Four Dancers

October 31, 2014

Four Dancers

Violence By Men Against Women Is Wrong. Period.

October 30, 2014

I have no idea whether Jian Ghomeihi did or did not do to the eight women what they claim he did.  If it did happen, I have no idea (other than what the parties say) whether those actions were consensual or not.  None of that matters to me, to be honest, though I recognize that has bearing on any civil or criminal case that may follow.

What matters to me is that Ghomeshi has admitted that he was violent with women in order to achieve sexual gratification. This is not fetishism or kinkiness. You can dress it up as some sort of sexual freedom, but the fact is this is nothing but violence and abuse by a powerful man against less-powerful women.  Nothing more need be said.

By his own admissions, Ghomeshi has declared himself to be a dangerous violent animal and he should be shunned (at the very least) for that.

Boardwalk Empire

October 30, 2014

nuckyI don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but I have always taken time to watch HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” which finished its five season run on Sunday. Having caught up season one in a marathon one spring, we looked forward eagerly each summer to seasons two through five.

For those who don’t know, “Boardwalk Empire” is the fictionalised account of the life of Nucky Thompson, crime boss of Atlantic City before and after the 1920s.  Through Nucky’s life, we watch the eastern seaboard gangs, Irish, Jews, Italians, blacks, fight each other for the riches that Prohibition supplied to the underworld; we watch the rise and rise of Al Capone in Chicago; and we get a taste of how the cops, many of whom were as currupt as the killers they chased, tried to deal with the crime wave.

The first few seasons were simply magnificent, concentrating on Nucky’s control of New Jersey as he turns from smalltown politician to big time crook, his partnerships and rivalries with various gang leaders elsewhere, his marriage, his extended family.  These early years culminated in the glorious third season, dominated by Bobby Carnavale’s incredible performance as the homicidal maniac Gyp Rosetti.

Season four was less successful, but for reasons that are hard to explain.  Perhaps the concentration on characters other than Thompson diffused the tension that was so palpable in season three. And then there was season five which was, I thought, odd.  For the first time in the series, we were treated to long flashbacks to Nucky’s youth, first as a troublesome kid, then as a deputy sheriff.  We are shown how he gains the sheriff’s badge through an act of humiliaton which does at least explain some of the setup in season one.

More problematic for season five were the unexplained ten year gap since the action in season four, and the the rote killing of major characters (Muller, Marazano, Torio, Chalky, Nucky’s girlfriend and, eventually, Nucky himself), apparently just to close their stories.

This Gangsters Inc review tells some necessary truths. But they don’t take enough acount of the fine acting, direction, and production values which was what kept us watching. In fact, the writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, set dressers and designers were almost flawless.

I also question thr Gangster Inc characterization of the Michael Shannon role. I thought his character created problems for the series, but for quite different reasons.  As a lowly FBI agent who gets into trouble, and then as a lowly soldier in the gangs, he helped us see the bottom of the criminal pile rather than just the leaders.  That was valuable.  However, my problem with the role was that it was used as an excuse to make Capone a major character which was quite unnecessary to the series arc and took focus away from Nucky’s story.

OK, so I was disappointed in season five, but it was always worth watching, and I am glad to have seen it.

More On The CAC Scandal

October 29, 2014

In a long piece on CACs by SFU urbanist graduate student Karen Sawatsky she supports the current system and in passing mentions my own article on CACs written here a little while ago as being part of the opposition. It is a pity she didn’t look further at the implications of the current system which requires rezoning for any CACs to be paid.

If a developer follows the rules and builds a project within the limits of the zoning previously approved for the lot(s), then no CACs are paid. The City only gains CACs when it agrees to break the social contract implied in the zoning that exists. And given that the City under Vision has become dependent — like an addict — on these payments, then the City is explicitly encouraging breaches of the zoning it had previously agreed with the neighbourhood and its residents.

