Vision Vancouver stalwarts form neighbourhood cells

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      Vision Vancouver operatives—hiding in plain sight as community volunteers—are active in neighbourhoods across the city.

      They may not openly declare their ties to the ruling civic party, but their presence has been confirmed by Vision executive director Stepan Vdovine. Yet except for the West End Community Action Network, which Vision acknowledged in its City Notes newsletter as its “first neighbourhood committee”, Vdovine refused to identify other groups and the agents involved in them.

      According to Vdovine, privacy laws prevent him from disclosing who sits on these committees, which serve as local branches of the party.

      “It is the first formal committee,” Vdovine told the Georgia Straight about WECAN, “but we have people working. We have members in various other communities working, whether it’s in Grandview, Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant.”

      Vdovine, a former Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows school trustee, asserted that it is “not unusual for a political party to have committees” that perform “various tasks in various neighbourhoods”.

      “They provide feedback to the party, they organize events,” he said. “There may be minor costs associated with hosting an event where we pick up the food costs.”

      As for making public their association with Vision, Vdovine said: “It is an individual decision to make a disclosure on whether they like to disclose that they’re a member of the party or not.”

      The summer edition of Vision’s City Notes stated that party members Dean Malone and Duncan Wlodarczak formed WECAN. The newsletter noted that in April, the group held its inaugural event, where Mayor Gregor Robertson announced its creation.

      An online profile of Wlodarczak lists him as a public representative on the city’s development-permit-board advisory panel, a former member of Robertson’s now defunct West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee, and a “community engagement” consultant for the proposed Oakridge Centre redevelopment.

      WECAN’s Malone is also a former member of the mayor’s West End committee; he is currently cochair of the city’s LGBTQ advisory committee. Last September, Malone addressed council to support a staff recommendation not to delay consideration of a new community plan for the West End.

      On October 24, he again appeared before council to back a multibuilding development by Westbank Projects on Howe, Granville, and Pacific streets. This includes a 52-storey tower at the north end of the Granville Street Bridge.

      On that day, Malone—the CEO of Plum Living, a home-health-care-services company—wrote on his Facebook page that he was going to talk up the development. The next day, after council approved the proposal, Vision councillor Tim Stevenson replied to Malone’s post: “You spoke very well Dean as usual and you answered my question brilliantly!

      “The development passed and in an answer I posed to staff they assured me the [sic] would be consulting the LGBTQ Advisory Committee as to how the monies would be spent on the Davie St. Village,” Stevenson went on. “And the development is amazing. It’s a win, win all round. Thanks for coming out Dean It was noticed by one and all.”

      Malone declined the Straight’s request for an interview. In his September and October pitches before council, he didn’t identify himself as a Vision member. Stevenson didn’t reply to calls made by the Straight.

      Before Malone spoke to council in September, he was asked by Randy Helten, a West End resident and former mayoral candidate for Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, to tell council that he is a Vision member. According to Helten, Malone responded with a “very cynical comment in return and just ignored me”.

      “He said that, ‘Are you going to tell them that you’re a failed mayoral candidate for NSV?’ That’s almost a direct quote,” Helten related in a phone interview.

      It was Helten who drew the Straight’s attention to WECAN and other unidentified Vision neighbourhood branches after Vdovine stopped responding to his inquiries about these groups. In one September 23 email to Helten, Vdovine stated: “All of our neighbourhood committees are volunteer run groups.”

      Helten believes it’s important for both Vision and its agents to be transparent about their neighbourhood operations. “It gives a context for the statements of those individuals where they may be presenting themselves as well-intentioned neighbourhood activists. However, if they have political affiliations and you’re dealing with multimillion-dollar projects and major policy decisions, I think the public has the right to know their political connections.”

      Comments

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      24 Comments

      Ian

      Nov 6, 2013 at 9:10am

      What a silly story. It is a totally artificial distinction to draw between community activists and community activists who have voted Vision.

      Carly

      Nov 6, 2013 at 10:10am

      What a smear job. I don't always agree with Vision, but suggesting that volunteers who attend community events are "hiding" in "cells" is obnoxious, and terrible journalism. I'm surprised this got past an editor.

      Dennis O'Bell

      Nov 6, 2013 at 10:11am

      Duncan I recall was the last speaker for the public hearing on the 1401 Comox rezoning proposal who spoke in favour, while dismissing and criticizing concerns heard about the proposal from other members of the public.

