Ken Charko: Making better decisions at city council and keeping taxes low
As the owner of the Dunbar Theatre, I understand what it means to make changes for the future and invest for tomorrow. For almost 80 years, Vancouverites have supported the theatre and honoured me with multiple awards. In return, I’ve recently invested significantly to improve their experience by installing the latest 3-D and digital film delivery technology and the best seats.
For more than 10 years now, the independent theatre owners in Vancouver (the Park, the Rio, the Ridge, Fifth Avenue) and the other independent theatres in the province, have elected me to represent them on the board of the Motion Picture Theatres Association of B.C., and that board has in turn elected me to serve as vice president of the association.
I’m also the president of the Golden Spoon Frozen Yogurt chain, and as we build 100 locations across Canada, I’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand how city halls across the country work, as well as some of the good ideas and good decisions they’ve implemented that Vancouver’s city council should consider.
My experience has taught me how to listen to all sides—small and large, loud and quiet—and how to find solutions that are inclusive and make better sense for Vancouver for the long term. My philosophy, and that of the NPA, is to be smart with our decisions, inclusive and considerate of all groups’ needs, and non-partisan. That is, after all, what the N and P stand for in NPA—Non-Partisan. As a city councillor, I would vote to make practical decisions that consider all options. Unfortunately, Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver have a history of railroading decisions that do not incorporate options and result in less-than-ideal “solutions” where one group of citizens is pitted against another. I think we can do better.
When we talk about city council making better decisions, let’s consider the decision to install separated bike lanes in the downtown core, for example, Hornby Street. First of all, I am in favour of the bike lanes. In fact, over the years, the NPA has installed over 400 kilometres of bike paths, lanes, and street allocations with very favourable results. Unfortunately, Mayor Robertson’s bike lane plan for downtown Vancouver pitted cyclists against motorists and pedestrians and cyclists against business owners. I believe seasonally separated bike lanes would meet more of Vancouverites’ needs. They would be available for cyclists, say from April 1 to September 30, and removed from October 1 to March 31, to make room for metered street parking. If we can configure the Lions Gate Bridge and the Massey tunnel to adjust for vehicle flow, certainly we can do the same for bike lanes.
If a different barrier system were used (as an example, four-foot-tall pylons imbedded into the road), the cost to make the change twice a year would be minimal and would be offset by continued parking meter income in the winter months, when auto traffic is highest and bike traffic is lowest. Cyclists would have the safety of the separated bike lanes during the time of the year when bike traffic is heaviest, and we would continue, as a city, to promote healthy living, promote alternatives to single-occupant cars, and reduce our carbon footprint.
By earning that extra parking meter income, this solution would also help keep property taxes at or below the rate of inflation. Low property taxes equal happier home owners, lower rents, and a more affordable city that we can all call home.
That is just one of the examples of how a better decision that incorporates options to meet the needs of the people of Vancouver can be made. I believe in smarter governance that incorporates options, embraces the needs of as many as possible, and does so in a fiscally sound way. Help me with your vote to make better decisions at city council.
Ken Charko is a Non-Partisan Association candidate for Vancouver city council.