McBlunder of the week

At the end of March I hurried back from my at-home vacation with a story – the McBarge was no longer in Burnaby waters.

I had written a story in 2010 on developer Howard Meakin’s struggle to get approval from Mission city council for his restaurant development, Sturgeon’s on the River, which includes the former Friendship 500 McDonald’s restaurant in the design.

When Mission council approved his plans at the end of January this year, stories popped up about the project going ahead. I didn’t want to reiterate what everyone else was doing, so I decided to wait a do a story once the McBarge was set to leave the area outside Burnaby, in Burrard Inlet, where it has been floating for two decades.

So I went hunting for the McBarge with my son one day at the end of March, at about 5 p.m. We had walked the trails in North Burnaby for years, and though it had been more than a year since I’d last seen the McBarge on one of our walks, I thought I knew where we’d spotted it before – while walking along the trails and beach adjacent to the Chevron Refinery.

We drove along the edge of North Burnaby, stopping at the end of Gilmore Avenue to make sure we couldn’t see the McBarge from there. We couldn’t. Then we walked through the dog trails of Confederation Park, looking from every vantage point for the McBarge. We went down to the beach, but I chose not to take him across the railroad tracks, as that part of the beach is cordoned off by Chevron due to its oil seepage problems.

We walked as far east as we could on the trail, going to the edges of embankments to see if we could spot the McBarge from above. I didn’t see it. And so I wrote the story – the McBarge had left Burnaby.

Except that it hadn’t.

The story was a lazy piece of journalism based on a visual assumption. I should not have said in the original story that the McBarge had left Burnaby unless I could confirm it – either by combing every inch of shoreline from Boundary to Port Moody or by confirming it with the developer. I wasn’t able to track Meakin down in time for the piece, so I chose to go with it as is, and that was a mistake.

I have received calls and emails from concerned readers – and the developer – this week regarding the story, and I have apologized for the error. But I’d also like to publicly apologize to anyone who was misled by the article.

For the record, the developer and a NOW reader have confirmed the McBarge is still in Burnaby waters – it is down from Penzance Drive, east of where I was looking for it.

While I currently feel like a complete dummy for this particular mistake, I intend to learn from it and use it to encourage me to be more responsible, double- and triple-checking facts, and making sure I source everything I report before it goes to print.

Again, my apologies for the error. I promise to do better in the future.


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T’was the day of the council meeting…

and all through the Internet, not a blog was stirring, not even…. with…. ethernet…


This is why I didn’t become a poet. Well, one of the reasons.

What my vague and terribly rhymed message meant to convey is that I will not be blogging or tweeting tonight’s council meeting. In fact, I need to take a meeting blog/tweet hiatus.

While I enjoy keeping Burnabyans informed of what’s happening on council night, I am finding it difficult to live-tweet, pay attention to what’s happening, wrangle a small boy into bed, and hold on to my sanity all at the same time.

This, on top of (minor… very minor, but still stupidly debilitating) recovery from surgery and completing the unpacking and set up for our new place, is just too much right now.

But should I get everything sorted out soon – or if there’s something urgent/huge happening at council – I’ll be back to tell you all about the crazy shenanigans taking place in council chambers.

Okay, okay, Burnaby doesn’t have crazy shenanigans at council meetings. Or does it? Tune in tonight to find out for yourself!

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Magical mystery council meeting

I’m back and tweeting tonight, Burnaby. And we’ve got a bunch of interesting people visiting council tonight – Cliff Ave. soccer club, BC Hydro and Stephen Rowe, who has some ideas of how 65-acres in the city could be used.
What will his proposal be? Tune in and find out….

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No council coverage tonight

Hello Burnabyans,

I’m in the process of moving this week so unfortunately I won’t be able to live-tweet tonight’s council meeting, or even see it, actually. I’m between Internet connections at the moment, but should be up and running again for next week’s meeting.

In the meantime, take a look at the agenda to see what decisions your local government is considering tonight. The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. tonight, and can be viewed from the city’s website.

Or, if you’re feeling a little down about the state of politics in general, had a nasty run-in with bureaucracy recently, or just need a pick-me-up, watch the swing scene from Ikiru. Lifts my spirits every time.

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There’s something happening here… what it is… is in this agenda

Yes, I think we can all safely say that is the worst attempted use of a lyric in a post headline ever. You’re welcome – now you’re all free to write only second or third-worst lyrical headlines.

But here it is – Monday night’s council agenda (click on 2012 – Feb. 6 version).

I know all you bodacious Burnabyans are squealing with glee just like you used to when Tiger Beat arrived in your mailbox, but this is even better than Tiger Beat, because it contains newsworthy information. Trust me – no photo of a brooding Johnny Depp can bring you the personal empowerment that true knowledge of the inner workings of your city brings.

