Governance & Politics
October 19, 2018

Municipal Elections: “Handel’s Messiah or the Highway to Hell?”

Two excellent articles point at the need for a comprehensive approach in choosing the candidates for Mayor and Council in the various Metro Vancouver municipalities this Saturday.

Noted journalist Daphne Bramham points out the “complexity that the City of Vancouver has a voters’ planning guide on its website with candidate-supplied photos and profiles of the 21 people running for mayor, the 71 who want to be on council, and the 33 running for each of the park and school boards. Of course, Vancouver voters aren’t the only ones facing difficult choices with so few incumbents running, the collapse of traditional parties and so many Independents. In Surrey, there are 48 council candidates, eight running for mayor and 30 for school trustee, while Richmond has six mayoral candidates, 30 people running for council and 26 for school trustee.”

Decisions need to be made about housing affordability,  transportation accessibility and the overdose epidemic. And it is the  Duke of Data, Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program that has come up with the “Handel’s Messiah or Highway to Hell” analogy. The people elected by citizens need to act for the greater good of all residents, not just the interests of the newly elected pundits’  inner circle. That includes diversity and listening to different voices.

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As reported in the Seattle Times New York City owners in a 377 condo unit tower at 200 Riverside Boulevard on the Upper West Side went to court to have the name “Trump Place” removed off the 46 story building. The judge ruled that the residents “were not obliged by contract” to keep the name, and this week the big brass letters are being stripped from the building.

Close to 70 per cent of condo owners had voted to have the Trump name banished, citing security and resale concerns associated with it. This is the fourth building in New York City to have the Trump name banished, joining hotels in Toronto, Manhattan and Panama City in ditching the association.

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There’s absolutely no way to sugar coat this: the previous Liberal provincial government’s 2014 decision to increase speed limits on some major rural highways has resulted in a 118 per cent increase of fatalities on those roads.

A comprehensive study published in Sustainability was co-authored by physicians at Vancouver General  and road safety engineers at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan). The study confirms that  “fatalities, injuries, crashes and insurance claims on some B.C. roads are linked to a 2014 decision by the former provincial government to raise speed limits on the rural highways” as reported in the Vancouver Sun.

The study surmises that “communities across Canada, especially those with slippery winter roads or those where roads traverse mountainous terrain, “should learn from this experience and resist pressure from pro speed advocates to raise speed limits without due consideration to road safety.”

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It’s one thing to say that you are going to build a world-class separated bikeway facility on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, which has a scenic three-mile stretch along the waterfront. It’s another thing to get it implemented as development continues along this stretch, which of course attracts more vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

That has led to conflicts between users on this popular stretch of street, with the Embarcadero “now on the City’s High Injury Network”.  That ominous terminology refers to 6 per cent of the network of streets where 60 per cent of severe and fatal pedestrian injuries occur.

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But this time and place is different~here is Lady Florence Norman going to work in London in 1916, 100 years ago.  Lady Norman was an active suffragette and also ran a hospital in France during the first  world war. Her scooter called an “Autoped” was a birthday present and was one of the first examples of motorized”kick” scooters~you can see there is no seat.

Mashable notes that these were “manufactured in New York and Germany by Krupps, the U.S. postal service tested the Autoped as a means of fast transport for its special delivery service. The foldable scooter was also reportedly used as a quick getaway machine by New York gangs, racing down narrow alleys beyond the reach of police cars.”

And while scooters and e-bikes are seen as the sustainable way for travel, in the 1930’s these scooters were used on military bases, and increasingly as a response to fuel rationing. In one hundred years, scooters may have become faster and more efficient, but their basic purpose~transporting people without the size, bulk and fuel cost of a vehicle~remains the same.



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Peter Ladner called it out on Twitter last week with the tweet posted below. City News has reported on the increasing retail vacancies evident in downtown Vancouver and in some of the commercial streets of surrounding neighbourhoods, suggesting quite validly that property tax was a culprit.

But Peter also pointed out the increased interest and reliance on internet retailing, specifically the 450,000 square foot Amazon fulfillment centre to be built on the Tsawwassen First Nations territory creating 700 local jobs. This is the first facility to be built by Amazon on First Nations land, and Amazon has two other distribution centres located in Delta and New Westminster.

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The optics are not good when a city manager retires from the City of Delta and then decides to run for mayor, with the current mayor, the long serving Lois Jackson teaming up with him for a supportive council seat. Sometimes when you eat, drink and spend a lot of time with the same people you forget about a more holistic approach.

That could include listening to and answering courteously to the  people who live in your community and that are impacted by your decisions, especially if it is constraining real estate sales and quality of life due to the stench of a growing composting facility on  protected farmland allowed under your leadership.

Recently retired City Manager George Harvie has taken an aggressive approach on the stench in his mayoral ambition, saying that his reputation has been questioned over suggestions he was behind the lack of  public consultation and the subsequent  horrendous odour that has been emanating from  the Enviro-smart Organics site, purchased in 2016 by GFL.

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Back to the City of Richmond where the majority of City Councillors have been absolutely complicit in the dismantling of the protected Agricultural Land Reserve farmlands which in this municipality are the best farmlands in Canada. Surprisingly there is not a bigger public outcry on how this City Council has failed future food security and the right of farmers to be able to own and access farmland close to market. Meanwhile Richmond City staff are processing 61 applications carving up farmland as approved by this Council for quick developer profit, despite staff’s recommendation to Council that this was a very bad idea.

There is some weirdness in the majority of Council supporting supernormal land lift profits and a series of loopholes for offshore buyers in numbered companies. These “developers” are turning  protected farmland into gated offshore owned estates. This is happening despite the fact that this farmland is designated as part of the Provincial Agricultural Land Reserve set up in the 1970’s.

Price Tags has been documenting the unbelievable usurping of these prime farmlands for gated estates, with mansions of almost 11,000 square feet, while 5,382 square feet is the permitted maximum under the provincial regulation. We’ve also documented that besides approving these monster houses on supposedly protected farmlands, Richmond City Council also rubber stamped an additional house of 3,200 square feet on larger properties for the “help”.

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It was exactly a year ago that Price Tags published an article about all male panels and why diversity matters. That post was regarding a shameful display at the  2017 Canadian Urbanism Conference where three well-known caucasian older planning males participated in an all male panel. CanU organizers “breathlessly labelled the session a conference “favourite”, with tweets from the three male manel saying  how great they were together.

Kudos to  former City Planner and now Toronto Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat who was the only person who called it out for what it was, noting the lack of diversity “shameful” and a display of “professional incompetence”. Lesson learned, and the Council of Canadian Urbanism promised to work harder on diversity.

Fast forward one year and we’ve pretty much experienced the same situation with the Urbanarium’s event bringing together planners from Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco on September 20. The Urbanarium says a smart city requires an engaged and informed citizenry, and that is what they are doing. So it was a surprise when the Urbanarium’s line up went one better than the faux pas of Canadian Urbanism by having not three, but FOUR males all of a certain vintage and background sharing the stage to spill on-seriously-diversity, affordability and equity in cities.

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There’s a storm of a different kind brewing in East Delta where the palpable stench of the  Enviro-Smart Recycling Facility at 4295 72nd Street somehow was allowed to be constructed on arable farm land which should have been protected under the Agricultural Land Reserve. That land has been loaded with mountainous tons of material (including green waste from the City of Richmond) and the scent it emits is off-putting.

If you ever are driving on Highway 17, you will know where this facility is by  exit 13 with a smell like offal and of course the preponderance of eagles that have found the location a good place to pluck their prey.  For local residents, it is not only an eyesore, but the scent is overwhelming.

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