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.

13 November 2014

Vote with your heart and your head

“Remember something, if you will, about voting: Voting is not a horse race, you're not going there thinking "Gee, I gotta pick the winner so I can brag to my friends 'Oh, I picked so-and-so and he or she won'". Voting is voting your heart and voting your conscience and when you've done that, don't ever, EVER let [anyone] tell you that you've wasted your vote because the fact is, if you DON'T vote your heart and conscience then you HAVE wasted your vote.”
― Jesse Ventura

In the quote above, Jesse Ventura was referring to the American electorate and the two party Democratic/Republican system. But it can easily be translated to Vancouver and the 2 party system we have had here over the last 60+ years. In this election we are lucky to have a real choice as the 2 developer-backed parties are being challenged by smaller parties not beholden to any monied backers.

I'm proud to be one of those challenging the status quo. I'm proud to be running on a team with 7 great candidates. In this election the Green Party of Vancouver offers a real alternative. No matter where you put your Xs in Saturday's vote I hope you will consider voting for a mixed Council, School Board and Park Board. And I hope that mix includes 7 Green candidates.

Cleta Brown, Adriane Carr, and Pete Fry for City Council. Janet Fraser and Mischa Oak for School Board. And Michael Wiebe and me, Stuart Mackinnon for Park Board. Candidates that believe in people centred planning. People who believe in consultation. People who believe in independent thought.

Whatever your choice, vote with your heart and your head. There is no split vote; there is no wasted vote--except if you choose not to vote. That would be a waste.

27 October 2014

Dogs Dogs Dogs

By far the most e-mail I received as both a Commissioner (from 2008-2011) and as a candidate (past and present) is about dogs. This is also the hottest button issue at the Park Board and has been for some years. Mostly it is advocates of off-leash areas who write, but occasionally I receive mail from people who think there are too many dogs in the city.

Here is my response to the Dog Owners Group (DOG Vancouver) and also what I send out to people who write:

As a dog owner for most of my life, including presently (I have a 13 year old Shiba Inu named Kiku) I know the importance of space for dogs to run about. I also know that dog ownership comes with responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to not interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of others, both at home and in public. Off-leash dogs has been the biggest issue at the Park Board for more than 20 years. The Park Board has not been able to find a solution, so best practice would suggest that we look at other jurisdictions and see what has been successful.

Calgary is the closest Canadian city of comparable size and they have had a very successful policy for some time now. Calgary has a comprehensive dog off leash program which includes:
·         lots of parks and amenities;
·         real engagement with dog owners as stakeholders and park stewards and self-policing;
·         programming and outreach to encourage responsible ownership and engaging the community;
·         school outreach programs to teach kids about safe dog interaction;
·         partnerships with private sector to provide amenities (like stations and poo-bags courtesy of pet
      stores);

But it also has:
·         zero tolerance enforcement;
·         high licensing compliance rate;
·         completely self-financed animal control (ours needs to be subsidized because of licensing
       non-compliance);
·          
I think Vancouver could model our policies after Calgary’s as they have been very successful.  I look forward to hearing from the public on this issue. I will hear all input and perspectives with an open mind (setting my dog owner's hat aside), first as a candidate and, if elected, as a Commissioner. As a Park Board Commissioner from 2008-2011 the one thing I learned is that it is very hard to please everyone and accommodate every need. The best anyone can do is to welcome all input and work with all those concerned to come up with reasonable solutions that satisfy the vast majority of people.


24 October 2014

MEDIA RELEASE: Green Park Board candidates call for time out in community centre association negotiations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 24, 2014 

 Both sides need to reboot with new ideas for agreements 

After dozens of meetings and thousands of hours invested, and still no agreement in sight, everyone needs to cool off and take a time-out in negotiations between the City of Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation and local Community Centre Associations for new Joint Operating Agreements (JOAs), say Green Party of Vancouver Park Board candidates.

“It’s time to pause and reboot,” says Green Park Board candidate Stuart Mackinnon, a Park Commissioner in 2010, when the process began after the Park Board started revisiting JOAs that are more than 40 years old.

"The atmosphere has been toxic from the start with mistrust from the CCAs and entrenched positions from the Park Board. The mistrust is understandable — you can't negotiate with someone who says it’s my way or the highway.

“There’s so much tension, negativity and animosity in the air that everybody just needs to take a breather then start again on better footing with a new Park Board.”

