29 April 2010

Another busy night

Last night was a pretty busy night. It started out at the regular monthly meeting of the Library Board where I sit as the Park Board liaison trustee. I love the Library Board. A group of dedicated people who love books, information and communities. I can't think of better way to spend an evening talking policy.

The next stop was the Vision Vancouver AGM at the downtown BCIT campus. I used to teach in that building so it was kind of fun to be back. I sat with a couple hundred other folks and heard the Park Board (Raj Hundal), City Council (Raymond Louie) and Mayoral (Gregor Robertson) reports. They then moved into party business so I moved on.

Next stop was the NPA AGM at the Vancouver museum, where a much smaller crowd were listening to the caucus reports from Suzanne Anton (Council), Carole Gibson (Schools), and Ian Robertson (Parks). The party had already done its business and so things wrapped up then.

Final stop of the night was the Bloedel Conservatory for a fund raiser called 'A Little Night Music'. This was certainly the highlight of the night. I saw lots of old and new friends and was really impressed with the positive feeling in the dome.

While Bloedel was the most enjoyable, the Library Board was the most productive. I've already heard criticism from some quarters for attending the NPA meeting and I'm sure I'll hear some more from others for sitting in at the Vision meeting. I need to work with all parties for the betterment of Vancouver parks and recreation, so I imagine when the COPE AGM happens I'll pop in there too. It is too bad that local politics has been reduced to such partisan bickering. We all need to work together.

22 April 2010

How do we de-grow the economy and maintain jobs?

Vancouver De-Growth April 29-May 1

five evenings and afternoons at W2 Storyeum ( 151 West Cordova Street) and OneTwoOne Studios (121 Heatley St)

The evidence is overwhelming that unlimited industrial growth is no longer possible. Our challenge now is to find ways to shrink the overall size of the economy without creating unemployment and poverty.

Please join us in this dialogue that will pave the way to creating a new framework in understanding.

Vancouver De-Growth, examining what a viable economic, social and ecological system will look like:

* Thursday Evening: What's the Economy For, Anyway? 'and The Jevons Paradox film screenings begin our examination of economic values, seeking to expand indicators of economic health beyond conventional measures of gross domestic product and efficiency. Followed by wine and cheese social and self-organized discussions.

* Friday Evening: Why De-Growth is Happening - Rex Weyler, Anita Burke, John de Graaf and Dave Hughes . Presentations and panel discussion will focus on combining economic, social and ecological health. Work-time, GDP and economic alternatives will be discussed.

* Saturday Afternoon: Where Does the Impetus for a De-Growth Movement Come From? Managing Without Growth Video Conference with Peter Victor (keynote speaker at the March 2010 European De-Growth Conference in Barcelona). Panel discussion with Jane Sterk, Anita Burke, Ken Wu to challenge our community leaders to act as change agents, followed by a presentation by Vanessa Timmer on One Earth's UN Project.

* Saturday evening - What Do Our City and Community Look Like with De-Growth? Brian Czech, Mark Anielski, Vanessa Timmer, Dennis Ray, Mike Pennock, Claudia Medina lead a realistic discussion of a vision for our future.

* Sunday afternoon will involve round table discussions hosted by Matt Hern, Rex Weyler and others to further develop critical aspects of community action.

Want more info about de-growth - see the declaration from the 2008 Paris De-Growth Conference.

To register for Vancouver De-Growth go here.

16 April 2010

An end to butts in public spaces?

A motion is coming to the Board this Monday banning smoking in parks and on beaches in Vancouver. A noble idea and one that I support, but I do wonder how it will be enforced or more to the point, who will enforce it. We have plenty of by-laws in this city that are not enforced and I imagine this will just be another one. We don't have enough by-law officers to patrol our parks and public spaces as it is. In my local park most evenings you can find groups of people drinking alcohol and smoking dope, but no one stops them, despite calls to the Park Board and the police.It has been suggested that life-guards could enforce this by-law at the beach, but I think our life-guards time would be better spent watching the water not the sand. Although this is a good idea that sends a clear message, without the dollars to invest in enforcement it becomes yet another motion that says much but does little.

15 April 2010

The folly of under funding

I have never weighed in on school issues on this blog, but feel I need to share some of my thoughts in the latest salvo from the Ministry of Education who have appointed an auditor to look at the Vancouver School Board's budgeting process.

As a front-line worker in the education system, I am well aware of what the continuous under funding, year after year, is doing to our public schools. Each year the provincial government gives an amount to school districts that does not keep up with inflation or other increased costs. This means that employees are cut, programs are cut, field trips are cut, sports programs are cut, music programs are cut. Fewer books are purchased, fewer computers are purchased, fewer resources are purchased. As I explained to Mike DeJong on Global TV a couple of elections ago, when funding goes up by 3 cents but costs go up by 5 cents, you can claim that more pennies are going into it, but you are still short—and we are not talking about pennies here, but millions of dollars. Chronic under funding is crippling our schools. Yes we are still doing a good job, but the people of British Columbia deserve better than a good system.

What strikes me as odd is that almost every school district in the province is faced with the same shortfall and they have spoken out too—yet only Vancouver was sent an auditor. You may say that the VSB has made this political, but the province is playing in kind. The minister is playing high stakes politics with our children’s future. I don’t think this is good public policy or good politics. If the province is serious about funding they would have send an investigative team out months ago to look at how school districts across the province spend their money. Then and only then, when they have enough information should they give out the local allocation and claim that it is sufficient. This same scenario was played out years ago and the auditor came back saying districts needed more money. What will the province do when the auditor comes to the same conclusion this time? It’s time educational stakeholders stopped playing games and started respecting our children. Quality education costs money—money that is the best investment in all of our futures.

When senior levels of governments, who hold the purse strings, fail to sufficiently fund our public entities, we all suffer--whether it is schools or parks, insufficient funding only results in less service and fewer opportunities for us all.

13 April 2010

A Boathouse on Kits Beach

So here we are again, less than a month from approving a Cactus Club Cafe on English Bay beach, and a proposal to transfer the lease of the Watermark at Kits is coming to the next meeting of the Park Board on Monday. Watermark wants to transfer their lease to the Boathouse Restaurant chain.

I opposed the original bid to build a licenced dining lounge at Kits beach precisely because I was afraid of the encroaching commercialization of our public lands. This fear has been more than met. While I know that the Boathouse is great place to eat, I continue to believe that large chain restaurants have no place in our parks or on our beaches. It is a fundamental policy of the Green Party of Vancouver to oppose these commercial ventures in our public spaces.

After the approval of the Cactus Club in March I heard from many others in Vancouver who are concerned about this continuing trend. I have no doubt that the lease transfer will pass, and I imagine once again by a vote of 6-1. When the next election comes around I hope voters remember who encouraged the continuing commercialization of our public spaces and who stood up against it.