Postings related to my campaign for Town Council.

Hello everyone:

A gorgeous weekend at last! I do hope you're getting a chance to enjoy it.  I have been -- that is, when I'm not busy reading my council package.


By now, you've received your residential tax bill, and probably seen a substantial increase.  As I mentioned in my May 8 update, because of the current economic climate, commercial assessments have dropped substantially.  Residential assessments have dropped, too, but not as much.  This, along with the commercial/residential tax split of 4.5:1 (voted by council on May 10) means that residents end up with more of the tax burden on them this year.  So, even though the overall tax increase in town is 2.55% (after a 0% overall for 2009), residents have seen an average increase of 7.1%.  If we had gone with a 4:1 tax split, as we had last year, the residential increase would have been 12.57%.  I proposed a 5:1 split to council, which would have led to both commercial and residential having a 2.55% increase, but council felt that that split went too far in attempting to mask the true effects of assessment changes.

I've heard from a couple of people about their residential increases, and I'm willing to go through the decision-making process in detail with anyone who asks.  I know that the taxation process, with budgets, assessments, mill rates and tax splits, can be a bit confusing.  And no one likes to see a tax increase, at any time.


You can see the package for Monday's meeting at this link:

Highlights include:

Proposed changes to the Taxi Bylaw

The questions of "when is a sedan a taxi?", "how many livery plates should there be", and "how should those plates be allocated if they come up for re-assignment?" are back before council.  You can see the full series of reports starting on page 15 of the package, and a letter from an affected party starting on page 8.  We will be hearing two delegations from affected parties at council, and there may be items in those presentations that cast more light on the subject.  At present, though, I am tending to think that a car that behaves like a taxi (waiting at taxi stands, soliciting for walk-by business) is a taxi, and should be regulated as one.  

I would be very interested to hear from any of you who have comments on the existing level of taxi service in town.   

First quarter financial statements

Yes, I know, your eyes are glazing over again.  But, if you're keen (as I am), you can take a look at this report starting on page 56 of the package, to see notes on the factors that are affecting the town's performance against budget.  Some items have moved up, some down, but overall the forecast for year-end is very close to budget at this time.

Environmental incentive program

If you've thought about taking advantage of the town's rebate program for energy-efficient and water-efficient improvements to your home or business, you'll be interested to see the changes to the program that are being proposed starting on page 81 of the package.  Proposals for adding to the rebate list include: energy-efficient doors and windows, Energy Star refrigerators, water heater insulator blankets, and solar water heating installations.

Finance committee startup meeting

This separate package:

shows you the agenda for the first meeting of council's new finance committee.  At this meeting, council will be deciding on what tasks the committee should focus on.  A glance at the package will show you the list of tasks proposed.  This new committee will have all councillors and the mayor as members, and will give council an opportunity to have more meeting time dedicated to financial planning, policy-setting and review.  I'm pleased to see this proposal finally coming to fruition.


As has been the custom, in July and August, council will have one meeting per month rather than two.  These meetings are on July 19 and August 16.


Watch the paper for an announcement of the open house to launch Phase 2 of the Land Use Bylaw review.  I will send out an email as soon as I know the date.  I know that it's hard to go to a meeting when the weather's good, but this phase, dealing with commercial development, will be of interest and importance to all Banffites.


As I've mentioned a few times before, the fall election will soon be upon us. 

As you saw in the paper this week, Mayor Stutz has announced that he will not be running again.  We all owe John a debt of gratitude for his hard work over the past two terms (and previously on council).  I hope you will take the opportunity to say "thanks" if you run into him over the next few weeks. 

Councillors Gibson and Macdonald have already said that they are not running again, and Councillor Sorensen has informally announced that she intends to run for mayor (expect a formal announcement closer to the election).  That means that at least three of the six available council seats will have no incumbents, making for a very wide-open race.  I do hope that all of you are considering whether this is the right time for you to stand for election and serve your community, or whether you can encourage and support someone else you know who would be a good candidate.