      Also not conveniently disclosed is that while he sat on the development permit board, he was also an employee of Pottinger & Associates, a PR company that specializes in strategic communication planning, issues/crisis communications and community relations for property developments.

      His profile has been scrubbed from Pottinger's website, but a google search for "Duncan Pottinger & associates" reveals on the cached page of the first resulting link his position at the company as 'Project Manager' under Professional Staff.

      Pottinger it turns out was also the company doing the public relations for the 1401 Comox rezoning proposal. Thanks for shining the light.

      Wankoover

      Nov 6, 2013 at 10:15am

      @Ian

      Hardly a silly story when you consider that WECAN exerted a great deal of influence in the recent West End LAPP, yet fails to reference that it was formed by Vision party members (in the case of Malone, high ranking appointed committee members to boot) *http://www.westendcommunitynetwork.com/

      Are partisan leanings relevant in community planning?
      Should they be thusly dismissed??
      Our Mayor certainly thinks so...
      Who can forget his infamous "F**king NPA hacks" dismissal of community activists (ironically not NPA) who spoke out against Vision's failed pro-developer STIR scheme.

      pot. kettle. black.

      Alf Hutter

      Nov 6, 2013 at 10:21am

      My father was a young activist in an employment-poor city when groups of other young lads, in brown shirts, organized community committees to engage people in solutions. They were the only groups with money and food, which was scarce, so people flocked to hear their rhetoric out of desperation. That rhetoric in time got stronger and louder, and drowned out all other voices. And the food kept coming. We didn't see what else was coming.

      My father escaped to Canada in 1936, fearing for his life. All of his friends died violently, and well before the war even started.

      These party-funded "community" groups are a harbinger of darker times. Be wary, and resist together or be prepared to leave forever. The Nazi Brown Shirt solutions became the Endloesung. Horrible.

      Digusted

      Nov 6, 2013 at 10:36am

      In fact, Ian, this story is right on. If you believe these are not organized efforts by the party, you are either intenesly naiive or deliberately ignorant. Or, a Vision supporter.

      It speaks to the organizational (and monetary) power behind the VV machine. While one never denies a member of a political party the ability to engage in the public domain, one needs to question whether the individual is doing it out of civic engagement or out of mere party loyalty.

      Further, I would sugggest that these coordinated efforts are constructed only in order to support party and its own initiatives---and not to engage in public consultation (eg. new ideas outside the party`s narrow definitions). How can you have a transparent, neighbourhood process that seeks new input and new ideas, when rigid agendas are already in place.

      Tim Stevenson`s reply to a `citizen` ably illustrates what is happening in this city: a Vision `plant`at virtually every public gathering. And further, and most galling, the pat on the head and ``approval` from the Vision elite as to the plant`s support in public. Wonder how this will be rewarded...

      I think Helton`s suggestion that everyone declare their membership in political organizations when working in community groups is a sound one. keeps the playing field level.

      kd

      Nov 6, 2013 at 10:48am

      "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of Vision Vancouver?"...that's a slippery slope.

      Raymond Tomlin

      Nov 6, 2013 at 10:57am

      Ah, no sooner does a story critical of Vision Vancouver's lack of transparency (read: honesty) in the arena of their bought-and-paid-for neighbourhood policy development "strategy" emerge in The Straight, than "Ian" -- one of Marcella Munro's political "attack dog" trolls -- posts online with "What a silly story."

      Recently, I <a href="http://www.vanramblings.com/political-trolling-the-fine-art-of-obfuscati... target="_blank">wrote a little something</a> about this phenomenon on my VanRamblings blog.

      Good on Mr. Pablo for bringing the issue of Vision Vancouver community activist "volunteers" hiding in plain sight to the fore, and to Randy Helten for apprising Mr. Pablo of the issue.

      In Vancouver, this is how "Vision" cynically plays the game of "big city" politics, much to the consternation of politicos of principle. and the relatively small number of engaged Vancouver citizens.

      Dave

      Nov 6, 2013 at 11:00am

      Excellent story - it's drawing light on how Vision fakes public process. Vision's behavior is the same as fascist governments use to spy on their own citizens.

      Disgusted

      Nov 6, 2013 at 11:32am

      kd

      I'm suggesting that all current members of political parties decalre themselves, especially where 'neighbourhood' groups are forming.

      That way, there's no question about who is affilated or unaffiliated---and no way to hide behind 'average' citizen staus when workig within these groups.

      You're a committed and signed up party member? Then declare yourself, proudly! :-)