And the best news? Things are happening, people! This means Monday’s live-tweeting and blogging will be less “that jacket looks great on him” and more “important news” type stuff. Yay!

So what’s up, buttercup, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

The Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table – also known as BIPT –  is asking that Burnaby declare Feb. 8 Embracing Cultural Diversity Day. I don’t know what this will entail, but I do know that saying “BIPT” is fun. Try it out for yourself. Here’s hoping there’s lots of “BIPT”ing at the beginning of the meeting.

Next, CUPE is bringing up the proposed Canada European Union Trade Agreement (CEDA) to council. It’s a topic that’s challenging to cover when you have to have a Burnaby focus in all your articles, as I do, but it’ll be interesting to hear what they have to say. I know Mayor Derek Corrigan has spoken about it in the past.

It isn’t easy to wade through trade agreement documents/coverage, I know, but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on, and I’ll do my best to pinpoint exactly how it might affect you (yes, you – the guy to the left, wearing the green… no, not you. The other guy…)

Okay, I’m not going to go through everything on the agenda – I know you’re all brilliant Burnabyans who can read the agenda yourselves – but other topics include the Building Canada – Flood Protection Program, and then the big one…. the rezoning proposal for two Dow Avenue properties – rezoning reference #11-24.

This has been a contentious issue with coverage dating back to last fall, here and here. Council will be receiving a report from the director of planning and building, Basil Luksun, addressing concerns brought up at the public hearing.

I’ll be on hand Monday night, tweeting away. Please keep in mind that this is actually not me as a reporter covering council for a pay cheque – I watch the meetings to keep up on things, and I am a compulsive sharer of information (which is why you probably shouldn’t tell me your most embarrassing moment, etc.) I’ll respond to tweets as I can, but I’ll also be corralling a seven-year-old into bed, so if I don’t get back to you, I apologize. I’m probably busy removing an embedded piece of Lego from my foot.

Till Monday!

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Jan. 30 council meeting aka COPE-ing with smart meters

It was another quick one for Burnaby council as they sped through tonight’s agenda. I’m not complaining, though – I’m very lucky I don’t have to cover those marathon meetings other councils *cough* Vancouver *cough* have.

The meeting started with Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan proclaiming February as International Development Month. Just when I think I know every single month/week/day proclamation that has been made in Burnaby, they throw a new one at me. Though this one is pretty self-explanatory – an acknowledgement of Canada’s contribution to international development. That’s what I got from it, anyway.

Then Gwenne Farrell, vice-president of COPE 378, spoke to council about some of the concerns the union has about smart meters. It is all included in her letter from tonight’s agenda (it can be found in the online agenda archives) but basically, she said the smart meters have cost about 400 BC Hydro meter readers their jobs. Some have been reassigned, she said, but many have not, though she said BC Hydro had told the employees they’d be retrained.

Other issues were brought up by council such as safety, cost, and how the meters may be used in the future. I covered these issues in the NOW previously.

BC Hydro has put out information addressing some of the concerns, but some – including Burnaby mayor and councillors – doubt the answers provided, and it remains to be seen how the new program will play out.

The rest of the meeting went quite quickly. Council agreed to nominate cranberry farmer Derek May for reappointment to Metro Vancouver’s agricultural committee.

Three grants were approved – a green fee waiver for the Burnaby Hospital Foundation’s golf tournament, being held on June 21; a rental fee waiver for a volunteer appreciation event at the Shadbolt on May 8; and $4,000 to the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. for 2012.

Council also approved $170,000 in funding from the gaming fund reserves for the Eagle Creek Integrated Stormwater Management Plan; $3.33 million for capital projects, to replace aging infrastructure at city facilities; and $100,000 for a contingency fund for the Western Cities Chief Administrators and Human Resources Conference, which Burnaby is hosting next fall.

The Fire Fighters’ Social and Athletic Club received council’s support for a new food primary liquor license involving “patron participation entertainment” at the club.

And finally, a townhouse rezoning application was approved for public hearing on Feb. 21, a bundle of rezoning applications was also approved for the public hearing; and first, second and third reading recommendations on all the bylaws presented passed, as well.

Mayor Corrigan mentioned that Coun. Sav Dhaliwal was not at the meeting because his mother had passed away, and said he would share council’s condolences with Dhaliwal.


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The meeting is about to begin…

That’s right, Burnaby boys and girls. We’ve got another council meeting tonight. I’ll be live-tweeting the meeting and following up with a blog post afterwards. Feel free to watch along!

