City Hall faces series of citywide political flare-ups

Post by Mike Klassen in

16 comments

The Vision City Hall spends all its time putting out brush fires
Vision Vancouver's City Hall spends all its time putting out brush fires

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Little Mountain / Norquay / Arbutus RidgeNeighbourhoods 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.
  10. 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

16 Comments

Seems to me this is just the very typical and very predictable reaction to any political party after a few years of power.

Why we think Vision or NPA or COPE or whoever else would be any different is beyond me. They are all essentially the same, they just differ on relatively small issues.

Good post Mike. You might add to your list:

11. Dunbar Nieghbours were not consulted before the City started putting in a sidewalk on one side of Chaldecotte Park. The City had some Federal stimulus money to spend so they thought, why not here? The neighbours don't want or need a sidewalk there & have other priorities in mind. Work has stopped pending some unknown outcome.

12. The PNE / Hastings Park redevelopment remains contentious. Opponents want more park space than the City is proposing & have a propblem with continuing to have a regional facility in their neighbourhood.

13. The Fraser & Broadway social housing project has not been accepted by the community.

14. Vision has made a mockery of the entire planning process. Neighbourhood Plans from Norquay to Arbutus, the West End, & Marpole are stalled or not on the horizon in spite of a derth of spot rezoning proposals [which because of Vision's aquiescense, they quickly become faites de complis].

There is now a 2nd spot rezoning proposal in @ the City across the street from the Gateway proposal before the Cambie Corridor Study is complete [it's only half way through the process which in itself is seriously flawed] & before the Marpole Area has a Neighbourhood plan.

In Marpole alone there are now not 1 but, 4 spot rezoning proposals submitted: Gateway South, Gateway North, Granville & 70th Safeway & Shannon Mews. And, no Community Plan.

Norquay residents have been trying to get a Neighbourhood Plan for almost 5 years. The process has been stalled due to the inability of planners to achieve consensus with the residents.

The massive Arbutus Village spot rezoning proposal is meeting with serious opposition in that community, as well it should given its density, height, bulk, lack of community amenities, public open space, poor vehicular & pedestrian circulation, etc.

Add to this that the Arbutus Village, Shannon Mews & Safeway proposals will add significant densities along Arbutus & Granville which are served with single bus services with insufficient frequencies. Gateway South & Gateway North are ensuring the Canada Line will be overwhelmed sooner than later.

What will happen to the feeder bus services which will not be able to get to the Cambie Loop because the already overloaded streets are permanently gridlocked? The only possible east-west by-pass of the Cambie & Marine intersection is through the industrial area. Boy, is that a good idea: add though traffic in a truck loading zone. Brilliant! and, who's going to pay for that by-pass? Since it's necessary because of the increased development, the developers should. But, does that mean CACs Lifts, etc. dollars will be spent on that & not on improving community services & amenities?

Boohoo you don't get it. It was Vision who said they were going to be different from the NPA.

If all we are getting with Vision is the NPA in a different suit, then why don't we just go back to the NPA? At least this way we know what we're getting. It would help to eliminate a lot of the hypocrisy.

I for one think there actually is a huge difference between the NPA and Vision/COPE. That's why the voters will come out in droves in about 12 months or so, just you watch.

The difference between the NPA, COPE and Vision Vancouver is that the NPA, while not particularly consultative (and given to being 'in the pocket' of the bureaucracy) caved into pressure from the community on a range of issues, and at the end of the day emerged as a relatively responsive municipal party.

At least Sam Sullivan, and the previous Council, talked about development in our community, under the rubric of Eco-Density; there was a full on discussion of the need to densify, and all of us were included in that discussion.

Keeping the NPA honest always was a loud, vocal and articulate opposition, ranging from journalists like Frances Bula and Allen Garr, to the elected members of COPE and Vision, not to mention, activist members of the community.

Vision Vancouver, on the other hand, has steadfastly moved forward with their 'developers agenda' (taking in much money from the development community to fill their coffers for the 2011 election), kept communities out of the development discussion (or ignored community input outright), and not to put too fine a point on the matter, at the end of the day have ended up 'lying' to us about their back door 'development agenda' by the very dint of NEVER deigning to discuss with us their wily plans for the City of Vancouver.

Vision Vancouver, in power, has conducted itself in an arrogant, entitled manner, acting as if they know what's 'best' for us, treating us all as if we're just too dumb to understand the issues which only our 'betters' (read: Vision Vancouver) understand.

COPE, in this term of Council, has been tied to the hip of the Visonistas.

During COPE's term in power under Larry Campbell, despite the in-fighting which led to the breakaway creation of the cynically-minded Vision Vancouver party, COPE forwarded a relatively progressive agenda, listened respectfully to the community, created responsible and responsive community Boards and committees to provide input into their decision-making, and despite a tendency towards ineptness, acquitted themselves fairly well, at least in terms of responding to the concerns of the community.

No Terri, I get it fine. What I don't get is why you expected vision to be any different than the npa. Or why you seemingly expect the future npa to be any different from vision now.

Vision just won the most recent election handily, next the NPA might win handily, then vision will come back, and on and on it goes. Notice a trend in municipal elections in Vancouver. Party x promises the moon, doesn't deliver. Gets voted out. Party y comes in, promises to clean it all up and doesn't deliver. Gets voted out. And so it goes....

It's a lose lose. Look at this list being added to here. NIMBY much? Doesn't matter what political stripe you claim to be under, change is scary and will be met with opposition no matter how nicely you present it.