Mackinnon is calling for a halt in the talks, including the City’s threat that the CCAs will be “thrown out of their community centres.”

“With the election we have a natural opportunity to cool off, maintain the status quo and then resume negotiations in better faith with new park commissioners and new ideas at the table after November 15,” he adds.

Alternatives to sharing revenues do exist, says Mackinnon. For instance, CCAs could pay a fee for the facilities and utilities they use, with smaller centres paying less and larger ones more. The funds gathered could be used to offset disparities in programming across the city.

Another approach, similar to one used in some school districts to equalize the diversity of income in various neighbourhoods, would see the Park Board taking a percentage of all revenues after expenses generated by CCAs that would be put into a fund to be shared equitably across the system for programming.

“The kind of centralization we’re seeing with the proposed JOAs is only part of what’s been plaguing our city lately — the dismantling of local neighbourhood initiatives or values with little or poor consultation with the people most affected,” says Michael Wiebe, also running for Park Board for GPV.

“The community knows what services and programming works best in their neighbourhood so they have to be equal leaders in this.”

The six CCAs involved in the current lawsuit are Killarney, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Hastings, Sunset, and Riley Park Hillcrest.   

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Media contacts:
Stuart Mackinnon, Green Park Board candidate:778-389-1956
betterparks@gmail.com
Michael Wiebe, Green Park Board candidate:(604) 616-1220
becascadian@gmail.com
Glenda Bartosh, Media Liaison:604-669-3669
gbartosh@telus.net

12 October 2014

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. Hoping for a world of peace and harmony



On Thursday, January 31, 1957, the Parliament of Canada proclaimed: A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

06 October 2014

Stuart Mackinnon: Better parks, together



24 September 2014

Michael Wiebe for Vancouver Park Board

 Michael Wiebe is my running mate as a Green Party of Vancouver Park Baord candidate. Here is some information so you can get to know him better.


 Bio: Michael Wiebe grew up skating on Jericho pond, swimming at English Bay, and cycling Stanley Park. He’s now a local business owner and community leader who wants to work to preserve and enhance the best of Vancouver. He started by volunteering at age 12, by mapping out the wheelchair accessibility of all trails in Stanley Park. At age 16, Wiebe became a Lifeguard for the Park Board and would later co-found the Vancouver Lifeguard Association.
After earning his Bachelor’s in Business Administration, Wiebe worked for the Provincial Government in managing public board appointments and helped build the Best Practice Guidelines. He later migrated to the hospitality industry in order to gain management experience, ultimately leading him to opening his own restaurant.

As a director of the Mount Pleasant BIA, Wiebe feels called to be more involved in community advocacy work. He understands that Vancouver is in a phase of rapid growth with a powerful potential for change, and wants to help ensure that the right decisions are being made, guided by evidence-based policy and the principles of sustainability.

Why is Michael running for Park Board with the Green Party of Vancouver? - “I’m running for Parks Board Commissioner because the voices of our city have been lost,” says Wiebe. “I noticed this first-hand on the Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee. We need to take advantage of the opportunities this city has during a time of growth to work together to maximize our resources and build more natural parks and a healthier food system; foster grassroots community initiatives; and create a sustainable waste management program. ”
Learn more about Michael Wiebe at becascadian.com


On November 15 vote Green Party 1st: 
Mackinnon & Wiebe for Park Board

19 September 2014

Better parks, together

Vancouver parks and recreation facilities have been neglected and need to be made a priority again. People and community groups have been marginalized. It’s time for change. That includes putting community centres back where they belong — at the centre of our neighbourhoods — by giving them the independence to make planning decisions that reflect community needs and values. We need to clearly define decision-making processes and roles to better include the community. Since parks have become the backyards for many people, they should be maintained to enhance and enliven their urban experience. When the Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board works together with the community, our neighbourhoods become more liveable. Our existing parklands are precious and limited. Adding or replacing parkland is expensive so working together is key in this time of growth. 

 

Your Vancouver Green Park Board candidates will work for: 

 

Community-driven planning  


Residents know what they want from their parks and recreation facilities. Community centre associations know best what their members want in programming. A stronger partnership between the Park Board and community organizations reflecting these values needs to be established. This can be achieved by:

• Including community groups in all decision making.
• Regarding community centre associations as partners, not adversaries.
• Working with community stakeholders, including community centre associations, to develop better programming as well as a fair and equitable recreation system.

