The Election Races Forward

September 17, 2018

I seem to have been writing, on and off, about the 2018 Vancouver municipal election for months. But now we finally find ourselves with the full list of registered candidates and only just about a month before the big day.

We finished up with a record number of contestants for this election: 21 people standing for the Mayor’s job alone (with only one winner), along with 71 wannabe Councillors (just 10 to be chosen), and another 33 each vying for Parks Board and School Board, which have 7 and 9 seats respectively. There will be a lot of disappointed candidates come October 21st, but at least Vancouver’s voters will have been given a wide choice — no bad thing.

Just to make things a little more complicated, the candidates for each position will not be listed in alphabetical or party order. Apparently it was thought that candidates with names beginning with “A”, “B” or “C” have an advantage over those with names starting with “W” or “Y” or “Z”.  Therefore, the candidates will be listed in random order in a draw to be made soon.

I understand the reasoning for this change, but I don’t agree with it.  Listing the candidates in random order — especially when there are so many in each category — guarantees that name recognition and/or party slate voting will play a larger role than it should.  I believe the dangers of that are at least as great as having to deal with lazy voters who don’t look beyond the first half of the ballot.

My selections may change over the next month, but as of today, my plan is to support David Chen for Mayor and the following Council candidates (in alphabetical order):

  • Sarah Blyth
  • Christine Boyle
  • Adriane Carr
  • Pete Fry
  • Lisa Kristansen
  • Rob McDowell
  • Derrick O’Keefe
  • Mirza Rezel
  • Anne Roberts
  • Jean Swanson

Although I recognize their importance, the fact is I just don’t follow School or Parks Board, so I don’t feel comforable selecting favourites.

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Beware The Resurrection of Andrea Reimer

September 12, 2018

The thing about Dracula is that he never really dies. It doesn’t matter how long he lies cold and dusty n his stone tomb, there is always some idiot who will come along and somehow set him free again to wander the earth on his deadly journey.

That image — stark and fearsome — came into my head last night as I read that, with the sudden withdrawal of Ian Campbell from the Vancouver mayor’s race, Ms. Reimer was contemplating putting herself forward for the job.

I wrote the following about a year ago when Reimer’s retirement from Council was announced. I think it bears repeating.

_________________

 

I came across Charlie Smith’s hagiography of Andrea Reimer from the Straight. It was a hard read for me because my experience of Reimer was so different, so negative.

We started off badly, back in early 2012, when I spoke before Council in opposition to the design of the Baptist Church’s proposed building at First & Victoria. In her self-proclaimed position as Councillor for Grandview, she asked me a few questions after I had had my allotted five minutes. She was arrogant, assumed I knew little of Grandview, and the tenor of her questions clearly indicated a predetermined yes vote for the development regardless of any arguments that might be presented. Things only got worse when the Grandview Woodland Community Plan process began.

A central paragraph in Smith’s column asks us to remember

“Reimer’s credibility with the environmental community, her appeal to residents living in the Commercial Drive–Trout Lake area, her stunning work ethic, and political radar that may only have been matched on council in recent years by Geoff Meggs, who’s left municipal politics.”

Problem for me was that I didn’t recognize any truth in most of those statements about her.

I wondered whether my early experience with Reimer had clouded my opinion of her, allowing me to miss the good she was doing. So I asked a number of my friends and acquaintances whether they had opinions on her years as Councillor. By the time I am writing this, more than half have responded and they are all overwhelmingly negative in their judgement.  Many described her as “manipulative,” and as “an opportunist … only interested in her own career.” None believe that she ever genuinely represented any constituency here in Grandview, and that her demeanour was often “officious” and unpleasant. I share all of those views.

When City Planning’s “Emerging Directions” document became public as a draft Community Plan in the spring of 2013 an uproar of complaint erupted from the residents of GW, most especially as “Emerging Directions” included dozens of pages on rezoning the neighbourhood that had never been raised or discussed in any of the public meetings over the previous eight months. While Mayor Robertson admitted the process had not been a good one, and Planning boss Brian Jackson considered it a disaster, Reimer was still giving interviews praising Vision’s handling of community planning.  At the massive community meeting held in early July that year to protest the Grandview Plan, Reimer came late and hid in the back of  the crowded room. When finally shamed into speaking, Reimer ignored everything residents had passionately spoken about for an hour or more, asking for understanding as she was currently being evicted (which, it later turned out, was something of a permanent status for her).

