From our local correspondents Michael and Dianna:

Recently, in a break between rain squalls, Toronto transplant Himy Syed chalked an urban ‘labyrinth’, featuring our solar system.

With orbits looping across the pavers at the False Creek end of Manitoba Street, the elaborate chalk art includes a mysterious Kuiper Belt object thought to circle the sun, far beyond Pluto’s orbit.

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I have been writing about the fact that Vancouver has a dearth of public washrooms in downtown areas and also along the major transit routes.

Let’s talk about  Portland’s success in not only getting their very own designed bathroom available to the public, but one so cool it even has its own patent. And this is nothing new, Portland was busy installing their fifth public washroom in 2012, customized with art by students in a local primary school.  You can see the YouTube of the official unveiling of the Portland Loo below.

The design process for this washroom as outlined in CityLab was unique in that Portland looked at other municipalities’ public toilets and realized that the privacy of them allowed for “nefarious” activities to occur in them.

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You have to like any city planner who says the best piece of advice he has is to learn to “listen really well”. But Jason Thorne is no ordinary planner~as the City of Hamilton’s general manager of planning and economic development for six years he’s seen the historic downtown revitalized and Hamilton  emerge as a “music town” with venues and  enthusiastic performers coming to the city.

Located on Lake Ontario with a population on the plus side of 500,000, Hamilton has unique opportunities to reinvent itself with Mr Thorne’s very broad portfolio, which includes “land use planning and economic development, but also tourism and culture, transportation, bylaw enforcement, business licensing and parking” .

The Globe and Mail’s Alex Bozikovic describes how the small stuff like “live music, street festivals, helping cyclists get around creates a sense of place and pride.”

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In recent years, critics have accused both Liberal and NDP cabinets of rushing through inadequate electoral reforms via BC’s Local Election Campaign Financing Act, or LECFA. The most recent round of changes took effect last April, impacting the 2018 municipal elections across the province.

What were they all about? Are BC municipalities in-line with campaign financing limits and disclosure requirements at the provincial and federal levels? What is “the dark money”, and why is that still a thing in local politics?

John Whistler, financial agent for the Green Party of Vancouver, joins Gord in the studio to dig into the details of the recent changes — how they impacted candidates and voters last fall, and additional changes he’d like to see in how election campaigns are conducted in British Columbia.

Want more? In October, Gord published John’s 5-part series on “Failure and Reform: BC’s Local Elections Campaign Financing Act” — simply search for ‘LECFA’ on the blog.

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There are some pretty troublesome trends that are in a parallel universe to the direction that cities are heading. While towns and places are encouraging walking and cycling to enhance retail bottom line and to make citizens healthier and more connected, the automotive industry is involved in their last private ownership/carbon gasp. That involves trucks and SUV’s, colossal rolling living rooms insulating occupants from the surrounding landscape, and splashy new items just unveiled in Las Vegas.

Reuters.com reports on the trend of  vehicles becoming “a display centred world”. Part of that trend shows screens  expanding on car dashboards including one that is 48 inches (1.22m) long in the Byton M-Byte car.

“Besides the center console, instrument clusters, which house driving controls, and rear-seat entertainment displays are both growing in size. Automakers like Audi (VOWG_p.DE) that combine the center console and instrument cluster often refer to a “cockpit,” necessitating a wide, sweeping screen, like Byton’s, and more consolidated computing power.”

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When talking about pedestrian environments I am referring to walkable, inviting places that include the most vulnerable in our communities~the very young, the disenfranchised, those with mobility challenges, and the elderly. This is accessible mobility for everyone in the pedestrian environment.

Why is it so challenging to maintain good walking environments with smooth, continuous sidewalk, curb cuts correctly formed in the right locations at intersections, lots of visual interest and places to go to and through? Why do these pedestrian environments, which have been  proven to be great for enhancing retail’s bottom line seen as an add on in Council reports, instead of having their own distinct plan?

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Before we go any further into the year, I wanted to say how grateful I am to the folks that have been writing up a media storm about municipal issues. City hall is one place that is for all citizens, and everyone has a right to know what the city is doing, and how it impacts you. Writers like Jen St. Denis, Christopher Cheung, Melody Ma, Justin McElroy, Frances Bula, Kerry Gold, Dan Fumano,Daphne Bramham, The Cambie Report and many informed others have been discussing  municipal issues so that they are accessible to everyone. And with that knowledge comes how to have your voice and ideas heard at city hall.

In the City of Vancouver there is a new council following ten years of a council dominated by people under the “Vision” slate. A decade is a long time, and of course there were thoughts that the city would substantially change when that majority was robustly ousted in the last election. The Vision party was also part of the Americanization of City Hall   process, where long serving current City Manager Judy Rogers was  abruptly fired, and a new city manager, who would follow the new Vision political party direction, Dr. Penny Ballem brought in. This is how it works in many United States cities, where the city manager position is politicized.

In the past,  “Vancouver experienced great success with their city manager model, where the position provided a constant hand on the wheel at city hall, despite political changes. This has meant that policy previously approved by other councils could be directed and implemented.”

As Dan Fumano writes in the Vancouver Sun the new City of Vancouver council is working in a different way. Together.

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We’d be remiss writing on Price Tags without talking about the elephant in the room~and that is the alleged money laundering in local real estate deals. Last summer we published an editorial on this stating that “in 2016, Transparency International Canada found that 45 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s most valuable properties were held by numbered companies. This infographic illustrates where some of these properties are, and some of the background behind their purchase.”

 

And there’s a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute saying that “official estimates of  the amount of money laundered in Canada each year range from $5 billion to $100 billion. Criminals involved in drug trafficking, smuggling, tax evasion and corruption have parked their dirty money in Canadian real estate and businesses, the report says, because they do not have to be identified as owners of shell companies and legal trusts.”

Canada does not have updated property ownership transparency, and sometimes all you need in Canada is a library card to register yourself as a corporation. In B.C. the Provincial government said it would create an accessible registry so that everyone would know the identity of property owners.

There was to be an inquiry too, but David Eby the Attorney General of the Province seems to have backed off this.

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