At present, it's my intention to run for re-election as a councillor, assuming that life doesn't throw any surprises my way between now and the fall.

Hello, everyone:

An interesting weekend for sure, between the wild weather and the ATM heists.  Council tomorrow looks quiet by comparison!

You can see the entire package for the Tuesday meeting (yes, it's on a different day this week, because of the holiday) by clicking on this link:

Here are some of the highlights from the agenda:

Parks Canada approves Phase 1 of Land Use Bylaw changes

As you'll see in the updates (on page 5 of the package), Parks Canada has approved the changes to the Land Use Bylaw that were passed by Council as part of Phase 1.  These changes came into effect as of May 12, 2010.  If there's a residential property close to you that looks ripe for redevelopment, you'll want to read the bylaw to see what is allowed in your neighbourhood, so that you won't be surprised when redevelopment happens.  You can access the bylaw here:

2009 Financials

The Town's financials are complete for 2009, and the results will be presented at Council, along with the audited financial statements for council approval.  All right, I can see your eyes glazing over as you read this.  Astonishingly, many people are unexcited at the prospect of financial statements.  But remember, this is the place where you can see very directly how your money is managed and spent.  Go on, roll up your sleeves and dive in!  Here are just a few of the interesting things you can discover in these reports:

  • on page 31 of the package, you'll see that the town had an operating surplus of $335,845 in 2009.  Council is being asked to transfer this money to the Budget Stabilization Reserve which, as you may recall, was cleaned out last year to cover the 2008 deficit.  Having some money in this reserve helps cover the town's expenses when financial results stray from the budget, so rebuilding it makes sense.
  • on pages 35 through 55 of the package, you can see the different departments of the town, and look at how they performed financially compared to their budgets.  You can also see how well they are doing at forecasting.  The "Q3 forecast" column tells you what they thought their year-end would look like when they predicted it back in September.  (This is information essential to council as it reviews the budget).  The "Actual YTD 2009" column shows you where they actually were at year-end.  If the Q3 number and the Actual YTD number are very similar, their forecast was very accurate.  If the Q3 number is somewhere on the line between their budget number and their Actual YTD number, then their forecasting was headed in the right direction. 
  • Also in page 35 to 55, you can see the notes for each department that tell you about the unusual circumstances that may have caused final year-end numbers to be different from the original budget numbers.
  • On page 56 of the package, you can read an excellent description of how municipal accounting is changing.  The town's assets -- YOUR assets -- things like roads and sewer systems and recreation centres will now be recorded as assets and depreciated over time.  To over-simplify, under the old system, if a town never spent any money on roads and sewer systems, their financial statements looked good, even though their infrastructure was crumbling around them.  Under the new system, we account for how we are taking care of your assets as well as how the money is spent each year.
  • On page 77, in Note 10, you can read about the town's long-term debt.
  • On page 80, in Note 16, you can see the disclosure, as required by law, of the salary and benefits of all members of council, plus the town manager.
  • On pages 81 and 82, you can read about the town's long-term contractual commitments, and what we have to pay for each of them over the next few years.
  • Also on page 82, you'll see what the town does to support related organizations such as the public library, the day care, Banff Housing Corporation, etc.
  • And, by comparing pages 85 and 113 of the package, you can learn, to your amazement, that the "consolidated" financial statements are actually a page longer than the "non-consolidated" financial statements.  Who knew?

All joking aside, however, this annual reporting of financials is an important part of the town's accountability to you, the taxpayer.  So I hope you'll take a look at what's here and feel free to ask any questions.  If I don't know the answers, I'll do my best to find out for you.

Hello everyone!

Thanks for all your comments on my last update.  Here are some highlights of what's going on now -- as always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.


