Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver crew at city hall have run into a bit of a bad patch lately. Their stumble over the expansion of the seawall is just the latest.
On the way to making Vancouver the “greenest city” on the planet, our mayor has lost the bragging rights to claim it is one of the world’s most livable cities. The Economist Intelligence Unit has placed Vancouver at or near the top for most of the past decade along with Vienna and Melbourne. Now they have a new method of measuring; it is called the “spatially adjusted livability index,” and none of those three cities even made it on the list.
To add insult to injury, a “quarterly congestion index” produced by Tom Tom, a company that sells navigation and location devices for cars has determined that Vancouver is the second most congested city in North America, coming in after the notoriously clogged Los Angeles.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, a United Nations envoy looking at housing in Vancouver was on the city’s case this month about its failure to move quickly enough to deal with problems of homelessness and housing the poor.
Then, finally, if anyone out here cares about what Prime Minister Stephen Harper thinks, the PM got up on his hind legs this week to declare his home town, Calgary, the “greatest city in Canada.”
And that brings me to the seawall. It may matter not a bit to you who came up with the most recent version of the idea to extend this much appreciated “facility” from its current terminus in Kitsilano, literally right under the noses of our richest landowners, out to Jericho Beach.
But for politicians, the ability to say “this happened because of me” is paramount. That’s why the brain trust in the mayor’s office had a bird when, a week last Monday, rookie NPA Coun. George Affleck filed his motion with the city clerk to have council consider the seawall extension.
Months earlier, the mayor’s office had been approached by an anonymous donor with a sack full of dough ($10 million) he or she wanted to contribute to such a project. In the spring, current Vision park board chair Sarah Blyth emailed her colleagues of her intention to pursue the extension of the seawall, which just happens to be a park board asset. Meetings took place between Blyth and the mayor’s staff. City manager Penny Ballem was dispatched to look into what would be needed to pull off this project. Engineering staff even drew up plans.
The control freaks at the city figured, after four years of stuffing caulking in every seam, nothing could possible leak out. Wrong, though Affleck insists his motion had nothing to do with information he got from city staff at all. And not that I would ever accuse folks in the mayor’s office of being paranoid, but they are dead certain a bureaucrat in engineering tipped Affleck off. I won’t tell you the name they are tossing around.
On the contrary, Affleck says his motion was the result of a walk with some friends on a sunny day when he got to the end of the seawall just past Kits Pool and a light went on.
Regardless, the rookie councillor who has most often busied himself at council complaining about the amount of money being spent on this or that got the jump on the folks in charge. He even had fellow rookie and Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr second the motion.
And he was as gleeful in presenting the motion as a kid opening Christmas presents, going on about the unprecedented (for him) media coverage his motion received.
Vision found itself in a kind of a poker game. If Affleck bid a seawall extension to Jericho, Vision would match that bid and raise it with an offer to build a seawall along the Fraser.
That was just fine with Affleck. It was his motion that got this whole ball rolling and managed to give his formidable opponents a considerable pain in the neck.