Activists take up King's role

Although Jak King has been a key player in halting the heavily opposed development on Commercial Drive and has stepped out of the public eye, the Grandview-Woodland Area Council continues to make progress in talks with city staff, according to its president.

The GWAC board of directors met Tuesday to discuss city staff’s recently released documents regarding the formation of a citizens’ assembly on the Grandview-Woodland community plan. GWAC president Steve Anderson had contacted planner Andrew Pask and received confirmation Wednesday that Pask would participate in a public Q&A at the council’s meeting Monday, June 2. Members of the GWAC board are also scheduled to meet Brian Jackson, the city's manager of planning and development, at city hall earlier in the day on Monday.

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“I was really happy because when I talked to Andrew last Friday, he had to check his schedule and availability,” Anderson said. “I’m glad [he is] able to come here to hopefully alleviate some of the community’s concerns and possibly add a few.”

Pask’s silence following the citizens’ assembly workshop in January generated concern among community members and caused the Ad-Hoc Committee, a group now known as the Our Community, Our Plan (OCOP), to consider forming its own citizens’ assembly. That group also held a meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the documents and plan its next move.

King, a high-profile community activist and commentator who left the council to focus on his history writing, was pleased with the quality and quantity of group members involved in the neighbourhood’s concerns over development. He said that while nobody has stepped up to be the sole representative of OCOP, he thought it was better if a few people worked in collaboration.

“This isn’t a one-man band. There is a whole group of concerned citizens,” King said. “I couldn’t have done anything in the past without the support of a group behind me.”

Creating a group dynamic that would see larger representation was the general consensus at the OCOP meeting and echoed the collaborative leadership style Anderson hoped to bring to GWAC.

He said that he appreciated that the previous action taken by King and GWAC made a difference and hopes to use that momentum and create an organized process.

“We’ve had a bit of a slow start, but I think that’s deliberate. We want to make sure we are doing things right and consult the community before going forward with decisions,” Anderson said.

The GWAC website states one purpose of the group was “to seek representation from and to cooperate with other groups in the area and adjacent areas,” and Anderson said they are happy to meet with any community groups, including OCOP.

“It’s a fairly recently formed group that has a lot of active community members, so although the group is new, the people involved aren’t,” he said.

Resident Garth Mullins attended the OCOP meeting and has been actively involved since last summer when the city’s draft planning documents revealed tower heights reaching 36-storeys were in the cards for the neighbourhood. He said he recognized the importance of King’s work in fighting and eventually delaying the city, but said that it’s understandable why he has left the public sphere.

“It’s essential for people in those leadership positions to change as movements grow and progress. People burn out. Especially when bureaucratic consultation processes are involved, that burns people out very quick,” Mullins said. “I’m not surprised and I think it’s good because you don’t just need one leader. That’s why movements involve so many people, they have different talents and leadership skills.”

The two groups will likely convene in the near future, but not before GWACs Monday meeting which Anderson thinks will draw in a fair sized crowd because of Pask and Jackson’s attendance. He said he encourages any concerned community members to attend.

Note: This story has been corrected since it was first posted.

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