Art Gallery Madness

January 10, 2014


The ever-loving and I were members of the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) for many years and we still go to shows that interest us. I consider myself extremely sympathetic to art in general and galleries in particular.  However, they are luxuries, especially in a city where we have an excellent gallery already, but where there is a housing crisis and little money to deal with it.

The prime mover of this rant, of course, is because of the plan to spend half a billion dollars — half a BILLION dollars — on a new building for the VAG.  If the City, the Province and the Feds can pilfer $500 million from our pockets to build a new gallery, why can’t they do the same to build affordable public housing?  But the immediate catalyst is this press release announcing the five architect firms short-listed for the job of designing and building the thing.

Someone wants their name in lights by choosing an international star architect, and Vision wants to decorate our City with a sparkling gem by which we might remember them — and who gives a damn about the poor with nowhere to live?

The City and the Province should refuse to supply any money unless the architect is a local firm and, at the very least, the Feds should withhold their cash from any but a Canadian firm.  Anything else would be a disgraceful and unworthy statement about what they (all three levels of government) think of our own talent!


Another City Screw Up On Consultation

December 16, 2013

At 3pm this afternoon, the Vancouver Development Board will review the application for a massive new resort and casino site in Vancouver.  If it is built, the current Edgewater Casino will move into the building with twice the floor space for slots and gaming tables, a design decision already approved by Vancouver City Council.  Which is odd because the City has declared itself against casino expansion.

The question of whether we want more gaming here, or even if we want this huge resort complex at all, is one issue.  The main issue today however is the complete screw up the City has made (once again) about consultation and public hearings.

Today is the very last chance that Vancouverites will have to express their opinion on the development, but you’d never know it.  Had you called the City’s 3-1-1 line over the past week you might have been told that no such hearing was scheduled or you would have been told it is on for tomorrow rather than today.  Jeff Lee, the veteran Vancouver Sun city affairs reporter, admitted on Twitter this morning that he had not heard there was a hearing today.  We only know about this hearing because Sandy Garossino and CityHallWatch have been advising their networks.

Why the misinformation?  Why the silence?   What were the City’s new 22-person communications team doing all this while?  This is either a deliberate attempt to hide these hearings from the public or utter incompetence.  Either way it is another screw up by the Vision Vancouver City administration.

Censorship in Vancouver

December 6, 2013

Billionaire Jim Pattison’s Outdoor Billboard company — which is almost a monopoly in the city — has refused to accept the following poster:

atheistThe ad was an attempt to recruit membership in the Centre for Inquiry Canada. “When we designed the ads, we went out of our way to make them as soft as we could. Our purpose is to find those people out there who think the same way we do but don’t know there’s an organization that will support their views. It’s like any other advertising campaign: we’re looking for people who are interested in our message and our product,” said Pat O’Brien.

This is a disgraceful attempt to enforce political/religious views by Pattison’s company.

Bring Back The Streetcars?

October 9, 2012

Mike Klassen has re-opened the debate about streetcar use with a detailed and provactive post at VanCity Buzz.

He opens by describing the chaos that is the present Broadway transit corridor and extrapolating how much worse it will be once the Millenium Line connects to Broadway and Commercial.  The Broadway corridor is already the busiest bus communter route in North America and an estimated additional 70,000 riders a day simply won’t work with the present B-line plus system.

A Broadway Commercial-to-UBC rapid transit line seems the obvious infrastructure improvement.  But that isn’t going to happen.  I agree with Gordon Price that we will never see this in his or my lifetime, no matter how important it is.  The cost and the NIMBY obstacles in its way are simply too great.   But, obviously, we cannot just let the transit traffic on the Broadway corridor grind inexorably to a halt.  This is where Klassen re-introduces the idea of a streetcar.

“Integrated with the existing bus and rapid transit systems, a streetcar line could link the VCC-Clark Skytrain station (Millennium Line terminus) with a new rapid bus connection located at Arbutus and Broadway. A railway right-of-way exists for much that entire route. The section by southeast False Creek is currently under redevelopment and promises to bring thousands of new commuters. While it cannot match the ridership nor the speed of Skytrain, it could take many UBC-bound commuters off the overburdened 99 B-line west of Commercial.”