Accessible, safe public spaces for everyone 

The need — and the desire — for more public spaces will continue to increase as Vancouver densifies. To ensure a healthy city, our citizens need great public spaces, so our priorities will be:

• Ensuring that changes to existing park space is supported by adjacent communities.
• Building public park spaces that meet the long-term needs of the area.
• Maintaining and enhancing parks and gardens with universal access.
• Expansion of park and recreational facilities that is proportional to population growth.
• Working with City Council to bring the amount of public spaces back to historical standards.
• Re-emphasizing community facilities vs. destination facilities. 

Strengthening stakeholder communication 

The Park Board must work with others to enhance our recreational experiences, and that means better communication with stakeholders to build better relationships. We will focus on:

• Participatory processes for determining priority funding for community facilities.
• Scheduled meetings with community groups to build communication channels.
• Working with Vancouver School Board to maximize fields and facilities.
• Partnering with sports and community organizations to prioritize field maintenance.

Maximizing facility usage with a stronger digital strategy 

The Park Board should be using new technologies to make easy access to all facilities available to everyone. Coordination of availability and bookings can be achieved by:

• Building an overall parks app that has the functionality of the current VanGolf app. Such an app will allow easy access to information; locate programming; and book facilities.
• Creating a network of connected facilities to increase information and data flow.
• Engaging park user database to provide feedback on community needs and decisions.

Green initiatives: zero waste, local food systems and access to nature 

The Park Board needs to become a leader in green initiatives in Vancouver. We can improve our Park Board practices to become both a role model and an educational model for the community by:

• Increasing education on waste diversion with a leading zero-waste program.
• Introducing more local products into our food supply streams for parks facilities.
• Introducing an animal-waste composting program for our local dog parks.
• Creating a “no net loss of green space” policy regarding changes to our city parks.
• Working on stream day-lighting and seek salmon-safe certification for all parks.

Parks that focus on natural features

Vancouver’s natural beauty is worth protecting. Our children not only need places to play, but also places to enjoy and explore nature. We all need places of tranquil refuge from our busy lives, and this can be achieved by:

• Preserving all green open space in a form as natural as possible for future generations.
• Creating policies to end the continuing erosion of parks by commercial enterprise.
• Increasing the planting of native species in all parks and public spaces.
• Using natural materials to build new children’s playgrounds.
• Working with urban planners to develop parks that need less maintenance.

Revitalized facility and park infrastructure 

For too long our recreational facilities have been neglected: neighbourhood outdoor pools have been closed; community centres have deteriorated due to poor upkeep; and too little money has been reinvested when there was no choice but to upgrade. Many community centres need to be replaced but no money has been allocated in the City’s Capital Plans. We can’t afford to lose what we have, so we will:

• Create a long-term budget and financing plan for continued facility maintenance.
• Ensure transparency on all expansions and upgrades to facilities.
• Work to maximize mixed use of facilities by partnering with non-profits and other civic organizations.
• Ensure long-term planning includes capital expenditures to replace aging community centre infrastructure.

 

08 September 2014

Green Party of Vancouver members affirm candidates for Park Board and School Board


At a special general meeting this morning, Green Party of Vancouver members voted to officially endorse as candidates for Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and Vancouver School Board the nominees approved by the party’s Candidate Screening Committee in August. Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe are the Green candidates for Park Board;  Mischa Oak and Janet Fraser are running under the Green Party banner for School Board.

The four Park Board and School Board candidates join the Green Party of Vancouver Council candidates endorsed by its members in May: current Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr and running mates Pete Fry and Cleta Brown.

"I’m thrilled to have our whole team in place – and what a fabulous team”, says Green Party of Vancouver lead Adriane Carr. “By electing three Greens to Council, two Greens to Park Board and two Greens to School Board, Vancouverites will get not only incredibly hard-working representatives who will put public interest first, but also strong teams that will bring sorely needed balance and a collaborative approach to each governing body.”

Green Party of Vancouver Chair Jacquie Miller says that it is the party’s goal to elect all seven of its candidates on November 15th – an objective that the most recent polling suggests is within reach. It shows the Green Party of Vancouver running in a dead heat with Vision Vancouver and the NPA.