In order to get around the terrible political optics that one spot-rezoning after another brings with it (because the residents generally object to the non-consensual change), Vision decided to revive the Community Plan process.  This top-down we-know-best planning scheme sought to rezone entire neighbourhoods (four at once if they had had their way) and “pre-load” the CACs into the Plan.  Of course, they have already planned their budgets to include these CACs and so, in order to guarantee the cash, they are obliged to push the developer-friendly Plans through regardless of residents’ opposition.

Is it any wonder the neighbourhoods — including what Ms. Sawatsky calls the “lefty” Drive — have been up in arms for years against Vision and its rapacious cronies?

While it might sound good to get the developers to pay in this way, any sensible person knows that the developer never pays — the cost is simply added to the price of every housing unit being built, thus exacerbating the affordability crisis.

Moreover, under the current Vision regime and its compliant Planning Department, it is only the developers and the planners who decide what community amenities we should have. Not the residents, not the taxpayers, not even the elected Councilors. This is a true scandal and must be stopped.

Go Greens Go!

October 29, 2014

green ad

Great to see Vancouver Greens getting large billboard!

Birthday Memories: Me and the Internet

October 29, 2014

Forty-five years ago today, the very first connection was made on Arpanet, the precursor to the internet:

arpanetThat was on my 20th birthday,  I was in Yugoslavia, working on a contract, oblivious to that particular history being made. I probably got drunk on bottled beer and slivovic that night but, luckily, there were no smart phones with cameras then to capture me at my worst.

I remember 1969 being a swell year, and I am glad to share it with the internet,

Priceless Indeed…

October 28, 2014

Geoff Olsen’s editorial cartoon for the Courier today is perfect.

courier comic

Support Bouey & Giesbrecht For School Board

October 28, 2014

I haven’t spent a long time following the Vancouver School Board elections, to be honest, what with so much going on at the Mayoral and Council level.  However, I have seen a lot of tweets from Vision’s School Board candidates and it is clear to me that they are just Vision clones, happy to spin the latest words of wisdom from Mike Magee without any thought of their own.

Vision’s breakfast program is a great idea but why, do you think, they announced it just days before an election and not three or six years ago when, being in power, they could have put it in place to the benefit of our children?  Clearly, this has a lot more to do with re-election than it does with needy kids. These baby Visionistas are no different from their older colleagues and, like their Council counterparts, we need to kick the bums out.

I will be voting for Jane Bouey and Gwen Giesbrecht of the Public Education Project.  I know them both and am convinced they are sincere in their devotion to quality public education: Jane, of course, has already shown her value with two terms on School Board; Gwen has worked for my neighbourhood through her involvement with Britannia Community Centre.  These are genuinely good folks and I urge you to vote for them.

In Honour: Dylan Thomas

October 27, 2014

Alfred Janes - Dylan ThomasToday would have been the 100th birthday of Dylan Thomas, one of the finest writers (for me, perhaps, the finest) of the generation before mine.

Thomas was very popular when I was a boy and I was lucky enough to be in two different productions of “Under Milk Wood“, as well as doing a solo turn reciting large sections of “A Child’s Christmas“.  For decades, at least into my 40s, much of my own work was highly derivative of Thomas’ style, with aggregations of melodious adjectives cascading through the sing-song lilt of a Welshman speaking English.

He was a master poet, able to craft the most exquisite sonnets and villanelles, difficult forms to manage, concerning both the ordinary and extraordinary things of life and death.  “The Force That Through The Green Fuse“, “Fern Hill“, and his paean to his father’s death, “Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night“, are sublime beyond measure..

His mastery of prose was equally fine, shown best in “A Child’s Christmas In Wales” which needs to be heard as read by the poet himself.

And then there is the extraordinary masterpiece, the radio play “Under Milk Wood“.in which Thomas’ talent, both as a writer and as an observer of rambunctious village life, are shown to the full.  If you can get a chance to listen to the Richard Burton version, then that is an experience not soon forgotten.

Thomas didn’t think much of being Welsh, let’s be frank about it.  And in just a couple of weeks we will celebrate the 61st anniversary of his sorry and inebriated death at the early age of 39. But he was an original, a genius, and I suspect he got more out of his 39 years than most of us do with three-score-and-ten.

