Street trees are what help to cool neighbourhoods and make them "green"
A news release was sent to CityCaucus.com early this morning from the lone Green Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon. The headline reads "Green Park Board Commissioner to Oppose Budget Initiative". Mackinnon, who to date remained almost silent as Vision slashed the Park Board's budget over the last 12 months, is coming out swinging this time.
Mackinnon is the only Green Party elected official in Vancouver, and the protection of trees is obviously something near and dear to his heart. That's likely why he is fuming over Vision's plans to chop a program aimed at making Vancouver a greener city. He states:
We need to save Vancouver's trees. How can we be the greenest city while reducing the number of trees in the city? This is the most basic form of being green. From a birds eye view Vancouver would in fact be less green if these budget cuts go through.
Mackinnon rightly points out the hypocrisy of cutting a tree planting program in Vancouver when Mayor Gregor Robertson just announced he wants to make the city a greener place to live. Mackinnon launches this salvo:
Vancouver City Council recently released their Greenest City Action Plan which calls for the planting of 150,000 new trees by 2020. Most troubling to me is direction the Park Board would be going if this budget initiative is adopted. While the city is advocating for the planting of an additional 150,000 tree over the next 10 years, the Park Board would actually be planting 4000 fewer! Not only would we not be on board with Greenest City Action Plan, we would be actively working against it.
In his most recent blog post, Mackinnon expands on why he's so upset:
I wasn't elected to oversee the dismantling of the Park Board or the degradation of our parks and recreation system. Yet for the second year in a row I am being asked to approve a budget that contains fewer dollars for the Park Board.
Mackinnon goes on to state:
One of the budget proposals coming to the Park Board this coming Wednesday is the reduction by 1/3 of re-planting of street trees. Approximately 1200 trees are taken down each year by the Park Board due to death, disease or danger, and these are replaced. A reduction in the trees on the street program funding would mean that only 800 of these trees will be replaced.
Last week the Park Board deferred making a final decision on their annual budget in the hope that Vision's budget misers over at 12th and Cambie might see the err in their ways. We're told the discussion happening behind the scenes between the elected officials has been heated, but the Vision Park Board commissioners have agreed not to publicly shame their Council cousins - at least for now. As one Vision insider told us "they are going to bite the bullet on this one as we're still over two years away from an election."
The lone Green Party member who formed part of the COPE/Vision/Green alliance in the last election is obviously not reading Vision's talking points. Unlike many of his colleagues (with the exception of Ian Robertson), Mackinnon doesn't want to be seen as being complicit with Vision's cutbacks to park services. His decision to stand up to Gregor "Green" Robertson in this way is commendable. That's because Robertson is known to be quite averse to public criticism. To date, not a single member of his caucus have had the tenacity to stand up to him on any issue...at least publicly.
Unfortunately for Mackinnon, we think the writing is on the wall for the Park Board budget this year and there will be plenty of cuts to popular programs. It will be interesting to see how the Vision Park Board commissioners can stand by on the sidelines for the second year in a row when Council slashes their funding.
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