I'll never forget the first time I met Jim Green.
It was 2002 and I'd been with the Courier for one year when I met up with Green to talk about single room occupancy hotels in the city and whether they'd fast disappear if the bid to host the 2010 Olympic Games was approved.
Green died Tuesday morning at 6: 15 a.m. He was 68.
At Green's suggestion, we met in the pub of the St. Helen's Hotel on Granville Street, an establishment I'd never had the opportunity to visit before. And while I'm sure it was five o'clock somewhere, in Vancouver it wasn't that much past noon as I made my way into that dark pub, the stench of stale draft beer from the night before filling my nose. But Green ordered the beer and I drank it. After all, it wasn't everyday I got to hang out with someone with as much street cred as Green.
I also, naively, hoped that maybe after a couple of pints Green might spill some political secrets. But I quickly realized, as anyone who knew him will tell you, there wasn't a chance that would ever happen. So we drank beer and talked about the need for social housing in Vancouver.
During our conversation, Green introduced me to a cast of characters who became an integral part of my story-once successful loggers and fishermen who for one reason or another ended up living in those very rooms in SROs I was writing about.
I've always remembered the way the longtime social activist greeted each of them by name.
Shortly after that 2002 meeting, Green, a draft dodger from Alabama, was elected to council with COPE and played a pivotal role in the Woodward's redevelopment, which has since become a social hub of the Downtown Eastside. In 2005, Green ran unsuccessfully for mayor, but many suspect his loss likely had more to do with the fact another candidate in the race was named James Green than a lack of faith from voters. Sam Sullivan won the mayoral race that year.
Which is why some are calling Green the best mayor Vancouver never had. And while we'll never know what changes he might have made to the city if he had been elected mayor, rest assured it would have been interesting.
The last time I saw Green was, yet again, at a bar. Just this past December I bumped into Green, wearing his signature pork pie hat and dapper, black overcoat, as I was leaving the Courier's Christmas lunch at the Kingston Tap House on Richards Street, a block or two from where I had first met him a decade before.
We greeted each other and exchanged a few pleasantries, briefly catching up with each other's lives. As my ride arrived, Green tipped his hat and wished me a Merry Christmas, before strolling down the street. That's the image of Jim Green I will always remember.
The night before Green's death, the park board commissioners voted unanimously to find a way to recognize him by naming a park or place in his honour.
Vision Vancouver commissioner Sarah Blyth knew Green through her work with the homeless. She says as a young politician, Green was an inspiration and an example of how to do the right thing when it comes to making decisions. Blyth says the park board will consult with Green's friends and family before deciding how best to honour him. And while I agree a park or plaza may be the way to go, I'd like to suggest it be located in the heart of downtown or the Downtown Eastside. I'm guessing Green wouldn't have it any other way.
Thoughts and condolences can be sent to Green's family at FriendsofJimGreen@gmail.com.
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