Voter Suppression Continues In Vancouver

October 26, 2014

The decisions that have led to voter suppression in East Vancouver are to stand.  The City Elections Officer will brook no opposition to her plans regardless of our press conferences, our letters and emails, and what many are now calling a human rights violation.


On this map from CityHallWatch, in which 2km and 4km circles have been marked around the available advance polling stations, the huge gap excluded from those circles is shown clearly — a gap covering the Downtown Eastside, Grandview, Strathcona, Cedar Cove, Hastings Sunrise, Cedar Cottage and much of Mount Pleasant.  This is our Democracy Desert.

More than 44 organizations — including the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, GWAC, and OCOP — signed on to a letter to the Cheif Elections Officer (and many others wrote directly) complaining about the obvious disenfranchisement represented by the lack of advance polling stations in East Vancouver.

It can be no coincidence that the areas left outside advance voting are neighbourhoods comprising a majority of the City’s poor, disadvantaged, mentally challenged, and seniors.  It is these citizens that the Chief Elections Officer has decided are to be seriously inconvenienced if they want to try to vote in advance, by walking long distances or paying for transit.  In the more privileged areas of the City, where the majority already have the means to be easily mobile, there are no such barriers, with advance polling stations handily situated.

All this unmitigated inequality is obvious from a glance at the map to anyone who understands Vancouver.  Unfortunately, the response from the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) simply ignores the facts, ignores the excruciating political optics that are powerfully reminiscent of redlining and gerrymandering, and makes the situation worse both by admitting the gap was known about more than a year ago, and by omitting assurances for the future.

One of the reasons the CEO gives for not adding stations to service East Vancouver is that the current arrangement was negotiated with locations more than a year ago. So she knew then that this democracy desert was to be created; and she did nothing to correct or ameliorate the situation.

The CEO’s response goes on to suggest that necessary logistical requirements (32 booths, space for 1,000, etc) cannot be added at new locations at this late stage.  However, three East Vancouver locations — Union Gospel Mission, Britannia Community Centre, and Trout Lake Community Centre — have all said they can accomodate the CEO’s schedules and requirements.

Therefore, the CEO’s refusal to add one or more stations can only be considered willful and in no way legitimate.  The Office is failing in its core duty to provide a fair and equal election. 

Looking to the future, the CEO’s response letter failed to give assurances that this unequal voting system would be corrected for any elections ahead.   We know the date of the next election, in 2018.  Why can’t the Chief Electoral Officer book enough space right now to ensure the enfranchisement of the entire city at the next election?  They should make those locations known right away to dispel any idea some of us might get that the current immoral inbalance in voting rights is to be a permanent feature of Vancouver politics.

Finally, this whole sorry mess raises the question of why the Vancouver Charter obliges the City to appoint a City employee as the Chief Elections Officer?   Vancouver needs a fully independent elections commission, whether that be BC Elections or a new body.  Elections must be seen to be honest, and only a fully independent body can do that.

City Abstract XI

October 26, 2014

city abstract XI_plus

Robertson & His Divine Right To Rule

October 25, 2014


A day or so ago, the Province newspaper published an editorial that just creamed Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver machine. It pointed out that Vision and Robertson’s refusal to debate the issues:

” demonstrates, as is too often the case with Vision, real arrogance that voters should really think about.

[The NPA’s] LaPointe [along with many other candidates] is raising issues that many Vancouverites are concerned about — the appalling traffic, secrecy at city hall, the lack of real public consultation in city planning and Vision’s focus on issues outside the city’s mandate. He may not have detailed solutions yet to all those issues, but Robertson either has none, doesn’t care or is the source of the problems. Democracy thrives on new ideas and new people; Robertson sounds like he believes he has some divine right to rule. The mayor should stop attacking LaPointe’s resume and start debating the issues.”

