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I just got back from a quick shopping trip to the Drive.
I went out dressed in a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. It was raining quite hard. What a joy to feel the rain on my head, my arms, my legs. The air smelled cleaner, fresher.
It seems like a Biblical age since anything felt that good.
Last night was very warm and exhaustingly muggy, and yet crowds of local Grandview folks showed up at the latest Our Community, Our Plan meeting. The main purpose of last night’s gathering was to start organizing community activists in each of the seven sub-areas into which Planning has broken down our neighbourhood.
As I have written before, it seems perfectly possible that while the much-vaunted Citizens’ Assembly will be encouraged to compose a “hearts and flowers” statement about the future of Grandview-Woodland, the potentially destructive planning workshops for each of the sub-areas will be taking place in another venue. It is vital, therefore, that residents pull themselves together into area groups and prepare their own ideas for what needs to be retained, what, if any, additional density and form would be acceptable, what further amenities are required.
That’s what we did last night; and I am honoured to be part of such an intelligent, articulate, and committed group. Bring it on, Planners!
A number of things are rapidly becoming clear in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election:
1) Vision Vancouver is vulnerable. Their six-year reign of big business crony politics — which has turned our city into one of the most unaffordable cities in the entire world, led to the wholesale destruction of neighbourhoods and disenfranchisement of residents, and has failed to genuinely grapple with either homelessness, transportation, or public amenities — is coming home to roost. More and more Vancouverites are catching on to the fact that Vision’s heated environmental and LGBTQ rhetoric (with or without substantive action), street theatre and parades, and failed experiments with faux engagement projects are simply style over substance. Their softness in the polls is witness to this. They will be spending umpteen millions of dollars trying to persuade you otherwise: when you see their ads ask yourself, who actually paid for that?
2) The Vancouver Green Party and their three candidates are perfectly positioned to be everyone’s second (or first) choice. They are not wasting resources chasing the mayoralty or trying to elect large numbers of Councilors. They are concentrating on the job at hand, making sure they are as well known as they can be, and, quite rightly, trading off Adriane Carr’s excellent term as, essentially, an independent Councilor.
3) The NPA have genuine branding and image problems, stemming both from their recent background as being fully funded by developer/real estate/corporate individuals, and the disastrous policies of Eco-Density introduced by their last elected Mayor, Sam Sullivan. It is those very policies that Vision ran against in 2008, took over in 2009 under a different name, and have been implementing so disastrously for the last six years. However, many activists interested in planning and neighbourhood issues have to recognize that the NPA-initiated City Plan was the best thing that ever happened to Vancouver planning, and it needs to be revived, brushed off for modernity’s sake, and put back in place as marching orders for Brian Jackson and his Planning Department. If Kirk LaPointe could persuade the party to do something like that, then they have to be worth a look at for a seat or two.
4) In most years it would be accepted as common wisdom that a majority party like Vision would thrive in an environment where there are six or seven other parties vieing for power, splitting the vote. But I am becoming less sure of that in 2014. True, in addition to those mentioned already, we have TEAM, COPE, OneCity, Cedar, and Vancouver First in the field. But if a voter agrees with me about the disaster that is Vision, then tis variety allows them to vote for an a la carte selection; say three Greens, a couple from NPA, and perhaps a COPE candidate. Those six (or any similar configuration, I wasn’t being prescriptive) are enough to rid of us Vision.
The key this year — don’t vote the slate. Even if you feel obliged (for whatever reason) to vote for Robertson (or LaPointe) as Mayor, you need to control any urge to simply tick off all the Vision (or NPA) names on the ballot. Vote for the best people. Over the next few months, along with a thousand others, I will try to persuade you who those “best people” are. But it is vital that you make up your own mind and not be bullied by parties or pundits telling you you must vote all this or all that.
A last thought: There is still time, I think, for a powerful independent mayoral candidate to step forward. She or he could gather together all the minor parties under their wing and create a kind of independent slate for electoral purposes. That might not be so bad. It would be a tough row to hoe against all the embedded money committed to Vision et al., but I think it could catch fire as an idea if handled properly.
And it would certainly be a major step toward party-less elections in the future.
