Former COPE City Councillor Anne Roberts blasted Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver colleagues for their decision to study the billboard issue a little further...something we predicted would happen here in a previous post.
In an email sent out late in the afternoon, Roberts blasted Geoff 'Mayor' Meggs and Mayor Robertson.
"Who would have thought that the "progressive" government of Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vision councillors would so easily sell out to the billboard companies?"
A staff report came before Council today seeking approval to begin removing over 300 non-conforming billboards throughout the City. The report was in part a result of a previous motion COPE councillor David Cadman introduced during the last term.
Roberts took aim and fired another shot across Vision's bow by stating:
"The irony is that the "business-friendly" NPA council responded to people's concerns, stood up to the billboard industry, and voted for a freeze on any further billboards in residential areas"
It appears the recent love-in between COPE and Vision might be experiencing a bit of turbulence. Here is a copy of the Roberts email that was distributed to her contacts earlier today:
From: Anne Roberts
Date: Thu, Mar 5, 2009 at 5:41 PM
Subject: [kcc-list] Vision council backs billboard companies
To: A Group of Vancouver Neighbourhoods <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Kcclist <email@example.com>
Vision Councillor Geoff Meggs introduced a motion this afternoon (Thursday) to do nothing about the 313 billboards that intrude into residential neighbourhoods in violation of the city's sign by-law. Employing his usual obfuscation tactics, he justified the do-nothing approach under the guise of needing more study, looking at the long-term trends, and -- get this -- feeling confident that billboards in the neighbourhoods will gradually disappear all on their own. Here's the shocker: it passed.
Opposed only by COPE Councillors David Cadman and Ellen Woodsworth, the motion is a slap in the face to Vancouver residents. Back in 2000, residents across the city had been outraged to find billboards being erected outside bedroom windows, across the front yard, in empty lots and at the back of parking lots so that views were blocks. The billboards not only violated the space of individual residents, they violated the ideals of CityPlan. Instead of fostering pedestrian and cycling-friendly streets, monster billboards designed for highway use loom over the streetscape, enticing people to buy at national chains in suburban malls.
The irony is that the "business-friendly" NPA council responded to people's concerns, stood up to the billboard industry, and voted for a freeze on any further billboards in residential areas. Unfortunately, the city was required to grandfather existing billboards for five years. Five years turned into eight while the city fought legal battles all the way to the Supreme Court over the billboard on the top of the Lee Building and the city's right to order it's removal. The city won, and then staff turned attention to the billboards in residential areas.
Who would have thought that the "progressive" government of Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vision councillors would so easily sell out to the billboard companies? Just like in 2000, Pattison Outdoors and Outdoor Advertising came out in force to speak against the removal of billboards, crying about the economic hardships that would entail even though they've made money hand over fist for the eight years the billboards have been allowed to stand. But this time it worked. Meggs' motion to do nothing about the existing billboards but to study the city's entire sign by-law, which could involve changes to the Vancouver Charter, would take at least two or three years if council allocates the funding and staff-time to get it done. That should be worth millions of dollars to the sign companies.
Only two people outside the billboard industry spoke to the motion. The city had notified the billboard companies but not the residents. By the time I found out by word of mouth the day before, I had to scramble to re-arrange my work schedule to be there. I was determined that council could not claim that the public did not care about the issue. There's no question that many more would have spoken out if they'd know about it -- or if they thought that Vision would do anything but uphold the billboard by-law and order them removed.
Anne Roberts' email triggered our next CityCaucus.com Poll Question! Do you agree with COPE's Anne Roberts that Vision Vancouver should take a stronger stand against billboards? Yes or No? Vote early and vote once at www.CityCaucus.com.
UPDATE: Charlie Smith of Georgia Straight takes another shot at Vision.