Wayfinding signs

You've probably noticed the sample signs that are up in the area near Town Hall, Nesters and the library.  (These are just samples -- the posts of the final versions will be much chunkier and more rustic looking).  The town is looking for feedback on whether the signs are clear and readable (font size, contrast, etc.)  By clicking on this link:

you can go straight to the survey to express your opinion.

Land use bylaw, phase 2

The planners are working on phase 2 of the bylaw revisions, and this phase will be of great interest, because it deals with commercial development.  There will be public input opportunities in May and June, and I will do my best to get notices out to you when these are available.

Coming soon to a neighbourhood near you!

Council was really impressed with the success of the neighbourhood "hot chocolate tent" discussions held by planning and community services folks last year, and wants to try something similar.  Over the next couple of months, as a pilot project, different councillors and the mayor will go out to neighbourhoods to answer your questions and to listen to whatever you wish to tell us about the town's plans, priorities and operations.  I will do my best to get notices out to you about when and where these sessions will be happening, and I do hope you will take the opportunity to chat with your councillors.  If these sessions turn out to be popular, I hope they will become part of the way the town works over the longer term.

The best opportunity of all -- the municipal election

Just another reminder that this fall is municipal election time.  Nominations will be taken on September 20th, and the election will be held October 18.  If you or someone you know is interested in running, Municipal Affairs has a website that will give you all the info you need:

Please think about getting involved in this election, as a candidate, or as the active supporter of a candidate -- and, of course, as a well-informed voter.


If you're like me, you probably find that you sometimes miss the Town's "large item garbage pickup" offer in the spring and the fall, and end up storing that large item until the next one comes around.  Now, you can have your large items picked up for proper disposal any Friday between May and November, just by making an appointment.  Read all about it at:


You can read the whole council package for Monday at this link:

Here are a few highlights from the agenda ...

Bottled water in municipal buildings

Council will be asked to make a decision on banning bottled water from municipal buildings.  As I mentioned in my last update, I support this initiative as long as we make sure that access to our excellent municipal tap water is made practical for people (in other words, pitchers and glasses at meetings, re-usable water bottles available at the Rec Centre, lots of drinking fountains, etc.), and as long as we review the decision one year after it's implemented, to make sure we haven't seen adverse effects. Several of you expressed similar opinions in emails to me, although I have heard from a couple of people who said that they would like to see bottled water continue to be available at the Rec Centre.  You can read the whole report starting on page 11 of the agenda package. 

Tax rate bylaw

This is the time of year when council sets the mill rates, in order to collect the taxes needed to fund the budget that was approved earlier in the year.  You can read the entire report about this starting on page 25 of the package.  Two major things have changed since the budget was approved.

First, our estimates of what the education taxes would be and what the Bow Valley Housing requisition would be turned out to be a bit high -- both those sets of taxes are coming in slightly lower than expected.  Over the past several years, council has had a policy of using "taxing room" provided by opportunities such as this to increase our contributions to capital reserves.  Capital reserves are the town's "savings account", by which we prepare for all the capital projects that need to be done now and in the future -- repaving roads, replacing utility lines, planting trees, building the rec centre, etc. etc. Council is being asked to do the same thing this year, and I am inclined to agree, because I think it is prudent for us to have money in place for projects, and use borrowing only as a last resort.  But it is important to be clear -- the alternative to putting this extra money into the capital reserves is to choose to provide a slightly lower tax rate instead.  Council has to make this choice on Monday. 

Second, because of the tough economic climate, property assessments have dropped across the board, but they have dropped more in the commercial sector than in the residential sector.  This means that if we stay with a 4:1 tax split, residential taxes will go up noticeably, and commercial taxes will go down very slightly.  For this reason, admministration is showing us the alternative of a 5:1 tax split to consider.  As I mentioned last year, I believe that residents were promised at least a 4:1 tax split at the time of incorporation, so I have trouble when it goes in the other direction, say 3.5:1.  But splits above 4:1 are within what residents were promised, so I am keen to look at this option.