The other day we decided to have a late lunch at Cafe Shibuya on Commercial. Regular readers will recall that Cafe Shibuya used to be Adeline’s which had become my favourite coffe/breakfast/meeting haunt (especially as it is just around the corner from where we live). For the last year or so, the owners of Adeline’s had talked about turning it into a Japanese/Korean place, and that is now what they have done. I really like the people involved, which makes this review all the more difficult to write.
In Vancouver when you think of a Japanese restaurant, the mind automatically envisions sushi and sashimi. From my memory of the menu, you can get both at Shibuya, but their speciality seems to be Japanese and Korean barbecued dishes. When we went, we both chose Korean dishes that we were familiar with — jaepche and bulgoki — and, frankly, neither were that good. The pickles were great, the service was pleasant, and the price wasn’t bad; but the main food was mediocre at best. The ever-loving said she was dyspeptic for a day and a half afterwards.
Now, we have only tried two dishes from the menu and maybe they are the worst things they do but, let’s be honest, first impressions count when there is so much competition (on the Drive, let alone the entire city) for our limited restaurant dollars. I hope that others find it better and more to their taste (because I really do like the folks behind the Cafe) but I think they have lost us as customers.
And the biggest shame for me is that I have also lost a great breakfast meeting place!
I haven’t been writing much — as you can see. I have been concentrating on reading, making notes, prepping a future essay on the conflation of literacy, monotheism, and democracy, and how they ganged up to eliminate the rights and powers of women. That’s for later, but I am having trouble keeping my focus on other issues because that material is both fascinating and disturbing. I have developed a list of posts that I have been thinking about, but haven’t gotten to the point of writing yet. This week maybe.
I have taken the time to attend a meeting of the Our Community, Our Plan (OCOP) group on Monday, and to meet with the fascinating Wendy Sarkissian this morning.
OCOP is surviving well as a group of activists, the meetings are exciting and forward moving, and we now know each other well enough that we get real action initiated quite quickly. I suspect the City may be surprised about some of the things we have planned. It is also a useful teaching/learning forum about planning, development, media management, and municipal politics. Everyone learns something at these gatherings — every Tuesday 7:00pm at Britannia Info Centre.
Sharing coffee and conversation with Australian planner Wendy Sarkissian was a real pleasure this morning. She is here for a few months this fall to teach at Langara and UBC. The joy is that she is happy to help us in Grandview and her decades of experience can only be valuable. I am looking forward to seeing how best we can fit her into the group.
Twenty-eight years ago today — more than a generation ago — I was proclaimed a Canadian citizen; it was one of the two or three best days of my life.
Thank you Canada. I appreciate every moment of it.
Since writing my last post on Serial Detectives I have known and loved, I have to add a new nane: Robert Galbraith, author of two novels featuring the hard-boiled London-based private detective Cormoran Strike. The first novel in the series was “The Cuckoo’s Calling” and the second, published earlier this summer, is “Silkworm“.
Robert Galbraith is a nom-de-plume of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and “A Casual Vacancy.”
I really enjoyed “The Cuckoo’s Calling“. I enjoyed the characters (major and minor) and the style and the easy knowledge of London. And I was satisfied with the result — the bad guy got his just desserts. I enjoyed “Silkworm“, too, but was left less satisfied. Perhaps I was expecting something more, or something else.
It is not possible, so far as I can tell, to simply read a Galbraith mystery and try to figure out the clues that are being left. Strike keeps too much to himself and, in both books, he finally reveals his theory and plan to his assistant (when he needs specific help) in such a way as to not tell us, the reader. Fair enough, now I know.
In the future, I will simply sit back and enjoy the fine writing when new volumes arrive.
I had a delightful lunch yesterday with Corina McKendry, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. She is, as she described it, the “sustainability” professor in a conservative and heavily military state where the word virtually guarantees a no vote.
Ms. McKendry has made a study of Chicago and London and knows San Francisco well.
One of her major interests, as I understand it, is how “green” is being used by cities as a brand, and how “public engagement” is being utilized to further that brand ; thus her obvious interest in Vancouver where Vision has made a career of rebranding Eco-Density to Greenest City.wihile accepting all of the former’s densification concepts and formalizing the totalitarian top-down implementation strategies.
We had a wide-ranging conversation covering Vancouver’s outlier position as a major city with political parties and no wards, planning histories from LAP through City Plan and Community Visions to the current disaster, the problem of our loss of third-party appeals, the appeal of heritage.
