Let us imagine a situation where a developer, probably supported by CoV Planning, wants to build a structure that will change the very nature of a neighbourhood; a tower, say, in an otherwise low rise commercial/residential area.
When the plans are made public, there is outrage by many residents and they form a small volunteer group to oppose the development. Over a period of weeks, they knock on doors, hold public meetings, and collect 5,000 signatures on a petition. When they know the development is about to go before Council in a public hearing, the opposition group sends their petition into City Hall. At the same time, the developer gets three of his friends to write letters of support for the development.
When the Public Hearing opens, the City Clerk announces to Council that one piece of correspondence has been received opposing the project, and three pieces have been received in support. The fact that the “one” piece represents 5,000 neighbourhood residents is deliberately obscured. Councillors (and the general public and media) are thereby led to believe that most people support the project.
That’s how power works in our City.
Reformist Councillor Colleen Hardwick has submitted a Motion that proposes a number of important reforms to City processes, including making sure that the number of residents signing a petition are properly recognized, and that the opinions of residents are valued rather than discounted. The Motion comes before Council on March 10th. It is yet another attempt to re-balance power at City Hall: pushing more power toward voters and the elected Council and away from an entrenched Staff.
I urge everyone to write to Council supporting these vital changes that will help invigorate our local democracy.
Update: Thanks to Carlito Pablo of the Georgia Strait for the detailed coverage of the other aspects of the Motion.