She was an instigator and heavy supporter of the benighted Citizens’ Assembly process deliberately designed to exclude the majority of Grandview’s residents from participation in a vital community project. On the several occasions that I spoke to Council during the Community Plan period, Reimer (along with Geoff Meggs) generally led the attack on me and GWAC or whoever else I was speaking for. She argued against community representation, calling local groups irrelevant and claiming them to be “unrepresentative”.

When the final Grandview Community Plan came before Council, it was Reimer who proposed a last-minute amendment that — against the professional advice of Planning — granted several extra stories to the highly controversial Boffo Tower monstrosity proposed for Commercial and Venables.

And it wasn’t only Grandview she screwed. After years of discussion and community debate, the DTES Community Plan was brought before Council for approval. It was loyal Vision foot soldier Reimer who, again at the very last hour, showed up with a lot of scribbled pages that changed substantial and substantive portions of the Plan, that no-one had a chance to digest before Vision voted it through …

Wherever she ends up I’ll be glad to see the back of her (except, of course, the Mayor’s chair).


David Chen: A Possible Mayor

September 6, 2018

I have for some weeks now been leaning toward supporting David Chen of ProVancouver in the upcoming mayoral election.  I have been impressed with his ideas and I am even more so now that I have listened to a very useful 30-minute interview he had with Business in Vancouver and which they have released as an audio.

There are certainly some issues on which he and I would have differences of opinion, but far fewer than I would have with any one of the other nine or ten candidates, I am sure. But the important part of this interview is that any reasonable person listening, without endorsing any of his policies, would agree that this is a solid serious candidate.  As a newcomer with a new party, that’s a vital first step.

With Chen as mayor and with a Council majority made up of ProVancouver, COPE, and Green councillors, perhaps Vancouver can finally start hoping for better and more compassionate days ahead.


GWAC’s Next Meeting

August 27, 2018

The next monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council is on Monday 10th September in the Learning Resources Centre under Britannia Library at 7:00pm.  The meeting carries the title “Hot Button Civic Issues and Primer for October’s All Candidates Meeting” and the purpose is described as being …

“to create a list of priority issues about which candidates’ opinions could make a difference.”

This should be a useful forum for discussing issues that will come up in the series of all-candidates’ meetings organised for late September and early October in cooperation with Britannia, Ray-Cam, and other community groups.

 


Saying NO to Yes Vancouver

June 29, 2018

Hector Bremner, the NPA councillor so conflicted that even the NPA won’t have him any more, has formed his own municipal political party which he calls Yes Vancouver.

A number of problems are already obvious with this party which is partly ego-driven and partly a front for the Rich Coleman side of the BC Liberal Party (yes, the same Rich Coleman who is currently hiding from the media who want to question him about money laundering):

  • First, there is already a fine local organization called Yes Vancouver. It is a non-profit which raises money for Dress For Success. They are non-partisan and support no political party;
  • Second, people searching quite reasonably for YesVancouver.com actually get taken to a website for a Toronto Real Estate firm; ironic as Bremner’s “party” favours build build build as the only solution to our problems.

So, these folks who want to run our City after the next election cannot do a simple name search for their party, and cannot do a simple web search for suitable urls.  Imagine the chaos if we want them to do something that actually takes some thought?

Finally, a question we need to keep asking Bremner whenever he puts his head above the wall:  during his council campaign last year he promised to donate his Council salary to a worthy charity. Did he do that? And if so, what organization was favoured with the donation?

We need to send a resounding NO to these wannabes.


COPE Candidates On the Drive Saturday!

May 25, 2018

COPE hopefuls for nominations in this fall’s municipal election will be front and centre at a meet-and-greet tomorrow, Saturday 26th May, at The Drive Coffee Bar, 1670 Commercial, between 1pm and 5pm.

 

Come along and meet some really committed folks who are looking to make our city a better place.


COPEing With Housing Policy

April 9, 2018

Making policy democratically can be a messy business; it is always cleaner and more efficient to dictate policy from the top and simply have the underlings sign off on it. But that is not democratic, and COPE is nothing if not democratic. And so it was that I spent a couple of hours watching membership rather messily go through Housing Policy proposals on Saturday morning at the WISE Hall.  Policy development, though arguably the most important part of politics, is not a “sexy” enterprise to many and there were fewer than three dozen members in attendance. However, they more than made up for the small numbers by their enthusiasm and passion for the topics discussed.

