While controversy over the city’s $100-million loan is raging in the media/blogosphere, the campaign is still winding along on the lower levels for many people.
And, at those lower levels, one of the more fun moments of the past week was the Last Candidate Standing event organized Friday night by Vancouver Public Space Network and Simon Fraser University’s City Program. I was a judge for the night, along with architectural writer Trevor Boddy and West Ender reporter Jackie Wong.
An amazingly large crowd (200? 250?) came out to SFU Harbour Centre to listen to candidates of every stripe answer questions about which city bylaws they have broken, which cartoon character they thought should run the city, and what should be the next step in densifying Vancouver after laneway houses. In between, performers walked on stilts, juggled, and played musical instruments.
Unfortunately, a lot of the mainstream candidates who had promised to show up didn’t, which meant there was a preponderance of independent candidates, ranging from the truly thought-provoking to the truly bizarre.
We got personal revelations (“It just takes one guy like me to degentrify a whole neighbourhood” – Leon Kaplan), bad dirty jokes, rants against gangs, admissions that No. 5 Orange is a favourite drinking spot, and, from Marijuana Party candidate Marc Emery, warnings of impending financial calamity at the city.
His best line: “I’ve had 21 arrests and six raids — I’ve got the resilience to deal with the major shit that’s going to hit the fan.”
In some kind of glitch, Emery was declared voted out in the first round (don’t understand that, because two of the three of us judges voted for him), which prompted huge booing from the crowd. One woman even gave me the finger — hmm, perhaps Project Civil City isn’t just a bad idea after all.
Environmentalist and Work Less Party candidate Betty Krawczyk then left in protest.
In the end, the three “serious” candidates — Michael Geller of the Non-Partisan Association, Ellen Woodsworth from the Coalition of Progressive Electors, and Sean Bickerton, also of the NPA — made it to the final round. (Geller had a serious and well-paid cheering section present, which helped once the decisions moved to an audience-response basis.) So did two interesting independents: Lea Johnson and Geri Tramutola of the Work Less Party.
Lea, the kind of nice guy who would actually probably really be elected in a smaller town with his background in engineering, international humanitarian work and Downtown Eastside vounteerism, told some lovely stories. Geri came across as incredibly articulate and informed on many city issues — someone asked after why Vision hadn’t snaffled her as a candidate. (Maybe because she lives in Burnaby.)
In the end, the final question from Trevor that decided the winner was “Thinking back to Mr. Peanut’s campaign to be mayor, which cartoon character would you pick to run city hall?”
Michael picked Fritz the Cat: “He’s entertaining and disgusting — not unlike some of the people I’m running with.”
Ellen picked Superwoman.
Lea picked Goofy: “He’s quite a philosopher.”
Sean Bickerton picked Barney. “Superman would impose solutions but Barney is probably a better example. He’s friendly to children and transparent and open in his decision-making processes.”
And Geri chose Lisa Simpson, because she’s intelligent and well-informed.
The audience cheering was the loudest for Geri, with one of Michael Geller’s supporters saying he just couldn’t bring himself to ramp up the whistling for his candidate after Michael chose Fritz the Cat.
She was duly crowned the winner — one of the few in this weird campaign.