Good advice from Ricky for Vision Vancouver: keep trying and you might accomplish something
I sat down at my desk here on the 39th floor at CityCaucus Tower Thursday morning ready to launch into a much-needed steaming cup of coffee when I heard the cackling coming up the old air ducts in the building. We've had problems in the past with some of the underpaid media monitoring gang down on twenty-three, so I decided to lift myself out of the big old leather rocker, popped into the elevator to see what was going on.
Turns out it was Vision Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer's fanciful fiction on the Sun's Op-Ed page that was getting a rise out of the scamps on the 23rd floor, not another freakish round of World of Warcraft. I headed back to my desk and poured over the fable that had been carefully crafted by mayor's office staff to make someone, anyone, feel better about the do-nothing Council currently in power.
On issues like homelessness and the environment, progress is steadily being made on a number of fronts. All of this is being done under the unprecedented pressures of a global recession, a scaled-back provincial budget and preparations for the biggest event our city has ever seen -- the 2010 Winter Games.
Wow, what a set up. Who should we cast for the lead in this thriller? Harrison Ford as the mayor? Kate Winslet as the spunky young city councillor? What's the hook though? Ford has 24 hours to stop a bomb from going off? No, that's way too clichéd. Let's read on...
We secured $170 million in funding from the provincial government to build over 500 new units of social housing. With the opening of five HEAT shelters, the city was able to provide a safe place to sleep for over 450 people a night -- some of the hardest to house in our city
So you got Rich Coleman and the Premier to fork over some cash for social housing. Is this in addition to the 3800 units of social and supportive housing attained by the previous city council? And are these social housing units the waterfront kind for $600K a piece, or the ones going up at Little Mountain once construction starts there?
The shelters helped save lives during one of the harshest winters in memory. Police and Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association statistics showed a corresponding drop in aggressive panhandling and street disorder.
Let's talk about those HEAT shelters, shall we? Of course, we all know what a great job you guys did during Snowmageddon. And the back-of-a-napkin planning set forth by the Mayor and Councillor Jang on the shelters...well, that didn't go so well, did it? In fact the whole program nearly imploded on you. As for improving stats calculated by the DVBIA, of course crime dropped in Downtown, because it all moved to False Creek North.
Providing shelters and creating new housing is never easy in the best of times, let alone during an economic downturn that has seen Vancouver's revenues plummet and the provincial government scale back its budget.
How utterly diplomatic-sounding you are here, Mike, er, I mean, Andrea. If it's never easy to create new housing, then how come your supporters continually expect the money for it to drop out of thin air? And didn't you just upbraid the Province with your arts motion attacking cutbacks? When will you answer for the shameful 9% slashing of arts funding from the city in your 2009 budget?
Council is also taking real action on the environment. With the Burrard Bridge bike lane trial, we took a bold step towards making cycling and walking safer on the main bike route into downtown. We signalled that we're serious about getting more people to walk and bike in Vancouver.
There goes that contradiction again around the Burrard Bridge. Is a move to improve safety, or environmental action? Councillor Deal tried to persuade us that it was the former, and now you're suggesting it's the latter. Real action on the environment is not getting a few hundred more people on their bikes during the nicest summer weather in nearly a decade.
Instead, we have what is turning into a good-news story in a depressing economic climate: the success of the bike trial will mean the city does not have to spend an extra $30 million on widening the Burrard Bridge sidewalks, as the previous council wanted to do.
What the Bridge did was turn Vision's depressing performance from a failing grade to a D. The Burrard Bridge was built in the Dirty Thirties, and tens of millions are soon going to be spent to upgrade and retrofit it for another 50 years. Don't kid us in thinking you're anymore thrifty than the NPA, because you can bet you'll find a way to spend millions on your own pet projects.
We've expanded car-free days, doubled the number of pedicab licenses, and created more community garden plots. And after years of talk from previous councils, we approved laneway housing, which will provide more affordable, sustainable options for housing throughout Vancouver.
Andrea's car-free dream was rammed through without any community consultation, and the results were decidedly mixed. Pedicabs? How about addressing the lack of taxi infrastructure head-on like the NPA did? Community gardens? We all know that the Mayor created the single-most-expensive community garden plot in the city's history, right outside his office window. And there's barely any community nearby to support it.
Laneway housing was an NPA initiative borne out of EcoDensity - full stop. For Vision to try and take credit for it is just tacky. None of them did the hard political slogging to make this initiative happen.
And now, cue the violins...
On top of these actions, the city has been hard at work ensuring the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are something we can all be proud of.
The result will be a remarkable experience -- an opportunity for Vancouver to showcase itself to the world with an unprecedented media spotlight. We're on track for a spectacular event, and are focusing on seizing the new economic opportunities that being on the world stage will create.
Really? We're just about four and a half months away from greeting the world. When have ANY of the elected officials in Vision Vancouver or COPE spoken with pride that we're hosting the Games? Where is the evidence that the City, or this Council are backing the Olympics?
Give me a break. Councillor Reimer and her pals in the mayor's office have crafted a fairy tale for the Sun to publish. It's time for them to step up and get something done that they can truly call their own.