21 January 2009

Hollow Sentiments

Funny how a dead stump can become a flash point and even national news. This past Monday's vote on propping up a dead stump in Stanley Park has generated a lot print and a lot of comment over the airwaves. The Buzz (Radio 1410--gee whizz what ever became of top 40 C-FUN?) interviewed me Tuesday introducing me as 'chainsaw' Mackinnon (it was in jest and kinda funny if you think about it). I have had quite a few letters on the subject--far and away most in favour of laying the venerable old tree to rest, but some were quite nasty. I guess nostalgia touches us all. I grew up in Vancouver and visited the Hollow Tree often as a child. I loved it too. But like anything we love, we have to be able to say good-bye. I believe that we should let the tree go naturally and with dignity. Let it decompose and become part of the forest. It will generate new growth--and isn't that what life is all about? I have put below a couple of the articles written about the vote. Feel free to comment one way or the other--but let's keep it polite, okay?

Greens' Stuart Mackinnon splits with park board on Hollow Tree

By Matthew Burrows, Georgia Straight
Publish Date: January 21, 2009

By voting Monday (January 19) to lay Stanley Park’s hollow tree to rest, Green park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon split from his COPE/Vision “caucus” on the new board’s first vote.

The remaining six commissioners—Vision’s Constance Barnes, Aaron Jasper, Sarah Blyth, and chair Raj Hundal, COPE’s Loretta Woodcock, and the NPA’s Ian Robertson—approved a plan by a conservation group to stabilize and preserve Stanley Park’s senior cedar.

The Stanley Park Hollow Tree Conservation Society, chaired by UBC professor Lorne Whitehead, provided a seven-page engineering report detailing how the tree could be preserved.

“Just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean that we should,” Mackinnon said at the meeting by way of preface, before adding: “As we love anyone or anything, we all know that everything has a time and a season. When that time and season comes to an end, we should let them go with dignity. Propping a dead stump up is not doing so with dignity.”

In another 6-1 vote, this time with Mackinnon in favour but Robertson opposed, the board deferred voting on a proposal that would ask for an amendment to the Vancouver Charter relaxing rules about signs and advertising in parks during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Source URL: http://www.straight.com/article-197414/green%3F%3Fs-stuart-mackinnon-splits-park-board-hollow-tree

Vancouver park commissioner Constance Barnes sheds tears of joy as Obama inaugurated

By Shadi Elien, Georgia Straight
Publish Date: January 20, 2009

There are seldom moments when people watch collectively as history occurs right before their eyes. But today (January 20), which saw the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, marked one of those days.

According to BBC News, over one million people gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to watch as the first African-American president placed his hands on the same Bible used to swear in Abraham Lincoln in 1861.

The cheers from the crowd sent chills down the spine and tears down the face of Vancouver park board commissioner Constance Barnes, as she watched from her home in Vancouver. Barnes spoke to the Straight this morning from the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, where she works as operations manager.

She held back tears as she said, “It was just an amazing, amazing day for the world.”

The daughter of Emery Barnes, one of the first black men elected to the B.C. legislative assembly and a former Speaker, believes that if her father was alive today he would have made his way to Washington to watch the historical day unfold.

“He’s probably there in spirit right now,” she said. “Pops would be overjoyed; he wasn’t a very emotional man but this would have been a dream for him.”

Barnes admitted she didn’t get much sleep last night, as her excitement and nerves around this morning’s event kept her awake and glued to her television from 5:30 a.m. As she recalled the shots of people from around the world celebrating the occasion, her tears could be heard on the other side of the phone.

“They had African people dancing in the streets, a story on Gandhi and the people of India and all of their trials and tribulations, then back to Africa, and China, and Japan, and then it hit me that the whole world was celebrating today.”

Barnes’s family moved to Canada in 1957 when she was a child. Her father and mother were both activists and proponents of the civil-rights movement and raised their children with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, teaching them about “the fight the blacks went through”. Growing up in Port Moody, Barnes was very aware of the racism around her.

