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An obituary for a Vancouver city hall tree

August 29th, 2014 · 3 Comments

And now for a break from politics (though I expect some people will find a way to work it in even here):

I noticed a while ago that one of the two big cedars in front of Vancouver city hall on the south side had turned completely brown. When I happened to ask about it earlier this week, I found out it was going to be taken down Wednesday.

Here’s my little story on the interesting history behind this cedar (a Port Orford cedar originally from the south Oregon/north California region) and many others like in Vancouver, thanks to Douglas Justice at the UBC Botanical Garden.

For a view of it when it was young, here’s a picture from 1937 and another taken once the cedars had grown quite a bit.


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Divided Riley Park community centre members will have to hold a new meeting to elect directors

August 28th, 2014 · 21 Comments

I got a note from a Riley Park member yesterday asking why she had been notified about having to renew her membership and vote in a new meeting for directors.

I received a letter from the Riley Park Association today because I am a member. It is very strange. It asks me to renew my membership before August 31st in order to vote at the annual general meeting on Sept 4th. Sounds fishy. Looks like old board business. But we had them voted out in June… I don’t understand. Do you have any information on this?

For her information and the info of other confused members, here’s the link to the Supreme Court decision on Riley Park that was issued last week, which declared that the June meeting to elect a new set of directors was invalid. For the moment, the old board (but including four directors whom part of the old board had tried to remove) is in place and a new meeting to elect new directors has been ordered by the judge.

I have to say, I’ve been covering the city for 20 years as of this year and I’ve never seen such lawsuit mania as has erupted in the past year. What is going on?

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CP suspends track work (aka ripping out gardens) while talks on with city

August 27th, 2014 · 28 Comments

This just out from city hall this morning:

Track work suspended for talks between City and CP Rail


Senior officials at the City of Vancouver and CP Rail have agreed to meet to discuss the future of the Arbutus Corridor.


While the two sides meet, CP Rail has agreed to suspend all track maintenance work along the Arbutus Corridor for the next two to three weeks

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Burnaby opposition hopefuls try to capture anti-development feeling in that mostly placid city

August 26th, 2014 · 18 Comments

Interesting for me to see the new Burnaby First party trying to ride the anti-development horse there. Burnaby has been building towers for quite a while now, apparently with no backlash from anyone. But I have heard more grumbling about the Brentwood development in the last year than I’d heard the previous decade, so maybe there’s something there.

This is the news release that Burnaby First sent out today

Burnaby First Mayor candidate Daren Hancott & Council candidate Helen Ward plan to speak tonight at the public hearing for the controversial 56-story Brentwood Tower II.   It will be held at 7:00 pm in the City Council chambers at 4949 Canada Way.
This hearing will be the one opportunity for the general public to have their say on this project before Burnaby’s current BCA monopoly council votes on whether or not to send this project forward.
The previously-approved Brentwood Tower I has already resulted in the closure of vital public transit infrastructure (the bus loop and related access ramp) making it extremely difficult for mobility-challenged transit riders to access Brentwood Mall shops and SkyTrain ground transit connections.
It has further resulted in significant slow-downs of rush hour traffic along Lougheed Highway at Willingdon Avenue.
This ‘intersection’ of mobility-challenged transit users forced onto surface streets to access their bus connections, and frustrated rush-hour vehicle commuters trying to get to work is yet another example of questionable BCA planning.
This and other topics concerning the transparency with which development permitting proceeds here in Burnaby, under the current monopoly BCA Council, will be the focus of BFC candidate remarks.

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Car-share comes right to the doorstep of city halls

August 21st, 2014 · 6 Comments

I was roaming around the city website looking at open bids when I came across the RFP for the next three years of car-share services at the city. That prompted me to make some phone calls to find out how much it was used and if it resulted in getting rid of any city cars.

As it turned out, it did. It also turned out that other cities around the Lower Mainland are also turning to car share as a way of saving money or getting their young, car-less employees around. My story.

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Latest poll: 46 per cent approval for Robertson, 40 per cent disapproval, few know who LaPointe is

August 21st, 2014 · 29 Comments

For the poll junkies, the latest poll from Insights West and Mario Canseco on the municipal scene.

While most of the results make sense (particularly the lack of transparency and engagement). one thing that is going to rankle Vision for sure — and does surprise me a little — is the low ratings they get on dealing with homelessness. This council has probably put more money and effort into creating more shelter spaces, providing for transitional housing, and even buying properties, to the point that staff grumble internally about how much is going to that issue.

I’d love to know more about those low ratings, whether it’s that people think the city shouldn’t intervene so much, that they think other policies that promote gentrification and development outweigh the homelessness efforts, whether they’re irate about the promise to end homelessness, or whether they just don’t get what the city is doing. I’m sure you’ll all weigh in and let me know.


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When politicians promise to run clean campaigns, what does it mean?

August 19th, 2014 · 26 Comments

When the NPA made a big splash out of signing Code of Conduct pledges last week promising no personal attacks and a campaign based on the issues, it made me curious about how frequent something like this is. (I thought I heard a suggestion at the signing that it was the first ever in Canada.)