Co-chair Connie Hubbs began by noting a number of dates that are of interest. The Vancouver District Labour Council is holding a “mediated” meeting on May 6th in their continuing attempt to create an alliance between COPE, the Greens, One City and Team Jean. I’m guessing Vision may also be invited even though their mayoral candidate — laughingly called an “independent” — has made it clear she doesn’t want to meet with COPE.

In the meanwhile COPE and Team Jean are continuing to meet with Patrick Condon who, in my opinion, would make a very good mayor; I suspect he would be attractive to the Greens too.

The COPE nomination meeting is set for June 10th, with more details to follow. If you are interested in participating, you need to be a COPE member thirty days prior.

Then, onto policy. A long document was circulated with a number of different proposals.  It was revealed later in the meeting that some of the proposals had already made their way to the Policy Committee and had already been incorporated into their document which will be brought before the membership. This meeting was dealing with a very wide range of topics from Housing through Economy, Transit to Indigenous Relations. I was only able to stay for the Housing segment.

The first set of proposals from a member, included a call to increase the cost of CACs and DCLs “to reflect true benefits to developers,” a luxury of “mansion” tax on super-expensive homes, a moratorium on condo building and gentrification in the DTES, an immediate moratorium on demolition “in single and multi-family zones”, a major push in rental construction, rent controls on “large developments”, and changes to regulations to make in-house suites easier to build.  This was such a large and complex set of proposals (I have merely traced the high points above) that it was clearly destined to be referred back to the Policy Committee for refinement and further consideration. (see my comments at the end of this review)

A second proposal from a member concerned a city-wide plan and neighbourhood consultation prior to re-developments, including a final veto by neighbourhoods.  There was some serious discussion about the problems with a city-wide plan, and no-one seemed to recognize that if a neighbourhood can say “no” to development then Shaughnessy and Point Grey and others could just as easily say “no” to social housing. This motion, too, was referred for more work.

A proposal to increase use of co-ops was approved.

Team Jean submitted a number of proposals including a four-year rent freeze (approved), and making rents tied to each unit rather than to each tenancy (approved).  Team Jean also proposed a mansion tax, the stopping of renovictions by giving the right of return at the same rent to any tenant displaced, better checking of rental condition by City Building Department, moratorium on demolition of rental properties when vacancy rate is below 4%, a proposal to end discrimination against pet owners in rentals, the building of 4,500 affordable units per year for the next four years, and the development of a progressive commercial property tax to assist small business owners.

Proposals from others also included allocation of foreign buyers’ tax and speculative taxes to purchase of land for affordable housing, and upzoning all city owned land.

Unfortunately, we were just going through Team Jean’s proposals when it was decided to refer to the Policy Committee’s updated document. This meant essentially starting again. What eventually brought discussion to a halt was a proposal by Policy on the allocation of speculative tax revenues which included, at the very end,  the notion that some funds should be used to “start the process” of returning indigenous land to the indigenous people.   No one was opposed to the principle but the meeting got bogged down in semantics and a discussion about indigenous rights.

By the time this had gone on for a while, I had used up all the time I had and I had to leave.  There were some valuable discussions at the meeting but I was struck by a few things.

  • There seemed to be no recognition that developers do not pay the CACs — they pass them on and the end user pays, thus adding to the already unaffordable prices.  The calls to increase CACs will not harm developers, but simply make things worse for all of us.  I have stated often enough my belief that CACs should be dropped entirely (this immediately lowers the price of housing) and we should return to the highly successful and democratic process of bi-annual bond plebiscites to determine what community assets we are willing to pay for through property taxes: let the people decide, not the developers in cahoots with Planning;
  • Other than a rent freeze (which leaves things in the sorry and expensive state they are) and a vague call for rent control, there was no discussion about affordability of new rentals. In fact, there was a call for just the building of more rentals as if that will solve matters.  We need to build more rentals, it is true, but we also need to amend Rental100 so that incentives are given to developers ONLY for rentals that can be afforded by the median and lower income earner with at most a 30% of median income limit;
  • The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has already produced an excellent set of principles for consultation and neighbourhood consultation and approval of new development. Why re-invent the wheel?

I am glad to have gone and wish I could have stayed longer.