It's time to get rid of Robertson's communications and stakeholder staff and replace them with Jonathon Ross. He writes for the Vancouver Sun, has a great blog, has run campaigns and has what it takes to turn this ship around. When will the mayor have the guts to make this change and turn his fortunes around? We're waaaaiting!

What makes you think His Imperial Majesty, Gregor I, King of Hollyhock, Emperor of Cambie & 12th needs, wants or plans to consult with the us peon class?

He is a Progressive. He is better than us, ordinary rules do not apply. Even his crap smells better than ours, especially after it has been put through his American Money Fountain spin cycle.

Get with the program, resistance is futile so just lie back and enjoy the experience.

There is less chance of permanent damage if you do not resist.

All Hail Gregor.

All Hail his new office.

Red-light Robertson did come out of hiding briefly a week ago. Just enough time to be in the PNE parade. He was laughing and giggling the whole time. I swear he was acting like someone who was tweakin on some really good stuff. (Note: I'm not accusing him of actually doing anything illicit, just commenting on the way he was laughing.)

The best part is, there was really no reason for him to be laughing it up when he passed by where I was watching. The crowd was almost indifferent to him being there. No cheers. No applause. But the consummate ideologue must have seen the reaction from the crowd in an entirely different light. "They like me, they really like me!"

A few friday afternoon thoughts!

Nice to see mayor McJuice back so quickly from his relaxing sojourn of paddling around the Gulf Islands out of cell phone range... Amazing how fast he paddled back to the City to comment on his new digs..mm

I wonder if hizzoner heard the tom toms from his communications director to drag his sorry butt back and say something coherent . ...

naww

oh and the sheep of the media.. mm I notice that there was no mention to Hizzoner of how if he was out of cell phone range and communication how he menaged to hear about the kerfuffle on the new digs and comment so quickly.

Perhaps he heard the sounds of the coming tidal wave.

Perhaps the complaints of piling on by the Visionistas had an effect and the dormant minds of the mass media swallowed the latest pablum from Robertson, Jang, Louie, et al with the usual lack of critical thinking or questioning.

Nothing makes a splash like the noise of "you're fired" coming after the next election.

Boohoo:

If you genuinely believe that the NPA, COPE and Vision are the same, why don't you behave like it: stop defending Vision (since they are just as bad as anyone else), and don't bother voting in the next election, because, according to your peculiar perspective, it doesn't matter anyways.

Somehow I suspect your behaviour will not follow your alleged views on the futility of political participation.

boohoo,

This notion of nimbyism being a negative needs to stop.

The city and every city for that matter is up made of citizens. Those citizens are people who have concerns about the neighbourhoods in which they live and pay taxes in.

In many cases these residents have a significant dollar value invested in their home/neighbourhood, and have every right to believe they should have a say in what happens to their streets and parks.

Community consultation is not just about listening or pretending to listen to the owners and residents, it is about accepting that as stakeholders they have rights.

It is also about accepting that some projects that developers pitch, and some initiatives created by ideologically driven politicans, will not ever see the light of day.

At no time should this be considered nimbyism - which was a term solely created to classify people in a negative light.

You should really be ashamed of yourself for suggesting that anyone with a dissenting opinion is wrong for having one.

BAHAHAHAHA!!! That's pretty damn funny! Please tell me you were being sarcastic and not actually serious!

If you are serious, this is the same Johnny "Vision Boy" Ross who ran the only failing Vision campaign in 2008 and cried racism when his candidate (Kashmir Dhaliwal) didn't win, not that he ran a crappy campaign. The same Vision Boy who runs at best, a mediocre blog that very few people comment on and the fact he's a loose cannon.

If Mayor Moonbeam wants a good Vision flak, perhaps he should put either Frances Bula or Allen Garr on the official payroll, if they aren't already on there!

@ CO. A reasonable summation.

+@ crying. It appears the outcome of the next election might see a resergence of Cope as well as the NPA. If so, where does that leave Vision?

I'm not 'defending' vision or the mayor I'm just not attacking them and calling them childish names at every turn. Large difference.

Residents of neighbourhoods do need to have a say, their voice is critical, I'm not arguing otherwise. But I've been to enough public meetings and information sessions on both sides of the table to know the process is inherently flawed.

I've been involved with the Cambie planning (far too late to start that process but that's another issue) and you should hear the residents at these meetings. We were about 2 minutes in and the planners were being yelled at from all sides, threated with law suits etc...

They explained that the Canada Line is now here and so we need to capitalize on it. Whether or not the province/translink should have put it there in the first place is a whole other matter and frankly irrelevant at this point. No no no they yell, no density, nothing more than duplexes and MAYBE a townhouse right on Cambie.

'I bought in this neighbourhood 5 years ago cause it was a safe, quiet neighbourhood and you're going to ruin it' etc... What they could all agree on was to tear down the rental housing on Cambie and put higher buildings there, cause you know, it's just renters. At this point a woman stands up and says she's been renting there for 23 years. They didn't care, tear it down. Just don't do anything to my back yard.

and so it goes.

Jonathon Ross is a respected journalist who I'm told often writes for the Sun newspaper and has managed election campains. He has more experience than some of the Mayor's staff and should have been hired as the communications director in the first place. The mayor should give him a chance to see what he can do to turn all this bad media around. He's a nice man and I know he can do it.

Baldev

I can only fervently pray that such a miraculous thing happens, Marc.

Then, I will know that there IS a God.

BWAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

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