Andrea Reimer: Vision Vancouver is working hard to open up city hall

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      Vision Vancouver was elected on a platform of opening up city hall. During the civic election, we heard loud and clear that people wanted back into the decision-making process. Neighbourhood planning, citizen advisory committees, labour relations—these were just some of the areas that we heard needed reform to ensure that residents could have a voice in creating the city’s future.

      Despite the enthusiasm for the possibilities of the future, our first year on council was spent having to deal with the fallout of the past. In 2007 and 2008, the NPA made a series of secret decisions, one of which was to make the city the financial backer of the Olympic Village. Public anger over the NPA decisions was relentless, and still reverberates today.

      One of the first things our council did was release all Olympic Village documents that provincial privacy laws allowed us to. Since then, no matter how uncomfortable some of the details might have been, we’ve continued to provide the public with ongoing information on the Olympic Village so that they can be actively involved in the debate about the village’s future.

      Next up was dealing with the NPA’s shutdown of several citizens’ committees. Seniors, people with disabilities, multicultural communities, the LGBTQ community, and women, who were shut out of city hall by the NPA, now all have committees specifically designed to give them a clear voice at city hall.

      From there we started on a long road of neighbourhood planning process reform. Previous city councils, dominated by the NPA, have often created structures to deliberately minimize community input.

      We have worked to aggressively root out these structures. When we identify deficiencies between the community’s need to be consulted and outdated, cloistered structures of “consultation”, we’ve gone one step further to ensure the community a real voice and genuine input. To this end, we have created innovative new pilot programs like the Marpole nodal planning process for Marine and Cambie and the West End mayor’s advisory committee.

      We’ve also asked that city staff, who are doing groundbreaking work in supporting our direction to open up government, don’t take positions on proposals while the public is still being consulted. To be clear, councillors rely on the expertise and guidance of city staff, and we are working together to ensure that there is both real and perceived fairness throughout the staff-led consultation process.

      Vision Vancouver is also the only civic party to have disclosed donations it has received since the 2008 election, all of which is posted publicly on the city’s website. The NPA refuses to say who is giving them money.

      We are building towards the future we imagine is possible. Vision Vancouver councillors have brought forward many new innovations that have received international recognition. Projects like the open data catalogue were the first of their kind in the country, and backed by a world leading policy initiative on open government.

      Public engagement on Greenest City, done through the project, has directly engaged over 50,000 citizens—or 10 percent of the city’s population—on the next steps on our path to become the world’s greenest city.

      We took explicit steps to engage with multicultural communities for the first time in the city’s budget consultation process, and initiated the Dialogues Project that brings First Nations, immigrants, and urban aboriginals to share their experiences and build them into common policy.

      In the new year more new projects will come online: Vancouver’s first-ever citizens’ summit, the launch of up to three new neighbourhood planning processes, and the report on the office of citizen engagement—a key campaign promise from 2008.

      Can we do more? Absolutely.

      The starting point is asking the tough questions. Shortly before sitting down to write this article, I was in a council meeting where the city manager reported on the results of the city’s first-ever employee survey. With 54 percent overall employee satisfaction, there are definite challenges that we need to address as an organization.

      But the real elephant in the room was that there was no way to benchmark the results against past employee satisfaction surveys, because no other government in Vancouver’s history has even asked the question, let alone take on the tough task of identifying employee concerns and then developing a plan to resolve those issues as the city did today.

      Instead, past governments have let the concerns fester and result in outcomes like the 2007 strike that left residents without city services for several months. It’s hard to imagine the previous NPA council asking the same hard questions, let alone publishing the results publicly for everyone to see.

      Residents need to ask themselves whether they want a government that looks after itself—by avoiding the tough questions—or whether they want a government that looks after Vancouver by ensuring that residents, businesses, employees, and the media can examine our work. Disagreements are normal in a diverse city. Council’s job should be to give those disagreements a voice, listen, and develop the best proposals we can to move Vancouver forward in an increasingly complex world.

      Andrea Reimer is a Vision Vancouver city councillor.




      Dec 3, 2010 at 1:25pm

      This is a video of how Vision Vancouver "works."
      It's a council meeting taking place at midnight.

      Go to 7:30 to hear Vision's real view on "citizen engagement", straight from the mouth of Vision councilor Ellen Woodsworth.

