Ms. Miller outlined how the system would have the city work with the Ministry of Attorney General to appoint an adjudicator; a project which could deliver an increase in the payment of fines of over 40 percent.
Though the full details towards how that would work, or who would adjudicate, wasn't fully explored from the presentation or in the follow up discussion by the Council members.
The need for a new approach to collections on bylaw fines, was explored by way of a report from city staff as part of their Interim Parking Strategy, which has identified that only 25 parent of those who are ticketed have paid their fines.
The other 75 percent of those receiving tickets clearly having read the entire information provided on the tickets which notes that payment is a voluntary thing and have chosen not to volunteer.
|Notes on parking ticket payment from the
City's Interim Parking Management Strategy document
(click to enlarge)
In comments on the initiative, Councillor Niesh led off the conversation and asked how the city can tell if a vehicle is insured, Ms. Miller assured him that the bylaw officers have the ability to look up such status.
Mr. Niesh also asked about the potential use of a boot system to increase the collection of fees.
"Could we not implement something for you know repeat offenders, where we're having problems collecting, we have talked about this before, could we not have like a boot. Where Bylaw boots the vehicles and you know if they want to get their vehicle unbooted then they pay their fines. It's been discussed in the past and I though we were going to go that route"-- Councillor Wade Niesh
The Corporate Administrator confirmed for Council that they do have the Boot mechanism and that it's up to a decision of council to implement that program.
"We actually do have boots, and really if Council wishes we can certainly look at amending bylaw and it is completely within your control what we do in forms of enforcement of the bylaws and how those bylaws are written and amended."-- Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller
The Councillor noted how the bylaw tickets specify that the payment is a voluntary ticket and how they don't feel the need to pay it and there is no enforcement towards payment of them. He asked why they aren't being booted, or towed which would provide improved results when it comes to payment of the tickets.
The Corporate Administrator noted that as the ticket are worded as voluntary that would pose a challenge towards using the mechanism.
"As you've noted, the tickets at present are voluntary, so it would be pretty difficult to boot a voluntary ticket. However, with the implementation of the adjudication system once you don't pay your ticket after a certain number of days it does go to collections. And then there is no option to not pay your ticket, you will go for an adjudicator and providing the evidence that is presented you will be required to pay your ticket.-- Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller
Councillor Cunningham spoke of out of town vehicles and how they may not be inclined to pay if they reside out of province.
City Manager Rob Buchan noted he wasn't sure of the process, but anecdotally he relayed that it was his understanding it is hard to collect out of province.
Towards the current system and the proposed new Notification system, Dr. Buchan spoke to the nature of the voluntary fine and how it has impacted on payment.
"This was educational for me, it's one piece of our regulatory framework that I wasn't fully aware of.
Our voluntary system, a voluntary fine is not a fine, it's an invitation to make a contribution. Which people can properly and understandably ignore, if there's no requirement to make a payment.
So this would change that profoundly I think, so I would strongly recommend that we go in this direction"-- City Manager Dr. Rob Buchan
Councillor Cunningham expanded the discussion towards other Bylaw ticketing efforts for property maintenance and how he would like to see the focus shift from complaint driven to bylaw officer generated.
"When, How do we amend this Bylaw by Neighbour, complaint driven system, so the Bylaw officers can just go and ticket people, especially with the property management things ...
I've talked to the Bylaw officers in Terrace who do the same thing. They don't go by complaint driven, they just see and infraction they ticket the people. They've come down here to visit and they just can't believe the condition of some our properties and that.
They're obviously in violation of our maintenance property bylaw and I see no reason whey we have to wait for a neighbour to complain about somebody's property"-- Councillor Barry Cunningham
To that topic, the City Manager addressed how there was a need to create a civic policy and what would be required towards bylaw enforcement and how one approach could be developing a policy as part of the Strategic plan for next year.
Dr. Buchan also pointed to the staffing situation with the Bylaw enforcement office and how next year's Council may wish to address the issue, which could mean an increase in staff to achieve their wishes.
"The short answer, the short answer to how do you go about changing the policy is.
You could do it right now with a resolution, it would be a Council resolution to adopt the policy, now we would have to put some words around the policy but it wouldn't take much to make a policy.
We currently have practice we do not have council policy on bylaw enforcement we have practice. So that is one of the things that we would be proposing to address in next year's Strategic plan, I think it's probably a good idea to have policy"
What that would mean in the nature of change for the bylaw office was also of note for the City Manager.
"The other thing to be really cognizant of is, we have just recently doubled our bylaw enforcement capacity, we were up to two.
There's a limited amount that you can do with two bylaw enforcement officers. So in the process of developing policy around enforcement, a really important discussion is resources for actually carrying out the policy.
While I was saying this could be done just with resolution, it could be, it's not a good idea just to quickly make a resolution on this.
This is something that has to be thought about in terms of, the implications of additional staff and resources and what council's philosophy is around bylaw enforcement.
I think that this is a really good discussion, and important one that we will be suggesting to next year's council that we get into. -- City Manager Dr. Rob Buchan
Some background on the City's long running discussion on Bylaw enforcement can be found from our notes of earlier this year, which traced some of the past conversations to the theme.
The daunting task towards change on bylaw enforcement gave Councillor Nick Adey cause to observe that next year's council won't know what hit them.
Towards the bylaw notification process under discussion, he provided his own endorsement for the proposed shift in focus.
"I think this is a good idea, I think it expands the repertoire of how we deal with things. I think if it makes a dent in the 25 percent return, for people who are you know committing albeit minor violations, that most people understand and know that they are doing it. So I don't have any problems with it, so I'm going to support it"
Council then voted to move forward toward the new Bylaw Notification process.
That serves to put the seventy five percent of those currently choosing not to pay their fines to start saving up for the future.
As for those who didn't read the document all the way through and ponied up the required cash, they may want to seek out some recognition for their good citizenship.
Perhaps Council might consider a mass award from the City's Civic Award program for 2023 which might offer up the proper salute for those who 'volunteered" to pay prior to the new program's implementation.
The full discussion on the new proposal for Bylaw Notice can be reviewed through the City's Video Archive starting at the one hour, thirty two minute mark.
More notes on the Monday Council Session can be reviewed through our Council Timeline Feature.
A wider overview of past council Discussions can be explored here.