To paraphrase Fidel Castro, revolution is a death match between the future and the past.
These days, old Fidel, king of the green fatigues and unblinking eyes, rarely surfaces, retired to his Punto Cero estate. But his sentiment remains sound.
Revolutions, by nature, eliminate one way to make way for another. The victorious, always virtuous, set the course. And collateral damage, often in human form, gets swept away.
A revolution landed at 12th and Cambie in 2008 with the election of Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver majority, and gained momentum in 2011 when Robertson trounced NPA mayoral challenger Suzanne Anton by more than 18,000 votes.
Robertson—suit-wearing cyclist, climate change alarmist, former Tides Canada director—is Vancouver’s first eco-mayor. Alongside Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer, an enviro-star in her own right, Robertson aims to “green” Vancouver in his image.
Last July, council approved the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, the blueprint for his administration, which among other things, targets cars, mankind’s carbon-spewing nemesis. According to the 162-page plan, parking is passé and policy must “affect people’s finances in positive and negative ways.” Only then will we develop an environmental conscience.
So last week, when council transferred $1 million from the “parking sites reserve,” which funds parking lot construction, into the new “greenest city fund,” few gasped. What, exactly, the “greenest city fund” will fund remains to be seen. But it’s another victory for the revolution. “I’m quite pleased,” said Reimer, from her seat in council chambers, “to see that money re-purposed for a future that will serve the needs of Vancouverites a little better than it might as parking spots.”
Well, not all Vancouverites. “Green” parking policies favour the fit—the very young, lame or elderly notwithstanding.
Ann den Hertog arrived in Vancouver in 1973. A Dutch immigrant, she marvelled at Canada’s “wide open spaces” and fell in love with Stanley Park. “It’s so beautiful especially when the sun shines,” she said, while scanning English Bay last Friday from a concrete perch above Third Beach. “We used to come here and walk the park all the time.”
Now 84, Ann, although short and spry, doesn’t walk the park like she used to. Husband Bill stays close to home and the two-bus trip from their Kitsilano address takes almost an hour. Parking rate hikes (a total of $1 per hour over the past three years) discourage many seniors. And last week, the Vision-dominated park board, a puppet division of the Vision council, eliminated off-season rates in Stanley Park, increasing per-hour parking fees to $3 year round. “I think a lot of seniors will be prevented from coming here,” said Ann, “if they can’t afford to drive.”
The war on parking, and by extension, parkers, is citywide. In 2010, council upped rates and expanded meter zones, increasing 2011 parking revenues by $4.8 million. Total on-street parking revenue (all those pesky meters) eclipsed $39 million, which doesn’t include more than $28 million generated from city-owned lots. Incidentally, city councillors receive exemption decals for free parking virtually anywhere in the city.
Don’t conflate Robertson with the rest of us who want clean air and fresh water. Who doesn’t want that? We should steward the environment, God’s gift to humanity, with great care.
But Robertson is an extremist. It’s Earth first, people second. His vision of parking-starved streets and bike lanes reeks of social Darwinism. At times, like his 2010 trip to China, he sounds downright dictatorial, questioning “how worthwhile democracy is” in combating “the biggest crisis in the history of our species.”
Last month, in only the second papal visit to Cuba, Pope Benedict met with Fidel Castro after mass in Havana’s Revolution Square where the pontiff called for an “open and renewed society” in that communist country.
Expect no revival at city hall. During “opening prayer” before an April 2011 council meeting, former COPE councillor David Cadman projected a planet Earth image onto a screen while New Age music filled a darkened council chambers. Perhaps a little old time religion, pondering nothing earthly minded, might soften the hard green hearts of the eco-elite.
Can I get an amen?