth Avenue, with a clearly-marked crosswalk and speed hump. Make the crosswalks at Sixth Avenue more visible by raising them into speed humps and painting the crosswalk area in the faux brick pattern.

What I don’t know is if this is actually allowed on BC’s streets. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any other controlled intersections where this is done — but please, let me know and I’ll update this post.

I’ve gone through the minutes for New Westminster’s ACTBiPed and Neighbourhood Traffic Advisory Committees and couldn’t find any mention of this intersection, so from Council’s point-of-view, I don’t think it’s on their radar. The city has already said no to speed humps on First Street between Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue, but that was on account of not enough traffic and not because of safety issues.

So where do we go from here? Judging from the Terms of Reference for the ACTBiPed Committee, this could be considered to fall under Focus #3: “Enhancement of safety, security and accessibility of the transportation system for all users” and under Focus #9: “Identification and reduction of potential conflicts between transportation system user group.” This looks like an ideal issue for that committee.

Now, who do I know who might be on that committee in the new year?

What to Do With Your Election Signs Post-election

The New Westminster civic election is over. Now it’s time for all of the candidates to pick up their signs and… do what with them? Here are some ideas:

  1. Use them as toboggans in the winter.

  2. Use them as skimboards in the summer.

  3. Get a boat. Stitch together enough signs to make sails. Practice sailing up and down the Fraser River in preparation for the invasions of Coquitlam and Richmond.

  4. Throw them into traffic.

  5. Wallpaper your rooms with them.

  6. Make a kayak. You could be a valuable member of the New Westminster Navy.

  7. Cheap frisbees. Okay, maybe not that cheap, I hear those signs are expensive. And they’re kind of heavy, and not all that easy to catch. Maybe this is a bad idea.

  8. Paint over them with a new sign.

  9. Store them so you can use them in the next election!

Michael Ewen Answers New Westminster School Trustee Questions

Michael Ewen is running for School Trustee in New Westminster, and he answered my questions. Thank you for answering!

Obviously, this is all satire. And I apologize for making a complete hash of the graphics. If they don’t turn out or look stretched or garbled, that’s all my fault. I didn’t get excellent Photoshop training like they get in forward-thinking New Westminster’s School District 40. Wait, what? They don’t get excellent Photoshop training in SD40? What kind of backwards School District are they running here? Geeze.

The biggest issue in this year’s election is undoubtedly the replacement of New Westminster Secondary School, an issue that has been going on for at least a decade. Every legitimate candidate (sorry, Jim Bell) is on board with getting the rebuild started quickly. When you run for re-election in 2018, what promises will you make to convince voters that the NWSS rebuild will start in 2019?

Michael Ewen: I reject the premise in your question. I understand that Mayo Crusty has pledged to have the new high school built in the next year, and that it will be built over his dead body. I will therefore move that we set aside a portion of the school property to be named after him, in honour of his miraculous feat of building the most complicated secondary school in provincial history in no time at all. And if you can’t trust a Mayo (or a Mayo candidate), then who can you trust?

There was some recent discussion on Twitter about entering discussions with Richmond towards building a high school in Queensborough that will also take students from the Hamilton district of eastern Richmond. Two part question here: As school trustee, what will you do to ensure that New Westminster students at this Queensborough high school are reminded daily that they are better than their Richmond counterparts, and will you join forces with the pro-expansion council to annex Hamilton and make it part of New Westminster?

Michael Ewen: Once again I must reject the premise of your question. The New Westminster School Board has been in talks for months and once we get this silly election out of the way we will be announcing that we have annexed all of Richmond. Our agreement with Richmond allows each Richmond trustee to have one vote each at New Westminster School Board meetings, while real New Westminster trustees will have votes based on their New Westminster pedigree. One vote for every generation that they have lived in the Royal City, plus bonus votes for Trustees who have served over 30 years.

One of your fellow school trustee candidates asked why three schools (NWSS, Fraser River Middle, and Qayqayt Elementary) are being built instead of just one. That’s an excellent question. Why not one school? In fact, why not tear down all of our schools and take over the Anvil Centre as “New Westminster School”?

Michael Ewen: The Anvil Centre is clearly too fancy a location for a school. The Ministry of Education requires that all schools look like a boring box, with little in the way of windows to distract our learners. I think that the School Board should be starting talks immediately to take over every empty warehouse in the city and transfer our schools into them.

What is your favourite New Westminster school and why is it Urban Academy?

