Who will review the actions of Ballem and Robertson leading up to and during riot?
Last Tuesday, Vancouver council met for the first time since one of the worst events in our city's recent history: the 2011 Stanley Cup riot.
Following a morning meeting about the wheat-in-front-yards report, council was finally able to spend some time discussing the events of June 15, two weeks after the violence.
It is important to remember that the event luring people downtown before the riot -the big-screen TVs on downtown streets -was a city project. The 150,000 people were there at the invitation of the city. When things went badly wrong, with traumatized staff unable to get out of their buildings, with lootings and car burnings, and with a major black eye to our international reputation, it was up to the city to determine what had happened and how to prevent it happening again.
After all, that was the process the city went through following the 1994 Stanley Cup riot. An excellent road map was drawn up at that time. Prevention was key.
A most excellent road map which, in 2011, no one read.
At 2 p.m. in council, I was prepared for a good debate, some interesting questions, and the development of a new road map. Council needed to direct the new process, and it must be one in which the public has complete confidence.
What did we get instead? No formal direction from council was requested. No budget was presented. No discussion of public process or input. And no hard questions. In fact, astonishingly, Mayor Gregor Robertson hid behind the procedure bylaw to cut the questions off altogether.
I was so disgusted that I left the chamber.
Here are some of the questions about the city review which should have been addressed:
Where is the independence? Will the process give people confidence that the tough questions have been asked of the right people? Self-examination is not enough here -an outsider's eye and thoughts are needed.
Will the review hear from those affected: the citizens who were injured or terrorized, the small businesses that have been shut down, or the fans caught up in the riot? Public input in 1994 was extensive.
What was done in the planning of the celebrations to ensure the safety of citizens and businesses?
Why was the previous experience, like the City's own Review of the Management of Large Events in the City of Vancouver from 1994, not considered?
Did Robertson participate in and review the plans with the city manager, department heads, the police chief and the fire chief to ensure the safety of our city, its residents, its businesses and its image?
Unfortunately, the mayor would hear none of this: He simply shut off my microphone.
This response shows not only arrogance, but also inexperience, and that is worrying in many ways.
Compare this mayor and council's response to the 2011 riot to Non-Partisan Association Mayor Philip Owen's response to the 1994 riot. In the same time frame, Owen had terms of reference for a review and council had approved the budget.
Our current mayor and council did not even consider an internal review until they were pushed. They seem more concerned with limiting Robertson's political exposure than in answering the tough questions.
So, citizens, are these the questions that are important to you? What other questions do you want answered? Send them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will work to make sure you are not silenced.
Vancouver, after all, is a metropolitan centre. The 2010 Olympics showed how much we love to celebrate downtown, and how well it can go when we get it right. When we celebrate, it is everyone's celebration. For the city, the region and the country, we need to get it right again.
- Suzanne Anton is an NPA Vancouver councillor, who is running for mayor in the November election.