Of course they won’t take this advice because they know that any genuine review of Vision’s six years in power will clearly illustrate the failures that have made Vancouver so unaffordable and so much less of a happy and livable city than it used to be.

Wise Words

October 24, 2014

A reminder to all those concerned with their neighbourhood in its dealings with the City and developers:

Wise Words 10_24

More On BC Housing Privatization

October 24, 2014

The proposed sale of public lands at Stamps Place and other BC Housing locations, no doubt including McLean Park in Grandview, has raised the ire of a number of concerned parties, not just the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods.

The OneCity Party issued a statement calling “for a halt to this process,” and supporting “real consultations”.  They continued, the “Province and BC Housing are attempting to off-load their social housing properties, responsibilities and all the risk onto non-profits. This has the potential to be a lot of Little Mountains, right across Vancouver,”  referencing the recent destruction of social housing in the Little Mountain neighbourhood.

Pete Fry, Green Party candidate for City Council, noted that changes to Stamps Place had been quietly inserted into the DTES Community Plan “without any discussion or consultation with the committee or stakeholders.”  The Plan included a clause for rezoning this site: “housing objectives also include partner contributions of 1,500 net new units through infill or redevelopment of existing BC Housing social housing sites (MacLean Park and Stamp’s Place)”.  Fry noted that this “seems inconsistent with City staff claims that last week, they were surprised by BC Housing’s plans to unload these properties.”

This could be a horrible mess, especially for the residents of the properties involved.

Real Women

October 24, 2014

My beautiful daughter is part of this great video lauding the value of women.

We Need To Stop the Privatization of BC Housing

October 24, 2014

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has written a letter to BC Minister Rich Coleman regarding the proposed privatization — and potential redevelopment — of BC Housing supportive housing projects in Vancouver.  The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Minister Coleman,

RE: Neighbourhood Engagement in Planning and Development

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods is a consortium of 25 Vancouver Residents’ Associations representing residents across the city. As a coalition, our purpose is to ensure that planning and development in our neighbourhoods happens within specific guidelines that focus on meaningful consultation, public engagement and collaborative planning.

We are writing to express serious concern with your proposed plan to offer significant public lands and housing throughout the City of Vancouver for sale and potential redevelopment without any prior discussion with impacted neighbourhoods. There is a tendering process currently underway for the first two such properties. Therefore our concerns are immediate and urgent.

It is our position that there is no need for haste in selling off BC Housing operated land. On the contrary, there are many reasons to undertake a thorough collaborative planning process with residents and the communities in question, with a focus on local preferences for land ownership and development. We believe that this must happen prior to any decision any one of BC Housing’s holdings.

We are alarmed by the speed of this drastic change in policy. While it is understandable that nonprofit housing societies would want to purchase rather than lease the lands on which they operate, it is unclear whether or how the public, or the neighbourhoods, or indeed residents of the housing will benefit from such a change in ownership.

Local input is critical to ensure that these properties continue to meet their goals. As such, any plans for use which will bind BC Housing’s ability to deliver services must, in our view, incorporate such input. The tender must be halted to ensure the future viability of these properties.

On behalf of the many Vancouver residents we represent we ask that you terminate the current tender, and suspend the policy to allow for a full and open public discussion of the merits and efficacy of undertaking such a change. As taxpayers and residents we share ownership of the properties in question which your government manages on our behalf. We wish to have sufficient time and information to allow for fulsome consultation and collaboration on the future of these public lands.

The Coalition’s Statement of Principles and Goals outlines more completely what collaborative planning entails. We attach a copy for your reference.

We need to keep these lands in public ownership or – even better — find some way to transform this into a resident-owned and managed situation.

Besides that, there was no consultation in this case with the residents or Ray-Cam which currently helps manage the properties. It seems that the BC Government has learned from its buddies at Vision Vancouver that in matters concerning local residents, the latter should be ignored and an autocratic decision should be made from the top.

Residents of Grandview need to be particularly concerned becausr McLean Park will no doubt be the next target.  This needs to be stopped.

