May 25,2010 Surrey Leader
Two new seats on TransLink's board of directors that the province has earmarked for the chair and vice-chair of the Metro Vancouver mayors' council will give them roughly $60,000 in extra pay.
But North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton, the council's chair, says he's not yet sure he can accept the position, adding the optics of the additional pay is one just one of his concerns.
"That's problematic," he said. "An extra $60,000 is more than some mayors in the region make."
Walton said he's particularly concerned about stretching himself too thin, noting the duties of a TransLink director are complex and would come on top of his other roles as vice-chair of the Metro Vancouver board and the chair of the the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation, which he said devoured 400 hours of his time last year.
"It's a time commitment issue," he said.
Another is whether mayors' council reps who also serve on TransLink's board can keep the two sets of duties straight and not find themselves in conflict.
If he decides taking the seat is justified, Walton said he would go only if the mayors' council votes to send him.
In contrast, vice-chair Peter Fassbender, the mayor of Langley City, said he has no hesitation taking his seat and plans to do so as soon as possible, provided he remains in his role as vice-chair.
"I'm not going there because I'm going to get extra pay," he said. "I want this to work. I'm prepared to put in the effort."
Fassbender said he has already been attending most TransLink board meetings for months at the invitation of the board.
"I've been putting in the effort without the extra pay because I believe it's important for the region to do that," he said.
Fassbender said it's a valuable chance for better communication between the TransLink board and the mayors, and he doesn't think the council should wait on taking up the seats until next January, when the chair and vice-chair positions come up for election again.
He rejected suggestions he or Walton would be hamstrung and put in an impossible situation by serving on TransLink, adding he would work to persuade the board to conduct most of its business publicly, not behind closed doors.
The change to TransLink's legislation giving two board seats to the mayors' council was unveiled in May by Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom.
Mayors have criticized it as a small step that doesn't go nearly far enough to address their demands for more control over TransLink spending and priorities.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said he is "totally opposed" to mayors sitting on TransLink with just two token seats, calling it a provincial ploy to "divide and conquer" the mayors.
"This is a sham," he said. "They are attempting to get a couple of members of the mayors' council on that board who will then validate the decisions being made and put those mayors in a terrible conflict."
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, a former chair of the mayors' council, said she doesn't see a huge problem sending the chair and vice-chair to TransLink, but cautioned cities must press Victoria for much more meaningful improvements to restore democracy and accountability.
"There's some value," Watts said. "But it's not going to fix the governance issue. So that still has to be addressed."
TransLink's appointed board of directors has complete control of the transportation authority's spending. The mayors' council can only approve or reject new or increased funding sources to finance service expansion.
Mayors are also paid $500 each time the mayors' council meets and Walton gets a flat stipend of $5,000 as chair, in addition to payments to serve at Metro Vancouver.
TransLink directors are paid retainers of around $38,000, depending on their duties, and they receive $1,200 per full day board meeting ($600 for half day). The board chair gets a flat $100,000.