Keeping Banks Safe For Our Money

September 17, 2018

As anyone who has read the papers or seen the news in the last few years knows, banks around the world have broken numerous serious laws, have had to be bailed out with taxpayers money, and yet still pay millions of dollars to inept executives and billions more to stockholders. Many of their problems involve their connection to complex financial transactions that do nothing but make money for already-rich individuals. There has to be a better way, and there is.

I would oblige all banks to become credit unions and I would strictly limit their functionality.

Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions cooperatively owned by their members. They operate solely for the benefit of their members rather than for outside shareholders, of whom there would be none.  Their senior management is elected by the members and their policies are offered up for approval at regular meetings of the membership. Senior management remuneration would require members’ approval. The billions of dollars that are currently paid out in dividends to outsiders would be used to increase services and lower costs for the members. Any surplus could be re-paid to the members or added to the credit union’s capital.

I would limit their functionality to the taking, managing and disbursement of members’ deposits, and to the issuance of personal loans (including credit cards) and personal mortgages.  Any member or corporation that required business loans, corporate mortgages, investments or insurance would turn to investment companies, mortgage brokers and insurance companies designed specifically for that function.

No one would be limited in their desire to engage in stock market or other investments.  But these would be handled entirely by companies separate from banks.   No longer would bank depositors’ cash be at risk in the marketplace for derivatives, for example.

Competition between credit unions, if such were needed, would become a function of service and accessibility.  I believe this would get us more branches on the streets and a more personalized service between member and bank.  It would bring banking back to the people, to a smaller scale that we can understand and control — after all, it is our money they are using.

 

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Beware The Resurrection of Andrea Reimer

September 12, 2018

The thing about Dracula is that he never really dies. It doesn’t matter how long he lies cold and dusty n his stone tomb, there is always some idiot who will come along and somehow set him free again to wander the earth on his deadly journey.

That image — stark and fearsome — came into my head last night as I read that, with the sudden withdrawal of Ian Campbell from the Vancouver mayor’s race, Ms. Reimer was contemplating putting herself forward for the job.

I wrote the following about a year ago when Reimer’s retirement from Council was announced. I think it bears repeating.

_________________

 

I came across Charlie Smith’s hagiography of Andrea Reimer from the Straight. It was a hard read for me because my experience of Reimer was so different, so negative.

We started off badly, back in early 2012, when I spoke before Council in opposition to the design of the Baptist Church’s proposed building at First & Victoria. In her self-proclaimed position as Councillor for Grandview, she asked me a few questions after I had had my allotted five minutes. She was arrogant, assumed I knew little of Grandview, and the tenor of her questions clearly indicated a predetermined yes vote for the development regardless of any arguments that might be presented. Things only got worse when the Grandview Woodland Community Plan process began.

A central paragraph in Smith’s column asks us to remember

“Reimer’s credibility with the environmental community, her appeal to residents living in the Commercial Drive–Trout Lake area, her stunning work ethic, and political radar that may only have been matched on council in recent years by Geoff Meggs, who’s left municipal politics.”

Problem for me was that I didn’t recognize any truth in most of those statements about her.

I wondered whether my early experience with Reimer had clouded my opinion of her, allowing me to miss the good she was doing. So I asked a number of my friends and acquaintances whether they had opinions on her years as Councillor. By the time I am writing this, more than half have responded and they are all overwhelmingly negative in their judgement.  Many described her as “manipulative,” and as “an opportunist … only interested in her own career.” None believe that she ever genuinely represented any constituency here in Grandview, and that her demeanour was often “officious” and unpleasant. I share all of those views.

When City Planning’s “Emerging Directions” document became public as a draft Community Plan in the spring of 2013 an uproar of complaint erupted from the residents of GW, most especially as “Emerging Directions” included dozens of pages on rezoning the neighbourhood that had never been raised or discussed in any of the public meetings over the previous eight months. While Mayor Robertson admitted the process had not been a good one, and Planning boss Brian Jackson considered it a disaster, Reimer was still giving interviews praising Vision’s handling of community planning.  At the massive community meeting held in early July that year to protest the Grandview Plan, Reimer came late and hid in the back of  the crowded room. When finally shamed into speaking, Reimer ignored everything residents had passionately spoken about for an hour or more, asking for understanding as she was currently being evicted (which, it later turned out, was something of a permanent status for her).

She was an instigator and heavy supporter of the benighted Citizens’ Assembly process deliberately designed to exclude the majority of Grandview’s residents from participation in a vital community project. On the several occasions that I spoke to Council during the Community Plan period, Reimer (along with Geoff Meggs) generally led the attack on me and GWAC or whoever else I was speaking for. She argued against community representation, calling local groups irrelevant and claiming them to be “unrepresentative”.

When the final Grandview Community Plan came before Council, it was Reimer who proposed a last-minute amendment that — against the professional advice of Planning — granted several extra stories to the highly controversial Boffo Tower monstrosity proposed for Commercial and Venables.

And it wasn’t only Grandview she screwed. After years of discussion and community debate, the DTES Community Plan was brought before Council for approval. It was loyal Vision foot soldier Reimer who, again at the very last hour, showed up with a lot of scribbled pages that changed substantial and substantive portions of the Plan, that no-one had a chance to digest before Vision voted it through …

Wherever she ends up I’ll be glad to see the back of her (except, of course, the Mayor’s chair).


Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

September 9, 2018

Today is my daughter’s birthday (I don’t think I’m allowed to say how old she is).

She is the most gorgeous and wonderful daughter a father could ever have, a happy and successful mother, a fearsome boss, and a wild and crazy gal.

Have a great day!


Grant Street Development: Open House

September 8, 2018

The major development proposal for 1535-1557 Grant will have an Open House this coming Tuesday, 11th September, between 5 and 8pm at Britannia Secondary School.

 

I reported on this from the February GWAC meeting, and tried to be free of editorializing at that time:

I attended the February meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council last night. There was a full house and a lot of intelligent community discussion … three neighbours of a proposed development on Grant Street, two of whom are professional architects, gave a presentation in opposition to the project as currently designed.

The developer has purchased four lots — 1535, 1545, 1549, and 1557 Grant — and proposes to demolish the 1½ -3 storey heritage houses on those lots and to build a 6-storey secured rental apartment complex of 40 units. Four of the units will be 3-bedroom, 12 of two bedroom, and 24 with one-bedroom.  They claim that this will be a “family-oriented” development even though the majority of units are unsuitable for families with children.

The zoning under the Community Plan allows for a 6-storey apartment building (although formal approval and a public hearing is still required) but the developer will be seeking a number of zoning changes including a significant reduction in parking requirements. They wish to supply just 19 automobile spaces for the 40 apartments.

This proposal is one of the five allowed under the Pace of Change regulations in the first three years of the Community Plan. Because it will be secured rental, the developer will have the Community Amenity Charges (CACs) waived, saving considerable expense.

The presenters have written to the Planning Department with their concerns. They explained that a large 6-storey building in the middle of this block of 2-3 storey houses would be out of place, especially as there is no planned transition between the smaller houses and the apartment building. They note that there are considerable slopes both east-west and north-south, and no lane, making access to the new building and along the narrow Grant Street very difficult, especially for emergency vehicles.  The shadowing of the neighbouring houses is expected to be extreme. There are also issues of noise and the loss of heritage trees.

It was noted that these will be market rentals (one-bedroom suites starting at about $1,800 a month) and so will add nothing to affordability in the neighbourhood.  The four houses being demolished are all currently rentals and most have basement or other additional suites.  It was pointed out by several members of the audience that in Grandview there are virtually no “single family houses”; most so-called SFHs have additional suites and are therefore twice or more as dense as some might think.

Several other audience members called the project a “block buster” which will inevitably lead to more such projects in similar low-rise streets and blocks.

This is a difficult one for me. I approve of the concept because we need a lot more purpose built rentals in Grandview; I have no problem with the size; and I have no issue with heritage problems as the street being redeveloped is not even close to being a pristine example of our Edwardian past — the houses are old rather than worthy.

 

However, this development is a typical Vision Vancouver giveaway, where the developer is to gain an enormous financial advantage for building units the rents of which 75% of the working population in the city cannot afford. So, as keen as I am to see rentals built, I have to list myself on the opposition side in the hope that something more affordable can be developed on the site.

There is more information in the this recent article in the Vancouver Courier.


McSpadden County Fair

September 7, 2018


Important Consultations On Substance Abuse

September 5, 2018

The Feds are looking for input to improve the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy.  The details are here on the Health Canada site.  They are looking to hear from:

  • people with lived and living experience with substance use, including those in recovery
  • Indigenous peoples, organizations, communities and leadership
  • substance use healthcare professionals and service providers
  • experts in substance use prevention, treatment, harm reduction and drug regulation/enforcement
  • civil society and community groups working in areas related substance use, or social determinants of substance use
  • substance use researchers and academics

The consultation time period started today and goes on to 4th December.

Thanks to Dorothy for letting me know about this.

 


A Handy Service Indeed!

September 5, 2018

Over the years, I have suffered a number of medical emergencies and I have been happy to report on the excellent service I have received from BC’s first responders and medical services (see, for example, here and here).  Today, I want to ladle out praise to an unsung group of folks in the medical care continuum — the HandyDart drivers and managers.

Some months ago, as my conditions changed, my hospital visits to see specialists became more frequent, and my ability to cope with bus schedules and, most especially, walking at both ends of the trip slipped. The alternative being taxis each way at $20 a pop, I applied for and was granted permission to access HandyDart at $2.95 a trip.  I have now used it perhaps ten or a dozen times, each driver being different.

Without exception, I have found all the drivers to be immensely helpful, knowledgeable about the care and handling of seniors far more medically compromised than me, and happy to chat or stay silent as the passengers deem fit. They seem to be the most careful and considerate drivers in the city, obeying every rule and speed limit, and far more patient than I ever was as a driver.

And I have nothing but praise for the staff I interact with when making bookings or changes to scheduled trips. They, too, have been uniformly pleasant and efficient.

Yes, I know, some people have complaints about the HandyDart service and I am sorry they feel that way. But maybe I have been lucky; for me their service has been spectacular and, frankly, faultless.  They are yet another vital string in the bow of BC’s wonderful medical system.