31 July 2015

BC Housing Neglecting Stamps Residents

Vancouver BC July 29th 2015

On October 3rd 2014, residents of the Stamps Place Housing Complex were informed the BC Housing was immediately putting our housing up for sale to a private nonprofit. Despite repeated requests to BC Housing that tenants be involved in any decisions about the future for our homes, our requests have been ignored. To date, no decision has been announced but BC Housing maintains that the land sale will go forward as planned and that a decision will be announced in due course. We have received this information not directly from BC Housing, which has never responded to us, but through second-hand reports.

In the interim, a number of substantive issues have arisen which must be addressed before BC Housing proceeds with the Stamps sale:
  • The Tenants Council has filed a complaint with the Ombudspersons Office re lack of fair process, specifically due to the constricted time available for any group to respond to the proposed sale, and to the fact that BC Housing has accepted Atira Housing as one of the possible purchasers, despite the direct conflict of interest involved due to the marriage between the CEOs of BC Housing and Atira.
  • The BC Auditor General is investigating the governments property sell-off. As the Stamps property sale will be potentially affected by the result of that investigation, no sale should go forward until the completion of that investigation.
  • A residents complaint has been filed with the BC Privacy Commissioner raising concerns that BC Housing is proposing to hand over personal family information to the to-be-chosen nonprofit without specific consent from the resident. The resident is particularly concerned about information regarding the children, as private organizations do not offer the same level of security and privacy guarantees as do government agencies.

We are also upset because BC Housing has clearly lost interest in supporting the Stamps tenants, and our complex is suffering as a result. Most staff have been transferred out and we now have only two staff members covering a complex of 375 suites. There are no staff on site overnight, although we live in the most dangerous neighbourhood in Vancouver and far more people are outside in the evening during the summer.

BC Housing has virtually stopped responding to maintenance calls. They had implemented a very effective bug busting program here some months ago, but have now removed all the equipment, and residents are once again having to cope with pests and bug bites. Despite the shortage of affordable housing in the city, a number of suites in Stamps now sit empty. We can only speculate on the reason, although suspect that BC Housing simply doesnt want to pay for the necessary refurbishment.

No matter what BC Housings plans, they have responsibilities to our residents until they formally transfer ownership. Their current lack of care is completely unacceptable.

Many of us are feeling increasingly trapped by our circumstances. Vancouver is clearly facing a crisis in housing affordability. Should any new owner of the complex raise our rents or prove to be a poor housing manager, too many of us may end up facing homelessness or find our children subjected to poor housing. The security we have so valued with BC Housing will disappear. Once the complex is under private ownership, many of our current protections will be lost.

We firmly believe that the only way to guarantee that the Stamps Place complex will remain affordable is to ensure that the land remains in public ownership. Therefore we have now written to the City of Vancouver to request that they purchase the land from BC Housing and establish it as a permanent land trust. Securing the Stamps Place land for the future will fit well with the Citys aspirations to support housing for seniors and families. We are hopeful that the City will work with us

Stamps Place is too valuable to lose. We once again plead with BC Housing and the Provincial Government to reconsider and to work with us and with the City to protect our homes.

For more information contact:
Guy Wakeman, President, Stamps Place Tenants Council, 778-231-1729

02 July 2015

Vancouver man raising a stink about dog waste going into landfill

Dedicated bins like those in Pacific Spirit Regional Park urged Doo’s & don’ts:

 By Cheryl Chan, The Province July 1, 2015
Raymond Greenwood is hounding the city to fix a crappy situation.
He has a bone to pick with all the plastic-bagged dog feces discarded in garbage containers in Vancouver.

With more than 100,000 dogs in the city, each producing an estimated average of 370 grams of feces a day, that amounts to a lot of smelly stuff that needs disposing.

“You see bins absolutely full of dog poo in bags and that’s just the way it’s done,” said Greenwood. “Here we are doing such a good job on the food waste, so why aren’t we doing it for dog waste, when it’s so easy to do?”