Barnes remembered her own struggles and that of her parents, yet recognized the leaps and bounds that were made today with the inauguration of Obama.

“As a woman of colour, I am looking at this whole world that has come together and it’s [because of] this belief that change can happen,” Barnes said.

Despite the joy and excitement of the morning, Barnes had higher expectations for such a historical ceremony.

“It’s interesting that the only other black person up there was Aretha [Franklin]. I would have liked to have seen a black preacher get up there and preach some shit,” she said with a contagious laugh. “I thought for sure there would be some serious gospel. I thought there would be a black preacher getting the crowd motivated, you know, really spiritually motivated.”

She also thought that Obama’s decision to have conservative Rev. Rick Warren from the Saddleback Church in California give his invocation was too cautious of a choice—one that she hopes isn’t indicative of Obama’s future decisions as president.

The selection of Warren, who is a vigorous opponent of same-sex marriage, was seen by many as an attempt by Obama to pander to the Republicans. Warren has been called one of the most influential people in America, having sold over 30 million copies of his book, A Purpose Driven Life.

Barnes continued to praise Obama, especially when speaking about his relationship with his wife Michelle, whom Barnes describes as a "rock”, and said that watching Obama play such an active role with his children is something very valuable. She said that the role Obama has taken on as a family man with strong morals and values is imperative in helping change the reality that many black men aren’t around to take responsibility for their children and family.

"I think he will definitely make it aware that this is a possibility, that a family unit can be real,” she said. “He’s got a following of young black men and women who now know that they can truly do whatever they want to do.”

It’s a tall order, taking the presidential oath and leading a country and its people, but Barnes seems confident that Obama can fulfill his promise.
Source URL: http://www.straight.com/article-197338/vancouver-park-commissioner-constance-barnes-sheds-tears-joy-obama-inaugurated

Parks commissioners defend Charter amendment

Proposed change will give parks board more power over signs, advertising

Sandra Thomas
Vancouver Courier

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

NPA parks board commissioner Ian Robertson denies a proposed amendment to the Vancouver Charter on signs and advertising in city parks and community centres would translate into increased corporate presence.

"This whole thing has been blown out of proportion," Robertson told the Courier. "It's not about allowing more advertising, but about tightening up policy around advertising."

At a parks board meeting Monday night, the board deferred a proposed amendment to the Charter which would give commissioners more power to regulate signs and advertising in parks but also relax regulations during special events, such as the 2010 Olympic Games.

Robertson confirmed the move was driven in response to the need for extra signs during the Olympic Games, but he said the change is long overdue. "Right now there are no clear guidelines on advertising or signage in parks and at this point could be open to legal interpretation," he said. "I think this is a great idea meant to protect the interests of the residents of Vancouver."

Robertson said if the amendment to the Charter is approved, first by the board and then the provincial government, the guidelines would provide a template for all future large special events in city parks and community centres.

As a precursor to this proposal, in 2007 the parks board approved new naming policies, one of which allows corporations to pay to put their name on rooms within community centres. Under the policy, parks and community centres cannot be named for corporate sponsors, but gyms, hockey rinks, swimming pools and multi-purpose rooms can be named. Facilities such as the PNE Forum, Agrodome and Pacific Coliseum could also be renamed.

In November 2006, the city approved two policies related to the naming of civic facilities, which provided guidelines to cover situations where donations are made to secure naming rights or when a name is chosen but no money is involved.

At the time, the Courier reported concern among some community centre association presidents about the new policy, particularly because six community centres will be or are undergoing redevelopment and could be open to corporate renaming. New community centres are also scheduled to be built at both Southeast False Creek and East Fraser Lands.

Green Party commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said not only was the public confused about the intent of the amendment, but so were several members of the board. "It seemed to give the impression it would allow for more signs and advertising in parks, when in fact staff explained we already have that power," said Mackinnon.

He said the spirit of the amendment was to keep more control of advertising in parks and community centres. The report has been sent back to staff for clarification. "This is time sensitive because of course it was spurred by the Olympics," said Mackinnon. "But this is not Olympic specific."
© Vancouver Courier 2009

20 January 2009

Hollow tree will be preserved

By Christina Montgomery, The Province January 19, 2009

If technology is any match for Mother Nature, Stanley Park's hollow tree will be preserved.