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      It's seems anyone who disagrees with Vision's agenda is a "NIMBY" or, as our Mayor so eloquently put it; a "fucking hack."


      Dec 3, 2010 at 3:44pm

      A desperate spin from a soon-to-be one term councilor.

      Doug Ragan

      Dec 3, 2010 at 3:45pm

      I congratulate Vancouver city council on the steps it is taking to try and open up the workings of the city to the public. In this new age of exponentially more accessible information through the internet, it is important that governments work to find mechanisms through which this is possible.

      Unfortunately, the governance environment is moving so quickly that it is outstripping what structures we have, and outpacing any change that is taking place. The most recent issue regarding media access to planners is a case in point. Unfortunately the response from the city was unfortunate, with an attempt to limit the exchange of information between planners and the media, even though it had been traditionally done before.

      As we are coming up on a new year, there is now a time for renewal and refocusing of the city. For the New Year, I would encourage city hall to move even quicker on implementing open governance, especially in the area of planning. I would suggest the following:
      1. An appointment of a Public Governance and Information Manager position.
      1. A commitment by council and the city manager to open governance and participatory planning. A review of current planning process and recommendation on how to improve them.
      2. The establishment of a open governance policy and practice framework. One key policy would be the focus on social media and the creation of policies which should answer the issues of how to use social media and who can use it within city hall. An excellent example of policy is Orange County in California (
      3. Parallel to the development of this framework, City Hall should move immediately to the establishment of blogs and social media sites by all city councilors and separate social media for each department. Departments should determine what documents can be shared and how the public can have input. If there are capacity issues in regards to training and staff time, these will need to be addressed.
      4. The embracing of seo-spatial technologies such as google earth, and open space technologies such as Open Street Maps; the integration of these technologies into the planning processes; and the training of city staff and the public in their use.
      4. A best practices award for staff in the area of public engagement.

      As the budget is already determined, this further commitment to open governance most likely be a work in progress. But, without a concrete and immediate actions such as this, I believe we will continue to be beset by conflict regarding city halls willingness to engage the public, rather than dealing with the issue of the cities ability and capacity to do so.

      The TOAD sucks eggs

      Dec 3, 2010 at 4:39pm

      This smear campaign started at a local right wing nut jobs blog.

      The great fear of the right is that the left would unite under these new young faces and crush the likes of Falcon/Abbott/...


      Dec 3, 2010 at 8:20pm

      I liked this line.

      "We have worked to aggressively root out these structures."

      There are other 'lines' that underscore incoherence, forcefulness, focus, arrogance interchangeably...but I'll go with that one for sheer 'openness'.

      ...or the bit about the elephant being left without a bench to mark nonexistent polls from past employees.

      I liked that one too....

      AlderPeople are kewl....


      Dec 4, 2010 at 8:59am

      What a pathetic article from the one Vision councillor we all expected a lot more from. I remember when Andrea was first elected, she wasn't so partisan, bitter and mean as she is now. She has been a big disappointment and has clearly fallen in line with the Vision "blame game" and lobbing the partisan grenades. It's looks desperate and mean-spirited, and is one of the many reason Vision's poll numbers are dropping faster than the temperature.


      Dec 4, 2010 at 9:25am

      Let's see, perhaps there is an argument to be made that the Vision dominated council is the most secretive and authoritarian in recent memory?
      I didn't see a lot of mention of the Olympic Village (Millennium Water) in the next budget with the city on the hook for 900 million. Perhaps a full audit is in order to see how something that should cost $250 / sq foot to build was several times more? What arrangements were made with Millennium, which properties were seized? Why isn't in the city's best interest to get back as much of its investment as soon as possible?
      Why are some of the best and brightest employees leaving city hall (engineering, FOI)? Why are only powerful developers being served as communities get steamrolled and dismissed by planning? (see staff reports for 1569W 6th & 1215 Bidwell). Spot rezoning is done throughout the city, with no regard to existing zoning or city policy. STIR program rushed through without proper consultation and passed on false premises. Cyclist lane construction starts on Hornby the next morning after the public hearing. City staff are not permitted to speak to the media. West End Advisory committee handpicked by two vision councillors from 80 applicants without community oversight; recent minutes are not released. Mt. Pleasant gets a community plan without any zoning limits for fsr and height. Massive changes for Norquay village. The list just goes on and on.
      City hall is a very closed place for ordinary residents; developers on the other hand are welcome with open arms.

