LETTERS: plastic benches, mayor’s conduct, $2M windfall, tree cutting by-law?

Colm Harty writes about replacing locally made park benches with plastic:

Our locally made park benches are mysteriously disappearing. They are being replaced by cast iron, coated in plastic, benches made by a company based in Maryland U.S.A. Could we not use some of the hundreds of trees razed in the past few years to have new ones made locally? Will our new plastic playing fields be lined by plastic bleachers? The world-wide love affair with plastic has cooled in many locations but is still smoldering passionately in Q.B. it seems. Some lovely old growth trees were razed at the end of Burnham Road and were replaced by the town with a panoramic plastic picture of tree trunks. It is now flapping aimlessly in the breeze.

Colm Harty, Qualicum Beach

On November 4, 2020, Mayor Brian Wiese issued an open letter to the other four Councillors regarding St. Andrews Lodge. For reference, here is a link to a copy of Mayor Wiese’s letter.  

QB resident Pat Jacobson wrote the following to Mayor Wiese, cc Council and Town staff, on the morning of November 6, 2020, before the Special Council Meeting convened later that day, at the request of Councillors Walker and Westbroek, to reconsider the fate of St. Andrews Lodge.

To: Brian Wiese

Cc: Robert Filmer; Scott Harrison; Adam Walker; Teunis Westbroek; Heather Svensen; Daniel Sailland

Subject: Your Open Letter to Councillors re St. Andrews Lodge Building

Dear Mayor Wiese:

Thank you for sharing your comments to other members of Council.  I offer some comments in response.

As you stated, there was considerable public outreach on the future of the St. Andrew’s property, including the Lodge. Yes, it was very professionally done, with good citizen participation.

Fast forward to today – Why the major kerfuffle?  

Some essential background –

It relates to how Council has been conducting the People’s business since Covid 19 struck early in the year.  It bears little resemblance to the “principles of the municipal democratic and decision making process” you refer to in the opening statement of your letter.

–  26 “in-camera” Council meetings since January 2020.

–  No opportunity for public participation in Council meetings (other than public hearings), to not only hear, in real time, the voices of others in the community, but to provide the opportunity to offer comments.

–  No Mayor’s roundtable since February 12th, 2020.

–  No Committee of the Whole Meetings (the best opportunity for a conversation between Council and the Public) on any topic since February 13th, 2020.

–  Very few Committee Meetings, and no opportunity to “observe” in real time by the public, as was the practice pre-Covid 19.

If there is a will, there is a way!

This would include an opportunity to provide public input on the millions of grant dollars applied for to advance the stated ”strategic initiatives” of roundabouts and the plastic turf field that seem to be impeding consideration of the QCEWS proposal.

Bottom line, we have no “voice”, other than sending a letter to be filed along with copious quantities from other citizens, dead-ended in dusty rows of binders at Town Hall.

So, along comes a very thoughtful community-driven application to save the Lodge.

Yes, this application comes from some of the many volunteers who care so much and give so much, and are so committed to the quality of life and success of our very special Town.  What do they get?   It seems like a slap in the face, and an inexplicable rush to demolish what they are trying to save.

You state that  “…some members of Council are looking to reconsider the decision again.  This is not how the democratic process works.”   In actual fact, to work best, democracy can often be messy.

I applaud the passion and commitment of Councillors Filmer and Walker, and the wisdom of Councillor Westbroek for taking a step back to listen to the heartbeat of the community, and to do something about it!

It would be great to see the unanimity of Council on the proposal put forward today by Councillors Westbroek and Walker.

I have one last observation.  This Council was elected to serve all citizens.  I do not believe that women are being well served.  As of the 2016 Census, women made up almost 60% of the population of the Town.  Women are significant leaders and participants in the volunteer and business components of our community.  Our Council and Senior Staff (with the exception of the Corporate Administrator) are all men.

How do we get our voices heard?

Yes, this is an opportune time to reflect on the first two years of the Council term, and to make some changes that are more reflective of the caring, capable, and highly engaged citizens of our community.

With hope,

Pat Jacobson, Qualicum Beach

Charna Macfie writes in response to our article Plea for local COVID-19 leadership:

Liked your commentary about Town’s windfall grant of over 2 million for costs incurred by Town for managing pandemic. Staff’s budget response to Council regarding this grant will be interesting. From what I gather from the last council meeting they voted not to make any demands on business at this time for political reasons. But did, I think, make a motion to reach out to Chamber of Commerce before taking any actions regarding signage at businesses?

I particularly liked your suggestion to recruit 3 unemployed people to enforce the health restrictions and guidelines (yet to be determined by Town.)

Charna Macfie, Qualicum Beach

Debra Sullivan sent this note about our article Plea for local COVID-19 leadership:

This information is regularly provided, and on the provincial website. They may not do what you want, but we follow this everyday, no problem getting this info.

Debra Sullivan

Julio Hasenpfeffer writes about our article Plea for local COVID-19 leadership:

In your plea for local COVID-19 leadership article, there is a headline that reads “The Town of Qualicum Beach has just received an unplanned windfall of $2,359,000 under the COVID-19 Safe Restart Program”.  Given that the definition of windfall is “an amount of money that somebody/something wins or receives unexpectedly”, “unplanned windfall” is a redundant phrase.  Please do not use sloppy English in your publication.  Thank you.

Julio Hasenpfeffer

Barb Freedman writes about the apparent lack of by-laws regarding cutting trees on private property:

I’ve just been informed (by the town tree loggers) that there are no current by-laws regarding owners cutting down trees on their property. Can you please let me know whether anyone is currently proposing by-laws on this subject, or can anyone just do what they want willy nilly?

My next door neighbours have recently died and have a large lot containing two huge trees which are beautiful and local landmarks. The owners have cut some of the low boughs which is fine and say they will not have the trees cut down. They seem to think permission is needed.
If they sell the house, new owners can do what they like.
I look forward to hearing from you and believe this is an important issue for the Town and residents.

Barb Freedman, Qualicum Beach

Fall grasses adorn front yard in Qualicum Beach. November 2020