Here are my Top 7 indicators by which progressive voters can assess this Vancouver City Council at the end of its term.
1. Social Housing
Indicator: 1200 units of social housing initiated and completed
The recent cold weather has only exacerbated what was already a crisis. As many of us, myself included, complained about the inconvenience of being stuck inside by the snow, for thousands of Vancouverites being inconvenienced by being stuck inside would have been a blessing. These are the people who live on the street because our society stopped building social housing. Instead of lending hundreds of millions of dollars to a private developer to complete the Olympic Village, City Council should use the Property Endowment Fund to build social housing.
2. Property Taxes
Indicator: no further shifting of property taxes from businesses to homeowners
Under the NPA, $10 million in property taxes  have been shifted off business property owners on to Vancouver homeowners. The banks and other owners of large downtown office towers don’t deserve to have part of their tax bill picked up by family homeowners. Small business owners may indeed need a reduction in their tax rate. Large businesses are definitely not in need of such a subsidy. Until the province agrees to amend the Vancouver Charter - giving City Council the authority to create two classes of business property owners - the City must bring a halt to further tax shifting.
3. Ethical Purchasing
Indicator: vigorous inspection of apparel manufacturers within Vancouver to identify and address local sweatshop issues
Four years ago, I was privileged to co-chair Vancouver’s Ethical Purchasing Policy Task Force. The recommendations of this citizen-based working group committed the City of Vancouver’s purchasing department to purchase apparel and coffee only from sources which adhere to international labor standards - no sweatshops, no child labor etc. This action earned our city international recognition. It’s time to look locally.
4. Compressed Work Week
Indicator: reinstate the compressed work week at City Hall
In the 1970's a new municipal party swept to power! Team, The Electors Action Movement, accomplished many things - some good; some not so good. One of the good things was the adoption of a compressed work week for all City Hall employees. Employees continued to work the same number of hours per week but spread over fewer days. Benefits? For citizens, easier access to City Hall which was now open for longer hours. For the environment? Reduced greenhouse gas emissions as employees commuted to work fewer days. For workers’ families? More days off to spend together - all of this at no cost to the tax payer. When the NPA came back to power, they arbitrarily and without negotiation got rid of the compressed week. In the 2002 campaign, COPE promised to bring back the compressed work week. This promise is still outstanding and is more important than ever given global warming.
Indicator: no further gambling expansion
Gambling is a predatory industry engaged in a legalized form of pickpocketing. Forty percent of gambling money comes from 12 - 15 % of the population that is either gambling addicted or at risk of becoming so. In addition to the devastation it does to vulnerable gamblers, it presents an opportunity for money laundering from those who acquire large sums of money illegitimately. The NPA and COPE up through 2002 stood fast against any expansion of gambling capacity in the city of Vancouver. In fact, Mayor Philip Owen, in the late 1990's, went to Court on behalf of the City of Vancouver to stop the province from imposing gambling casinos on the City of Vancouver and won! Since that victory, new Councils of the day have opened the doors to gambling expansion approving Vancouver’s first two casinos with hundreds of slot machines - despite enormous neighborhood opposition.
6. Sam’s Ecodensity
Indicator: stop the plans to mass rezone 17 neighborhoods
As the late Councilor Harry Rankin once said ‘If it wasn’t for development, we’d all be living in caves.’ The question, then, is not whether we need development, but what type of development and for whom - for the developers or for the citizens and the neighborhoods. Green space, community centres, and good public transit are just a few of the keys to a healthy community. A progressive Council would only approve mass rezoning on condition that there is clear neighborhood approval and that access to community services and green space is increased to meet the increase in density.
7. City Policing
Indicator: freeze the police budget
While it is counterintuitive and controversial to say, I’ll say it anyway: police play a very limited role in preventing crime. The most effective way to prevent crime is to deal with the root causes. In Vancouver, drug addiction is one of the major root causes. Until we have a provincial government that offers addicts treatment on demand, no increase in the number of police officers will prevent addicts from finding ways to fund their addiction. Rather than increasing the City’s fastest growing budget, the police budget, let’s put the money into true crime prevention such as more community centre based youth workers, more library services, arts and culture programs, literacy efforts, and immigrant settlement and support programs.