Urbanism
November 4, 2019

Dare to Share: Admit You’ve Changed your Mind

Here’s a guest post from friend-of-the-blog Peter Ladner:

I recently got my most retweets ever, for agreeing with Patrick Condon and Scott Hein’s call in The Tyee to convert half the land in the City of Vancouver’s municipal golf courses into much-needed housing, and turn the other half into real parks.

Mmm, that warm feeling of people flooding in to agree with me! Like! Like! Like!

Then I read the pushback comments. Then I changed my mind.

I now agree with those who say we need to save the golf-course green space, that we have plenty of other space for more housing all over town in the single-family zones. I realized part of my enthusiasm for the golf course conversion was the prospect of converting those golf greens into more accessible and varied public parks.

I mention this because “changing minds” (advocacy, campaigning, rallying, persuading, writing op-eds, sloganeering…) is such a large part of what so many of us do these days. But it’s all push and no followup. Outing and celebrating our own mind changes is seldom practised. It’s not easy to do. But only we can do it.

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In September, Michael Anderson, senior researcher with Sightline Institute (Cascadia’s sustainability think tank), and Kiel Johnson, founder and operator of Portland’s Go By Bike (North America’s largest bike valet) visited Vancouver as part of a two-family touring holiday.

Anderson and Johnson rented a van to get to Vancouver because, well, kids and stuff. Plus, it was much cheaper and faster than the train. Whatever to do about that?

Gord invited the duo to write about their trip, and they did — in dialogue form.

Says Anderson: “I think we could have gone on for pages about things we saw and thought about the city, but Kiel rightly suggested keeping it pretty narrow.”

First impressions about Vancouver? How is Portland doing for cycling? What were the disappointments?

(Canadian spellings added for clarity.)

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One thing is proven without a doubt in this wide-ranging, deep political dive with Gord, Rob, and return guest George Affleck — these guys don’t know their Tolkien.

And while there was no cranky, right-wing guy in Middle Earth, there is a central character whose very rigid way of thinking begins to soften. If that seems to be the case with Affleck, it may be with the benefit of retrospect, especially with an eye to the performance of current council, and specifically in contrast to its predecessor.

That’s because Affleck’s behaviour while serving in opposition to Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver juggernaut was largely the result of him seeing the majority votes walking into the council chamber every day, “knowing exactly what they were going to do”. Idealogical alignment can be like a wall; in the form of a political caucus, it’s a brick wall.

Contrast that with today; by Affleck’s count, there are just two parties in Vancouver Council, the NDP and the BC Liberals (and 1 or 2 predictably dogmatic, even irrelevant votes). So these decisions should be, well, decisive — consistently predictable and relatively quick. But, as he notes, “it’s 100% not working like that.”

Affleck talks about the splintering sound coming from the NPA corner. He talks choo-choo trains. And he talks bike lanes (remember, he’s not anti-bike lanes, just pro-process).

Lastly, Affleck makes a startling admission, perhaps revealing that aforementioned soft spot, one which may represent the rotting core of traditional NPA preservationist ideology — that the current political trend towards framing the decision-making process around community consultation (rather than incorporating and contextualizing it into decision-making) is a great way to give anti-growth, naysay perspectives platform and influence. And that it’s probably incorrect.

He sees it in West Vancouver, in White Rock, in Surrey, and even in PoCo. He sees pragmatism, he sees populism, and it seems he has a pretty clear view of the line to be drawn between the two.

Which leads to some interesting speculation on the nature of political campaigns of our not-too-distant future — those of Kennedy Stewart, the NPA and, yes, Affleck himself.

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Jake founded Vancouver’s Smallworks to work on the same kinds of issues Price Tags shares with our readers —creating new housing solutions, challenging the status quo, and livening up communities with innovative design.

Jake knows the New York Times will be around for awhile. But Price Tags depends on his — and your — active support to sustain our voice.

Be like Jake — support Price Tags All donations up to $10,000 will be matched (we’re 20% there!) — learn how it will be used. Read more »

From newsletter to blog, Price Tags has provided a balanced and often unique perspective on urbanism. So do our commenters: Price Tags is a forum for civil, spirited dialogue — something increasingly needed in our disruptive times.

To keep hearing those voices and maintain that forum, we’re asking you to make a sincere gesture with a small donation.

For a limited time, all contributions will be matched, to a total of $10,000, thanks our very first donor. Your donation will be effectively doubled — and here’s where the money will go.

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Peter German’s 250-page report “Dirty Money“, delivered to Attorney General David Eby on March 31 and to the people of British Columbia almost three months later, contained more than just a set of 48 recommendations for the response and reforms to the gaming industry.

It also delivered a scathing review of casino operations, oversight and regulation in British Columbia, a sector wallowing in poorly-written legislation, acrimony and denial between various concerned entities, such that “certain Lower Mainland casinos unwittingly served as laundromats for the proceeds of organized crime.”

German describes it as a “collective system failure” of the province’s casinos, where an estimated $100 million of illicitly gained currency transferred from anonymous hand to anonymous hand.

That the money laundering uncovered so far in casinos is but a “drop in the bucket”, according to Mr. German’s interviews, is disturbing enough. But it delivered a third eye-opener — that there are likely other sectors in the provincial economy are being used, mis-used and abused in the same way.

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