Community Engagement

April 10, 2013

There was a very impressive turnout for the GWAC meeting on Monday night; about 60 residents and a few others attended, which was marvelous to see.  That number just about fills the Learning Resource Centre and helps the sense of a crowded engaged room.

The elections for the Board of Directors were the first contested votes for several years. Four incumbents didn’t run and two others were defeated, which means that we now have six brand new Directors — a wholesale change of the Board.  I was re-elected (and I sincerely thank all those who voted for me) and I am looking forward to working with the Board to make sure GWAC and the residents of Grandview are ready to face the important year that is facing us.

The second half of the evening was the debate on Food Trucks on the Drive.  It began with a panel of four speakers:  Jerry Dobrovolny, the City’s Director of Transportation, gave an overview of the City’s food truck program and insisted that the City did not twist anyone’s arm to bring trucks to the Drive.  He was followed by BIA Executive Director Rolando Cardeno trying to explain the BIA’s position that they were somehow obliged by the City to take two truck permits and farm them out.  Ryan Johnson, co-owner of the Daily Catch truck talked about how much money they had invested and how disappointed they had been being moved off their promised patch on Charles Street.  I rounded out the panel of speakers, arguing against the trucks and how unsuitable Commercial Drive in general, and Grandview Park in particular, was for the program.

The discussion then passed to the floor where a couple of dozen speakers or more had a chance to voice their opinions.  Some were definitely in favour of the truck — some calling for many more — but the general tenor was opposed. Talking of tenors, it was interesting and informative to hear Federico Fuocco, an important figure in the BIA, complaining about the process and the trucks, making it clear he was not in favour.  There was a great deal of sympathy for the Daily Catch folks who have been caught in the middle of this controversy, and a number of compromises (moving them away from the Park) were suggested.

There were two issues where there was a great deal of concern expressed, and both involved the BIA.  The first was the discovery that, even though the City licenses for food trucks are good for one year, the BIA has done a deal with Daily Catch for a three-year period.  We definitely need to know whether the City was involved in that finesse — Dobrovolny said no — and what that would mean in terms of costs for other BIA members in the event that something happens to the truck program within that three year period.

Second, the BIA’s rep clearly didn’t understand that this was an issue that concerns the entire community, not just the merchants on the Drive.  He was asked — by a BIA member — why details of the food truck program hadn’t been shown on the BIA’s website.  He reluctantly conceded that something might be written — but only for the members.  I noted that we, the residents of Grandview, are the real stakeholders on the Drive, and that idea received warm applause.

In the end, Jerry Dobrovolny said that he had heard loud and clear that no further food trucks should be stationed on the Drive. Given that the BIA last month had suggested that up to four truck licenses might be issued for our area, Jerry’s statement was a relief.  He also promised to replace the grass that had been dug up and gravelled over on the south-east edge of the Park where the truck was originally assigned.

All in all it was an excellent meeting, providing a valuable forum  for a lot of people to have their say and for the City (and the BIA) to listen.

Here is another report on the meeting.