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NPA starts to hit hard, saying Gregor Robertson hates the city’s resource economy, lies about homelessness

October 16th, 2014 · 20 Comments

Vancouver’s Non-Partisan Association ramped up its game this week, with mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe announcing his party’s positions on housing and the city economy. My Globe story here makes it pretty clear that the party will go into the election championing Vancouver as a home to LNG, mining, forestry, and so on. On housing, LaPointe articulated a few new ideas — using city bylaws to make sure empty properties are maintained — but largely said the city needs to have a new conversation about how to accommodate development and create affordable housing.

I asked if HE has any ideas on that, since the typical ways that cities and agencies have found to create affordable housing is: give developers bonus density in exchange for guarantees of low-cost rentals or have the city contribute land in order to lower the overall price of housing on it. He said he’d wait to see what ideas come from the community.

It’s interesting to see how much stronger his language is getting when it comes to criticizing the mayor. At a Vancouver Board of Trade event on Wednesday morning, he said Robertson had lied to people about solving homelessness. (The previous week, he said it was an “act of cowardice” for Robertson to not come out to the Urban Development Institute breakfast.)

LaPointe got in a few more jabs that were well-received by the 140 or so at the VBOT, saying that he didn’t consider the Point Grey Road project so much a bike lane as a “gated community.” And he said that he is applying to be the mayor of Vancouver in this campaign, but that Robertson seems to be applying for a job as the mayor of Burnaby or as federal environment minister or as the chair of the National Energy Board.

In the meantime, Vision continues to put out news releases saying the NPA has voted against everything on the books — social housing, rental housing, an affordable housing agency, etc. — and that their platform is empty. Robertson went a little further this week in a scrum, saying LaPointe has never been to city hall once, which is why he doesn’t understand how anything works.

My story copied below as well, for those who can’t get beyond the wall

[Read more →]

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Why can’t Vancouver solve its homelessness problem?

October 14th, 2014 · 17 Comments

I wrote a little essay on this and the computer ate it. So here is my story from the Globe on this topic, all by itself, although there are lots of other interesting aspects and side issues to this.

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First big campaign day: NPA talks about free parking on Sundays, Vision talks housing, free swim lessons

October 10th, 2014 · 70 Comments

Suddenly, the energy level has ramped up in the campaign and lots to do and cover the last two days.

Things started off Wednesday with duelling newsers from Vision and the NPA, where Vision announced its “family-friendly” (you’d think in this province, they’d be wary of that phrase, but whatever) affordability platform, emphasizing their commitment to keep looking for ways to encourage new rental apartments, family-oriented units, and social housing, along with, yes, free swim lessons. Only for those under 14, so don’t get too excited, my blogsters, about getting a chance to finally learn to swim.

Kirk LaPointe of the NPA took to Kerrisdale to say that motorists have been treated with disdain by Vision Vancouver and, to help out struggling families who just want to park easily as they do their shopping and so on, an NPA government would get rid of parking charges outside the downtown for Sundays and holidays, as well as scaling back the hours for paid parking everywhere from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. My story here.

That night, there was a council candidates’ debate at Killarney community centre where, predictably, the big issues were the funding for the seniors’ centre and the fight between the park board and six community centres. Vision council candidates Raymond Louie and Niki Sharma didn’t get booed or anything. Louie kept insisting the city’s $1.2 million is there if it’s needed, contrary to reports, and Sharma was very conciliatory, though vague (“we should talk”)  in her answers about how to de-escalate the situation between the park board and centres.

But certainly other candidates got big rounds of applause for saying the fight should end and Vision dithered for 12 years on the seniors centre. (Though they’ve only been in power for six, so that seemed off.)

Then, yesterday, a news conference by the Chernens from the Cedar Party in the morning, claiming that the city failed to get the best deal out of the Oakridge redevelopment, leaving hundreds of millions on the table. Apparently their team called the Vancouver police department, alleging actual fraud. The RCMP’s E Division apparently went to city planning to ask some questions and then declined to lay any charges. Lots of photocopied documents and allegations of this and that passed around.

And, in the evening, a big rally by Metro Vancouver Alliance, the coalition of churches, unions, advocacy groups and others pushing to create change in four areas: housing, a living wage, better transit, and measures to alleviate social isolation. The three major mayoral candidates, Gregor Robertson, Kirk LaPointe, Meena Wong, plus the Greens Adriane Carr were there. I tweeted madly on this. If I get a burst of energy, I’ll storify them and post.