      Mike Klassen

      Dec 4, 2010 at 10:02am

      "Vision Vancouver was elected on a platform of opening up city hall." Andrea, you should have quit there, as that's where the truth ends and truthiness begins in your latest postulation on why Vision is the MOST. OPEN. EVER. (so get over it).

      "In 2007 and 2008, the NPA made a series of secret decisions, one of which was to make the city the financial backer of the Olympic Village. Public anger over the NPA decisions was relentless, and still reverberates today."

      More accurately, the decisions relating to the financial affairs of the Olympic Village were conducted in camera, with the unanimous support of ALL Vision members of council, including your colleagues Raymond Louie, Heather Deal, George Chow and Tim Stevenson, as well as the accommodating Mr. David Cadman.

      If there really is any "reverberations," they would be from the reckless decision to destroy the reputations of both the development (see Robertson: Train Wreck) and the developers (see: Maleks). The collapsing popularity of your government in a Justason poll released Monday cites directly your government's mishandling of the Olympic Village file. Sometimes the public just expects a leader to stand up and say the buck stops with them, a concept still anathema to Vision Vancouver after 2 years in office.

      As for your claim that Vision "release[d] all Olympic Village documents that provincial privacy laws allowed us to," why isn't Vision as transparent now that they're making the decisions on the project? How come it took GlobalTV poking around back in September for the public to learn that the developer was in default?

      As for "dealing with the NPA’s shutdown of several citizens’ committees," we know that even the VEDC is bound by the strict wishes of Vision's mandate, not their own. Who but the bicycle committee have we heard from?

      "From there we started on a long road of neighbourhood planning process reform." As a member of the Kensington-Cedar Cottage Visions committee, I note that we've not held a meeting since a month after you took office. These groups are multi-partisan and wide open to any member of the community wishing to participate. How indeed does this "deliberately minimize input"?

      As for creating "innovative new pilot programs" filled with political supporters it would be good to hear from the West End Neighbours think.

      Saying that "Vision Vancouver is also the only civic party to have disclosed donations it has received since the 2008 election, all of which is posted publicly on the city’s website" is extremely disingenuous. Vision Vancouver ended the 2008 campaign with $240,000 worth of debt. By the terms of the Vancouver Charter you were REQUIRED to disclose who was giving you money because (take note, Andrea, as this is important) you were STILL PAYING for your 2008 election campaign. Also noteworthy is the fact that you've never explained who was holding that $240,000 debt (was it a political friend? was it a bank? what bank would loan you $240K without any assets, cuz I'd like to meet them?), and who you paid over $14,000 worth of interest on that loan.

      Finally, on the matter of the employee dissatisfaction survey, from the moment the City Manager released those grim results (notably she didn't even give a copy of the presentation to council before the meeting) Vision have been trying to explain why so many staff can't stand them and their hand-picked leader. Naturally, they assume that it's "better" under their watch.

      Yes, openness and transparency was something Vision Vancouver promised. But it has most definitely failed in this promise, and your efforts at spinning it are far too little, too late.

      Mad Max

      Dec 4, 2010 at 10:03am

      Reimer is delusional. It took 400+ days for Vision to post their donor list, which was only prompted through FOI requests. And glad to see most of their monies come from wealthy American backers that have a 'plan' for Vancouver.
      As for 'public consultation' those words do not exisit in Vision's vocabulary. Ask the West Side residents about STIR, the Hornby St. businesses about the bike lane, the residents around the HEAT shelters - ask them how much 'public consultation' they received. But, Reimer, Louie and Jang are consulting with housing activists - and Chinese developers - a video has be leaked about backroom dealings.....


      Dec 4, 2010 at 10:18am

      Nice try. Vancouver has never seen a city council as dismissive of views of citizens as Vision Vancouver. Time and time again we have witnessed city council meetings during which it was clearly evident that the decision was already made in advance behind closed doors (the bike lanes being the most recent example).

      The conduct of this council with respect to democratic processes has been simply appalling. To blame it on the previous council is laughable. If Vision wants to ask the tough questions, they might want to sit in front of the mirror first.