Urban Academy is not an appropriate name for a school in New Westminster, therefore it cannot be a favourite school. All New Westminster schools need to have either boring geographic names, the name of a queen or the name of an obscure white guy (who most likely was racist at some point in his life). My real favourite New Westminster schools are, in no particular order (and no QE is not my real favourite just because my wife teaches there and where there are always blue skies):

  • Queen Elizabeth Elementary
  • Connaught Heights Elementary
  • École Glenbrook Middle School
  • F.W. Howay Elementary
  • École Fraser River Middle School
  • Herbert Spencer Elementary
  • Queensborough Middle School
  • Lord Kelvin Elementary
  • New Westminster Secondary School
  • Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary
  • École Qayqayt Elementary
  • New Westminster Homelearners Program
  • Richard McBride Elementary
  • POWER
  • SIGMA
  • RCAP

Enroling children for Early French Immersion in New Westminster means signing up within the first six months of your child’s life because of the first-come-first-served process. What will you do to change this and require parents to sign up their children for Early French Immersion before they are born?

Michael Ewen: I think that children should be signed up in the Royal City tradition of generations count for everything and those who have just moved here should count for very little. Each children should be ranked on how many generations have lived in the Royal City and they should be accepted in order of their family lineage. For those with less than a generation in New Westminster they should be required to pay a surcharge to be admitted into our premier programs.

Bonus question inspired by Jen Arbo: Fundraising for a playground at Qayqayt Elementary has been a community-lead effort. As school trustee, how many bottle drives and online contests will you help push instead of getting proper funding for these things?

Michael Ewen: I have actually been in contact with the Royal City Record and their leader, Pat Tracy (Dick’s sister), she has pledged to support us in our fund raising drive if we supply her with banana bread. Therefore I pledge to start a series of cupcake sales and Burger Heaven burger events to eat our way to a properly funded playground. We’ll be able to incorporate the cupcake sales into our new “practical” curriculum, replacing IB at NWSS.

Bonus question inspired by an unnamed Mayoral candidate: Since the city is responsible for all of its own traffic problems how will you transport Queensborough students to NWSS until the Skybridge from Queensborough to NWSS is built (right after the series of tunnels to move all the traffic under the city)?

Michael Ewen: After this election it have been clearly proved that between our Mayor candidates and Council candidates there is sufficient hot air and gas to inflate a number of hot air balloons to move our students from Queensborough to NWSS, in fact some of the candidates could probably do the job without much help.

Jeremy Perry Answers New Westminster School Trustee Questions

Jeremy Perry is running for School Trustee in New Westminster, and he answered my questions. Thank you for answering!

Obviously this is all satire. If you can’t see this is satire, then maybe you should move to Vancouver, I hear they’re all No Fun over there.

The biggest issue in this year’s election is undoubtedly the replacement of New Westminster Secondary School, an issue that has been going on for at least a decade. Every legitimate candidate (sorry, Jim Bell) is on board with getting the rebuild started quickly. When you run for re-election in 2018, what promises will you make to convince voters that the NWSS rebuild will start in 2019?

Jeremy Perry: As with almost all trustee candidates in every election in recent memory in New West, come 2018 I will once again talk about how close we are to reaching a deal with the provincial government, and ensure that everyone is aware that we have done everything in our power to move this project forward. I will make promises that we will be hearing some very good news very shortly. It will be my most important 2018 campaign issue!

There was some recent discussion on Twitter about entering discussions with Richmond towards building a high school in Queensborough that will also take students from the Hamilton district of eastern Richmond. Two part question here: As school trustee, what will you do to ensure that New Westminster students at this Queensborough high school are reminded daily that they are better than their Richmond counterparts, and will you join forces with the pro-expansion council to annex Hamilton and make it part of New Westminster?

Jeremy Perry: Cooperation between neighbouring school districts is important, the sharing of resources can be quite beneficial. However, the first part of this question is a moot point, as I am pro-annexation. We won’t need to add “New Westminster is better” to the curriculum, as that will be clearly known by all students attending this high school, as New Westminster will have expanded and annexed part of Richmond; clearly showing our superiority.

One of your fellow school trustee candidates asked why three schools (NWSS, Fraser River Middle, and Qayqayt Elementary) are being built instead of just one. That’s an excellent question. Why not one school? In fact, why not tear down all of our schools and take over the Anvil Centre as “New Westminster School”?

Jeremy Perry: I’m surprised that you came up with the idea in the last part of your question, as plans are well under way. I wasn’t supposed to say anything (as I’m not supposed to know), but I’ve recently been made aware of in camera meetings by both council and the school board to amalgamate all New West schools at the Anvil centre. The plan is to buy back the office tower (at a significant profit for the investors who are friends of some important people). These plans are progressing quickly, and you can expect great things from the Supersized Anvil Education Centre.

What is your favourite New Westminster school and why is it Urban Academy?

Jeremy Perry: It would have been John Robson, but now, you’re right, it’s Urban Academy. Great school, great teachers, great community! I’d like to see their expansions plans exceed everything they have asked for! We should all be advocating for an Urban Academy high-rise so we can have a great focal point added to the Queen’s Park skyline!

Enroling children for Early French Immersion in New Westminster means signing up within the first six months of your child’s life because of the first-come-first-served process. What will you do to change this and require parents to sign up their children for Early French Immersion before they are born?

