Vancouver city council set for crazy busy week

carrot sticks.jpg
City Hall wants these orange things to become your New Age fries

As the clock ticks ever closer to the November civic elections in BC, it's likely a number of Vision/COPE politicians are getting a tad nervous. That's because more than a few of them may be forced into retirement, however, we're just not sure who. This is also the time of year that governing parties want to make a big push to "get things done." That's why over the next few months, you'll likely see a flurry of motions and staff reports coming to council for debate and ratification.

Time is clearly running out to help change the narrative of this council being solely a "bike lane, backyard chicken and veggie garden" government. Vision will be pulling out all the stops in an attempt to re-orient the ship and begin getting better media coverage. Everyone except the Mayor knows he's been receiving terrible communications advice over the last 12 months. This advice has been manifesting itself in recent lacklustre polls and poor coverage on 6 o'clock newscasts.

The Vision politicians will be obviously pushing the public service hard this year to help them get re-elected. For many staffers that means working longer days and writing more reports that are eventually re-written by the City Manager. It’s a prospect few of them are looking forward to as they await the final outcome of November’s election.

You only need look at how jam packed the first council week in 2011 is to get a sense of what is coming down the pike. The expansion of the mishandled food cart program, watering down of green targets, taller towers, increased noise permit fees, online voting are but a few of the issues to be debated over the coming days.

Here is a quick summary to give you a sense of the scope of debate.

Pandora St Tragedy: On Tuesday afternoon council will vote on whether there should be a public inquiry into the Pandora Street fire that killed three men. If people register to speak to the motion, the debate and vote will be scheduled for Thursday. You can expect Vision will quash the motion claiming that an independent review is already taking place.

Green Targets Amended: The Mayor made a big deal about his promise to create 20,000 new green jobs by 2020. Well, that promise is being watered down in a staff report coming to council. Now Mayor Gregor wants to double the number of green jobs over 2010 levels by 2020. A few other green targets have also been adjusted to align with reality. The debate on adjusting the targets will take place on Thursday afternoon. If you get a moment, you might be interested in reading an opinion piece both Mike and I wrote for the Vancouver Sun regarding Mayor Gregor’s green dream 20,000 jobs commitment.

Pandora St Home Demolition: It may have taken years for the City to take action against the land owner at 2862 Pandora St, but plans are underway to demolish the home in a few weeks. Critics argue the house shouldn’t be demolished until its determined if it will be needed as part of an independent review. The house caught fire just before Christmas and three people died. The cause of the fire was a faulty extension cord. The demolition debate will take place Thursday afternoon.

Noise Control: A report going to council on Thursday afternoon is asking for authority to increase the application fee for a Noise Exemption from $75 to $148 for applications submitted at least five working days prior to the date of the proposed activity and $296 for applications submitted less than five working days prior to the date of the proposed activity. These fees are starting to look a lot more like a tax grab and less like charges for actual services rendered. A court case related to this was fought in the Supreme Court of Canada and it forced gov’t to reduce the fees it charged to more realistic numbers.

Taller Buildings and View Cones: If there are two issues that gets Vancouverites blood flowing it’s that of building heights and views. A report coming to council on Thursday will seek approval to increase building heights. Council will also be discussing view cones and whether they still have a place in Vancouver’s policy landscape.

Carrot Sticks Please: You read about it on the front page of the Vancouver Sun and now it's being debated at Council on Thursday morning. A report on the food cart program is seeking political approval to expand the program and add a nutritional component. It's likely Vision will approve the report which has already been dubbed "big mother".

As you can see, policy wonks will have a field day at City Hall this week. With so many issues coming forward, it will be interesting to see which one makes it out on top. We’ll keep you posted on any new developments regarding these policy reports as the debate unfolds.

- Post by Daniel 

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