Dog waste dumped into garbage bins ends up in the landfill, where conditions aren’t optimal for decomposition and can contribute to methane gas production.

Greenwood, a Vancouver resident, wants the city to put designated dog waste bins in some dog parks on a trial basis, similar to bins at some parks in Auckland and London and at Pacific Spirit Regional Park where he often takes his spaniel Pip and Yorkshire terrier Bell.

Pacific Spirit has 22 red bins dedicated to collecting dog poop. They’re well used and have diverted tons of waste from landfills, said Greenwood.

The ideal solution — taking bags of dog waste home to flush down the toilet and then putting the soiled bag into the trash — is a hard sell: “Give yourself a shake,” said Greenwood. “Is that going to happen?”

Metro Vancouver, which manages Pacific Spirit Regional Park, started using the red bins more than a decade ago in a bid to cope with the excrement left behind at its parks, which in 2010 saw an estimated 2.4 million visits by people with dogs.

It has installed dog toilets at some parks and septic tanks at others.

At Pacific Spirit, where 75 per cent of waste is dog poop, the red bins have been effective, said Richard Wallis, Metro Vancouver park operations supervisor for the west area. Usage is high. “From our observation, it’s very successful. We’re getting separation at the source,” Wallis said.

Last year, Metro Vancouver collected 21,000 kilograms of dog feces from 54 bins at eight parks. The bins are collected by contractors, who open each bag by hand and remove the dog waste, which is discharged into the sewer system at the Iona waste water treatment facility.

One drawback of the program, Wallis said, is cost — $23,000 a year at Pacific Spirit alone.
It’s something Metro Vancouver is committed to doing, he said, but it’ll continue to “evolve” as they “try to find other effective and efficient ways of doing this at a reasonable cost.”

At city hall the response to Greenwood’s dogged efforts has been lukewarm.

Albert Shamess, Vancouver’s head of waste management, said it is monitoring Metro Vancouver’s program to see if it’s sustainable, but there are no plans to implement a similar program in the near future.

Shamess said he is concerned about the logistics and processing of the program, as well as its efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

“How practical is it in the long term to have people sitting around cutting bags open and getting the waste out? It seems to be a very difficult long-term solution.”

Only a small portion of Vancouver’s dog feces goes into the landfill, where “it’s controlled, well-managed, and dealt with safely,” he said. The real issue, he added, is the number of dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets.

Vancouver Park Board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said the proposed disposal method is labour-intensive but is a step in the right direction. He wants the city to look into best practices in other jurisdictions.

“I’m disappointed we can’t even start trials,” Mackinnon said. He acknowledged trials cost money, but said: “I don’t think (the current process) is the green thing to do. This is stuff that can be better disposed of.”

He and fellow Green Party commissioner Michael Wiebe have motions on this “ready to go,” said Mackinnon, but they’ve been asked not to bring it forward until a report on Vancouver’s “dog strategy” is released later this year or next year.

In the meantime, Mackinnon said he has asked staff about getting trash containers in parks cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis because of the stench.

“With the weather we are having right now, it’s even worse — it simply bakes in there.”

Do scoop your dog’s poop and deposit it in a red bin or trash container. Otherwise, the feces gets swept into storm drains and carried into waterways where it can create bacterial contamination.

Do bring the bag home and empty it into the toilet, then throw the plastic bag into the trash. Gross factor aside, this is the best disposal method.

Do compost. You can build a compost pit at home or use store-bought dog poop compost bins.

Do not leave dog poop in yards or bushes. Dog poop isn’t fertilizer. It’s rich in bacteria and nitrogen that can be harmful to plants, aquatic life and people.

— Metro Vancouver, David Suzuki Foundation


 © Copyright (c) The Province

30 May 2015

Chicago takes back their parks and fights against commercialization

An interesting article from In These Times on a neighbourhood in Chicago pushing back.

Why We Organized to Kick Riot Fest Out of Humboldt Park

 Pushing the punk rock festival out of the park was a victory against gentrification and the privatization of public spaces.

