These structures have cost Vancouver taxpayers at least $540,000 + so far
It’s official. The fate of the illegal Occupy Vancouver structures now rests in the hands of Vancouver voters who are set to go to the polls on November 19th.
Yesterday the 10-1 Vision Vancouver/COPE majority decided it wasn’t prepared to provide city staff with any direction regarding what to do with the illegal tents. In fact, a motion by NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton to debate the Occupy Vancouver tents was not even seconded by a single member of council.
As a result, the motion died on the order paper as dozens of squatters cheered the Mayor and his political colleagues for their continued support (free power, water, garbage pickup, recycling, 24/7 security etc...).
Yet again Vision Vancouver has demonstrated a level of arrogance that hasn’t been seen in these parts for decades. By refusing to even second Anton’s motion, they have sent a clear message to those opposing the encampment – “you effin NPA hacks can can go fly a kite”.
Was Anton surprised her motion wasn’t even allowed to be debated? I doubt it. As the lone opposition member on council she regularly has her microphone shut off by the mayor whenever he doesn’t like the message.
Now that Vision/COPE (as well as senior brass at City Hall) have given the green light to the illegal encampment, rest assured it ain’t going anywhere fast. It's also painfully obvious that if Mayor Gregor wins another massive majority we might be talking about this (or another similar) encampment well into the 2014 election cycle. No, I’m not kidding folks.
Anton’s position regarding when the illegal squat should end has been a lot clearer than Robertson's daily dithering. Yet oddly she's the one facing most of the media attacks for not releasing a minute-by-minute program of how she would remove the illegal tents.
With the memory or Robertson’s Riot fresh in their minds, the mayor is desperately trying to convince people that any attempt to take down the tents will erupt in violence. It’s an amazing position to take considering the role he played in giving Vancouver a huge black eye on June 15th.
The reality is Vancouver has had tent cities in the past and they have been removed peacefully. It's also worth noting that Mayor Gregor removed a similar tent city earlier this year from the grounds of the Olympic Village when it threatened the City’s bottom line. But if it affects the bottom line of a few local food carts and hotels – oh well, that’s the price of democracy.
The reality is the only people talking up violence in relation to the Occupy Vancouver movement are the Mayor and his political team. I have yet to hear anyone from COPE, the NPA or even the Occupy folks promote the fact this illegal encampment could become violent. But if the mayor is to survive past the November 19th civic election, it’s critical he instill fear of the unknown into the discussion. So far by pointing fingers at Oakland and Portland, he’s been successful at doing so.
In addition to not seconding Anton’s motion, City Manager Penny Ballem pulled another one of her procedural tricks again yesterday. Rather than writing up a staff report and posting it online so everyone could read it and digest the information ahead of time, she chose to deliver a Power Point presentation in real time. No wonder they call Vancouver City Hall a sealed fortress.
Unlike almost every other city who is struggling with what to do with illegal encampments, Vancouver has gone above and beyond the call of duty. The Mayor is not only tolerating the tents, he is helping to facilitate them. What next, will squatters be offered free spa treatments too?
With Anton’s motion now dumped from council's agenda, the fate of the Occupy Vancouver structures now rests with Vancouver voters.
If they want to support the illegal encampment (and the many more that are sure to follow) for months or years to come, they should vote Vision/COPE. If they want a government that commits to ending the illegal encampment as soon as possible, they will vote NPA.
The outcome of the November 19th election will determine how much access the public will have to their "public" spaces into the future. Let's see what 28% (projected voter turnout) of them decide.