It was a fun lunch and I enjoyed it.
Yesterday morning I had an appointment at VGH. I was early and so sat in the main reception area and watched people go by. Now, one of my minor ailments is OCD and I love to count things to pass the time. I decided to count the number of men who passed by me who were wearing neckties. Of the first 100 men who walked by, just three wore ties and, to be frank, I was surprised that the nunber was so high!
Jump to the evening and I was twirling the channels on the TV until I came to a PBS fund-raiser showing rock ‘n’ roll acts from the 1950s and early 1960s, and guess what — all those hip-shaking, Satanic worshipping anti-establishment fellas were wearing ties!
I’m sure someone somewhere has written a book on the decline and fall of the neck tie.
“I think your whole life shows on your face and you should be proud of that.” – Lauren Bacall.
Yesterday, I had a long and interesting brunch with the amiable Nicholas Chernen of the Cedar Party. Nicholas is running for Council, while brother Glen Chernen is the party’s candidate for Mayor.
I was obliged to note that the Cedar Party had never once been mentioned in any political conversation I have had with anyone in Grandview. Nicholas noted that they had been trying to get to as many community events as possible, and will do more to get their name out there on the street.
When asked about the Cedar Party position on the traditional left-right continuum, he said that they were as centrist as they could be. He said that Glen was a little right of centre, while Nicholas is a little left. He denied they were an NPA spin-off or hoping to be brought in to the NPA empire.
I think they are genuinely anti-Vision (it was Vision’s antio-democratic handling of development proposals that gave Glen his moment of conversion to municipal politics) and are seeking to create a non-majority Council. They will have five Council candidates plus Glen for mayor. They are also keen on running School Board and Park Board candidates.
They say their first priority is to remove the “developer-first” mindset at City Hall. In both their platform and in Nicholas’s discussion with me, they are willing to say all the right things – put neighbourhoods first, bring back City Plan or similar (he was not clear on all the details), and was supportive of an independent Neighbourhood Engagement Office.
They are very keen on legislating the CAC system: making CAC’s mandatory, with a published scale from which planners are not allowed to stray. [I suggested we should replace CACs with mandatory inclusive zoning, and bring back bond issues for infrastructure].
Their other priority is the creation of an Anti-Corruption Office and to “clean up” the procurement system used by the City. They also feel that Mayor and Council have a right to discuss and lobby for anything that happens in the city even if it is not officially their jurisdiction (better schools, better Mental Health services, etc)
The Cedar party platform also includes a reduction in property taxes and a concomitant savings in City budgets through “efficiencies”. I argued against reducing property taxes as Vancouver is on the very low end of property-tax assessment rates in North America) and various governments (Kansas, for example) have recently shown that cutting revenues is a disaster in the making. He suggested they were re-visiting that plank.
They are opposed to demolising the viaducts (just another sweetheart deal for developers, they say), opposed to the Interim Arterials development policy (another developers’ giveaway), and not keen on too many more bike lanes.
All in all, Nicholas Chernen came across as someone willing to listen to and discuss ideas not yet formulated. We know that his brother comes across with more of an ego-driven, I need to be Mayor, attitude; but I suspect that in the end they are interested in putting together a pragmatic cross-party slate that will ensure Vision does not get another majority and that will see the Chernens working at City Hall in some capacity.
I’ll be interested in seeing a lot more policy development so that we can see where they really stand on important issues.
I had to have blood work done this morning, so I had been fasting since about 8 yesterday evening. I got myself to the lab well before nine and only had to wait twenty minutes or so. Then, the needle-shafting over, I was free to indulge my breakfast passions.
The plan had been to walk down to Tangent Cafe, which I have grown to like quite a bit. However, in the lab waiting room I had had one of those conversations, and convinced myself that I should go to the Skylight as I hadn’t been there for a while and Eva might worry we had given up on her (as if!).
I caught a bus and headed north to First, did some business there, and then headed north for the long walk to Eva’s. I probably passed by almost a dozen places I could have had breakfast, but I was dead set on the Skylight. Finally I get there, exhausted and ravenous. to find a notice on the door that this is Eva’s holiday week and she was closed!
Well, I wasn’t going to walk back up the hill, so I settled for Zawa’s where the very first question from the waitress was “Do you want your hashbrowns deep fried or grilled?”