Gerry McGuire: Vancouverites rightly questioning quality of leadership at city hall
I’ve been a Vancouver/Lower Mainland resident most of my life, and have lived in Vancouver city now for 20 years. I’m a graduate of Simon Fraser University and hold a bachelor of arts degree in economics. For the last two years I’ve attended the “University” of City Hall. I’ve attended dozens of city council and advisory committee meetings, including the bicycle advisory committee, the West End mayor’s advisory committee, the urban design panel, the Vancouver athletic commission, and many more, as well as meetings of various neighbourhood groups, open houses, public hearings, et cetera. I’ve filmed many of these meetings, to spread knowledge in an attempt to bring people closer together and to illustrate to a broader audience the machinations of a growing, vibrant, wealthy city and region that strangely hosts the poorest postal code in Canada. The power of a populace dedicated to basic principles of freedom and democracy armed with the tools of the new media cannot be underestimated. Hence the name “Vancouver Citizen’s Voice”.
It is with some sadness that I list a very few of my concerns with this current city council. Their reaction to a leadership vacuum during “Snowmageddon” in the winter of 2008 was to drastically increase the fines for residents who didn’t shovel their sidewalks, then spend $3 million on equipment that climate experts said would likely never be needed. When they were caught awarding an untendered contract to a close associate of the mayor in excess of the legislated limit they raised that limit by a factor of 60! From the mayor’s ill-advised praise of the efficiency of a totalitarian system to his constantly changing position and finger-pointing about who was responsible for the live sites that led to the Stanley Cup riot, Vancouverites are rightly questioning the quality of leadership at city hall.
Citizens must examine this administration’s behaviour in the context of its proclaimed goals. They have seriously subverted sustainability and affordability in one fell swoop, by going on a high-rise rezoning binge that has left virtually every neighbourhood in the city swooning from the speed and extremity of the changes. They’ve enacted a “bylaw adjudication process” which unconstitutionally bars access to the courts and due legal process. They have declared that they will spend as much taxpayers money as it takes to defend a repressive Protest Structure Bylaw of doubtful constitutionality. This council has also been the biggest cheerleader in the Lower Mainland for the mega-project loving, small business trampling TransLink, and its partner in taxation without representation, the Metro Vancouver regional district.
It is my belief that no matter the composition of city council, a strong chair can effect positive outcomes through moral suasion and the respect of the position. Here are some of my core beliefs and policies.
I believe that most people want to do the right thing, whether in attempting to ameliorate climate change or shoveling their sidewalks. Rather than creating new penalties associated with such initiatives I will create opportunities for the public to participate to effect needed changes.
I am dedicated to keeping St. Paul’s Hospital downtown, and will hold that as a key priority vis-a-vis other large capital projects under consideration.
I strongly believe in open, accountable government and will put an end to the backroom dealings and surprise votes, which have been the trademark of this council. I will also direct the city communications department to publicize more widely the dates and locations of council, advisory and special committee meetings, with a view to broadcasting and archiving all such meetings in high definition video.
I believe in sustainable, human scale development and am interested in exploring the possibility of using new technologies that incorporate greenhouse gardens into building design for true sustainability.
I believe that both TransLink and the Metro regional district must be democratized by the direct election of their respective boards.
I believe in being green, and will work to enable multidwelling residences to more fully participate in composting programs. I’m in favour of most of the priority actions identified in the Greenest City Action Plan. However I am not in favour of a fanatical adherence to a fixed set of goals regardless of cost, taxation levels, and/or social disruption. It is my strong belief that fundamental principles of an open, transparent, and accountable democracy are not more important than saving the planet but rather that they are essential to it, and I will lead city council accordingly. Thank you.
Gerry McGuire is the Vancouver Citizen’s Voice candidate for mayor.