An NPA government must be more open than Vision

Post by Mike Klassen in

26 comments

transparent
Who governs Vancouver next must be totally transparent

Now that Councillor Suzanne Anton is kicking the openness debate at Vancouver City Hall up a notch by requesting a review by Provincial government authorities, it might be time to stand back and look into the crystal ball after the 2011 election. If the NPA form government at Vancouver City Hall, what should their stand be on openness and transparency?

It's all fine and good to criticize Vision's labyrinthine tactics to scuttle accountability, delete emails and stifle the City's own policies around privacy. But if you're not going to hold yourself to a higher standard, there's no point in criticizing the current government. That's why I suggest that the NPA set its own standard for accountability while in office, and sell it to the voters next year.

To begin with Vision Vancouver makes the NPA's job of creating a new openness platform with teeth easy. You simply just have to do the opposite of everything Vision does, and you are infinitely more accountable. Here are five ways the NPA must be more accountable:

  1. Re-institute the independent, non-partisan role of the Freedom of Information Manager with the City Clerk. That role must be filled by a person with impeccable credentials, and someone who firmly believes in the integrity of that office and someone who will defend access to information. That person was Mr. Paul Hancock, who is one of the first people the NPA should call if they win a majority in November 2011.
  2. Declare that on the matter of campaign funding that the NPA will outdo even the terms of the new Local Election Act, which will be tabled at a spring setting of the BC Legislature. This should include a promise of continuous disclosure, providing details of all campaign contributions before the proposed 90-day deadline, and abiding by the rules of the Vancouver Charter when it comes to paying down campaign debt. Vision Vancouver have flouted the rules set out in the Charter and interpreted disclosure to mean on their own schedule, not the required 30 days. Furthermore, unlike BC's present policy there should not be any foreign funding of our election campaigns allowed.
  3. Set out a clear policy against the use of ANY indirect funding from companies or individuals who receive the majority of their income through charitable funds. Vision Vancouver have received record-breaking donations from Mike Magee, Joel Solomon, Bob Penner and Carol Newell, all of whom are paid by charitable foundations.
  4. Strictly enforce a policy of not taking any gifts or perks from third parties. Tickets to Canucks games, visits to the box seats of a developer, concert tickets or any kind of gifts like the ones commonly received over the years by Vancouver elected officials and staff must be off limits.
  5. Avoid the "FD Element Syndrome" and ban the hiring of companies who are also doing political work for elected officials. Last August we learned that Vision insiders FD Element were also employing a pro-Vision blogger while FD were getting lucrative contracts through the Mayor's office. This practice must end.

These five policy suggestions are admittedly back of the napkin ideas, but I would expect that the NPA would take up the challenge to become an organization that lives up to the promise of openness and transparency by putting their commitment in writing and standing by it. Vision Vancouver talked a good talk on openness when trying to get elected in 2008, but have failed miserably at keeping that promised.

In fact, they've made the City much, much less open.

There are many other suggestions that should also be explored. Unfettered by the shackles of his role at the City, perhaps someone should ask Paul Hancock his ideas on how the City of Vancouver can be a truly transparent institution?

One thing is clear, no one except for Vision Vancouver wants things to remain as they have become.

- post by Mike

26 Comments

All very good ideas and they should be part of any platform. How will we (i) get politicians to committ to these and how can we hold them accountable between elections?

I would also like to see more use of the web such that certain information is automatically posted to the web with no intermediary filters.

Best post I have read on this site. Good work.

Is it just me, or is it funny that a post with a positive message gets no replies, but any negative post where we can slam on the mayor gets dozens and dozens?

I don't find it funny at all. But we need to be realistic, a political blog is a platform to voice our dissatisfaction over issues we need to hold our "paid public servants" accountable....

When there is a positive post we can sit back and enjoy the thought.
With positive posts it is rather redundant to repeat over and over what a good job is being done.

That isn't the point of a public watchdog...which in my opinion is what a political opposition blog is about..
Think about it, or, is that part of a redirection spin?

One must ask....

Opps sorry, my last post should have been under today's topic, not sure how I did that :-)

It's redundant to repeat positive things but it's not to repeat negative things?

Is this a political opposition blog? Or a blog about 'civic issues'. They are very different things...

boohoo-
Politics (from Greek πολιτικος, [politikós]: «citizen», «civilian»), is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. Civic issues require collective decision making.