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Adding fuel to Surrey election fire, Surrey scores D in safety and getting around on first vital signs report

October 7th, 2014 · 2 Comments

All of a sudden, after nine years of relative calm, Surrey seems like a very unhappy place. The report issued today will add to that.

SurreyCares, in partnership with the Surrey Board of Trade, released the results of Surrey’s first Vital Signs study this morning. The report investigated updated statistical data as well as public opinion on issues ranging from crime to the economy.

“This reports gives the laser-like focus needed to create a more vibrant, livable city,” states Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

“We were surprised by some of the things we learned,” states Jeff Hector, president of SurreyCares. “The study reveals that residents have an honest, community-driven pride and a deep interest in where we are going.”

The report includes the results of a public opinion survey where residents assigned ‘grades’ on eleven areas that measure quality of life. Overall, the community scored C, or ‘Average’, on its first report card. The areas rating the greatest interest of residents are:

Safety…………………………D+

Arts and Culture…………..C

Environment……………… C

Economy & Work…………C

Getting Around…………… D+

Report available in full here.

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First Nations’ developments here, there and everywhere: What are the differences among them?

October 6th, 2014 · 4 Comments

Time for all of us to get up to speed here, as First Nations bands around the Lower Mainland and elsewhere are getting increasingly savvy about operating businesses, negotiating deals, and doing development on land they own or have a claim to.

In the wake of the announcement last week about an agreement among the federal government and three local bands to develop two large chunks of land, I went talking to the people behind the scenes who have been watching First Nations grow in the scope of their activities  My Globe story here, with a lawyer, a development and a real-estate consultant who have worked with First Nations around the province.

Important for us, too, to understand the differences between developments on reserve land and developments on claimed land.

(One caveat. I referred to Block K as the Shuaghnessy gold club, but Block K, thanks to my informant on Twitter, is actually the chunk of lend just west of the golf club.)

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Vancouver launches new legal challenge to CP Rail, saying it has no rights to use Arbutus corridor for rail any more

October 5th, 2014 · 30 Comments

Hoo boy, the Holy War between Vancouver and CPR heated up again Friday when the city launched a lawsuit claiming CP has effectively given up its right to use the Arbutus corridor as a rail line. I’m attaching the city’s statement of claim below so all the legal scholars on the blog can weigh the merits of this argument.

Here’s my Globe story as well.

One other thing. The mayor said the lawsuit was partly to protect citizens from having CPR doing obnoxious, public-disturbing things along the track. But a former city staffer (that growing group of people with an enormous body of knowledge about the city) pointed out that the city specifically did not list certain activities as permitted on the corridor.

This is what the bylaw says

Excerpt #1

2.1 Designations for the Arbutus Corridor

This plan designates all of the land in the Arbutus Corridor for use only as a public thoroughfare

for the purpose only of:

(a) transportation, including without limitations:

(i) rail;

(ii) transit; and

(iii) cyclist paths

but excluding:

(iv) motor vehicles except on City streets crossing the Arbutus Corridor; and

(v) any grade-separated rapid transit system elevated, in whole or in part, above the surface

of the ground, of which one type is the rapid transit system know as “SkyTrain”

currently in use in the Lower Mainland;

(b) greenways, including without limitation:

(i) pedestrian paths, including without limitation urban walks, environmental demonstration

trails, heritage walks and nature trails; and

(ii) cyclist paths.

(link http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/BYLAWS/odp/ac.pdf )

One provision it didn’t include in its bylaw was the following, meaning that CP’s threats to store train cars or do welding on the track would likely be prohibited just under the current bylaw, without having to go to court.

Excerpt #2

Transportation and Storage Uses means and includes all of the following uses, and any one of them, but no other:

Railway Station or Rail Yard, which means the use of premises as a depot or station for passengers awaiting use of rail transport (non-commuter), for the servicing, cleaning or live storage of railroad cars, engines and other rolling stock, for the marshalling of trains, and including related storage of goods pending transport;

(link       http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/BYLAWS/zoning/sec02.pdf

 

CITYOFVANvsCPR

 

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All city controversies solved in one easy night of talking and drinking among savvy group

October 3rd, 2014 · 2 Comments

For those who wished they had been at the blog gathering, but couldn’t make it, here’s a recap from Kirk

Thanks to those that made it out last night.

For those that missed it, I heard two main topics:
1. The election and the candidates.
2. Vancouver’s future. Housing, investment condos, demographics, schools, you name it.

