What Do They Have To Hide?

February 19, 2014

In a previous post, I asked what politicians could ever object to Clr. Adriane Carr’s motion to make it easier for Vancouver residents to find out how each City Councillor voted on each issue.  Well they found reasons enough.

“Too expensive”, “too much work for staff”, “not important enough,” were just some of the quotes (you can see them all here).

Vision Councillor Tim Stevenson — yes, the same guy we just spent a bunch of money on to send on a trip to Sochi for a photo op for his next campaign — called the whole idea of making this information more readily available “pie in the sky.”  He said, “I haven’t had people knocking down my door to do this.” The City staff shouldn’t be burdened with this effort, he said.  I guess not when there are endless more condo towers to plan and build and livability to destroy.

Frankly the NPA was no better.  Clr. Elizabeth Ball said this should go ahead, but only “if staff decide this is a good idea.”  Is this a final admission that Penny Ballem and her staff are running things at City Hall and not our elected representatives?

In the end, Andrea Reimer who was in the chair relied on a letter opposing the idea from the Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN).  The VPSN is a City-funded front organization meant to deal with public space and amenities, not City Hall governance and accountability.  Why should their letter be taken more seriously than the letters sent in by Vancouver citizens supporting the motion?  Letters which, Adriane Carr pointed out, had not been forwarded properly by staff.

Finally, knowing it would look bad to actually vote it down, the motion was “referred to staff”, buried until it is too late to matter.  This is a disgrace for an administration that claims to support transparency and accountability, but just another day of mis-management for Vision Vancouver.

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Date for the Calendar: The Future of the Drive

February 19, 2014

A group with the name of the Commercial Drive Action Group has called a meeting for 7:00pm Monday evening at the Britannia Boardroom. Their pitch begins with:

“Are you interested in helping Commercial Drive become a more vibrant, human-centric high street? Does the prospect of having additional crosswalks, wider sidewalks,and bike lanes on Commercial Drive get you excited?”

Personally I think the Drive is already extraordinarily vibrant and human-centric.  That’s what makes it the Drive.  Sure, there are a few small changes that would make it better, I guess, but certainly nothing major.  Even the City Planners, not renowned for their keen neighbourhood insight, recognized that large changes to the Drive would not fly and would, doubtless, cause more harm than good.

The balance of the Action Group’s pitch is strongly oriented toward the imposition of bike lanes. The less I say about that the better, perhaps, other than I am a supporter of bike lanes in many places, but the Drive — especially north of First — is certainly not one of them.

However, I will attend the meeting and I encourage everyone else to join in the conversation.


Talking About The Weather

February 19, 2014

Anybody living in Vancouver knows that it just poured down with rain yesterday morning. Sheets and sheets of the stuff.  Luckily, it had stopped before I went out to a meeting last night but on the way home, walking through Victoria Park, one of the bocce courts was completely flooded, looking in the dark just like a lap pool or a koi pond.

Today, on the other hand, was my perfect weather — cool and brisk and dry, with a blue sky and sunshine.  To be honest, I’d be happy if we had 365 days a year of this.

After a long walk down the Drive, I sat outside Britannia Library in the warm sun, enjoying the day.  I shared the bench with a fellow about my age who had come to Canada from Eritrea in 1984.  He spent the first couple of years in Edmonton before moving to Vancouver just before Expo.  We talked about the weather and I suggested the cold in Alberta must have been a shock after coming from the Horn of Africa.  Not so much, he said, as in the winter in some parts of Eritrea the water freezes on the ground.  However, what was a surprise to him was that snow fell from the sky!  We laughed.

It is a good weather day.


Another Dent in Vision’s Hegemony

February 18, 2014

At last night’s Vancouver Parks Board meeting, the Vision Vancouver majority withdrew their plans to put an ashphalt bike lane through Hadden Park.  This after months of controversy, mass meetings and, finally, a law suit that halted construction.

“We’ve heard clearly from the public that there is significant concern with any proposed changes to Hadden Park,” park board chair Niki Sharma said in a statement.  That’s stretching credulity to the limit because the loud public concerns were expressed before Sharma and her crew made the original decision to proceed with the damaging plans.  What really tipped the balance was a calculation that they couldn’t win the court case launched by residents.

As a statement from the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods said last night, it is necessary

to point out that meaningful community engagement before the original decision was made in this case would have prevented the expense, inconvenience, and embarrassment of a court challenge. Along with the changes to the STIR program brought about by the legal challenge launched by West End Neighbours, it seems that City Hall is only willing to act on residents’ concerns when required to do so by court intervention.

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods can only hope that our elected representatives quickly change tack and begin to listen to residents instead of judges.

Bravo to the local residents who stood up to the Parks Board, showed up in numbers to protest, and helped fund and manage the lawsuit that finally stopped work that most neighbours clearly did not want.  The Hadden Park case, the STIR law suit, and the delays and amendments forced on the Marpole and Grandview-Woodland Community Plans show that people power really can make a difference even against a Council majority as disengaged and obdurate as the one we have in Vancouver today.

There are just 269 days left before the next municipal election.


Look Out Ukraine!

February 18, 2014

Today could be a bad day for the opposition in Ukraine.  There are reports on Twitter that metro stations have been closed in downtown Kiev and the gathered crowds have been told to leave the streets or face brutal repression.

I am watching Espreso TV — Maidan Live, but it is difficult to follow without knowing Ukrainian.

Here is a list of other Ukrainian TV stations.


Geek Love

February 17, 2014

I just finished Katherine Dunn’s very dark novel Geek Love.  It was my third time through. I read it first in 2000, when it was given to me by the ever-loving as something to read on the plane to and from Wichita, Kansas, where I was courting her.  I read it again perhaps five years later.  There aren’t many novels I’ve read three times, so it clearly had an affect on me.

It is hard to call Geek Love anything but deeply twisted and darker than dark, chronicling the story of the Binewski clan.  Ma and Pa Binewski, proprietors of a failing traveling carnival, set about creating their own brood of extreme human oddities who make the carny famous and prosperous as their living freak show moves through small-town America.  The tale takes us across decades as the strange family dynamics play out between the strange siblings and their parents.

The novel is filled with extraordinary characters and bizarre incidents, richly imagined and brilliantly drawn. Murder, sex, and cultish megalomania reign almost unchecked by compassion and tenderness.   This is Gothic on steroids.

Ms. Dunn has not written another novel since she published Geek Love in 1989, though another one has been promised for almost 25 years.  I’m not sure I could handle another one like this!


Who Voted For What? Shouldn’t We Know?

February 17, 2014

At tomorrow’s City Council meeting, Clr. Adriane Carr has a Motion listed entitled Improving Transparency and Public Access to Council Voting Records.” The Motion asks that the voting records of all Councillors be made available to the public in an updated format within two weeks of each Council meeting. That seems like such an obvious thing to have available in any democratic situation, but it is very difficult to figure out Vancouver City Council voting records right now.

It seems hard to believe that any politician would object to such a simple, obvious and cost-free improvement to accountability,  especially in a City that professes policies of openness and engagement. However, this is Vancouver and anything can happen. If you agree, please write TODAY to mayorandccouncil@vancouver.ca in support of this much needed change.