There can be no avoiding the political in a blog about civic issues. Furthermore, this blog fulfills a void in the civic culture in Vancouver, a void left by a long-standing existing political party (NPA) who were badly outperformed in the last election by a new party (Vision) who are falling short of their own stated goals as they struggle to accomplish their agenda while they learn what is involved in governance.

I don't always agree with what City Caucus says, and I never believe in attacking the opposition merely for the sake of it. However. I believe citizens of Vancouver need an effective opposition in order to keep governance of the city on track. The NPA failed to do it (as they did last election, and they have been relatively silent since that date until very recently), leaving civic governance unbalanced.

Any blog that can put out food for thought to hold the current administration to account for their decisions affecting civic life is welcome to me, providing they strive to oppose in a fair and balanced manner. The void is there to be filled.

This piece was constructive suggestions for an opposition party that is still in some disarray, and I second Steven Forth - best thing I have yet seen on this site. Please put a copy in an envelope and send it to the NPA.

boohoo,
I think you are twisting words to deflect...

Twisting words? You said 'which in my opinion is what a political opposition blog is about'.

You were talking about this blog weren't you?

I just found it somewhat telling of the current state of hyper-politics in this city that a positive message generated no discussion while shit on the mayor is always good for 100 posts.

sorry boohoo,
but I think he deserves it...I've known Gregor for many years, and what he's doing to Vancouver is shameful..
frankly I do find you tend to twist words when Gregor is involved...but that is just my opinion...

George,

My point wasn't about the mayor--it was about how this positive post was essentially ignored while negative ones are wolfed down. I think that speaks to the current state of politics here. It's not good for any party or any person. You can feel about my posts however you want, I *think* I've been pretty clear in my disdain for all parties--even through the repetitive accusations of being some vision spy or whatever else.

But I suppose the silence is not surprising seeing as the previous thread about the NPA had to be closed by the admins...the negativity is alarming.

Human nature I guess.. I'm confused, what thread was shut down. I don't know what you're referring to

Boohoo-
The negativity stops being alarming once one reads a few City Caucus' pieces. They should be praised when they do present good food for thought in a reasonable fashion, but also held to account whenever they abandon reason in favour of the rousing game of 'dogpile on Gregor.'

There have not been a lot of positive news flowing out of 12th and Cambie in the past few years, and I for one welcome opposition to any point of view if it is of substance and not just a cheap shot. I also encourage you to speak up in defense of your views and especially to show any unsubstantiated cheap shots for what they are.

It just happens that this piece by Mike Klassen stayed on the right side of the line in my view, and offered constructive suggestions for opposing viewpoints. It is hard to find fault with that.

That said, if you do see the blog stray back into 'dogpile' mode, feel free to speak up on it. In the words of the immortal philosopher Smokey Robinson, "I second that emotion"

Boohoo, you are really getting tedious. You had an opportunity as being the second to comment as to what you thought of the post or add some further positive ideas but you chose to whine (in a negative fashion) about how no one else was commenting on a positive post. Don't you find this at least a little bit hypocritical?

Ahh Bill, the good old 'you're whining' response--sorry, not going to stoop.

Douglas,

I encourage discussion/pressure that will lead to a more transparent/better working government. All of Mike's points in this post are valid--I just find them as empty as they have turned out to be from Vision's promises in this crazed hyper-political atmosphere.

There have been positive stories coming from City Hall, this blog just never covers them. So be it, they have an agenda and that's fine, they are under no obligation to do so. I guess I'm coming to realize this isn't so much a discussion on civic issues as it is an political blog--I guess that's just disappointing because when I first started reading the articles were on policy, plans, etc... far more than politics.

I have spoken of my views, though I'm not sure anyone wants to listen. It seems as though the 'you're with us or against us' attitude is suffocating all other possibilities.

Just when I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt Boohoo, you say something like this

"Ahh Bill, the good old 'you're whining' response--sorry, not going to stoop.."
when you made this comment you stooped boohoo..

I'm coming to realize this isn't so much a discussion on civic issues as it is an political blog- it took you this long to figure it out?

Here's as straightforward list of things bloggers can do to enhance the quality of both their content and the comments made in response.

http://www.cyberjournalist.net/a-bloggers-code-of-ethics/

A BLOGGERS’ CODE OF ETHICS

Be Honest and Fair
Bloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
Bloggers should:
• Never plagiarize.
• Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
• Make certain that Weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
• Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for for technical clarity. Label montages and photo illustrations.
• Never publish information they know is inaccurate — and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it’s in doubt.
• Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
• Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

Minimize Harm
Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.
Bloggers should:
• Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by Weblog content. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
• Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
• Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance.
• Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
• Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.