More about the latest additions to the Green Party of Vancouver 2014 campaign team:

 Stuart Mackinnon (Park Board):
                Green Party of Vancouver Park Board Commissioner: 2008-11
                Vice President, VanDusen Botanical Garden Association
                Teacher, 24 years; with Vancouver School District since 2001
When he served as Green Park Board Commissioner from 2008-2011, Mackinnon earned a reputation as the most knowledgeable, well-prepared Park Commissioner – he attended Park Board meetings and paid close attention to Park Board issues for years before being elected. Mackinnon has been a strong, consistent advocate for maintaining Vancouver’s parks and green spaces in pristine condition. Mackinnon will campaign for the same this fall.

"I want to return Vancouver to the beautiful city with well-maintained parks and gardens it once was. A city where everyone can play in their own neighbourhood, and where common sense and community values are what drive decision making,” says Mackinnon. "Park maintenance must be a priority. That is what we pay our taxes for."

Regarding last year’s controversy over Vision’s removal of community centre associations’ financial autonomy, Mackinnon says "Community centre associations are the heart of our neighbourhoods. They should be partners not adversaries."

• Michael Wiebe (Park Board):
                Owner, eight ½ restaurant lounge — based on sustainable values
                Vice President, Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association
                Co-founder, Vancouver Lifeguard Association
Wiebe has had a love affair with Vancouver’s parks and recreational facilities since childhood when he mapped out the wheelchair accessibility of Stanley Park’s entire trail system at age 12. He went on to become a lifeguard for Vancouver Park Board at age 16. In 2003, Wiebe co-founded the Vancouver Lifeguard Association; he continues his love for parks, using them for ultimate frisbee, bocce, soccer, and more.

“I’m excited to officially join the amazing group of seven Green candidates,” says Wiebe. “This is the logical step in my advocacy career as it gives me the chance to strengthen my voice – one that is focussed on bringing my business background to the strategic decision making that’s now needed at the Vancouver Park Board. Our city is in a state of growth, which leads to great opportunities to work together to build a healthier place to live.”

Learn more about Michael Wiebe: becascadian.com

• Mischa Oak (School Board)
                Teacher-on-call, Vancouver School District
                Vancouver Centre NDP Electoral District Association President, 2012-13
                Vancouver Pride Society: former Board Member & Volunteer Coordinator
Oak is strongly motivated by his own experiences in Vancouver schools both as a teacher-on-call who has worked in almost every school in the city, and as a student growing up in Vancouver schools. Prior to embarking on a career in education, Oak obtained a degree in Commerce from Queen’s University. He has been active in a wide range of community and political organisations.

Oak is running to be a strong advocate for Vancouver’s public schools and its students. “We live in one of the most liveable cities in the world, but our schools don't reflect that, they are getting worse", says Oak who has been a Vancouver teacher for 6 years and has taught in all 18 Vancouver high schools and 65 of our 75 elementary schools.

"I will protect programs that support our most vulnerable students and work to create programs that give kids skills for the future.  For a vibrant Vancouver tomorrow, we need vibrant schools today."
Learn more about Mischa Oak: www.voteoak.com

• Janet Fraser (School Board)
                PAC Chair / Co-Chair for 10 years
                Co-founder: Marpole Matters, a neighbourhood organization
                PhD chemist: 10 years’ experience in Vancouver’s biotech industry
 As an active parent of three school-aged children and engaged resident of her Marpole community, Fraser knows the issues facing Vancouver’s schools inside and out. As co-founder of the neighbourhood organisation Marpole Matters, she has a reputation for thoroughly informing herself on community issues and educating her neighbours about matters affecting them.

 “I have three children in Vancouver's public schools, and have spent 10 years in PAC leadership.  I listen to parents and will use their experiences to improve schools for all of Vancouver's children,” says Fraser. “Schools are the hearts of communities.  I will work to ensure students, staff, parents, and the local community work together so that every child can achieve success.”

Learn more about Janet Fraser: www.vangreens.ca/schoolnominees
Motion calling for fully funded schools and binding arbitration
Additionally at the same meeting, Green Party of Vancouver School Board candidates Mischa Oak and Janet Fraser introduced a motion for the Green Party of Vancouver to declare its support for fully funded schools, and calling on the provincial government to agree to binding arbitration in its current dispute with the BC Teachers' Federation. The motion received unanimous support from Green Party of Vancouver members.

Its full slate of candidates now in place, the Green Party of Vancouver will officially ring in its 2014 civic election campaign with a fundraising event on September 28 at Performance Works Theatre.
Full platforms for Council, Park Board and School Board will be unveiled throughout the month of September.
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