Council candidates offer voter choice

Vision, NPA, COPE, Green Party, independents vie for votes

The Courier as a newspaper does not endorse individual candidates or parties and neither will I. But there are candidates worth considering Nov. 19, depending on your priorities as a voter. Here's my incomplete list for city council, school board and park board.

COUNCIL

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All the council incumbents in this election are Vision or COPE, and among them Kerry Jang, Andrea Reimer and Geoff Meggs stand out for consideration among likeminded voters.

Jang has been a clear voice on homelessness, especially as it relates to mental illness. He's smart, committed and one of the most human faces on council. Reimer is likely even smarter and her combination of a street background with experience in activism, school board and a term on council makes her an educated and independent presence in a political process dominated by developer agendas. Meggs, tough and smart, is a thornier choice as a seeming Richelieu to Mayor Gregor Robertsons Louis XIII. But a Richelieu is pretty helpful if, as a voter, you want more bike lanes and the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts laid flat.

Among newcomers to the ballot, NPA offers George Affleck, Sean Bickerton and Mike Klassen. Disclaimer: I've known Affleck since we went to journalism school together, and he's the only politico I follow on Facebook. That said, he offers intelligence, charm and considerable organizational acumen. Bickerton brings a strong background in community activism with work in the arts, neighbourhood associations and the fight against the B.C. Place casino proposal. As with Affleck, he lives downtown, which voters in that part of the city might like. Klassen is an East Side powerhouse. A promoter of both his neighbourhood and himself, he helped push the political blog CityCaucus to the front of Vancouver's political conversation. He would have the same energy on council.

COPE supporters might consider past council member Tim Louis and newcomer R.J. Aquino. Louis is pugnacious, experienced and doesn't fool around. Aquino brings sincerity, freshness and badly needed youth to an aging council set.

From the Greens and independents, voters might look at Adriane Carr, Sandy Garossino and Chris Shaw. Despite never winning an election in seven outings, Carr is a veteran politician with a balanced approach to green issues. Garossino won deserved notice fighting the casino proposalits a wonder none of the civic parties recruited her. Shaw's platform on halting growth deserves discussion. He was also a sharp critic of the 2010 Olympics when everyone else treated the Games like sacred rites.

For mayor, both of the two top contenders are worth voter consideration. Robertson the incumbent couldn't make a speech to save his life in 2008, but was solid under fire during the Courier's Oct. 21 debate. Much has happened under Robertson's tenure at city hall, from bike lanes to management changes. This is not an administration at rest, and voters must decide if they approve. His main opponent, Suzanne Anton of the NPA, despite a reputation for flipflopping, has passion, experience and warmth. Her common sense campaign seemed almost old-fashioned in its appeal. But whereas Vision simply rebranded ongoing initiatives as new promises during the campaign, the NPA lacked clarity on its offerings. If Anton loses, her absence will be felt at council.

PARK BOARD

Among Vision incumbents on the park board, Aaron Jasper, Constance Barnes and Sarah Blyth have earned their stay for their supporters. Jasper as the chair has been approachable and intelligent, while Barnes is dialled in through a tremendous amount of community involvement. Blyth is perhaps too sensitive about stories involving skateboarders but has been a consistent promoter and advocate of youth involvement in politics. Another incumbent to consider is lone Green Stuart Mackinnon, who has navigated the ideological divide on the board while acting as a voice of reason.

Among newcomers, the NPA offers John Coupar, Dave Pasin and Melissa DeGenova. Coupar almost singlehandedly saved Bloedel Conservatory from years of neglect while Pasins community involvement suggests a good grasp of the issues. DeGenova learned the role from her father, a popular former commissioner, and like Blyth brings dedication to youth involvement. From COPE, Brent Granby has long made his name as an activist and organizer with energy to spare. Among the independents, Jamie Lee Hamilton has made her name standing for the marginalized. Shed also make board meetings interesting.

SCHOOL BOARD

School board provides tougher choices, if only because so much of school spending is constrained and dependent on provincial whims. Most of the ideological differences between candidates are largely theatrical. Among incumbents, Patti Bacchus, Mike Lombardi, Allen Blakey and Jane Bouey are names Vision and COPE supporters would pay attention to. Bacchus has been a wordy but effective spokesperson for the district as board chair. Lombardi is committed, active at events and a keen communicator with social media. Bouey is sometimes too earnest but has long experience as a board trustee. Longtime COPEster Blakey is cantankerous and union-oriented, which supporters of organized teachers like. (Fellow COPE incumbent Allan Wong is another choice based on long commitment to school issues.) NPA supporters would do well to continue supporting Ken Denike, who is avuncular and windy but a consistent critic of the politics offered by his Vision and COPE colleagues.

Among non-incumbents, voters might consider Cherie Payne of Vision and Stacy Robertson of the NPA. Payne, who jumped ship from the NPA, brings legal training and an articulate mind. Robertson, a lawyer, brings intelligence and a reputation for having an articulate and practical approach.

(The original version of this story posted Nov. 18 incorrectly identified Allen Blakey of COPE as a non-incumbent on school board.)

blink@vancourier.com

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