We are all special snowflakes, but there were some notable names that those who couldn’t be there might have wanted to talk to (in order of appearance): Frances (the guest of honour), Mike Klassen, Pete Fry, and Andy Yan.

I could only join one conversation at a time, so I missed out on other topics. We were there for almost five hours and the discussion was still going strong when we packed it in.

Jeff, I forgot to ask if you had pictures of your cycling trip through Spain. You’ll have to bring some next time.

And Silly Season added this

Excellent evening. Not all fear-bsed, btw! Lots of interesting comments from people across the #vanpoli spectrum and ideas/solutions floated on how to deal with those pressing issues.

Very creative stuff. Politicians should take note.

And I add this

It is a revelation to see how people who sometimes bash each other over the heads on social media can have such a productive, non-combative discussion about difficult issues when we’re all in person. I think there’s something about face to face that makes people strive to agree a little more. Interesting dynamic.

For those who would like to come out another time but fear the policy talk is too elevated, fear not. We also traded good gossip. Which famous family’s kids are driving the neighbours with their wild parties? Who is the former NPA party member whom Peter Armstrong would most like to remove from the face of the earth? Was the fake-Twitter-follower scandal really a scandal? Who was behind it? And much, more more.

As a result of the festivities, I didn’t get home until near midnight and slept in for my call at 7:30 the next morning with a district-energy specialist. Crazy time.

 

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Uh-oh, I installed Disqus. Hope it all works out

October 1st, 2014 · 13 Comments

I paid $500 of my own good money, which I’ll have to raise elsewhere, to install this system which several people said would improve the commenting system. We’ll see how it all goes.

If really terrible, I’ll uninstall it.

My blog-maintenance minions assure me that all previous comments will re-appear, as they are only partway through. Good Lord, maybe we can all go back to writing postcards.

Thanks all for your patience with the unusual number of tech glitches and changes the past month.

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The stealth marketing campaign by Vision Vancouver

September 30th, 2014 · 22 Comments

Warning: This post contains a mix of serious analysis and some whimsically imaginary facts mixed with real ones. If you can’t tell them apart or if the juxtaposition creates too much cognitive dissonance for you, STAY AWAY.

The Vancouver election campaign has been so strangely underwhelming so far that it’s allowed many of us in the still-paid-journalist world to muse in our free time about how people are actually going to decide to vote in this campaign-free campaign, if they actually do.

The smaller parties and independents — COPE, Greens, Cedar, independent mayoral candidate Bob Kasting, One City, Vancouver First — have all been labouring away earnestly and mightily to establish comprehensive policies, announce that they are opposed to the two big developer-backed parties (as Vision Vancouver and NPA are now legally required to be labelled). They’ve had a few small breakthroughs in the media and public consciousness but nothing’s really taken off.

And the big guys are nowhere.

The NPA seems to be concentrated on tweeting out pictures of its candidates and supporters at rallies, festivals, beer nights, tractor pulls, strip-poker nights, and so on, with the occasional announcement about another call for complete and utter transparency, including large picture windows, at city hall from mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe. On occasion, a little Twitter war breaks as an NPA candidate makes a snippy little remark about Gregor’s good looks or who has the wisdom to truly understand the city.

Vision, on the other hand, seems to be hiding in the city in camouflage outfits. Only the relentless emails urging us to support them in their stand opposing tankers, lobbying for a subway, solving homelessness, and saving the city from the NPA give a clue that they’re still alive.

But there must be campaigning going on somewhere. It’s unlikely that the sophisticated team Vision has built up is really doing nothing but setting up special polls for election day that are only accessible by bike.

So, I’ve come to realize, we’ve entered the year of the anti-campaign campaign.

[Read more →]

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Police fines for cyclists

September 29th, 2014 · 23 Comments

This came to my inbox from reader/resident George Muenz. Anyone else noticed this problem?

Thousands of cyclists go up the Spanish Banks road to UBC in order to get to the cycling paths on Marine Drive and onwards.

I have had reports from several people that police have threatened people with fines and worse if they do not ride on the pedestrian path adjacent to the road. That path is dangerous as there is nowhere near enough room for pedestrians/joggers and thousands of cyclists.

I don’t know why it’s not like any other road in the Lower Mainland where cyclists and cars share the road. I suspect that someone “important” complained about bike traffic on that road, which of course is heaviest on weekend mornings and the police, who one might think have more important issues to address are making this a priority, even if the result is very unsafe issues for citizens.

I created this petition last night

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/cycling-on-the-road-at-spanish-banks-ubc

Hope you can spread the word,

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