The Vancouver parks board voted last night to attempt a manoeuvre to stabilize the dangerously tilted ancient red cedar.

Under an engineering proposal commissioned by the ad-hoc Stanley Park Hollow Tree Conservation Society, the tree will be jacked up into a normal, upright position and held in place with spiked metal roots that will be invisible to viewers.

Green Party Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon cast the lone vote against the plan, arguing that the 1,000-year-old tree should be allowed to decompose naturally.

It is hoped the work, funded by more than $75,000 and in-kind contributions raised by the society, will be done by June, in time for the tourist season.

The board voted in spring to take down the tree after winter windstorms left it at a dangerous angle. It later agreed to let the conservation society put together a plan to save it.
© Copyright (c) The Province

16 January 2009

Vancouver Parks Board proposal would allow corporate signage in city parks

By Mary Frances Hill, Vancouver Sun January 16, 2009

VANCOUVER - A proposal to ask for an amendment to the Vancouver Charter to relax rules around signs and advertising in parks and community centres will go to the park board Monday.

The proposal, made by park board staff, would allow for signs, banners, logos and advertising in city parks during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The “amendment will also be useful for supporting future special events on city parks,” the staff recommendation says.

At present, the Vancouver Charter, the legislation that regulates Vancouver’s operations, prohibits advertising in the parks and recreation system.

If the board approves the staff recommendation, any amendment to the Vancouver Charter would have to be passed by the provincial government.

Park board commissioner Stuart MacKinnon said he has concerns about what the proposal could lead to.

“With corporate sponsorship comes money, and like everyone we are looking for ways to improve the park and recreation system, and every little bit helps,” said MacKinnon, the sole Green Party commissioner.

“But there are some values that are more important than just money. Protecting our parks and recreation system from corporatization is one of those values.”

Ian Robertson, the sole Non-Partisan Association commissioner, said the board doesn’t have a clear policy on signage, logos or advertisements for special events such a charity fundraiser, run or corporate gathering.

Amending the Vancouver Charter would give commissioners more power, and clear guidelines, with which to decide on the parameters of signs, he said.

“If this was about allowing permanent advertising in parks, I would definitely hesitate to go forward with it. We have to maintain the integrity of our parks.”

Vancouver-Burrard MLA Spencer Herbert, a former park board commissioner, said it’s up to Vancouverites to complain if they see too much commercial signage in the recreation system.

“In my time at the park board, we had proposals for robotic dinosaurs, and the people strongly said, ‘No, we don’t want this in our parks,’” he said, referring to a proposal last year to install a robotic dinosaur exhibit in Stanley Park. “It’s up to the people to ensure their parks are up to their needs and desires.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

02 January 2009

The Courier's pithiest letters to the editor in 2008- Stuart Mackinnon

As we began a new year of news coverage, the Courier recognizes the important contributions of readers who expressed their opinions on our letters page in 2008.

To the editor:
Re: "Parks board sends chainsaws to QE Park," July 9.

Only in Vancouver could a body elected to preserve and protect our parks vote to cut down 70 living healthy trees and then vote to protect one dead stump.

Stuart Mackinnon,

© Vancouver Courier 2009

01 January 2009

Starting the New Year off with a (frigid) Splash

It's New Year's Day and in Vancouver, like many places in Canada, we start the new year of with a splash. This year a very cold splash. "The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club is one of the largest and oldest Polar Bear Clubs in the world. Its initial swim was in 1920 when a small number of hardy swimmers took the plunge into English Bay on New Year's Day. Led by their founder, Peter Pantages, the swim has grown from around 10 swimmers in that year to the record number of 2,128 official entries in 2000" (Vancouver Park Board)

I was one of a total of 1,557 people who took the plunge this year including Vancouver Burrard MLA, Spencer Herbert and fellow Park Board Commissioner Constance Barnes. It was certainly a refreshing way to start the year!