BREAKERS – timely tidbits and follow-ups to previously published stories: library takeout – housing homeless – council transparency
QB Library now Serving Takeout!
The Qualicum Beach branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) opened this week for the first time since the shut down caused by the corona virus. Excited patrons made appointments to pick up books ordered online or by phone.
VIRL is rolling out its takeout service on a branch-by-branch basis. To find out how to place an order at the QB branch, just head to VIRL’s website and click on “Takeout Service is coming to a branch near you”.
David Carson, VIRL’s director of Corporate Communications and Strategic Initiatives, says “while the physical branch remains closed, people can go online, have a look at the catalogue, find some materials of interest to them, and place a hold on them. Staff will then contact them to book a time to pick their materials up. It all happens without contact, making sure everybody is keeping safe distances.”
If people have any further questions about how the process works, they can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free at 1.877.415.8475.
“We would love to hear from the public,” says Carson. “We actually have a team of staff who are on the phone, on email, ready to hear from folks. They’ll even happily set up a virtual appointment on Zoom if people have specific questions about e-books or audio books, or anything else. We absolutely want to hear from our customers.”
Qualicum Beach Library hours of operation are currently: Tues 2–4 pm, and Wed – Sat 10-12 and 2-3. Closed Sun-Mon.
ATTEND VIRL’s live-streamed, interactive seminar on investment fraud from 12:00 -1:00 pm on Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Doug Muir, Director of Enforcement at the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) will reveal techniques fraudsters use and discuss real-life investment fraud cases. This is an opportunity to have your questions answered, but registration space is limited. You can register at https://virl.bc.ca/event/anti-fraud-live-cast/
Improved Council transparency – but not in Qualicum Beach
A previous article by David Todtman expressed concern over the reduced opportunity for public engagement in municipal government meetings, and urged increased use of live, two-way electronic communications with the public during virtual (no physical attendance) Council and Committee meetings. In Qualicum Beach these techniques to improve transparency and public engagement have been resisted by a Council majority as well as senior administrative staff.
Meanwhile, at the other end of Highway 4, incremental progress continues to be made. Compare the following methods in play at Ucluelet to options available to the public in Qualicum Beach.
- Correspondence addressed to Mayor and Council forms part of the public record and will be published in Regular Council Meeting Agendas;
- Zoom-enabled meetings are live-streamed and recorded for future viewing on Ucluelet’s YouTube channel;
- Delegations attend via Zoom;
- “If you are viewing the meeting as it happens and have input or questions for Council about agenda items or matters within their jurisdiction, email them during the meeting (asked to limit your input and questions to 150 words). Input will be read by Staff to Council during the Public Input period and questions will be read [and answered – see June 9, 2020 video for an example] during the Question Period.”
- “A question period follows every regular Council meeting. This provides an opportunity for the public, or a member of the press to ask a specific question of Council. You may request clarification on an item considered during the meeting or general civic business.”
Elyse Goatcher-Bergmann, manager of corporate services for the District of Tofino, confirms that their “team has worked hard to ensure participation in Council meetings is as easy, accessible and respectful as possible in these challenging new circumstances and with limited technology and expertise in our organization.” The public can attend (virtual) all of their meetings, which are now being held via Zoom – Council, Committee of the Whole (COW), Committees such as Board of Variance. Direct participation (Public Comment, Delegations, Question Period) is currently limited to Council and COW meetings only due to limited staff to manage the interactive participation of the public in all meetings. Ms. Goatcher-Bergmann recognizes this as an internal limitation and they “are working to improve our capacity by training others on hosting and managing Zoom meetings.”
New housing for homeless – but not in Qualicum Beach
A previous article by Gil Sampson contrasted the progress being made by other communities in BC against the apparent non-action in Qualicum Beach to meet basic shelter needs of our homeless residents.
This week, as reported by the Cowichan Discourse, Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples confirmed that BC Housing is working with the municipalities of Duncan and North Cowichan to build 100 new, safe and secure homes with wrap-around supports for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The housing will be comprised of self-contained studio homes. Residents will be provided with 24/7 on-site staff and support services, including meal programs, life and employment skills training, health and wellness support services and opportunities for volunteer work. All residents will pay rent.
Given the pressing and emergent need, BC Housing is moving forward immediately with development of these two sites with construction to begin by Fall 2020.