Hello everyone:

Yes, I know it's only been a week since the last email, but Council meets on December 15, so I want to let you know what's coming to the table.  After that, there won't be another meeting until January 12, so you won't hear from me for a month (is that a faint cheer I'm hearing?).  In the meantime, let me take this opportunity to thank all of you for your encouragement and feedback throughout 2008, and to wish you and your families the very best for a Merry Christmas and health and happiness in the new year!


The operating and capital budgets will come to council on Monday for a final vote.  As you will have seen in the paper, the operating budget shows a 0.03% overall tax increase - so close to zero that I think we can call it that.  As I've mentioned before, this has been done through line-by-line examination, but the most substantial cut in taxes has been enabled by freezing the wages of Town staff.  I cannot say enough about the gracious attitude that has been exhibited by almost every member of town staff.  No one is happy about the wage freeze, of course, and the liaison committee asked for reconsideration (as they have a duty to do in their role as staff representatives) but throughout the discussion, staff comments have been respectful and understanding.

Obviously, zero tax increases are not something to be expected in a normal year.  Costs have gone up for many of the materials, supplies and services that the town needs, and normally it would be reasonable to reflect that.  All indications are, however, that this is not a normal year.  I believe that council and staff have worked hard to create a budget that prepares us for what may be ahead.

Just a bit of clarity about the money for the urban forest plan:  contrary to what was reported in the Crag, we did not take this money from the capital budget, and we did not act in opposition to our auditors' advice.  In actual fact, we paid for the tree plan out of the operating budget, in keeping with what the auditors said was proper.  We balanced it by diminishing the amount of operating money that we will transfer to capital reserves in 2009 by $200,000.  This was a very easy mistake for the Crag to make, because the discussion was long and complex.  I hope to see a correction in next week's paper.

I'm a strong believer in transferring money to capital reserves, and normally I would not approve of doing anything that would diminish that transfer.  However, because the tree program is both important and urgent, and because our urban forest is a key part of our green infrastructure (see my blog entry of September 30, 2007   ), I felt it was justified in this case.


Council and staff have been working together on the idea of a "code of conduct" - information that could be shared with short-term residents, visitors, and long-term Banffites about how we as a community can best live together.  We wanted to talk about things like late-night noise, littering, poop-scooping, etc., but do it in a positive, "let's all get along" kind of way.  You can see the report coming to council by clicking on this link


and scrolling down to pages 17 to 26.  As you'll see, lots of groups have been consulted, lots of work has gone into the draft, and there's a plan for how to roll this information out to different audiences.  I hope all of you will take every opportunity to get these messages out to new Banffites and visitors that you encounter.


For those of you interested in knowing how our community standards are enforced, there is a very interesting report coming to council.  Click on


and scroll down to page 36.  You'll see information on bylaw responsibilities, staffing, and their strategic priorities for 2009.  I really like their interest in consistency, public connection/communication, and proactive enforcement.


A document to set up the Regional Transportation Authority is coming for council approval, along with our part of a grant application for up to $150,000.  The authority would be a formal partnership among the towns of Banff and Canmore and the ID#9, along with significant effort and contribution from the Hotel Motel Association and Ski Banff-Lake Louise.  There is so much opportunity here to create a transportation network that will serve visitors and residents, and each of these steps through the paperwork takes us a little closer.


As always, this message represents only my own point of view, and does not pretend to reflect the official positions of the Town of Banff or Town Council.

What a lovely snowfall today -- so nice to see the Town snow-covered, with the prospect of a great ski season and a beautiful holiday season ahead!

What's coming to Council tomorrow?

Council has a briefing on the bio-solids project before the Council meeting, and a budget meeting after the Council meeting, but the actual regular meeting agenda is quite short.  You can see the package here:  http://www.banff.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=1796

We'll be looking at a revised version of the Animal Control Bylaw.  Besides tidying up the formatting, the most significant change is a move away from specific regulations about particular breeds -- pit bulls, to be exact.  Bylaw Services are recommending that we concentrate on the behaviour of dogs, rather than what breed they are, and have provided some compelling background information to go with this recommendation.  I have to say that I agree with them - I've met some delightful, sociable pit bulls, and some cranky Lab crosses.

Council will also be reviewing a whole range of fees -- we do this annually, and try to keep the fees in line with inflation and with the cost of providing service.

What's happening with the budget?

Council is tentatively finished with the operating budget, and it looks like a zero percent tax increase.  I found myself in the unusual position of arguing for a bit more spending on items such as the transfer to capital, but I feel that the final budget represents council and staff's best effort to do the right thing in difficult economic times.  I feel that everyone did their homework and brought their ideas to the table.

Tomorrow we will go through the capital budget -- the intention is to try to finish budget tomorrow evening.  We're working through dinner, and there was some talk of "until midnight, if that's what it takes!"

An opportunity for input

A lot of you have expressed interest in the town's new directional signage.  On Thursday, December 11, from 3 - 5 pm, there will be an open house in Council Chambers at Town Hall.  You can take a look at the proposed sign locations and provide your feedback.  I know that this is an awfully busy time of year, but do try to drop in.  If you have any questions in advance of the meeting, you can contact Elizabeth at 403-762-1221. 

The fine print

As always, this blog represents my own opinion, and does not in any way represent the position of Council or of the Town of Banff.