...and with a wave of his hand the Almighty Mayor said, "make it so"
Repeat after me.
Mayor Robertson will end homelessness.
Mayor Robertson will make Vancouver the world's greenest city.
Then insert the following at the end of each statement "...without the slightest idea how to do so."
Vancouver's farmboy Mayor does not lack for earnestness, but what he could use more of is some more political common sense. Just saying you want to do something, however well-meaning, does not mean that accomplishing it will be easy. For example, I'd like to have the greatest jump shot on the East side, but my aging frame and sheer lack of skillz are more likely to produce a lot of rolled ankles and not baskets.
Thus it is with Gregor Robertson's above pledges. Saying you want to do something falls well short of making it happen.
On the homelessness front, for example, we've witnessed a veritable mess with the poor implementation of the HEAT shelter program. Despite the polite spin from Robertson's office, it's pretty clear they were slapped upside their head by Minister Rich Coleman and forced to shut the problem shelters on Granville and Howe down. In terms of plan, Robertson gets a huge FAIL from Metro News columnist Paul Sullivan.
In today's column titled "Practical plan needed to end homelessness," Sullivan is practically vicious.
The last homeless shelter under the Granville Street Bridge closed quietly Wednesday, two days early, ending an overextended drama that played out nightly on the news for months.
Somehow, someone found 35 rooms for the people at the shelter, which brings up a few questions: How did those rooms suddenly become available? And if they were available all along, why weren’t they used to accommodate the homeless people from the shelters?
I’m not sure what Mayor Gregor the Good and his merry band of Vision councillors have learned. Hopefully, they’ve learned something. Anything. Like maybe it’s time to stop having visions and start seeing things as they really are.
If Gregor Robertson is serious about ending homelessness by 2015, it’s time he acknowledged the scope of the problem and outlined a detailed and practical plan to address it.
But that would defy an easy solution and cheap talk. And that’s what got him elected, isn’t it?
Ouch. That last line really stings and I'm not even that big a fan.
No matter what Sullivan thinks. How about the gushing praise for Vancouver's "young and progressive" mayor from a US blogger? Alan Hunt Badiner, author of such classics as Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology; Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, poses the question "Is Vancouver About to Become the Greenest City in the World?"
Well, we wonder that too. But first, here's Badiner's take on the HEAT mess:
Vancouver voters also seem to favor the mayor's compassionate, yet urgent, approach to homelessness and his goal to eliminate it on city streets by 2015. Within weeks of his election, he coordinated with the province to create 200 temporary shelter beds and organized the Homeless Emergency Action Team made up of city, provincial, nonprofit and private sectors representatives tasked with finding immediate solutions for homelessness.
After three months, five emergency shelters were providing beds and a warm place to stay for more than 400 homeless people. And while new high-rise shelters are in the works, problems persist, and some residents who live near shelters are upset by drug activity, fights and their flower beds used for defecation. For the most part, the city's efforts are seen as a success, and there are dramatically fewer people are sleeping on the streets.
So as you can see, the further away you are from the city, the prettier the situation becomes. What's a little poo in the garden anyway? No matter, what about the Mayor's "green mission?"
Even part of the City Hall lawn has been converted into a community garden to grow local food to be donated to providers in Vancouver's inner-city neighborhoods. Robertson's efforts, while still relatively tame, are only a prelude for his plans to completely and radically revamp the energy and consumption patterns of the city.
Roberston points to the old polluting power plant that lights up Vancouver at night and vows it will soon give way to a renewable-energy facility. The mayor convincingly walks his talk -- his other car is a bicycle, and he likes to spend weekends with his wife and teenage kids in an off-the-grid cabin without a driveable road on nearby Cortes Island.
By any chance is the Mayor pointing at Burrard Thermal, which the BC Utilities Commission recommended expanding the use of, which his former colleagues in the NDP and their labour allies cheered about? When exactly has Robertson ever weighed in on Independent Power, and what would his backers in COPE 378 think about it?
As for those weekend jaunts to "nearby" Cortes Island, we can only guess what the carbon footprint for that regular 3+ hour commute might be, assuming that he, Amy and the kids ride in the minivan together.
Badiner seems to think that Gregor has really accomplished a lot in his aimless seven month long term:
Vancouver has incentivized an increase in hybrid and energy-efficient vehicles in taxi fleets...
Of course, it was the previous NPA government that negotiated with the taxi industry for greater use of energy-efficient cabs, but really who bothers with facts?
Just like in his interview with Fazil Mihlar, Robertson resorts to buzz phrases and skips the specifics. Empty gestures like Gregor's Garden, part of the "symbolic environmental movement" that Robertson represents, may bedazzle an American blogger hungry for change back home. When it comes to real leadership on homelessness and a green shift, Robertson is all talk.