Today was the AGM for the Grandview-Woodland Area Council where I have been President for the last year. This was the body of my President’s Report, cutting out the admin stuff and with a few annotations to make things clear:
“We start with the Presidents’ Report for the past year:
- We began the year with the great Food Truck debate at our packed meeting in March last year. That seems a long time ago now, especially as the food truck at the centre of the debate is no longer with us. Now we have finally had the grass verge on Grandview Park repaired and that seems to be that, at least for the moment;
- In June and September we approached the subject of aboriginal issues in Grandview. At the June meeting, Chuck Lafferty of the Urban Native Youth Association spoke with us. In September, Vonnie Hutchinson, principal of Macdonald School talked with us about the programs she is running; I believe we all learned things from those meetings.
- In November, James Buonassisi and Lisa McIntosh talked us through the local real estate market and possible trends for the future;
- In January this year, we had a vibrant debate about the situation at Victoria Park with Constable Mike Lemon, some Park Rangers and a number of others;
- And in February, just last month, we tried to revive the Venables Greenway project with contributions from John Roberts, Emily Chu, Bruce Macdonald, Mila Matestinic, and our own Tom Durrie.
- GWAC this year has also been involved in Britannia’s Making Space initiative, discussions with City Engineers regarding the viaducts, the closure of Powell Street, and the future development of the False Creek lands immediately to our west. We have also engaged the City to help save the marvelous heritage building at 1872 Parker Street, and on the question of the Metro Vancouver Regional Context Statement.
“And that leads us to the major matter that we have being dealing with this year, and that is the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan. Many members and Directors were closely involved in the workshops and open houses with which the Plan process began and we were as shocked as the rest of the community when the “Emerging Directions” document was published early last summer.
Many of our monthly meetings since then have dwelt at length with the Plan. Our July meeting turned into a mass meeting that allowed scores of the community to express their outrage to the Planners directly, and to a couple of City Councilors and our MLA who attended.
Our August meeting included speakers from DTES, Marpole, and the West End who were also undergoing Community Plans at the same time as us. We learned from that meeting that the problems with the failure of public consultation were city-wide.
Public distrust in the process and rejection of the specifics of the Plan blossomed that summer in street parties and café debates, letters to editors, and encouraged a great deal of media coverage. It didn’t take long for the City to realize they had stepped over the line with our Plan and they ordered the General Manager of Planning to think again.
In advance of Brian Jackson’s report GWAC wrote a detailed set of recommendations, and many of us spoke at the City Council meeting where we were granted a 12-month extension to the Plan’s original schedule. At that same City Council meeting way back in September, we were also offered something called a Citizens’ Assembly which came with no definitions or instructions. There were a couple of information sessions in January this year but here we are now, in March, with nothing yet settled.
Finally on this topic, the meetings we had in the summer with other districts of the City eventually grew into an organization called the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods of which GWAC was a founder member. I am co-chair of the Coalition which now includes twenty four neighbourhood associations covering about 80% of the land and 90% of the population of Vancouver, and which is working on designing a new and respectful relationship between the neighbourhoods and the City. You will hear much more of this as the summer progresses.
OK, that’s enough from me about the years’ events. Now I want to spend a couple of minutes talking about GWAC itself.
March 1st just past was the 50th anniversary of the founding of the group in 1964 that would become GWAC a few years later. That group was founded by health, welfare and educational professionals. However, the mandate of the group in its earliest days was to bring more and more local members into the fold and, when the local members became the majority, they turned GWAC over to them.
Therefore, from its very beginnings, GWAC has been designed to be a membership driven-organization; it is your organization and it should be your motions that direct its governance and its policies. So if you have policies you want GWAC to follow in the coming year, this meeting is a very good time to make them known and have them voted on.
I have to warn you that GWAC needs to be a whole lot broader than dealing just with Commercial Drive or placing people on the Board that support towers in our midst. Those of you who live on Lakewood or 8th Avenue or north of Hastings need to make sure this organization is dealing with your interests as well. Those of you who have marched with us and attended street parties and signed petitions to save Grandview from being overrun by high-rises need to ensure that your voices are heard.
It is appropriate that I tell you now that I will not be seeking re-election to the GWAC Board this year.
There are a number of reasons for my decision, [including my distaste for some of the people becoming involved here and their almost defamatory tactics], but the most pressing in 2014 is that we are in a municipal election year. Why that matters is because the President of GWAC must be non-partisan, the group itself must be non-partisan even when the issues it deals with are obviously political. I cannot hold myself to that standard this year.
I consider this to be such a crucial election – especially now the term for City Council will been expanded to four years – and I cannot stay silent, I must voice my opinions straightforwardly and as loudly as I can. Therefore I must stand away from the GWAC Board.
I will continue to work for the benefit of Grandview-Woodlands through the Ad-Hoc Committee on Citizens’ Assembly, through the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, through the Grandview Heritage Group, and through my extensive writings and at City Council meetings.
I want to thank you for the privilege of being President in as dramatic a year as was 2013, and I am particularly proud of the work we did to stop new high-rises coming into any part of Grandview so far. I trust the new Board that you elect today will maintain that important struggle against what will sometimes appear mighty odds.”
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In the end, there were exactly the same number of candidates for the Board as there are Board positions, so no election was required. I’ll keep my own counsel on what I think of most of the Board for this coming year. Luckily the previous VP and three local residents who have shown a definite interest in the Community Plan all year will be on the Board which offers some hope.
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After the elections, the meeting was given a presentation by Rick Barham of HabitatExpo17. I didn’t get to see it because I was called away after the election, but it made some sort of impression. One member wrote to me that it was full of good ideas and he hoped GWAC would follow up on it. Another member wrote that the presentation was “completely nuts!” Variety of opinion keeps us all on our toes!