Friday, July 29, 2022

How much money has City Council left on the City Hall counting room floor?

The revelation from Monday's City Council session that parking tickets apparently received no urgency when it comes to collecting revenue, should probably be a bit of a red flag over how City Council has approached its financial themes over its last few mandates.

The topic made for much discussion coming out of two presentations Monday, the proposed Interim Parking Management Strategy and the decision to move towards an adjudication system for bylaw notices, which is where we received the eye opening note that 75 percent of those issued traffic tickets chose not to pay and seemingly there was nothing for City Council to do as it was a 'voluntary donation'.

As the City Manager correctly explained to Council, with voluntary payments the guiding principle for the city's traffic ticket policy ... why would anyone pay a ticket?

It's not an issue of staffing problems, or administrative management, it really does go back to Council and their oversight on a key element of their work, revenue generation in the community. 

Especially when one considers the volume of conversation that  they have put into parking themes over the last eight years in what has become a long running discussion topic that only now may finally be finding a way to resolution.

March 2022 -- Prince Rupert's enforcement Blues
April 2021 -- Parking Issues Downtown and across the city city continue to confound Prince Rupert Council
December 2019 -- What's the hardest thing to find in Prince Rupert this holiday season?

Image from civic correspondence of 2018

The real question for Council that wasn't asked, or surrendered up for information on the night is why did this council and who knows how many others before it, allow the practice to carry on?

Comments to our story of Thursday quite rightly noted that what was the logic of printing up and sending out bylaw officers to deliver the tickets if there was no real plan to actually make anyone pay.

The parking situation does give one cause to consider just where else the city has been less than proactive in revenue generation opportunities and if there are more unusual discoveries to be found beyond parking, say in the area of maintenance bylaw issues, or other civic instruments.

Considering the various areas where they lease out land, whether at Watson Island or elsewhere in any number of structures they may own, or making  arrangements for tenancy for new or recent commercial space concepts and such.  Having some idea of the volume of revenue that is generated, or should be generated, would be worth providing some background on.

Perhaps before the incumbents on Council that are considering a run in October hit the campaign trail, they may want to ask the Financial office for a financial check up to share and for residents to look over as part of the information flow of the election run up.

Beyond the parking boondoggle, having the city offer up a glimpse towards how much may have been spent on civic project overages, contracts, any past legal settlements, as well as any number of other council initiatives that haven't really been explained fully towards costing over the years, would give some idea as to where the incoming council may be on the profit and losses once the election campaigning is over.

During the final stages of the Bylaw Notice discussion on Monday, Councillor Adey somewhat jokingly observed that the next Council won't know what is about to hit them.

He may be on the mark more than even he may have intended.

If the current council doesn't ask for a snapshot for the campaigns ahead, the incoming Mayor and Council should. 

Maybe a helpful and easy to understand financial tip sheet could at least give the soon to be elected council  (and the city's residents) a heads up when it comes to how the revenues and expenses flow at City Hall.

It's somewhat ironic that in a month of highlighting the financial challenges they face and their frustrations with the Port and Province over Port Property Tax Caps (still an issue for the MLA to show some action towards by the way); the city council members knew of a long running issue of their own curious financial management of the Parking files, leaving cash inaccessible from what should have been a steady revenue stream.

Something which may explain why the Province hasn't really been too keen to give them more cash to use, that while Council tries to figure out how to access money that they would seem to have there for the taking.

Had residents known previous as to the less than attentive nature to revenue generation over the years, they could have perhaps suggested a long time ago that such things as City Council pay raises and Vision planning funding be taken from parking revenues ...  that probably would have cleared up the issue quite quickly.

Themes of the City's financials can be reviewed from our archive page here.

Our notes on past Council Discussion themes is available here.


  1. Spending money to have bylaw officers issue tickets and then treating fines as voluntary contributions is a rather odd way to run the city's financial affairs and doesn't exactly enhance the city council's credibility when they take cry foul. That being said, just because the council doesn't agree with the Port Property Tax Act 2004 it doesn't follow that the local MLA is obliged to take any action to advocate on their behalf or do anything else for that matter. The BC Liberals are not likely to take up their cause either. The BC Libertarian Party may be the council's best bet if they're looking for some partisan political support. It's all for greater decentralization of powers to the local level and curtailment of big government overreach, and may be quite receptive to the council's populist leanings.

    1. Thanks for the notes and for taking the time to read the piece.

      Your point on the MLA and her course of action is true, she is under no obligation to tout the city version. She should however provide some public indication as to whether she agrees with that view or if there is some way she could work to resolve the impasse.

      As you observe and I've noted in past articles both the BC Liberals and BC NDP govt's haven't quite seen the issue with the same prism as City Council.


  2. The MLA is not going to break ranks with the government on a major policy issue like port tax caps and grants. As for possibly working to resolve the impasse, a previous NCR article commented on the city council's "populist bent" (if I recall correctly). I think that was an astute observation. When faced with complex issues the council defaults into us vs them, it's all their fault, they don't understand or care etc. (again relying on on memory). Populist narratives no doubt appeal to some because of their simplistic nature, and they may attract a following at election time, but in terms of actually solving complex problems they're difficult to deal with. I'm doubtful that the MLA or anyone else can help resolve the impasse without a change in approach by the council.

  3. A change in approach or maybe a change in who is on the council.