As it turns out, they’re somewhat common and becoming more so, to the point that the state of California, for instance, has a recommended code of campaign conduct that it suggests for aspiring politicos. (That code, along with others I found along the way, goes further than the NPA’s, with promises not to misrepresent either the other side’s positions, i.e. interpreting some minor vote as being that the candidate is opposing some motherhood issue vehemently, or to misrepresent themselves.

But, as people I contacted for my story suggested, as much as regular voters say they like clean campaigns and as much as candidates promise them, those campaigns can be hard to stick to once parties feel like they’re backed into a corner. Also, they note, it doesn’t mean that negative is off limits — it’s perfectly okay to be negative about the opponent, if that negativity is about real positions they took or real mistakes they made.

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Robertson: CPR is “bullying”; LaPointe: Vision has been “incompetent” on CP file

August 15th, 2014 · 174 Comments

So CPR sent out the bulldozers to take down the zucchini plants and raspberry bushes this week along its long-unused line, which apparently is now so critically in need of work that the clean-up couldn’t wait until, say, the end of the season. As someone on Twitter remarked, the PR in CPR sure doesn’t stand for public relations.

But at least the politicians are responding, with lots of heat, if no light.

First was the mayor with this statement.

Statement from Mayor Robertson on CP and Arbutus Corridor

“CP’s removal and destruction of long-standing structures along the Arbutus Corridor is completely unwarranted, and these actions are simply a bullying tactic. The City made a fair market offer to CP to buy the land, which they turned down. There is no business case to reactivate cargo trains along the Corridor, and the City’s right to control the zoning was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

“The City offered to purchase the land at fair market value, which CP rejected. I wrote to the head of CP last month requesting a facilitated discussion to reach a long-term solution, which has been ignored. The actions by CP are counterproductive, unnecessary, and disrespectful.”

Then NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe with this statement.


 The situation between the City of Vancouver and CP Rail concerning its Arbutus Corridor property once again emphasizes that Vancouver is a great city, badly run.

Gregor Robertson spends his time on sweeping pronouncements and commitments of tax dollars to issues outside the City’s jurisdiction, like the Aquarium, tankers and Granville Island ownership.

Meanwhile, he drops the ball on issues in its own back yard, such as the Arbutus Corridor negotiations with CP Rail. This week we saw the results of his failure to resolve this and it was upsetting for many.

I empathize with those who have put time and resources into creating and tending community gardens. They must now witness the dismantling of these gardens because the City failed to competently negotiate a commercial transaction with CP.

But it didn’t have to come to this.

We need an administration with the business acumen to finish these negotiations in a way that balances the needs and rights of the landowner with the City’s taxpayers and the affected community.

We also need far more transparency on this complex issue, which has important principles at its heart, such as private property rights. But openness is a foreign concept to this mayor. Consequently, the taxpaying public is in the dark, having to rely on media reports about the most fundamental aspects of the issue, such as the gap between CP and the City over the land’s value.

Let’s put this issue out in the open, see what solutions are on the table, wrap up negotiations and let communities, taxpayers and CP see a resolution. It’s gone on for too long.



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The NPA plan for more “openness and accountability” at city hall

August 12th, 2014 · 161 Comments

First written-down piece of policy from the new NPA team. Your thoughts on the specific remedies here?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014, Vancouver BC - The Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe says an NPA government would create a bylaw requiring the City to disclose information routinely, strengthen the City’s freedom of information office to ensure records are more accessible and create an Office of the Ombudsperson to represent the public as an impartial investigator of complaints about how the City is run.

LaPointe also proposes producing an independent annual report that would show how public consultations have influenced decisions the City has made in a given year.

These and other measures LaPointe pledges are designed to make City Hall more accountable to the residents it serves – something he says would restore the trust that has eroded under the current Vision Vancouver administration.

“The general public, community groups and even our politicians have to resort to formal legal requests for basic data,” LaPointe writes today on his blog, “This has been a pattern of arrogant, disrespectful and wasteful behaviour.”

LaPointe says an NPA government would also:

  • Create a much stronger electronic forum for the public to question elected officials.
  • Create a new process to make genuine community consultation a priority on all City decisions and provide more information on issues so people can better participate.
  • Go where Vancouverites are and hold at least one-quarter of Council, Park Board or School Board meetings in affected neighbourhoods.

“Vancouver is a great city, badly run,” says LaPointe. “Lifting the veil off our government and showing voters how it works can only reduce skepticism, improve dialogue and create trust and respect.”

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In five months, all condo owners, businesses have to be ready to recycle food scraps. Ready? Umm

August 12th, 2014 · 14 Comments

Like Andie McDowell in sex, lies and videotape, I’m kinda obsessed about garbage. Where does it all go? Does anyone really recycle any of that stuff we put in the blue box or is it just a little story to make us feel good? Who is making money from it?

My latest small contribution in my garbage oeuvre is this look at how cities and condo owner are getting ready for the 2015 ban on all organics in landfills.

Still trying to find out who makes the money on this. Anyone in a condo building out there got the numbers on what they pay for garbage/recycling pick-up?


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