Rachel Magnusson, the Chair of the Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly, who is also a principal of MASS Lrb, the “independent”community engagement experts hired by the City to manage the Assembly process, has an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun yesterday in which she argued for the rightness of the design of Assembly they have chosen.
Oddly enough, I disagree with her analysis. This is the letter I have sent to the Sun:
In today’s op-ed about the Grandview Community Plan the accompanying image was of Main Street rather than Commercial Drive. Clearly the writer, Ms. Magnusson, cannot be found at fault for this mistaken imagery, but the use of a picture of another neighbourhood did help underline the fallacies in her argument for the City’s version of a Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly.
What Ms. Magnusson — whose company has stripped $150,000 from the original public consultation budget — calls “an important exercise in local democracy” is, in fact, merely the latest in Vision Vancouver’s series of “faux” consultations where style and public imagery take centre stage, generally to disguise the unhappy substance beneath. The Assembly as envisaged by Ms. Magnusson and the folks at Vancouver City Planning is designed to look good from the outside but will, in fact, lead to the delivery of a preconceived Planning-centric result that may well not be supported by the majority of the residents in our neighbourhood.
Ms. Magnusson fails to note that the Terms of Reference for this Assembly were imposed upon the community without genuine consultation. Every meeting, every gathering, every letter to the planners noted the residents’ preference to have a self-selected open Assembly with a broad scope of action and involvement. Instead, we have a limited size of Assembly with limited abilities to manage the process.
Sure, they talked to a few of us once in a while; but did they listen? The evidence can be seen in the exact description of what the assembly will do and how it will do it, which was the same as the plan disseminated by planners last year. In other words, none of our meetings and media coverage and letters and arguments for six months about what was wrong with their Assembly have changed their minds by a single comma.
Are they staunchly defending a pre-determined plan, or are they blinkered to other realities?
Surely the job of the assembly and how it proceeds should have been determined by a vigorously debated terms of reference, for that is key to the entire transparency and integrity of the project. The definition of the job of the assembly and the way it proceeds needed to flow from the agreed terms of reference, not to precede those terms, which is what we seem to have here.
Perhaps the planners have already decided what the Assembly’s result will be. If that is the case, then, what is the point of continuing a travesty of engagement? Trust me, the people can live without the cabaret this charade produces. Why not just come out and say, this is the way it is going to be. We can all save time. No doubt the taxpayers can save some money. And we would all be saved the mountains of BS that will go into the debate otherwise.
Do you agree? Disagree? Either way, find a few minutes and send off your own letters to the media, let them know that the future of our neighbourhood is a big deal!