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Car-share comes right to the doorstep of city halls

August 21st, 2014 · 7 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 · 31 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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Vancouver gets new radio station with Roundhouse Radio

August 6th, 2014 · 5 Comments

This is kinda cool

The Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced today that it has approved the broadcasting licensing of 0971197 B.C. Ltd., Roundhouse Radio to operate a low power, speciality FM radio station in the City of Vancouver on 98.3 FM.

Roundhouse Radio’s key objective is to be actively involved in the City and to serve the needs of citizens who live, work and play in Vancouver. Roundhouse Radio’s difference is to provide a spotlight on an active citizenry with more storytelling, discussion and context. Roundhouse Radio will help with community clean-ups, festivals, kids, talk about food from around the world, live music & arts, news and features focused on the City and its neighbourhoods.

We can learn from the quietest voices” says Shelley Zavitz, Operations Manager and Program Director.  “Roundhouse Radio is designed to offer everyone a seat at the table. All we need is a place to gather, discuss and learn from each other.”

Don Shafer, President & CEO says “We love the promise that Roundhouse Radio holds. It is perfectly suited to all that our team has learned and hold true about media, our love for radio, the web and the important work that we can do to serve the needs of our community.

One of the founding shareholders, Rick Pushor says on behalf of our owners’ group and our families we are very proud of our application. We look forward to playing an integral role in media and making a difference in Vancouver.” 

 Roundhouse Radio 98.3 FM is a privately owned company of British Columbians who aspire to create a world-class broadcasting platform on the air, online and on the street – focused on the City and people of Vancouver.

For further information about Roundhouse Radio visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or

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Vancouver community centres: one board fighting, a surprise (maybe) move for Aquatic Centre, whales, homeless camps

August 6th, 2014 · 27 Comments

Poor Riley Park Hillcrest community centre — now in the middle of a custody dispute by two boards, one led by Jesse Johl, another led by residents who got fed up with the lack of financial statements, strange new rules for electing board members, and more. They were in court last week and the latest word I had was that they would be back this week to try to resolve who is legally in charge.

In the meantime, the association’s bank account (which at one time in the not too distant past held a quarter million dollars) is frozen and the park board is having to pay the instructors who are technically the employees of the association.

My story here tried to explain some of this. Also had a reference to the out-of-left-field news that the City of Vancouver is considering allowing a new aquatic centre to be built as one of the community amenities on land it plans to sell next to the Granville Bridge. The aquatic centre of is of a long list of amenities the city suggested that developers consider offering, as part of the land purchase, including the Qmunity centre, social housing, and other stuff.

Oddly, no one ran this by the park-board commissioners, but so far the reps from both sides (Vision and NPA) are taking it calmly, saying it’s a chance to see whether there are any potential wins out of any of the developer offers.

As I mentioned in tweets over the past week, I had heard talk the last couple of years about replacing the Aquatic Centre. There was some suggestion, during the planning for Northeast False Creek, that some of the community-amenity contributions from developers go towards that. In the end, Fern Jeffries from the area told me, residents asked for that CAC money to go to parks closer to the area instead.

I had always imagined the new aquatic centre would go in the same general area as the old one — only this time, one would hope, with windows to take advantage of the gorgeous setting. It was a bit of a surprise to hear the city would entertain having it move so far south and east, which would mean 40,000 people from the West End and the 10,000 or so at Coal Harbour would have to trek a bit further, though it would be more convenient for the new Yaletown, Downtown South and Concord residents.



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Surrey candidate McCallum shows he’s ready to fight hard

July 31st, 2014 · 2 Comments

Last week, Doug McCallum attacked the current city council for its development corporation’s lack of action in Cloverdale.

This week, he’s out with a hard-hitting news release saying that Barinder Rasode and Linda Hepner both voted in favour of closed police committee meetings. This is going to get testy — and interesting, as everything has been so placid in Surrey for years, with not too much critical media coverage of Mayor Dianne Watts or any of her team’s policies. His news release below. (I note that Jonathan Ross, who did some work with Vision Vancouver, is on board with McCallum’s campaign. Things continue to be weird in Surrey.)

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Gregor Robertson holds steady with 59 % decided voters but NPA’s LaPointe starts strong

July 31st, 2014 · 40 Comments

I went to get some of my crazed summer-frizzed hair chopped the other day, so got to talk to my hairdresser, my infallible guide to the mood of the city. He has a lot of west-side clients, so he gets a sense of things percolating before I do. He told me when the tide was turning against Sam Sullivan, how much people liked Gregor Robertson at first, and then how fed up they’ve been with him lately.

This time, he said that everyone (of his clients, a select group, as I said) is looking for a hopeful saviour. And they’re interested in Kirk LaPointe, the NPA’s newbie political candidate. They just don’t know a thing about him, even in this small town where everyone knows everyone. (This fact is always brought home to me forcefully when I get calls from people wanting to know what I really think of this or that job candidate — when I haven’t been listed as a reference. People in this tiny city trade information constantly about who’s who.)

LaPointe was not the kind of editor like my old Kamloops Daily News boss, Mel Rothenburger, who followed council closely and was forever opining aboutcivic stuff. When people voted for Mel as mayor back in 1999 and in 2002 in Kamloops, they had a pretty good idea who he was and what he would do. In contrast, LaPointe was not quoted often during his 2003-2010 at the Vancouver Sun on any topic, where he was the second in command. And he wasn’t that interested in civic politics at the time.

I did a story on the latest Justason poll in today’s Globe, linked to here, that showed that, although 59 per cent of decided voters are still committed to Vision’s Gregor Robertson, a surprising ly strong 41 per cent said they would vote for Kirk LaPointe as mayor — even though he had declared his candidacy only the week before and hardly anyone knows anything about him. (I should mention that 45 per cent of people in the poll were undecided.)

So LaPointe is starting with an advantage and the few people who did know something about him liked the fact that he sounded smart and honest. (See more on what people thought of the two mayoral candidates here.)

But he and his team have to know that that’s not enough. The political elders I talk to all the time like to say, “People vote governments out, they don’t vote them in.” That’s been the conventional wisdom for a while and I’m sure that will be true for some voters.

But, as we saw in B.C. and Ontario provincial elections recently, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough just to say, “I’m not the other guy.” A party that doesn’t present a credible enough alternative will drivers voters back into the arms of even those governments with a messy track record.

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