 BY Lynda Lopez, In These Times

Organizers of the punk rock music festival Riot Fest announced last week Wednesday that after three years in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, it would not be returning to the neighborhood in 2015. Instead, it is setting up shop in Douglas Park in the North Lawndale community.

Alderman Roberto Maldonado had come out publicly against the music festival after supporting it for the last three years and is receiving a lot of the praise (and criticism) about Riot Fest's announcement. But the alderman doesn’t deserve all of the credit. Grassroots organizing among the citizens of Humboldt Park led Riot Fest’s departure.

During this past election cycle, Grassroots Illinois Action-Humboldt Park Area (GIA-HPA), an independent political organization comprised of community residents, (full disclosure: of which I am a member) emerged as a powerful force in Humboldt Park. Intended as a venue for residents to organize around issues in the area, Riot Fest quickly became one issue members wanted to address. After three years in Humboldt Park, residents were tired of what we saw as the continued privatization of the park that not only left it severely damaged, but limited its usage for residents months after the festival.

Through collaboration with groups like Humboldt Park Citizens Against Riot Fest, GIA-HPA helped organize a mass of people that showed up to Alderman Roberto Maldonado’s ward nights, launched a public petition against Riot Fest, held a press conference in the park and came out in full force to the commissioners of the park board meeting. This continual pressure on Riot Fest and our elected officials ultimately led to the ousting of the festival.

Families will no longer have to see Riot Fest fences go up that separate the park from the community. Little League teams won't have to worry about their fields being unfit to use. Residents will no longer have to feel that their community park is controlled by private hands.

What once seemed like an insurmountable goal against a multimillion dollar festival has come to pass, and it sends a strong message about the usage of our public parks. Throughout the city, we see corporations exerting more power over spaces that were initially intended to serve communities, not for profit-generating festivals.

From questions over a presidential library in historic South Side parks to concerns about the Star Wars Museum on lakefront parkland, city residents want parks that serve the people, not private interests. Despite our victory in Humboldt Park, we see its relocation to Douglas Park (without any community input) as a continual disregard of the rights of residents to their public parks. Festivals like Riot Fest should operate in venues that don’t encroach on public land. Residents of North Lawndale, the community that encompasses Douglas Park, are already meeting and discussing ways to address Riot Fest's arrival, and we will be supporting these efforts.

Despite the shortfalls of our victory, this outcome is also an important win against gentrification in Humboldt Park. In a gentrifying community, there is often an air of inevitability to changes, but through this fight residents were able to show that they don't need to take these changes lightly. Residents stood up against the privatization of their park by Riot Fest and won; they can stand up against the gentrification that is displacing the poor and erasing the presence of people of color. While our efforts are centered on our community, these issues are widespread.

Throughout the city, our city services are being privatized and communities are becoming inaccessible to the poor as new development caters to the wealthy. The idea of “building a new Chicago” never seemed less inclusive. Neighborhood by neighborhood, we are showing that that's not the Chicago we want to live in. We want a Chicago that doesn't only cater to the rich but the poor and working class. We are coming together and fighting for a better vision of Chicago.
Lynda Lopez is a member of Grassroots Illinois Action. She lives in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.

27 May 2015

Park commissioners lament Vancouver Aquarium only option for rescued false killer whale

by Travis Lupick on May 26th, 2015 at 6:18 PM

 Park commissioners have said they are saddened to learn another cetacean will live in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The Green Party’s Stuart Mackinnon suggested animals deemed unfit for release could be relocated to protected sea pens.

“Another creature from the wild is going to be kept in captivity,” he said in a telephone interview. “I understand the aquarium is saying that it was too young when it was taken and that it cannot be released. But keeping it in a small pool for the entertainment of humans doesn’t seem like a dignified life for such a creature.”

Vision Vancouver commissioner Catherine Evans told the Straight she wished there were a better option.

