As I've spoken to friends and colleagues in recent weeks about local politics, it dawned on me that in virtually every corner of the city some political rumble is raging against the Vision Vancouver government. Since Robertson's crew promised to be more open & accountable, and that they'd take the petty politics out of City Hall, you'd think that things would be more serene around town.
Pity City staff, whose stress levels must feel insurmountable on some days. After all, it's not their fault that Vision are ramming through so many ill-considered plans. But they are the front lines on this stuff, while the political figures duck and weave to avoid any scrutiny – or just take off kayaking.
If you think I'm exaggerating then look at my accounting of Vancouver's hot spots below. Here in no particular order is a list of political brush fires raging throughout the city in the summer of 2010:
- Downtown – Hornby & Dunsmuir separated bike lane. Within the past 24 hours we've seen the CFIB and respected business owners like Umbertos wage their own campaign to counter the powerful and organized bike lobby (the same group appointed and funded by city council to lobby them). A petition and a Facebook group are being used by opponents. The City appears to be backing down from pressure from local businesses on the idea to ban all right turns on Seymour and Hornby.
- West End – Neighbours STIR Protest. This action to oppose what has been termed by some development industry types as a "greedy" attempt to add too much density to a West End community has resulted in a whopping 10,000 signature petition against Vision Vancouver's STIR plans. This is an impressive feat and there is no doubt Vision will have to reconsider their plan, especially in the face of the Mayor's effing NPA hacks remarks.
- Marpole – Marine Gateway re-zoning and leaning tower. While this flare up has quieted down for the summer months, it's expected that neighbours in the Marpole area are ready to grab their pitchforks after Labour Day. There are also growing concerns from this group regarding the re-development of Shannon Mews in their community.
- Killarney – Bike route barricade at 45th & Elliott Street. This was more than a flare up, this was spontaneous combustion. Neighbours have taken the summer off, but a rally with the school PAC is being organized for the first week of school returning. This dangerous blockage of a key arterial (45th Avenue) in that community has resulted in reckless u-turns and detours through the Waverly Elementary school zone. Even cyclists who were supposed to benefit from this plan feel threatened by the change.
- False Creek – Continued stalling on park plans. Thanks to the dogged work of neighbours in the City Gate community we've paid attention to the sweetheart deal between Concord Pacific and Vision Vancouver to give the developer a massive tax break (land worth tens of millions is assessed at 400 grand). Neighbours have also asked when will plans for a park promised for the past 25 years ever be realized?
- Southeast False Creek – Flatlining sales at Olympic Village. Less of a protest than an ulcer-inducing mess for City Hall. When voters realize that Vision Vancouver's politicking on this project will cost them millions, expect a lot more pitchforks. Social housing advocates are appalled at the reduction in available low cost housing, and months into the process occupancy in the market rental units is still stalled.
- South Cambie – Save the Bloedel Conservatory. While it appears that this community group was able to get the Vision Park Board and Mike Magee to back down, there are key decisions still to be made to finalize the new arrangements with the Park Board.
- Kitsilano / Fairview – West Broadway UBC Line planning. Spearheaded by longtime COPE community advocate Mel Lehan and local business representatives, Translink has begun consultations on the future of rapid transit along West Broadway. Lehan's group has already made their presence known and have drawn lines in the sand as far as disruptions along Broadway to develop any line out to UBC.
- Little Mountain / Norquay / Arbutus Ridge – Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver advocates Ned Jacobs and Joseph Jones have longstanding issues with community planning that they never shy away from expressing at every opportunity. They make good points, and have been frustrated by Vision's unwillingness to consult with community representatives. In fairness, Little Mountain has staged several meetings with community reps during the pre-development process, but it's certain that if neighbours feel ignored it will spark action by Jacobs and his group.
- ALL neighbourhoods – Community Centre partnerships with City threatened. This is a story we plan to cover more in the weeks to come. We've heard there are BIG problems with the way independent park community centre boards are being forced to cover costs that the City paid for previously. It's having the trickle down effect of threatening daycare and other park programs throughout the city.
There are other issues that have stirred up the dust this summer – such as the Grandview Park redevelopment on Commercial Drive. Vendor applicants and foodies were also disappointed at the slapdash process used for the food cart program.
We musn't forget the reaction from voters across the city to Vision's blockbuster success – 17 applications for backyard chicken licenses. And of course, the cost of building Gregor Robertson's new "private" office and the new city council dining room is not going down well either.
We're also hearing about widespread discontent among City staff – more on this topic in the days to come.
By the way, that's not rain pouring over Vancouver this morning. Vision has called in a bunch of giant waterbombers from the Okanagan to help douse the political brush fires happening around town.
In case you missed today's Shore 104.3 FM Moment with Mike on Steve & Colleen's morning show, here it is. Not surprisingly, this week's topic is the Mayor's new office and the council dining room (mp3).
- post by Mike