Quick hits

  • A great piece by my friend Ian Davey on the power of change being behind the Rob Ford incoming term.   Here is the key quote of relevance to the Vancouver civic political scene: “Governments change when voters decide they are incompetent and/or untrustworthy. Competence is the standard measure of good government and as such is the primary driver of change. Trust is a less tangible measure and untrustworthiness is principally a by-product of incompetent government.”  This is the storyline that the NPA is going to have try and write about Vision Vancouver, and I have a feeling that not only do they not have the individuals necessary to deliver such a message, but they also don’t have a record that lends itself to supporting such a tale.   To the candidates just nominated over the weekend, good luck…you have a long and difficult road ahead of you.
  • Solving homelessness is clearly an issue area in which Mayor Gregor Robertson has predicated his entire Mayoralty on, and clearly something that he is in line for scrutiny over.  And to actually house the homeless population, we have a long way to go before we reach his goal of eliminating street homelessness by 2015.  That being said, on nights like the last few, I have to say that these HEAT shelters plus additional emergency shelter beds, which came about as a result of the City showing leadership and the Provincial government coming to the table with vital funding, have been a Godsend.  With an estimated 500 homeless sleeping on the streets of Vancouver, these 612 beds are a good start to keeping people during extreme temperatures.
  • While the Vancouver School Board teeters on the verge of having their powers pulled by the Liberal government at any one time, the Vancouver Park Board and the ongoing legacy being built was on full display on Saturday night at COPE’s Power of the Park Board” event.  The tradition of the Park Board is to set an independent course separate from City Council, and Saturday’s event, and the series of videos produced by Brent Granby, showed how much strength resides in the institution.  With the City facing $20 million in cuts, it will be interesting to see how the current incarnation of the Park Board fares in comparison to other City departments facing cutbacks.
  • Speaking of cutbacks, Stuart MacKinnon’s commentary about this being the least progressive Park Board in history reeks of his typical political grandstanding style.  Is instituting fees for toddlers ideal?  Absolutely not.  But what MacKinnon’s fails to mention is that these kinds of fees are common in many neighbouring municipalities, and that Vancouver’s fee structure is still one of the lowest in the region.  Stuart is able to pontificate from the outside because he never has had to deal with the kinds of realities of budgeting that a government has to encounter.  I am predicting that the rumoured $2 million in cuts will be significantly less in the end.  But regardless, to take a position that there should be no more cuts in spite of other vital services feeling the pinch, MacKinnon clearly shows that he is more comfortable sitting and lobbing criticism in opposition than making the tough decisions necessary when you are elected to lead by the people.  If times are tough, then cuts across the board are realistic and responsible.  How the Vision Vancouver caucus manages and fights to mitigate these cuts, however, is the way in which they should be judged on their performance – NOT by adopting ridiculous and unworkable positions as Stuart seems to suggest.
  • Gregor Robertson’s commentary on the Olympic Village being put into receivership demonstrates that the City is now in a position of strength to recover the money lent to the Malek brothers, and at the very minimum break even on this project.  Real estate marketing guru Bob Rennie is preaching an approach of patience, while commentators like Bob Ransford – Peter Ladner’s former campaign manager – has written about how the decisions made by former City Manager Judy Rogers were clearly not in the taxpayers’ interest.  This is far from a perfect situation, but Robertson’s vision to take over the financing of the project has now allowed the City to have the maximum amount of control to now roll out the sales and loan recovery in the most prudent and lucrative way possible.  Here is a nugget from a Jeff Lee article over the weekend that is very telling: ”
    The carrying costs to the city are far less than the amounts the now-ousted owners of the former Olympic athletes’ village had to pay, the city said Thursday. That’s because the bank interest rate the city pays is less than half the rate it was charging Millennium Developments.”  Vancouverites should feel a lot more relieved now that there is a little stability being inserted into the mess created by the NPA.
  • Melissa De Genova isn’t the only candidate for the Park Board in next year’s election that emerged over the weekend.  Brent Granby, who is the President of the West End Residents Association, also announced that he too will be running.  One only knows if Loretta Woodcock will run for fourth term for COPE (if I was to guess, I would say that scenario is unlikely), but Granby will be a great candidate for the party should they be left without an incumbent next year.
  • Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but is anyone else shocked that being designated a “Cultural Capital” of Canada only carries a federal contribution of $1.75 million?  Regardless, the tours of city institutions that the public doesn’t get to see seems cheap and intriguing, and I am sure that City staff will live up to the legacy they left during the Olympics, which invigourated the civic pride and involvement from residents.  Rest assured, though, that the fun will be had by the City ponying up $7 million to celebrate Vancouver’s 125th birthday, not by the meagre contribution of the federal government.  Sign of  times I guess.

That’s all for now folks.  Enjoy the crisp and frosty air…it is beautiful to breathe in.

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