“I’m sad that it’s not releasable,” Evans said. “But if captivity is the only option for an animal, then the Vancouver Aquarium is a good place.”

On May 26, the Vancouver Aquarium announced that a false killer whale named Chester would stay in Stanley Park. The animal was rescued off the west coast of Vancouver Island in July 2014 and nursed back to health by aquarium staff.

In a telephone interview, Vancouver Aquarium senior vice president Clint Wright emphasized the decision to keep the whale in captivity was made by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. He said Chester will now share a tank with a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen.

An aquarium media release states that Fisheries and Oceans Canada advises false killer whales be kept with other members of their own species. Asked if there are plans to acquire an additional false killer whale, Wright said there is currently no suitable partner held by any aquarium in North America.

“If a rescued animal comes up elsewhere at a facility that meets the high standards of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, then that would be something that we would be looking at and doing what is in the best interests of Chester,” Wright said.

The park board’s oversight of the Vancouver Aquarium became an election issue during the 2014 race for mayor. Vision Vancouver candidates pledged to end captive whale and dolphin breeding while NPA candidates said they would take a hands-off approach to the aquarium. The NPA eventually won four of the board’s seven seats.

Both Mackinnon and Evans told the Straight the park board was neither consulted nor informed in advance of the aquarium’s decision to permanently house Chester in Stanley Park.
The announcement came just two days after the aquarium lost a Pacific white-sided dolphin. On May 24, an animal named Hana died after being diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disorder. A team of specialists performed surgery but the animal died shortly after.

Hana was the second cetacean the aquarium lost in 2015. On February 19, a beluga whale named Nanuq died while on loan to a SeaWorld facility in Orlando, Florida.

The Vancouver Aquarium now owns one false killer whale, one Pacific white-sided dolphin, a pair of Pacific harbour porpoises, and eight beluga whales. Two of the belugas are kept in Stanley Park, four are housed at SeaWorld facilities in the United States, and two are on loan to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

Original story here.

 © 2015 Vancouver free press

01 May 2015

Democracy must always be seen

This blog has been very quiet for the past five months. I wanted to give the new Park Board a chance to find it's feet. It isn't easy being a newly elected. When a Board of seven Commissioners has a turn-over of six, it is even harder. I have the advantage of having sat at the table before, so in fact there are 5 new Commissioners.

I may have sat at the table before, but nothing prepared me for the incredible changes that took place over the three years I was away. While the tone and decorum around the table is much improved--the insults and bullying have disappeared--the loss in democratic process more than makes up for it.

The first hint that something was amiss happened almost immediately, with the new Chair of the Board, John Coupar [NPA], cancelling the December meeting of the Board without consultation with the other Commissioners. Other than the inaugural meeting when the new Commissioners were sworn in, the first meeting of the Park Board was not until January 19th, a full 2 months after being elected and 6 weeks after being sworn in.

The next hint was when the Chair (who by convention appoints Commissioner liaisons to the Community Centre Associations) appointed the four NPA Commissioners to 17 out of the 23 CCA liaison positions. Catherine Evans [Vision] was appointed to one, while Michael Wiebe [Green] was initially given one, but later a second when it was found that the Chair had neglected to appoint a liaison to one community centre, and I was give three. So, that is 17 appointments to the 4 NPA Commissioners, and 6 appointments to the 3 non-NPA Commissioners. This was all done without consultation with the Commissioners involved. (When I was elected in 2008, the Chair, Raj Hundal [Vision], asked each of us what our preferences were and worked to accommodate us as best as he could).

By the first meeting of the Board in January something clearly was amiss when all the Chair and Vice Chair positions were taken by the NPA--clearly they were in charge and were not going share any of the responsibilities.

The second meeting of the Board included the initial meeting of the Park Board Committee. The structure of meetings has not ever been explained to Commissioners, despite my asking on numerous occasions to have a workshop. Commissioners from all parties have struggled with the rules and procedures, with each meeting seemingly having new rules added. No one on staff seems fluent in the rules either, with advice being sought from the City Clerk on more than one occasion.