Cave Avenue, BHC and Parks Canada

You've probably been reading in the paper about the discussion between Parks Canada and the Banff Housing Corporation board about the value of the lots on Cave that were proposed for value-priced, small-unit multi-family housing.  Starting on page 35 of the package, you can read the history of this discussion, as seen by the BHC and also as seen by Parks Canada.  It will be interesting to see in the meeting if there are any suggestions for a way forward.


As always, this blog entry represents my personal point of view and does not purport to represent the position of the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions.

Hello everyone:

I hope you have all been enjoying our multi-season environment this past week, and that you had a chance to stop by the fundraiser for the Community Greenhouse.  Judging by the emails I got back after my last update, there's a lot of support for this project.  It was great to get the news from Larry Bohn at the last council meeting that the Bow Valley Creidt Union is donating $5,000 to the cause.


You can see the entire package for Monday's council meeting at this link:

Here are a few highlights from the agenda:

Council priority update

This is a feature of every council agenda, but I just thought I should mention it in case you haven't noticed it before.  In the package, starting on page 2, you'll see information on the status of several items that council wanted to concentrate on in 2010.  It's worth reading this update document to see what's happening with these various projects.  For example, I know that a lot of you are very interested in the progress of the Rec Centre, and this update document will keep you informed.

Bottled water at municipal facilities

Josie Howitt spoke at the last council meeting about her interest in having Banff meet the requirements of a Blue Community in how we manage our water resources.  As a result of her presentation, council will be considering tomorrow whether we should ban the sale of bottled water at municipal facilities.  I think most of us are aware of the excellent quality of Banff tap water, and of the environmental downsides of bottled water:  additional plastic bottles for recycling/landfill, the very high greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting something as heavy as water, etc.  At the same time, I know that many people -- especially our visitors from places where municipal water is not as good as it is here -- believe that water in a bottle is purer or healthier than what comes out of a tap.  Concern has also been expressed that if we don't sell bottled water at the Rec Centre, users will buy pop instead, which is not a desirable health outcome.

I intend to support this ban at municipal facilities, but to ask that it is accompanied by ensuring that re-usable water bottles are available for those who don't have them.  That's because I believe that a lot of people buy bottled water simply because it's portable (where a water fountain obviously is not) and we need to ensure that people can meet that need.  I will also be asking that we provide information at municipal facilities about the quality of our tap water, to help reassure those who believe that bottled water is more pure.  And I think we will need to review this decision in a year, to see whether the predicted negative effects -- more pop drinking, for example -- have actually taken place.

Assessment Review Board

After you receive your assessment notice (the information on how the Town's assessor sees the value of your property for tax purposes), there is an annual opportunity to appeal this assessment if you believe it to be incorrect.  An assessment review board hears these appeals.  On Monday, Council will be asked to appoint members to the two different assessment review boards that are now required -- the province has changed the rules under which these boards operate, making it much more expensive and onerous for municipalities to operate this necessary function. 


Several items are on the BHC plate right now:

BHC Working Group

The group of BHC homeowners, general public members and council reps is meeting weekly now, working through the recommendations and topics referred to it by Council.  We're hoping to have a package of recommendations ready to go to council (as the shareholders of the BHC) by the end of June.  The group works by consensus, so discussions are detailed and require people to really listen to opposing points of view.  This group meets Mondays in council chambers, 7 - 10 pm, and all meetings are open to the public.

Cave Avenue project

It appears that the Cave Avenue project will not be going ahead within the foreseeable future, because Parks Canada and the BHC have been unable to agree on a transfer price for the land.  Council (acting as the shareholders of the BHC) will be asked on Monday to approve transferring grant money originally intended for Cave Avenue to the Peyto Place acquisition.

