So here is the actual text of the lawsuit that the Cedar Party’s Glen Chernen and Co have launched against the mayor with respect to the HootSuite lease, which various other media have been reporting on.
I have yet to talk to any municipal-law lawyers about this, but my understanding from past coverage on this murky issue is that conflict is not as easy to define as it appears among those who throw the term around in conversation.
I remember Sam Sullivan once excused himself for voting on something involving the whole neighbourhood where he lived, a move that lawyers said was an excess of caution, since councillors can vote on issues where they have an “interest in common” with many others. If that weren’t true, no councillor could vote on, for example, taxes, since they are affected by any increase in taxes.
So the issue in a conflict case typically is — did the council member or a direct relative benefit directly by a decision that the council member voted on.
However, I’m sure there are better armchair lawyers out there than me. Any thoughts on the points raised here?
HOOTSUITE ROBERTSON LAWSUIT
The Downtown Eastside has become our regional mental-health institution, as most of the world knows.
What that means, among other things, is trying to deliver health care to thousands of people who are spread out across a few dozen city blocks instead of one convenient large institution, who can’t be compelled to show up for medical appointments, who end up flailing around between the health and the justice systems, and who can’t be locked up in a room when things get out of hand.
To deal with the whole gigantic mess, the bureaucracy of Vancouver Coastal Health is forced to interact with a host of non-profits to deliver services on the street and to try to manage the many people who come into the area on a mission to save the world. The result, surprise: A lot of conflict.
Coastal Health commissioned a study and report by writer Charles Campbell last year, one that didn’t flinch from describing the conflicts in the area. The health authority has put itself on a path to try to reform its services. But, as I detail in my Vancouver magazine piece here, that’s a Titanic job.
February 17th, 2014 · 5 Comments
Anyone who thinks the mainstream media is dead should have been at the scrum with Transportation Minister Todd Stone and TransLink mayors’ council chair Richard Walton Friday, where there was a multiplicity of cameras, recorders, and reporters.
And, since the talks that had just happened between the minister and council were fairly inconclusive, everyone was looking for some kind of new news out of the meeting.
I emphasized the fact that mayors, not TransLink, are now going to have to decide whether Surrey or Vancouver gets priority for a big new rapid-transit investment. Jeff Nagel, who has covered this issue like a blanket, went with a lead that suggested the mayors could decide to hold a referendum just on a new vehicle levy in order to pay for a big increase for the bus system.
What was obvious in the scrum was that the minister was trying to set a more conciliatory tone — yes, the mayors know what they want for the region. No, it does none of us any good to be squabbling about all this. The transit rider sitting at the bus stop doesn’t care who pays for it. (I guess that’s what their focus groups and angry emails were telling them, after the province seemed to go on the attack against the mayors a couple of weeks ago, complete with planted calls to talk shows about how the mayors never mention that Vancouver got exempted from the hospital tax to pay for transit 14 years ago.)
On the other hand, what also seems to be obvious is that the province is still stuck in a mentality of fighting to make sure it retains all the money it can from its bridge tolls etc. That’s why Stone, in his letter to the mayors Feb. 6, made it clear the province would not go along with any kind of regional road-pricing scheme in the referendum, since that might impact the revenues the province gets from the Port Mann Bridge and any future tolled bridges.
Too bad. If the province wanted to find a regional solution for road pricing, I’m sure a roomful of highly paid accountants could figure out a way to institute such a system and then divide up the revenue between the province and TransLink. But the province seems to be more desperate to protect its turf than work out a complex but perhaps, in the end, much more equitable and long-term solution like that.
On City Plumber. Over to the left, people.
The favourite parlour game among the political watchers these days is discussing who is being approached to take a run at the mayor’s job. Most of the chatter is about potential NPA candidates, although TEAM and COPE also see getting a high-profile candidate as key to their success. The names circulating? Carole Taylor, of course; Trevor Linden; Jamie Graham; Rick Antonson; Jim Chu; Colin Hansen; Margaret McDiarmid, among others.
My story here takes a look at the big names the NPA is said to have approached and why that mayoral candidate is so important. For those who plan to rake me down for not including current councillor George Affleck, yes, I know his name is also out there. But the reality is that the NPA appears to be shooting for someone more instantly more recognizable. George, in spite of some hard slogging he’s doing at council lately, is not there yet. There’s a sense that he is the fall-back candidate, if the NPA can’t score any stars.
For those thinking that this means the NPA is out of the running, well, not necessarily. As one Vision insider noted, there’s an advantage for the NPA in not putting out a mayoral candidate too soon. Announcing early means extra months for Vision strategists to dig up dirt on that candidate and try to frame her or him in a negative way. As we saw in 2002, when Larry Campbell sprang onto the civic election scene only in September, the opposition couldn’t really get any traction on negative stuff because of the short timeline.
On the other hand, having that mayoral candidate known helps recruit strong council candidates and bring in money from more than just the usual steadfast party backers.
