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Here’s my wish list for Vancouver 2016. What’s yours?

January 2nd, 2016 · 68 Comments

This wasn’t a great year for Vancouver (the city, the region).

A transit plebiscite turned into an unproductive brawl that pitted drivers against transit users and then failed miserably.

The level of angst over the pace of change in the region and the increasingly incoherent real-estate market, with single-family houses and commercial properties trading for astronomical prices, produced another brawl, pitting various groups against each other.

Instead of coming to an agreement about feasible, practical measures to limit destructive types of real-estate investment and speculation, an agreement that could force governments into real action, people spent most of their time arguing about which group of buyers was responsible.

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s international travels and World Green Message notwithstanding, the city seems to be in a state of suspended animation right now, having lost (quit, fired) several top managers with no sense of who will be hired to do the tricky job of driving a strong agenda without provoking too much public backlash — the miracle job. The region is similarly adrift, with no transit plan, no sense of who’s in charge. There are a few bright spots of energy and innovation, but not enough to set a new course yet.

So my wish for the year (yes, impossibly idealistic, naive) is to see people come together to figure out the ways forward on these tough issues. Cities are going through revolutionary change.

Every city I visited this year that wasn’t Podunk, Middle of Nowhere, is struggling with housing prices that are escalating faster than local wages, struggles over how to provide transportation, increasing inequality, and a sense of unstoppable labour pains bringing forth a new kind of city. Some cities are going to do better at handling this change and finding a way forward; others will do worse.

I’d like to see Vancouver in the first category.

In spite of all the disagreements, I think most people want the same thing: a city and region that functions well for those who live here. Can people stop playing defence on their opinions, political strategies, long-held grudges, and so on to do that? I hope so.

BTW, down here in Seattle, where I happen to be today, the Seattle Times’ editorial for the new year was a series of headlines that its readers said they’d like to see printed in 2016. (Interestingly, among them was “Seattle is named most affordable city in U.S.”)

Feel free to express your wish list that way.

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