July 29, 2019

The Co-Creationist Idealism of Pete Fry

According to Vancouver Green Party councillor Pete Fry, consultation won’t build us the city of the future.

“Where we’re going, we don’t need sticky notes on a wall,” he said (kind of). To Fry, consultation simply means, ‘the plan has already been written’ — not the right approach for the city-wide plan. Ironically, it was a lack of consultation that almost resulted in a freeway blowing through his Strathcona neighbourhood, but that’s a story for another time.

He wants co-creation. Neighbourhoods helping to design their communities. And if people — like, any people we assume, but at the very least highly organized people, unless he literally meant all people, but honestly we’re not entirely sure about any of this — if these people see something planned for their neighbourhood they don’t like? Council could, Fry suggested, “consider veto feedback on its merit”. (Really.)

That should go well.

This idea of co-creation, whether belonging to Fry alone, Vancouver’s Green Party, their fellow councillors, or (just maybe) staff themselves, is either a brilliant new way to govern, or a new word for old tricks. It could also be a moot point, as it is likely doomed to fail, though in principle we see it working already; certainly, one could interpret the recent rejection of the Granville Street townhouse development as one outcome of co-creation. No surprise to Green-watchers, of course, that all three Green councillors confoundingly voted against the application (“I stand by the Shaughnessy vote,” says Fry).

As he chats with Gord — and meat ‘n’ sizzle co-host Rob McDowell — Pete Fry is crystal clear on one thing: as keen as he is to co-create with his fellow citizens, there are still some hills upon which he’s willing to fight, and we presume die.

Like the pending Georgia and Dunsmuir viaduct removal. Or what we do with the city’s existing zoned residential capacity. And why reconciliation is part of decolonization.

More important, though, is what Pete Fry thinks Elizabeth Murphy really doesn’t get about our housing crisis…

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The question for all mayor and council candidates — “what would you do different” —was in itself not without some controversy. (See “Vancouver Candidate Survey on Kettle-Boffo Project: What Would You Have Done to Close the Gap?“)

Ultimately, the premise of the question was based on the idea that, as the project team stated, Kettle-Boffo “enjoys Council support”. Reliving the imminent failure of the project Groundhog Day style, we wanted to know how a prospective mayor or councillor might expect to work with staff and the applicants, and within the rules of established policy, to ensure project viability, and thus possibly a successful application.

We also felt it was a way for declared candidates to clarify their positions, especially given the degree of complexity in the topic, “the #1 issue” this election year.

Beyond positions, reasonable explanation of some of the core, underlying issues may serve voters. The presumption is some candidates have done their homework, and are figuring out how to bridge the knowledge gap with the electorate. Some at Price Tags are not too humble to admit we too can learn from the responses.

And this goes for not just the issue (“What moves housing forward in the city? What are the possible systemic problems?“), but also the candidates themselves (“Who thinks about housing the way I do? Who has ideas I’ve never considered?“)

Lastly, we were careful in our introduction to not position Kettle-Boffo as having claimed in their statement that there is something ‘broken’ in city hall, which they did not. Nor do we believe our representation of the City’s claim — that they extended every concession they felt they could to enable a successful re-submission of the development application, which ultimately Kettle-Boffo chose not to do — is not to be taken at face value.

With that, we present the first six responses submitted to our call-out; we will continue to publish submissions if and when they come in.

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