One of the stranger conventions (adopted without consent), is that while staff reports and recommendations come to Committee meetings (which precede the Board meetings on the same evening) and can have public input, Commissioner motions go directly to the Board meeting, which does not allow for public comment and input. Only at the will of the Board can these motions be sent to Committee for public input. So far none of the motions put forward by Commissioners have been sent to Committee despite requests to do so and so none have had public input. At City Council the convention is that if one person (or more) applies to comment in person, the motion would automatically go to Committee. I believe School Board has a similar procedure. I find this very troubling. As one group on the Park Board has a majority, they can prevent public input at their will.

Another convention seemingly discarded is the idea of Notice of Motion, where Commissioner motions have to be put on the agenda ahead of time (usually submitted at the previous meeting) so that the public and Commissioners know what is coming up. Twice now the NPA have brought motions to the table without notice and rammed them through. Despite challenges to their tactics, each time the Chair has ruled in their own favour.

An inauspicious beginning to a four year term. I am hoping that the rules are explained to everyone so that we are all conversant in them. I also hope that the NPA relax a bit and become more magnanimous in their Chairing of the meetings. In the second year of my first term, then Chair Aaron Jasper, in a fit of pique, declared it a "Government and Opposition" Board and all sense of cooperation died. I'm hoping for better this time. The promises made during the election suggested this. The Park Board Commissioners sit at a round table. I believe this is because we are meant to work together. Trust and understanding comes with cooperation.

An old adage that I like very much (and invoke frequently) is that democracy must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done.

29 April 2015

Vancouver zipline rushed through approval process, says commissioner

By Metro,

A Green party commissioner is accusing the Vancouver park board of rushing approval of a temporary zipline in Queen Elizabeth Park this summer without properly consulting nearby residents and businesses that operate in the park.

The park board voted in favour Monday night of a proposal to install the temporary zipline in Queen Elizabeth Park to help celebrate the park’s 75th anniversary.
Local company Greenheart approached the park board with the idea and will pay for the entire project, which will operate from May to September.
According to a staff report, the 190-metre-long zipline will run from a launch tower built on the west side of Bloedel Conservatory, travelling over the quarry garden before landing on the southwest side of the garden.

But the Green Party’s Stuart Mackinnon, one of two commissioners who voted against the motion, said he is concerned that residents and businesses that use the park, like wedding planners and photographers, weren’t adequately informed of the proposal before it was approved.

“One of the questions I asked last night was ‘had the wedding industry been consulted on this?’ And they had not,” Mackinnon told Metro. “The zipline goes right across the quarry and in summertime, many, many people use that area for wedding photos and family photos. To have people streaking across the sky above them doesn’t fit with that.”

With only two people speaking out against the zipline at Monday’s park board meeting, Mackinnon wondered whether it may have been “overshadowed” by the board’s controversial motion to possibly tear down the Mount Pleasant skateboard park, also up for debate Monday.

Allan Burnett, owner of the Chapel Group, which has a contract with the park board and offers wedding ceremonies at Queen Elizabeth Park, was surprised to hear the zipline had been approved Monday.

Burnett, who had only seen news reports about the zipline, said he wasn’t aware the proposal would be up for debate already.

“It seems to me that it would be good to let contractors and operators in the park know when things like that are happening because obviously we are going to be affected by it one way or another,” he said.

As for whether a zipline could be a disturbance to weddings at Queen Elizabeth Park, Burnett said he isn’t overly concerned.

Burnett said he supports any attraction that can help draw people to the park, regardless of how the increased visitor traffic might affect his business.

“I always tell people the plaza area on a sunny summer day in July or August is like opening day at PNE,” he said. “But I appreciate the fact that it’s being done on a trial basis so at least then we can revisit it if it does seem to become an issue.”

Still, commissioner Mackinnon said he doesn’t believe a zipline is an appropriate fit with Queen Elizabeth Park’s aesthetic.

