See the Greenest City Grant Applications
A few weeks ago, we were the first media outlet to bring your attention to a new program Mayor Gregor Robertson was introducing called “Lawns to Loaves”. The ambitious program is part of a much larger set of green grants valued at over $300,000 that the City has doled out over the last three years.
We were told that the Lawns to Loaves program was meant to encourage homeowners to get rid of their front lawns and replace them with mini-wheat fields. The Mayor wants to grow enough wheat to produce a few locally made loaves of bread. It’s the kind of goofy program that alongside the backyard chicken scheme, has helped to reinforce the Mayor Moonbeam image for Gregor Robertson.
Over the last week or so, a few left-leaning columnists have leapt to the Mayor's defence by taking a few pot shots at Suzanne Anton for her criticism of the program. They ask why Anton would dare criticize the program when it is being put forward by the Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA), a group committed to environmental sustainability.
I must say I find it rather amusing to watch how Vision Vancouver and their supporters duck for cover when the crap hits the fan. When it happens they have no problem shielding themselves behind the homeless, youth or seniors. They hope by doing so that they can deflect attention away from the sheer silliness of these initiatives, and distract the public from the ineffectiveness of Mayor Gregor's costly green dreams.
When the Greenest City grants were brought to council, the elected officials were only provided with a high level summary of the staff recommendations. I've confirmed that Council was not provided with a copy of the application forms attached to each grant request. That’s why CityCaucus.com decided to place a freedom of information request to see exactly what a few of the applications actually looked like.
Upon review, it would appear the Lawns to Loaves program is yet another “symbolic” initiative of this Mayor and council. Rather than tackling the tough decisions related to better land use planning, which would have a bigger environmental impact, we're stuck with an endless list of “symbolic” media-friendly announcements.
In fact, the application for Lawns to Loaves confirms my theory that the so-called “green” initiatives being pushed out of the Mayor’s office are all about style over substance. Have a look at the goals and objectives for the program as indicated in the application form:
The Lawns to Loaves pilot project aims to explore small-scale grain production in the urban environment by assisting people in coverting their conventional grass lawns and concrete cityscapes into wheat-producing spaces. It is a novel experiment exploring the limits and possibilities of how and where our daily bread comes from. The goals are ambitious yet simple (emphasis ours):
To successfully cultivate a hundred pounds of organic spring wheat within the City of Vancouver. [Editor's note: that works out to about $50 per pound of wheat]
To engage our progressive city in a thought experiment regarding what defines a farm and to redefine the dominant scale of grain/food production.
To overlook traditional notions of efficiency in favor of the power of symbolism.
To teach, engage and excite those involved in the project and the greater public about the benefits of local food, the long term empowerment in growing our own food, and the joy of communal food processing and celebration.
Another “green” initiative that didn’t get as much attention as the wheat fields program is the decision by council to give the Vancouver Area Cycling Coaltion (VACC) a $15,500 grant to set up a new bicycle courier company.
If you actually read through the full application for the grant, it’s abundantly clear that the money is not being used to simply purchase more equipment. According to their application submitted to the City, the funding will allow them to undertake a public relations campaign to help extol the virtues of the Mayor's separated bike lanes.
Wow, isn’t that convenient? Just as we head into an election, one of the Mayor’s top boosters and most active City Hall lobbyists is provided a grant to help bolster the fortunes of the Hornby Street bike lane.
Here is an excerpt from the VACC application (emphasis ours):
Furthermore, we will actively demonstrate that the new separated bike lanes represent an opportunity for businesses, reframing the discussion around downtown infrastructure.
…we hope that this grant could represent the beginning of a long-term partnership with the city.
With the recent controversy around the installation of separated bike lanes downtown, we recognize a critical need for engagement between the cycling community and local businesses. By engaging business clients and demonstrating that the bike lanes represent a business opportunity, we are building support for improved cycling infrastructure and the Greenest City goals generally.
The Greenest City Grant would allow us to offer a free promotional campaign for cycling as a preferred means of transportation , in which SHIFT would host a campaign of the VACC, encouraging cycling and positive relations between bikes and businesses.
Despite what some Vision-friendly columnists would like you to believe, the green city grants that were doled out a couple of weeks ago give little or no value to taxpayers. Even Mayor Gregor had to admit in a news conference that this is about symbolic gestures, not about reducing our city's carbon footprint.
These green schemes are convenient props for Robertson and his financial backers to use as part of their 500-year plan for the universe. They merely provide bullets on a PowerPoint slide when they head out on the speaker circuit to brag about how environmentally-friendly Vancouver has become under Gregor's watch.
Meanwhile, we have witnessed massive cutbacks to the Park Board budget since Vision took office. It’s so bad that we don’t even have the staff to cut the boulevard grass in the summer.
Something tells me Vancouver Council needs to make a major re-adjustment of its priorities soon, or else they run the risk that voters will do if for them on November 19th.