This story will evolve, that’s for sure. This is just an early bulletin and an indicator of how hard the NPA is searching.
BTW, as I was researching this story, I was given to understand that on the COPE side, a couple of board members appear to be interested in running and there was a talk of a former judge running, until the party started fracturing in recent months. TEAM claims to have two potential good candidates in the wings. And one other name circulating for the NPA is Leah Costello, an events organizer who ran for the Conservatives federally a few years ago. She told me she hasn’t been asked and it’s something that would be a tough choice, as she has a busy operation. And I’ve heard since the story came out that maybe Jonathan Baker’s son is interested.
Have fun analyzing and gossiping, people.
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Hmm, not good news for Bixi. Alta has just announced a partnership with 8D, the former software provider for Bixi, for the “next generation” of bicycle-share operations in North America. Their news release here.
ABS-8D Partner Release FINAL-1
This comes just after my story last week on Alta Bicycle Share and its vertigo-inducing growth from a small planning and design consultancy to the only all-service bicycle-share company in North America, with contracts in four major cities and a few smaller ones.
As it turns out, four key managers left the company last year and have now set up their own bike-share consultancy as of November, with talk that perhaps Alta tried to be too many things to too many people. I didn’t include in the story some of the labour-relations problems Alta has had in Washington or the reporting that’s been done here and here on their close ties to transportation staff in Washington and Chicago, cities where Alta was chosen as the system.
I did finally get to talk to Alta vice-president Mia Birk last week, who said that some of what happened is just part of the challenge of growing rapidly. She said the company is hoping to get Vancouver’s system in place for 2014. And Birk, who in the early years of bike-share had expressed some skepticism about its viability as a major transportation mode said she’s now an ardent supporter.
“At the beginning, I was skeptical that bike-share would really be a game changer and, for cities faced with limited budgets, I questioned whether this was the top choice” for where to spend money. She said that skepticism vanished when she saw how successful Capital Bikes was when the company launched it in Washington.
Birk said it’s natural there have been some delays in the systems Alta has launched in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver.
“The systems we are launching, it’s like launching a transit system. It’s very complex. There’s a lot that has slowed things down, things that have nothing to do with Alta.”
So … waiting, waiting here.
This sent on to me by one of my most loyal researchers, who makes sure I know always what’s happening in the rest of the world.
Radical plans to stop rich overseas residents who live outside the EU buying British houses – as well as tight restrictions on them acquiring “newbuild” properties as investments – will be published in a report by a leading rightwing thinktank on Monday.
Free-market organisation Civitas castigates government ministers for allowing wealthy foreign investors to stoke a property boom that it says is driving up prices and locking millions of UK citizens out of the housing market.
The plans would prevent the likes of Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, or other Russian oligarchs from adding to their multimillion-pound UK portfolios. They also aim to stem a flood of investment from countries such as China, Malaysia and Singapore.
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Many thanks to Andy Yan, number-cruncher and city analyst par excellence, for this map and story. Andy scraped or whatever all the data about property assessment changes between 2014 and 2013 and put it on a map. Look really closely and you can see what happened on your block.
The map tells the tale of where the biggest property-value spikes are — hope you can get to the link, as I can reprint the copy okay but the map is kind of teeny on my site.
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January 29th, 2014 · 8 Comments
Someone just sent me this interesting story about the free-transit experiment in Estonia.
January 29th, 2014 · 8 Comments
A new report just out from Avison Young on commercial leasing, with interesting news on vacancy rates throughout the region. Surrey saw a significant decline in leased space, with downtown Vancouver’s vacancy rate also climbing. With new construction about to come on board factored in, Avison calculates that the downtown vacancy rate is around 9 per cent (though sounds more like tenants reducing the amount of space they want than outright closures).
All very interesting, as I like to say, considering the big groundbreaking for The Exchange tower by Credit Suisse (attended by our very own mayor) this week, a building that has yet to find tenants, and the Manulife tower going up at Howe and Nelson, also with no announced tenants yet.
A couple paragraphs from the Avison news release.
Downtown (-270,560) led Metro Vancouver submarkets in terms of total negative absorption from January 1 to December 31, 2013, while Surrey (-137,809) registered its greatest amount of negative annual absorption since Avison Young started tracking the market in 1997. Richmond and New Westminster both recorded in excess of 165,000 sf of positive annual absorption and, with moderate demand in Yaletown and on the North Shore, were able to mitigate flat or weaker demand in the region.
At year-end 2013, vacancy in Metro Vancouver climbed to 7.8% from 7% 12 months earlier, the highest vacancy since year-end 2010. Downtown vacancy rose to 5.7% from 3.9% at year-end 2012, the highest vacancy registered since 2005. Vacancy in two of the three submarkets that comprise Vancouver proper – Downtown and Broadway (Yaletown is the other) – rose compared with 12 months earlier, but still remained tight when compared with other Canadian and U.S. metropolitan office vacancy rates.