Open Letter From Vancouver’s Fire Fighters

October 22, 2014

I’ll admit I have a thing for fire fighters. In a world where we are taught from birth to run away as fast as you can from dangerous situations, like burning buildings, these people do the exact opposite, and they do it every day.  Everyday heroes.  So, when they say they need something, I’m happy to listen.

They are concerned about the level of fire saftey in our over-developed City and have issued the following open letter to the citizens of Vancouver.

Letter to Vancouver Citizens

I guess our City Council has other priorities for our money.  We can change that on 15th November.

Passing On The Wisdom

October 22, 2014

Last night I was privileged to be part of a Langara College class being held by Australian planner and community engagement expert Wendy Sarkissian with whom I have been in contact throughout this year.  She is in Vancouver this Fall to teach courses on planning at Langara and at UBC SCARP.

Last night’s class brought together a number of long-time neighbourhood activists (Eileen Mosca of Grandview, Gudrun Langolf of Marpole, Ned Jacobs of Riley Park/South Cambie, former mayoral candidate Randy Helten, Little Mountain documentarian David Vaisbord, and me).

Over the evening, we each discussed our own histories, our specific focus of activism, and often enough, how the history of activism in Vancouver and elsewhere informs potential solutions for today.  I told a few a few stories, and then was happy to sit back and listen to the wisdom of the other “elders”.  I hope the students got as much out of it as I did.

Many of us made the point that planning disputes are rarely ideological in a traditional political sense. The problems tend to arise through faulty process, and inequality in the servicing of that process (often appearing as “cronysim”.).  Many of us still have the belief that an improved and equalized process can produce an improved result, to the benefit to the neighbourhoods, the City, and the building industry; and that a continuatuon of the current process will inevitably deliver a city that is unaffordable and without many of the features of livability.

It is the choice between these conflicting systems, one supportive of corporations and the other supportive of people, that makes the result of the upcoming election so important.

Most of the class was facilitated by students April Crockett and Elona Saro, who did a marvelous job and deserve congratulations.  Well done for an interesting evening!

Happy Diwali!

October 22, 2014


Vote For Neighbourhoods and a Mixed Slate!

October 21, 2014

I was at the Residents Association of Mount Pleasant (RAMP) pre-election all-candidates’ meeting last night.  It was a well-attended and well-organized affair and I’ll probably write more about it later.

What I wanted to pass on straight away was my impression, after the “debates” and interviews and op-eds so far, that we neighbourhood activists — individuals, community associations (OCOP, for example), and the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods — have managed to get “neighbourhood control” deeply embedded into this year’s campaign.  It is mentioned in almost every response to every question from every party — except Vision, of course.

Vision’s utter failure to allow any form of neighbourhood control over our own futures — in very public statements indicating a desire for  autocratic top-down control — has enabled the call for increased neighbourhood engagement and decision-making to become a vigorous meme representing a more general anti-Vision feeling.  It fronts arguments for more transparency, accountability. and responsiveness in civic governance, calls for less cronyism and more open tendering — all areas where Vision has been woefully deficient throughout its period of dominance on City Council. They are weak and vulnerable in these areas, and the other parties are hammering away at it.

It is noteworthy that only Vision is being booed and heckled at these meetings. We can only suppose their candidates have received special training in keeping a straight face while uttering the lines — believed by few in the audience — that Magee and the organization has prepared for them.  There is a certain kind of haughty arrogance needed to keep peddling this BS in the face of such loud and consistent opposition.

Second, and of equal importance at this point in the campaign, are the clear convergences emerging from the Greens, Cedar, COPE, OneCity, and others, even the NPA, on many polices (not all, to be sure, but enough).  This ability to come together on matters of vital importance helps solidify the call for a mixed slate with no overall majority.  We certainly do not need a majority on Council — either Vision nor any other — to get things done in this town; there are enough co-operators around to ensure good governance and good decision-making from shifting coalitions.

So, let’s make 15th November a referendum on local control (as opposed to City Hall diktats) and coalition building as routes to a finer future.  We can do this!