What kind of issues should civic candidates be debating over coming weeks
If you’re starting to wonder whether there are any other issues to be discussed in this civic campaign besides the Occupy Vancouver squat, you’d be in good company. Right about now candidates should be at numerous all candidate debates talking about everything from taxes to densification. But most of the focus remains on the 100 or so squatters camped out for free on the front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
For all of you policy wonks (all seven of you) I thought I’d dedicate this post to a number of civic topics that might not get the attention they deserve over the coming weeks. For the sake of democracy, let’s hope a few of them also generate some headlines.
What follows are some rambling thoughts alongside a number of questions for consideration. It's all meant to get the debate stirred up regarding a few issues that should be top-of-mind for our civic politicians.
I’ll try to do a few more of these as we get closer to the election…but only if I see this one has generated a real online debate and discussion! Here goes:
Does Vancouver need a streetcar? The NPA are proposing a P3 to get it built, while Vision say no way.
Should Vancouver be advocating to make rapid transit on Broadway the top regional transit priority after the Evergreen Line? Surrey politicians say over my dead body.
The Mayor has not said whether he'll advocate to make Broadway rapid transit a top priority for TransLink. Should he be doing so?
Meanwhile the NPA started the ball rolling on the Broadway rapid transit discussion back in ’07, so it safe to say they support this infrastructure - but will they push for the streetcar first?
It's also worth asking if limited transit dollars should service existing demand (Vancouver) or help shape future growth (south of Fraser River)?
Statistics continue to show that overall crime rates are plummeting, yet police budgets continue to go up, up, up. Is it a good strategy for cities to be hiring more police at a time when our population is ageing and committing less crimes?
If you had the choose between hiring a city planner or a cop, which would it be?
While we’re on the topic of police, does anyone out there support the Vancouver Police Department’s decision to use sworn officers to work in their communications department? Should the VPD even have a marketing department in the first place?
Overall homelessness has gone up since 2008, but “street homelessness” has dropped significantly in Vancouver. Is it right for politicians to claim victory on the homeless file when the actual number of people without a home is still on the rise? Should the millions of dollars being spent on temporary shelters be redirected to long-term housing, or will that turn out to be a bad public policy in the long run?
With their Streetohome Foundation, Vancouver has entered into the world of partnering with the private sector to help find solutions for homelessness. Should we do more or less of this?
The Metro Vancouver region is comprised of 20+ member municipalities. Each of them have their own economic development strategy to help create and attract jobs. At times these cities are working at cross purposes instead of putting forward a united front to potential investors. Does this make sense?
Why don’t we have a comprehensive regional economic strategy? Is it even possible to do this with the current governance structure in Metro Vancouver?
Should Metro Vancouver board of directors become the lead body coordinating a regional approach to economic growth?
Vancouver is a desirable place to live, work and play. As such, a lot of people have been moving here over the last decade and the price of housing has soared. In fact, Vancouver has become one of the most unaffordable cities in the world to live. But what can your city governments do about it?
Economists will tell you this is a basic story of supply and demand. There is clearly more demand for housing in Vancouver than there is supply. Vancouver is essentially “built out” and there is no way to build more homes unless you go up or add density in places like back lanes.
Vancouver introduced a program called STIR which provided subsidies to developers to build market rental housing. But does this really tackle the affordability issue?
Are Vancouverites prepared to really brace densification as land use policy to help significantly increase the supply of housing? It’s rather doubtful if past experience is any measure.
Is it realistic to think Vancouver can ever become affordable again? Or is the best city government can do is make it more affordable? It’s a complex question but with so much of Vancouver’s land base dedicated to single family homes, it’s unlikely any major change will happen quickly
Now it's your turn! Weigh in with your thoughts and what you'd like to see in our next policy roundup post.