Jeremy Perry: We will be working hard to further limit spots in all programs of choice to ensure that students must be enrolled upon (or preferably prior to) conception. This will help ensure that only those families who have strong roots in our community will be able to access these programs.

Bonus question inspired by Jen Arbo: Fundraising for a playground at Qayqayt Elementary has been a community-lead effort. As school trustee, how many bottle drives and online contests will you help push instead of getting proper funding for these things?

Jeremy Perry: I’ll push to have 5 or 10 online voting style fundraisers going simultaneously, at all times, as these are such great community boosters in that it really brings the parents and community together, while effectively excluding any families without internet access.

Why I Won’t Be Voting for David Brett

David Brett is running for New Westminster city cuncil in 2014. I was initially planning on voting for him, but after doing a little more research I won’t be voting for David Brett.

See, Mr. Brett is involved in his community, and for someone running for council, that’s a good thing. He’s president of the Queen’s Park Residents’ Association, he’s on the Community Policing Committee, he’s involved with the Hyack Festival Association (and hopefully not in a crazy way like some of them). Those are good things.

He also says he wants to attract knowledge-based employers (such as technology) to New Westminster. As someone who works in technology, I’d love for that to happen.

But when you’re not an incumbent, you don’t have much of a record. For non-incumbents it’s important to go beyond the candidate’s website, because that’s where you’ll find out how they think when they’re not campaigning.

So I Googled for “David Brett New Westminster” and found his blog. In it is a post about how banning coal is unwise. Keep in mind that this article was written right around the time when people in New Westminster were protesting against a coal port right across the river in Surrey. (As an aside, this is one of the issues where I agree with mayoral candidate James Crosty — I wish others had his passion for stopping the coal terminal). The coal terminal is a big issue for New Westminster residents, with Crosty claiming that a petition he initiated received twice as many signatures from New West residents than those who voted in the last election, which would be about 20,000 signatures out of about 58,000 voting-age people. That’s a lot of people opposed to the coal terminal. Mr. Brett isn’t one of them.

It also appears that Mr. Brett is a climate change skeptic. Or, at least he was in 2007. Never mind that just before Mr. Brett wrote this the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report came out (specifically the Contribution of Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis) which stated that “warming of the climate system is inequivocal” and “most of the observed increase in global average tempeartures since the mid-20th centure is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” But yeah, I guess when thousands of scientists come out and say that global warming is here and it’s at least 90% likely that humans caused it, “it’s time to become skeptical”, as Mr. Brett says.

I cannot in good conscience vote for someone who not only gets quite a bit wrong about coal (Mr. Brett’s arguments about “if we ban it someone else will just do it” are nearly the same as those the Harper government gave when it wouldn’t block the listing of chysotile asbestose as a hazardous substance, thus allowing Quebec asbestos mines to stay open) but also expresses skepticism over something that the overwhelming majority of scientists say is happening. Climate change is the biggest crisis this world is facing, and it’s something that we can tackle on a local level. It’s not as bad as it is in the United States but I strongly believe that climage change skeptics have no place in any elected body.

Further, about the coal thing. I compared it to asbestos above, but perhaps that’s being unfair. They’re kind of apples and oranges. Yes, you dig both out of the ground, but one causes 22,300 premature deaths a year in Europe and 250,000 premature deaths in 2011 in China, has more radioactive impact than nuclear plants, can pollute not only the atmosphere but also rivers, and the other is asbestos.

The coal that would be shipped through Fraser Surrey Docks is thermal coal mined in Wyoming. It would be loaded onto barges, sent to Texada Island, and then shipped to Asia to burn for electricity. The primary economic benefit to Canada is 25 full-time jobs and 25 indirect jobs. In defending his position Mr. Brett links to an article talking about the coal mining and transportation industry in BC, and how it’s responsible for 26,000 direct and indirect jobs. That’s fantastic, and it’s an important part of our economy. However, the FSD coal terminal wouldn’t support BC’s coal mining industry, it supports Wyoming’s coal mining industry. The FSD coal terminal would increase the number of jobs by 0.2%. That’s peanuts. 50 jobs are important, but to fear-monger by saying things like “British Columbia cannot afford to lose 26,000 jobs created by the coal industry” is incredibly disingeneous. If it is all about the jobs, then why don’t we keep mining asbestos?

Then there’s the argument that they need it for electricity. That’s right, they do. And they need to wean themselves off of it, because pollution caused by burning coal for electricity causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year. It’s dirty, it pollutes our atmosphere and it kills people prematurely. And China gets it, aiming to have a peak for their carbon emissions by 2030, after which they will begin to move downwards. They know they need to curtail their carbon emissions. They know that they burn too much coal for electricity. We should be helping China in their targets by slowing coal exports to them, not making it easier for them to burn coal. Like the UN put it, “China and the United States have demonstrated the leadership that the world expects of them.”

I expect the leaders of my community to demonstrate the same leadership, and that’s why I’m not voting for David Brett.