Moyra Baxter has the last word

Dear Editor:

In his column, “School Bus Rudeness" (Courier, Sept. 14), James Miller quotes me as saying “that it’s ultimately the responsibility of parents to get their kids to school.”

Mr. Miller then exclaims: “How rude.” 

I have not spoken to Mr. Miller regarding our transportation system, but he knows that I am always available to speak with him on any topic regarding public education. His inflammatory second-hand comments are taken out of context.

As I said to those who did contact me, and to the parents at last Wednesday’s board meeting (which was not attended by any media representatives) the Central Okanagan Board of Education is committed to providing the best bus system that we can, and to provide the service to as many students as possible.

This is our commitment, even though the Ministry of Education has stated that boards of education are not obliged to offer any transportation services to students. Over the years, we’ve lobbied the government to provide more funding for the school bus system on which so many families rely.

We receive a small grant for “eligible” students, and collect a busing fee from most parents, although parents who have difficulty paying our transportation fee are exempt.

However, the service we have been providing costs us about $3 million more than we receive from government and parents.

Mr. Miller also mentioned property taxes and the “sizeable chunk which goes to education.” Perhaps Mr Miller doesn’t understand that the school tax does not go to the local school districts — it goes to the provincial government to divvy up as they see fit.

That’s why boards of education are at the mercy of the government regarding sufficient funding to provide adequate, consistent, predictable education services to students, and why we have to continually lobby them.

Over the next few months, the board’s transportation task force will be surveying parents, working with the municipalities in the Central Okanagan, and recommending how we can continue to provide a safe, cost-effective bus system which meets the needs of as many families and students as possible.

I once again apologize for the confusion this year and the anxiety this has caused for many parents and their children.

And, once again, I invite Mr Miller to contact me if he wishes to seek information on any topic regarding public education. 

Moyra Baxter, Chairperson

Central Okanagan Board of Education

18 months and still waiting

Dear Editor:

Media reports and council meeting minutes indicate the West Kelowna water treatment plant was delayed over 18 months waiting for the NDP government (Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development) to approve a request by the city to expand the Rose Valley water treatment plant on the crown land it currently resides on.

This boils down to an additional 18 months of water quality advisories for those using the water system.

It is this same ministry that, through lack of foresight or action, is reported to be one cause (policies, taxes and stumpage fees) of the closure or curtailments of lumber mills including Tolko in Kelowna.

The wait of 18 months, without any decision, forced the city of West Kelowna to purchase private land to expand the water treatment plant to meet funding deadlines allowing the argument that the government wanted the federal funding (and associated provincial funding from the prior liberal government) to fail.

The only reply (after numerous attempts) from my query to Premier John Horgan on how building the expansion on another site fits into their climate action plan (carbon emissions from unnecessary construction) was that the city should have waited longer for approval.

Further, there was no defence on my claim this 18-month delay caused carbon emissions during boil water advisories either by boiling water using natural gas or transportation (retail supply and consumer emissions) to obtain drinking water. 

Nor was there any comment on how much more plastic entered our environment from packaging and water bottle use during water quality events.

We appear extremely fortunate MPs Stephen Fuhr and Dan Albas aided in obtaining an additional two-year extension on the federal funding to complete the plant and should contemplate if our current government was just planning to walk away from the funding commitment.

We now find a repeat of inaction by this same provincial ministry on the months- old-and-ongoing lumber mill closures.

We should also recall the commitment from the previous Liberal government to provide a second electrical line into West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, and Peachland to ensure a redundant power supply to residents and businesses that is now stonewalled by the present government.

Tom Kinsman

West Kelowna

Citizens first, not developers

Dear Editor:

OCP 2020, -30, -40, and -50 have become meaningless numbers, something for city councillors to hang their hats on while they attend council meetings and strategic development sessions, to discuss how best to serve the developers.

Any visions and ambitions entertained by any of the 130,000 citizens of Kelowna are considered and treated as nothing but irritating obstructions to this city council’s “corporate” master plan.

It should also be considered criminal to increase densities just to collect more taxes from the less-affluent in the centre of the city, instead of increasing the taxes to reflect the much-higher costs to service those larger semi-rural sub-divisions. 

Increasing densities will only increase noise, pollution and crime, and the cost of social services will increase exponentially, while our quality of life takes a very serious nosedive and our streets become playgrounds for our children.

Instead of five multi-purpose supportive housing units randomly located near schools in residential areas in Rutland, why not just build one big one on property the city already owns, like that large parcel of land near UBCO and the Glenmore landfill the city bought for nearly $12 million.

It’s big enough to provide the ambience people in various stages of recovery need to learn the skills they require to get back on their feet again, and ample buffer between residential developments and schools, and it would save million in construction costs, as well and literally more millions every year in operating costs,

The city must also put a full stop to allowing B&Bs and the development of carriage houses in any established residential areas.

Carriage houses and B&Bs converts homes into rental properties. It increases traffic and noise levels without any accommodation for parking for all those extra vehicles, and increases the load on all infrastructure beyond it’s intended capacity.

These developments also reduce the values of all properties while they destroy the form and character of whole neighbourhoods forever, and seriously challenges the aesthetics of any mature and well-developed neighbourhood.

Homeowners have invested literally billions of dollars in their homes, and they all have a legal right to know that their investments are safe and sacred, and will not change till such time a subdivision is ready for complete re-development.

It’s time to get the focus back on people’s rights to own and enjoy their properties and to protecting their quality of life, instead of their commitment to generate more cash for greedy corporations and developers.

Andy Thomsen

Kelowna