Be Accountable
Bloggers should:
• Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
• Explain each Weblog’s mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers’ conduct.
• Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.
• Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers.
• Be wary of sources offering information for favors. When accepting such information, disclose the favors.
• Expose unethical practices of other bloggers.
• Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

CK
What are you implying, is this article in any way inaccurate? Or is this your way of shooting the messenger?

Hi George:

The conversation seems to be about the nature of blogs. I think those are good guidelines and offer them up as food for thought. You can decide for yourself if CC or any other local blog meets the criteria.

Boohoo

The comments and content on this blog are going to be tilted heavily towards the non-governing NPA and away from Vision. I do not expect even-handedness to that end, and concur with you about some of the antagonism that creeps in. However, please fight the 'with-u-or-against-us' mentality, which I agree exists.

I believe this blog has at times ignored its own mission statement regarding civility and discussion of the issues - some people just love a good political dogpile I suppose.

However, if commentary can spur real dialogue, I hope (perhaps against hope) that that can make up for the shortcomings. Whether I share your views or not, please don't let yourself be suffocated. Help in turn to challenge both the bloggers and those commenting to 'up their game'. If this truly is a free and democratic forum, then opposing viewpoints should be welcomed and debated on their merits.

Short little one-line wisecracks made at others' expense, political cheap-shots and ad-hominem attacks should be identified for what they are, regardless if one agrees with the viewpoint or not.

As Mike Klassen wrote above (best line I've seen on this blog):
"... if you're not going to hold yourself to a higher standard, there's no point in criticizing the current government."


PS to Boohoo-
Chris Keam said it with the Blogging Code of Ethics far better than I ever could have.

What he said!

Thanks for the clarification Chris, but in all fairness do you think it is your place to post guidelines for a blog site that doesn't belong to you.

I personally found it a bit condescending,like my Parents posting the house rules...at a friends house..

If anyone should post rules it should be Mike...

George:

Where did I suggest that these had to be the rules for CC? They can do as they please. I merely supplied some information. As I say, you are free to compare that code of conduct with the content of any blog, but this thread seems to be discussing blogs and 'slant' w/r/t news coverage and opinion pieces. It's completely on-topic.

George
I believe he posted some General Guidelines, more as a suggestion. The points are good ones.

I agree with you it is up to City Caucus whether they agree with or follow this "Code of Ethics, wholly , in part, or not at all. However, Chris in my view is in no way out of line by directing everyone's attention to the 'Code', which I previously did not know existed. I found it enlightening.

Boohoo:

You have options.

You have negative or optinionated comments to the topics at hand.

You chastise others, yet you are still here.

Addicted?

George,

I simply called him out on his bs denigrating tactic.

Douglas,

I agree--my intial intent in this thread was simply to point out the apparent lack of positive input. No following the post up with other ideas, ways to implement, etc...Steven Forth even asked for it and nothing. I find that telling. Maybe I'm seeing something when nothing is there, I don't know. But where are all these supposed pro-NPA/anti-Vision people with new thoughts, new ideas, excitement, etc...? Here this thread gave the perfect platform for discussion on how to make a positive choice next election, and some good ideas on what to ask for in our elected officials. The reply? Silence. It seems to me all the energy is going towards tearing down the current group. And this is the problem with this crazed political atmosphere, both locally in Vancouver and Provincially. No one will be voting for the NPA, they're voting against Vision. That's ridiculous.

I want a candidate worth voting in because they are worth voting in, not being there 'not them'. That's why I think this party system is beyond broken. It's divisive and just groups people into stupid little stereotypical pods where you just end up yelling at each other. I would venture to bet everyone on this board agrees on 95% of the issues we talk about--but because the posts come from this place of anger and frustration we all come across as though we're locked in some deep debate about great philosophical differences. But hey, it's edutainment right! ;)

I do not have a problem with Chris adding his Bloggers' Code to this discussion. And, I see it as complimentary to the ethics suggested by Mike. What they both say is we are all people participating in a free society & as such we need to be responsible & fair-minded when dealing with others in whatever context, blogging being [hopefully] only 1 part of our respective lives.

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