Last night the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods put on a pre-election all-party Town Hall Meeting at St. James Hall. It was a sell-out event with about 400 fully engaged residents in attendance.
There were three mayoral candidates and another eight Council candidates answering questions on planning, development and community engagement that were sent to the Coalition by the public over the last few days.
The moderator for the evening was Charlie Smith, editor of the Georgia Straight, who was excellent at keeping the meeting moving forward. Charlie selected the order of the questions and who was to receive them. It worked really well.
We started off with each party being given three minutes to discuss the Coalition’s Principles & Goals document. For us in the Coalition, this was perhaps the key half hour, getting the parties on the record about how we might improve planning, develpopment and community engagement in Vancouver by use of the Principles. And we could hardly ask for a better response as, all the candidates, except Vision, endorsed the Principles in their entirety.
Kirk LaPointe, the NPA mayoral candidate, “fully supported” the document, noting a change had to occur to “restore trust” in the process. Adriane Carr for the Greens applauded the Coalition’s work, reaffirming her endorsement of the document, as did Glen Chernen for the Cedar Party. The opening remarks of OneCity’s R.J.Aquino‘s, highly supportive of the Principles, and putting forward the idea of funded but independent neighbourhood councils and, indeed, wards, have been transcribed to his website.
Council candidate Lisa Barrett and mayoral hopeful Meena Wong, speaking jointly for COPE, said they will push the Principles and have in fact included them in their platform. Independent mayoral candidate Bob Kasting said he fully endorsed the document, though might to rephrase some parts.
Vision was represented by Councilor Andrea Reimer claimed that encouraging public participation was the sole reason for her to be in politics, and praised Vision’s engagement over their years in power. In answer to a later question, she questioned the need for 100% neighbourhood household polls on development projects, and yet, claimed the Principles didn’t include anything about social inclusion. She didn’t explain how asking ALL of the residents in the relevant ‘hood for their opinion excluded anyone..
Many of the speakers offered their congratulations on the work the Coalition put in to meld a multitude of opinions into a practical guide to the concepts behind good neighbourhood planning, a guide that so many across the board were able to accept and work with.
Charlie Smith then proceeded to ask specific questions. Although limited to the themes of the meeting, the topics raised were wide-ranging; from the demolition of the viaducts (a majority of parties — again not Vision — seemed to question the need), laneway houses, and changes in the Heritage Action Plan, to the utter failure of the Grandview Woodland Community Plan, the lack of firefighting resources to cope with the new densities, and surcharges on investment properties..
To close, all eleven candidates were given two minutes to address the SRO audience. During her closing remarks, it must be repoirted that Andrea Reimer of Vision was roundly and loudly and quite deservedly booed
It was a grand evening and a well-spent two hours for the audience, I believe. There was much said and it was possible to make choices between candidates. In addition to the speeches and questions, we also had literature tables for all the debating parties plus VancouverFirst and NSV and YourVoteMatters.