Losing a lover is like
losing a limb
or a necessary organ:
take whatever drugs you want
to ease the pain,
it still hurts like hell
in the morning
Taking a new lover is like
the dose of anti-rejection drugs you need
just grows and grows.
And as the skin thickens
it takes a harder push
for the needle’s point to pierce your cover;
and each drop of blood seems redder
and more precious
than the last
until you decide
that the payoff is not worth the pain
and you consign that part
to an oblivion
that is not complete
to a decision that is not whole-hearted
to a diagnosis that hurts
like a lover leaving.
In our 120 year history, there have been a number of organizations seeking to “improve” Grandview. For example, as I note in another place , today is the 105th anniversary of the founding of the Grandview Ratepayers Association. The fortunes of that organization waxed and waned all the way into the 1950s. It was the stepping stone to bigger things for Harry Rankin when he revived the group in 1952 and led campaigns for civic improvement in the 1940s and early 1950s.
However, by the early 1960s, when the United Services welfare agencies were reorganizing their work into “neighbourhoods”, and the “community” of Grandview-Woodland was officially created, the Ratepayers seem to have disappeared. As the United Services’ Woodland Park Area Resources Council (WPARC) led by welfare and health professionals, morphed into the community-led Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) during the mid-1960s, it was GWAC that took up the role of community champion.
It was GWAC and GWAC people that were centrally involved in the Info Centre, MOSAIC, REACH, Consumer Help, the provision of a local library branch, and the development of the Britannia Centre. In those good old days when the Feds spent money, GWAC had a number of paid staff who did wonderful work in community development. But those golden days soon passed.
The first Grandview Community Plan in the late 1970s saw GWAC split around the issue of down-zoning the apartment area, with executives resigning and meetings in disarray. It would never be the same again. There were brief resurgences of interest – such as opposition to the plan to put towers at Broadway and Commercial in the early 1990s, and a few insurgent movements in the very early 2000s – but the organization never again developed the levels of interest and influence that were a feature of its first fifteen years.
Since then, GWAC has limped along without any influence at City Hall and with a collapsing membership. The Constitution, which gives all power to the Directors and none to the members, has been a serious barrier to any renaissance. Despite all efforts by new blood on the Board (including the current Chair, a few Directors, and me) to turn the ship around in the last few years, the old hands insist on grounding the vessel on the reef of irrelevance. They insist on maintaining a privileged Country Club hierarchy, where the Board accepts no restraints on its power from the membership between Annual General Meetings. In fact, many Board decisions are not even discussed at the open monthly meetings. This allows any insurgent group who takes over the AGM the ability to do anything they like for the following twelve months in the name of our community without the hindrance of membership complaints.
It has been claimed, by those who would retain GWAC in its present ossified, ignored, and irrelevant form, that GWAC’s position should NOT be to represent the community by adopting positions on issues or problems, but rather to act as a meeting room where a sort of kumbaya consensus can be maintained without stepping on any toes and smothering all action in a meaningless blah. But even in this project they fail, with tiny attendances, irrelevant subjects, and no observable follow-up.
The problem with GWAC is not that it does bad things; it is that it does nothing at all of any importance, and thus allows bad things by others to go by without public complaint. This is achieved by the dead ducks on the Board refusing to make decisions, or deliberately not showing up to Board meetings so that a quorum cannot be reached, and then complaining loudly when the active Directors take necessary actions. (It was this kind of game playing that forced me, when Chair of GWAC, to set up an entirely new organization to deal with the Community Plan in 2013 as the majority of the Board refused to be involved).
It is worth noting that GWAC has almost no public presence in the community. If you were to stop a hundred people on Commercial Drive and ask them about GWAC, ninety-seven or more would have no idea who or what it is. They essentially have no social media position, their website is rarely visited, and their once-monthly email newsletter is less than inspiring. Several of the Directors rarely show up to Board meetings (some for years in a row) and thus hinder positive action by GWAC. It is clear that some Directors just want the title (for whatever reason) without putting any serious effort into the organization. That is pathologically sad, and allowing it to continue for so long is a clear sign that a group has moved well beyond its best-before date.
I guess it is possible for an activist and progressive group to win control of the Board at the AGM in March, but they would need to win seven or eight seats to ensure quorums at Board meetings. In addition, they would need to update the By-Laws to return GWAC to a truly representative democracy. But, under the current conditions, it would be equally possible for, say, a group subsidized by developers to seize power and pretend they speak for us on important topics such as the Community Plan that will finally come to fruition this summer.
In the wider world, Councilor Andrea Reimer has on a number of occasions dismissed GWAC as irrelevant and unrepresentative of the community. She and Councilor Meggs have harangued the present writer about this at Council hearings where I was speaking for GWAC. Influence with City Hall is key to the kind of community improvement a group like GWAC could and should achieve. As GWAC has clearly lost that influence, perhaps we should take our lead from Meggs and Reimer and abandon the sinking wreck. After all, the world is littered with the remnants of once-great institutions that have not survived numerous attempts at rehabilitation. It is usually best to sweep them away altogether and start afresh.
Therefore, in the absence of a community-worthy takeover and a change in the By-Laws, I would urge the rapid organization of a new Grandview Residents’ Association, with a progressive and democratic charter, accountable to the membership, as a community group that will speak for the people, will take stands on important issues, and will make governments know we are watching them.