Bob Ransford adds the following:

“The Olympic Line streetcar project can be built for one quarter the cost of any SkyTrain extension. The city owns most of the right-of-way that would allow a streetcar to run between the Clark Drive SkyTrain station, the Canada Line Olympic Village station and Granville Island. It wouldn’t be that difficult to secure a right-of-way all the way to Arbutus Street. This routing would tie together all the SkyTrain lines and service the densest part of the Broadway corridor. A rapid bus line from Arbutus could adequately continue to service UBC.”

Yes, I’m none too happy about supporting an NPA position from the last election.  But it is dumb to drop a good idea just because one doesn’t care for the politics of the proponents.  And, yes, I do think this is a good idea.  The strteetcars are a vital part of Vancouver’s urban history, and the economics and the need seem to work for their return today.

The Anti-Consumer Taxi Monopoly Again

July 11, 2012

About this time last summer I wrote about the anti-free enterprise taxi situation in Vancouver.  It is a situation I feel strongly about and have raised it at several public meetings without receiving any sensible replies.  My interest has been piqued once again by this detailed article by Luke Brocki in Dependent Magazine.

Brocki explains how a $522 cab license from City Hall is immorally (though not illegally) boosted by the monopolists to $800,000 before the cab hits the streets.  And these huge profits are made on the backs of cab drivers and passengers.  Even Geoff Meggs who supports the current system agrees that this is simply wrong:

“Just put aside the question of worker exploitation, which is real, and just say okay, what is produced by this capital? It’s not a pulp mill. If you take the number of taxis out there and assume a half-shift is worth $400,000, you come out with a staggering number, like half a billion dollars worth of equity in the licences and we haven’t even gotten to the car yet,” he says with a laugh. “And it produces zero. It’s straight ascribed value. So to me, that is a dead weight on the back of the industry. If people were not struggling to pay for these licence purchase costs, they could then do lower fares, there could be any number of ways the revenue could be allocated.”

Brocki’s article highlights the success of open licensing in New Zealand and Ireland:

New Zealand abolished its taxi monopoly in 1989 via the seemingly despotic strategy of simply opening the industry to everyone, incumbent licence holders be damned … the reforming government of the day called the protected taxi market a privilege able to be stripped as easily as it was granted. There was anger, of course, but a more vibrant taxi market emerged within five years, with increased taxi numbers, reduced fares and a wider variety of taxi services, from budget rides to premium sedans with drivers in black ties.  “The government still creates the institutions for a transparent marketplace and they still set minimum standards for safety and so on,” [said researcher David Seymour] “They just don’t try to control prices and volumes.”

The New Zealand story is not unique. Ireland abolished its taxi cartel in 2000 and saw taxi numbers triple shortly after deregulation. In 2007, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found restrictions on entry to the taxi industry constituted an unjustified restriction on competition that led to “large transfers from consumers to producers, economic distortions and associated deadweight losses.”

You and I and everyone else who use taxis are paying for these huge and unnecessary gouging-like profits while receiving almost no service (just 9.4 cabs per 10,000 population, compared to 27 in Montreal for example, and 85 in Manhattan).  Our monopolistic system is a disgrace and needs to be stopped.

Firing Adds Spark To Community Plan Meeting

January 31, 2012

As mentioned in the previous post, we are this afternoon to have an Open House on the Grandview Community Plan hosted by City Planning.  The interest in the meeting (already high) will be tweaked even further after the news that City Council last night fired Vancouver Planning Head Brent Toderian.

Will the new Community Plans move forward? What does the firing of Toderian mean for the future of planning in Vancouver in general and Grandview in particular?

Watch this space!


The Greenest City On Earth, Eh?

November 26, 2011

We must ask Gregor how this fits in with his lauded environmental targets for Vancouver!