The Straight Goods About Citizen Engagement

July 3, 2014

I was surprised but pleased to see that the Georgia Straight has today published a commentary by me about the GW Community Plan process.  Regular blog readers would have read this in May, but I am certainly glad it is to reach a wider audience.


City Abstract XI

July 3, 2014

city abstract XI_plus


An Activist History of the GW Community Plan

July 3, 2014

As we approach the next crisis point of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, I thought it might be a good idea to trace the history of the project so far with links to the stories I wrote at the time.


  • The Plan really began in the spring of 2012 when City Planners conducted a variety of surveys about what we liked about the neighbourhood.  We were shown the results in a Grandview Park display.  There was no inkling of the trouble brewing.
  • Phase two kicked off with a series of Open Houses.  The Planners outlined a number of current City initiatives (Greenest City, Homelessness, etc) and discussing how they must be tied in to the Grandview-specific issues that were identified in phase one.  These connections — and other ideas that emerge — formed the foundational material for the issue-specific workshops that will fill up the balance of phase two.
  • The idea of a high tower at Commercial & Venables was raised at the Grandview Heritage Group meeting in September 2012.  I wrote at the time “I still hope that they don’t get ideas about a tall — or even medium — tower on the site.  That would not be appreciated, I am sure.” (Note that the Courier had discussed a 7-8 storey building  back in January 2012, and Kettle reps came to GWAC’s February meeting that year).
  • The City held a number of workshops in September and October 2012.  These were the workshops and Open Houses that introduced us to the City-wide plans that had to take precedence over anything we wanted, and it eas at these Open Houses that we learned to hate the yellow-sticky style of “communication”.
  • In October 2012, the Vision majority on City Council pushed through the Task Force on Affordable Housing Recommendations.  GWAC and the community urged Council to delay implementation.  Andrew Pask told a GWAC Meeting that the recommendations would have little or no affect on GW’s Plan.
  • October 2012 also saw the NSV’s “Future of Vancouver” conference. This was one of the very first gatherings to express city-wide anxiety about the City’s failing planning process.  NSV’s Bette Murphy spoke eloquently about the unproven need for a development plan in Grandview.
  • In November 2012, the Grandview Heritage Group submitted its concerns for heritage retention during the Plan.
  • That same month I wrote a piece about the failure of the Plan’s PACE process, that failure’s links to Vision’s “faux” consultation, and the fact that local power was slipping away.
  • December 2012 saw the NSV-sponsored meeting at the Hollywood where a wide variety of city regulars argued against the City’s planning policies and processes.



The Our Community, Our Plan folks met last night and I look forward to hearing what they had to say.

The Defeat of Apathy

July 3, 2014

For the last couple of days I have been arguing with some folks on Twitter about the lack of participation in elections in Canada, and Vancouver in particular.  They claim that the system is great, it is the people who are failing to show up. I have argued that the lack of engagement by voters is a clear indication that the system needs fixing.

This debate reminded me of the wonderful Dave Meslin TED Talk in which he explains with compelling simplicity how policies of “deliberate exclusion” work to create an apathetic and inactive electorate — and suggests a way to get us out of that trap.

This is what Civics lessons ought to be about.