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Jan. 23 council meeting AKA The Flash

Well, Burnaby, it was a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ kind of evening at the city council meeting. I swear, Mayor Derek Corrigan must’ve been an auctioneer in a past life.

“Aaaand we’ve got UBCM membership dues, UBCM membership dues going once, going twice – sold to the lovely lady in the hat!”

It was something like that, anyway.

The highlight of the evening was definitely the finery at tonight’s meeting. Mayor Corrigan sported a lovely burgundy and gold coat in honour of the Lunar New Year and Coun. Paul McDonell wore a scarlet one. None of the other councillors dressed up but I have to say, it made for better TV than the usual array of suits. But I should be completely open here – I’m a big fan of colour and ostentation, and would wear costumes to work if it wouldn’t be off-putting for my sources (this is your cue to tell my editor that you’d have no problem being interviewed by a woman in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume, people.)

Beyond the fashion show, council passed everything on the agenda in a flash.

The community policing committee’s workplan for 2012 passed – the committee is focusing primarily on public awareness this year, according to Coun. Pietro Calendino. This could include reaching out through social media, among other things.

The Business Watch program has expanded to southwest Burnaby on a trial basis for six months (began in December). The committee is also considering introducing a Community Safety Officer position.

Committee, commission, etc., members were approved for the year, as were a series of contracts with the city, including sewer and waterworks, food services, and janitorial.

Family Literacy Day was proclaimed by the mayor, to be held on Jan. 27.

There will be a court of revision to hear appeals on local area services and sewer assessment rolls on Mar. 7.

The Giro Di Burnaby will take place again this year on July 12. Woot! Coun. Paul McDonell said something about the Vancouver race being back on – Tour De Gastown lives again!

Twelve projects by the parks, recreation and cultural services department were approved for funding, totalling $2.3 million.

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal asked that a letter be sent to the B.C. Government regarding the end of the HST, I think he wants the date moved forward. Sorry – my sound cut out just then so I can’t be sure, But that’s the impression I got.

Coun. Paul McDonell asked that a presentation on how to handle doctors (i.e. what to ask, wait times, etc.) be linked on the City of Burnaby website.

As far as bylaws go, a number passed first reading – mostly fee increases from the last meeting. Some capital works projects, and a bylaw on subdivision fees.

For third reading, an amendment allowing two units at 4603 Kingsway to be used for a post-secondary college (Alexander College) was passed, as was a skysign for FortisBC at Willingdon Park.

A bylaw to close certain portions of highway in the city, and three city roadwork construction projects received final adoption.

One bylaw was abandoned – to develop two car dealerships at 4451 Still Creek Drive, but it was replaced by another bylaw at the last meeting.

And that was it – 35 minutes of Burnaby fun and excitement. I couldn’t blog and tweet at the same time, but you’ve got the highlights here.

Now for my evening parenting tip – if you try to put your child to bed with a lullaby, do not use The Muppets’ Mahna Mahna. They will not settle down. And your blog posting time will be delayed.

Thank you. Till next week.

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It’s ALIVE!!!

Wherein this blog gets to back civic matters in Burnaby, and our mayor and councillors get back to some decision-making after the holidays (alright, they did that last week, too. I’m the one who wasn’t on the ball last Monday. My apologies, folks.)

I’ll be live-blogging/tweeting tonight’s meeting but I should add that I’ll be doing so while alone at home with my seven-year-old son. So if I post “Mayor Derek Corrigan says YOUNG MAN PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT NOW OR YOU CAN FORGET ABOUT HAVING ANY ICE CREAM!” it probably means my two worlds collided.

It should be noted that I’ve never known our mayor to deny anyone ice cream in council chambers. As far as I know you can’t eat in there, but I imagine if someone brought ice cream to a council meeting the mayor would simply ask that they bring enough for all the councillors and delegates, and serve it outside the chamber.

There – the promise of a riveting night of civic live-blogging, and an imaginary account of a council meeting with treats for all. Really, what more can Burnaby residents ask for?

OK, OK, I promise actual real-life content next time.

Until tonight, then!

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Monday Meeting – a summation

Burnaby council held its last meeting of the year on Dec. 12. The summation of the meeting? Taxes, and mayor and council’s pay, are going up next year.

Council approved a new formula for mayor and council indemnities (salaries). The formula is intended to maintain the mayor and councils’ pay at levels in relation to the other six largest municipalities in the region. I’ll link to the specifics once they’re on the Burnaby NOW website, but it is likely that council salaries will increase (as they’ll  be 45% of the mayor’s indemnities as of Jan. 1.)

Council also approved the provisional financial plan for 2012, which includes a 3.98 per cent residential property tax increase.

The final budget will be adopted in the spring, after the city looks over the provisional plan and committee budgets.

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