Peyto Place

The BHC recently conducted an online survey about the Peyto Place units and the model for resale.  Existing tenants will be given first right to buy their units, before they are offered to the rest of the potential buyers.  You can see the results of the survey here:


Besides attending the regular council meeting, the BHC shareholders meeting, and the evening meeting of the BHC working group, I will also be joining the rest of council for a workshop on Phase 2 of the Land Use Bylaw review.  Planning staff will be explaining to us the approach they're taking with this work, and the proposals for changing the bylaw that they would like to consider.  I'll keep you updated on opportunities to have input into this phase.


As always, this post represents my personal point of view only, and does not purport to represent the point of view of the Town of Banff or of Banff Council.

Hello everyone:

Yes, I'm back!  Apologies to a couple of you who emailed with questions during my absence -- I did my best, but my email access was very intermittent.  For those of you familiar with my long-term relationship with the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I'm happy to report that I walked 513 kms this year, finishing up in Santiago de Compostela on Easter Sunday.  This makes a total of 1350 kms since I started in 2007.  The trip was challenging, rewarding, and all-round spectacular!

Because I was away for both council meetings in March, and was so generally unreachable, it is my intention to donate my March 19 and April 1 council paycheques back to the Town.  I'm thinking of donating them to the Community Greenhouse project, but you may feel that it would be more appropriate just to give them back to the town's general revenues -- I welcome your comments. 


You can see the entire package for Monday's meeting at this link:

Here are  a few highlights ...

Community greenhouse sponsorship

Larry Bohn will be making a verbal presentation about sponsorship for the Community Greenhouse from the Bow Valley Credit Union.  I'm looking forward to hearing about this!

Blue community

On page 11 of the package, you can read a presentation to council urging us to declare Banff a Blue Community.  This essentially means that we recognize water as a human right, keep the means of water treatment and distribution in public hands, and we don't sell bottled water at our municipal buildings or events.  I certainly agree with these aims, and believe that we are pretty much on track already.

Water bylaw update

Starting on page 15 of the package, you can read about the recent review and update of the water bylaw, and see the bylaw itself, with the areas for changes marked in yellow.  In general, the changes clarify who's responsible and accountable for what aspects of the water system, provide for protection from cross-contamination, add information about water conservation, and increase penalties for non-compliance.  I have a few questions about how we can make wording clearer, and places where I'd like to see some right of appeal from an administrative decision.  Council has already discussed this bylaw at the last meeting, so I look forward to getting up to speed with the questions they have already asked.

When is a taxi not a taxi?

 Apparently, a bit of a grey area has been developing between taxis and "charter in-town sedans".  You can see the report on this starting on page 48 of the package.  Essentially, if a sedan is not actually pre-booked, but rather waits at a designated spot and can be hired on the spot by a customer, does it then become a taxi, or can it still be considered part of a limo/sedan service?  This is the question being asked of council, and it appears that we may need to make some additions to the taxi bylaw so that there's a bit more clarity.  Taxi bylaws and licences are always a hot topic of discussion in communities across the country.

Bylaw review

I feel that councillors should be familiar with the full range of bylaws that are active in their community, so I asked administration to give us a list of the current ones, and also a list of how many have been reviewed within the past three years.  I wanted to be sure that we are on track to review every bylaw at least once every 5 years, and it appears that we are at least close to that.  It does still concern me, however, that a councillor can serve a full 3-year term without encountering all of our bylaws at the council table, and I'm going to suggest that a list and information on how to access the full texts be included in the council orientation package for new councillors after the fall election.


Just a reminder that the September nomination date will come up very fast.  If you're thinking that you might like to run, and would like any information or encouragement, please give me a shout.  Serving your community as a councillor is educational, engaging, occasionally satisfying, sometimes exhausting ... the list could go on and on.  But having a good pool of people to vote on is essential to the operation of a successful municipal democracy, so please, give it some thought, and also talk to others that you feel might be good candidates.


This post and all the others on this blog represent my point of view only, and do not purport to represent the position of the Town of Banff or Banff Town Council.