“Most people see (the park) as a tranquil place of peace in the middle of the city,” he said. “An amusement park type ride just doesn’t fit.”

Although it has been approved as a pilot project, Mackinnon said he is also concerned it could become a permanent fixture if it generates significant revenue for the city.

The city will get a share of the profits if the zipline generates more than $75,000 in revenue.
But NPA board chair John Coupar emphasized the zipline is temporary and will only be in place this summer. If there is public demand for the zipline to return next summer, Coupar said the parks department would issue a request for proposals.

Coupar said Monday’s park meeting was well publicized and that staff followed the process completely to ensure the public was aware of the meeting.

He said he doesn’t expect the zipline to affect weddings as the chapel is located on the opposite side of the park. If anything, he expects to see wedding parties going down the zipline and posing for photos, said Coupar.

“You’re always going to get people who are negative about things,” he said. “But I’ve had a lot of really positive feedback. People think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”


06 January 2015

Vacancies on citizen committees

From the City of Vancouver website: 

Vacancies on civic agencies, boards, and committees occur periodically throughout the year.
If you are applying as a representative for another agency (for example, as the SUCCESS representative on the Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee), apply through that agency.

Current vacancies

We are currently accepting applications for the following committees:
  • Active Transportation Policy Council
  • Arts and Culture Policy Council
  • Children, Youth, and Families Advisory Committee
  • Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee
  • Civic Asset Naming Committee
  • Cultural Communities Advisory Committee (formerly Multicultural Advisory Committee)
  • Development Permit Board Advisory Panel
  • First Shaughnessy Advisory Design Panel
  • Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee
  • LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee
  • Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee
  • Public Art Committee
  • Renters Advisory Committee
  • Seniors’ Advisory Committee
  • Urban Aboriginal Peoples' Advisory Committee
  • Urban Design Panel
  • Vancouver City Planning Commission
  • Vancouver Civic Theatres Board
  • Vancouver Food Policy Council
  • Vancouver Heritage Commission
  • Women's Advisory Committee
Applications are due at 5:00pm on Friday, January 30, 2015.

How to apply

  1. Learn about the committee
  2. Check that you meet our criteria
  3. Apply for the vacancy

31 December 2014

Silent Night

It seems strange to me that I haven't had much to blog about since the election on November 15. The new Board was inaugurated on the 1st of December and yet since then the Board has not met openly. A meeting was scheduled for the 7th of December but the new Chair John Coupar unilaterally cancelled it. Nothing to do perhaps? The first scheduled meeting for the new year is January 19th. At this point no agenda has been posted and so we don't know yet what the new priorities will be.

I know my priority is the a new Joint Operating Agreement with all the Community Centre Associations. I hope this is the priority of this new Board too. Community Centre Associations have been a partner with the Park Board for more than 50 years. This partnership has made Vancouver's Community Centres the envy of many jurisdictions. It is this partnership that has made our Centres relevant and necessary parts of our communities. The priorities of the local associations ensure that they reflect the values and needs of each community. What works in Strathcona or Sunset works because the associations reflect the needs and values of their neighbourhoods. A one-size fits all doesn't work in Vancouver because not every neighbourhood is the same. A set of core city-wide services must be a part of our system, but individual needs must be able to be met within each Centre.

Another priority of these first few months must be putting the Park Board in line with the waste management program that as of January 1st will be city-wide. This means that organic waste will be separated and composted. This is necessary for benefit of both the environment and the taxpayers who pay for waste disposal. The Park Board should be the leader in education on waste diversion with a leading zero-waste program. Since its inception, the Park Board has been the leader in green initiatives; it should be now too.

Planning for the future means planning for now as well. We must start planning not just for the next 4 years but for the next 4 seasons. Our parks and gardens have been neglected over the past 6 years and repairing them must be near the top of the list of priorities. Winter is the time for preparing our parks, gardens, and playing fields for the busy seasons of spring and summer. The priorities for our outside workers must be in preparing for the return of both passive and active park usage. Work now means better parks and recreation later.

