Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs’ plan to spend part of his Saturday with some folks at a coffee shop at 13th and Main didn’t go so well.
In fact, Meggs never showed up.
He told Vancouver-Fairview New Democrats in a private email that he would be at 49th Parallel on Main at 2 p.m. As city hall watchers know, Meggs is seeking the NDP nomination for Vancouver-Fairview.
So he wanted to talk issues with people.
But once he got wind of a protest targeting him outside the coffee shop, Meggs changed his plans.
“Rather than subject anybody to a pretty confrontational message, I moved some appointments to another café and just carried on with my day,” he said.
The protest was led by activist/NDPer/COPEr Rand Chatterjee who, along with city hall watcher Joseph Jones and a handful of others from the Citywide Housing Coalition and Renters’ Union showed up with placards. One said “Meggs sells out,” another said “Meggs in the developers’ pocket.”
So what was this all about?
First Meggs: “None of them have asked to meet me. I really think that their activity was more a question of personal harassment than political protest. But, you know, it’s a free country and I don’t really have anything to add to it.”
I contacted Jones and Chatterjee.
Jones, a librarian, got back to me in an email with his “own personal take, not speaking for anyone else.” He identified four main points, including the fact Meggs doesn’t live in Vancouver-Fairview.
I’ve got space for two more points:
- “Meggs deserves the fullest possible backlash for his party’s treatment of Mount Pleasant residents in the public hearing on the Rize Alliance proposal for the property at Main/Broadway/Kingsway, a location immediately to the east of the riding.”
- “In the service of accountability, all possible electoral pressure needs to be brought to bear on an official who so freely asserts that the only meaningful ‘consultation’ is a periodic election that bestows an ensuing right of dictatorship.”
Chatterjee, who edits video for a living, said the protest wasn’t necessarily targeted at Meggs but his Vision Vancouver party’s policy direction on housing.
He said other Vision councillors can expect the same treatment, although he noted Meggs is the party’s go-to guy for housing and development.
Chatterjee is upset with the Vision council’s push a few years ago to implement the Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing program, which allows development cost levies to be waived for developers.
The program, commonly known as STIR and still continuing, was problematic from “a constitutional standpoint,” he added and went on to cite a section in the Charter that had something to do with allowing levies to be waived if it only translates to affordable housing.
Chatterjee says the STIR program didn’t achieve that.
“They’re building market housing,” he said, noting the high rents for the places.
(Note: In November 2011, I checked with the city on rents for the housing associated with the STIR program. I was told rents were predicted to range from $780 to $1,800 a month).
Meggs on living outside the riding: “I’ve lived in Fairview for most of my life. I’ve lived in the same house now for over 25 years. The only reason I’m outside the boundary is because of the boundary change in 2009.”
Added Meggs: “It’s unfortunate that they feel this is a useful use of their time but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Meggs will discover Oct. 21 at the NDP’s nomination meeting whether he becomes the party’s candidate for Vancouver-Fairview. So far, only George Heyman, the former B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union president, announced he will challenge him.
Expect Chatterjee and company to be there.