As we head into a new year it is time we got down to work. Let's role up our sleeves and start on the long road to once again making better parks for Vancouver.

18 November 2014

Some reflections on the election

After a frantic couple of months I am starting to catch my breathe and come to a bit of understanding of what the results of last Saturday mean. I am incredibly humbled and grateful to the voters of Vancouver for their trust. I made some promises which I intend to keep. Respectful negotiations with Community Centre Associations; meaningful consultation with the public, especially around dogs in parks; working to replace the outdoor swimming pool in Mt. Pleasant; work toward a plebiscite on cetaceans in captivity; and maintaining our parks and gardens.

This campaign was different in that I had a running mate (not since 2005 have the Greens run more than one candidate at Parks), and a campaign team. I am so grateful for all the hard work of the volunteers. It made the campaign a lot easier and a lot more fun.

It was different too in that we had some really great independents running. Not only the hard-working and dedicated Jamie Lee Hamilton (actually not an independent, she ran under the IDEA banner), but others like Jenny DiCastris and James Buckshon. It is a shame that party politics have such a stranglehold on Vancouver politics, as these voices were not heard well above the din of the machines lubricated with millions of dollars from developers and other deep pocketed players.

This race was a lot more personal too. Not in a negative way, but in that I was much better known this time around, and people made an effort to tell me they were supporting me and the Green team. Our support came from a very diverse and wide circle. The Green message of openness, collaboration, and working for the common good, resonated in the electorate.

With being elected I will have to step away from my position of Governor of the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, a position I greatly enjoyed. My promise to them is to continue to advocate for all of our parks and gardens and ensure VanDusen continues to be a world-class destination and research garden.

There is much to do over the next four years. We must regain the trust of the public. We must not only do good, but be seen to do good. We must be vigilant against complacency. We must be open, honest, and accessible.

The Vancouver Green's made history. We have elected the largest group of Green members to any government in Canada ever. Two elected to the Park Board is a new milestone, being elected to all three levels of civic government is a new record. We are all grateful to the citizens and know it is an honour and privilege to serve.

Once again, I will take Glissando Remmy's wise words as my creed: ‘I’ll do the best I can, with the resources at hand, for all the people of Vancouver. Period.’

16 November 2014

Better Parks are coming (back) to Vancouver

"Thank you Vancouver for electing me to the Board of Parks and Recreation. An awesome responsibility that I accept with humility and gratitude. Vancouver's natural beauty is worth protecting. Neighbourhood services are worth preserving. And you agreed"

That quote was from 2008 when I was first elected to the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.  It still pretty well sums up my feelings this time. Only things are bit different now. Now there are two Green's on the Park Board. My running-mate, Michael Wiebe and I were both elected. This is tremendous as now I will have a partner in this endeavour. It is unfortunate that we are once again facing a majority Board--last time it was Vision Vancouver, this time it is the NPA--which could mean more of the same, but I am optimistic. Optimistic that the NPA majority will be collaborative and not simply wield their majority as though no one else matters. The proof of that may come sooner rather than later.

Already the newly elected NPA have said they will rescind the cetacean breeding ban. How they do this may set the tone for the next four years. Will they simply bring in a motion and use their majority to pass it, or will they set up a collaborative process to examine the decision in more detail. I am hoping for the latter. I sat for three years with a Vision dominated Board who viewed the round table not as a metaphor for collaborative decision-making but as a wheel for crushing anyone who dared to disagree with them.

Regardless of the tone the NPA sets, Michael and I will be there to advocate for natural spaces, parks as parks, collaborative approaches, community consultation, and real Green ideals.We will be part of a larger Green caucus in Vancouver that joins City Councillor Adriane Carr and School Trustee Janet Fraser. We won't be making decisions in secret but will support each other as we face the difficult tasks of managing a city, collaborating on ideas to bring forth, and bringing the public back into the decision making process.

Thank you for giving me another chance to serve my community. Thank you for believing in better parks for Vancouver.