Elections, school board reports, heritage surveys and rekindled bromances make for a busy 2017

Let me just set the table for the year ahead. Of course the spring provincial election will be a major distraction as Christy Clark’s Liberals continue to shovel out promises and John Horgan’s NDP, against all odds, hope to gain some traction.

While there is no easy fix, as it were, there seem to be some inroads on the matter of drug overdose deaths now that various levels of government have opened up their wallets to provide more resources. But these will prove to be merely Band-Aids without seriously moving towards drug legalization and regulation.

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The “bromance” between Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seriously chilled over the Kinder Morgan Pipeline approval, but it wasn’t enough to end the relationship. Robertson needs the feds to feed money into his new subway project on Broadway and kick in some new money as part of a federal housing strategy. And Trudeau needs the region to keep Liberal seats out here.

Closer to home , as of this paper’s print deadline, we were still being kept on hold as we waited for the WorkSafe B.C. report regarding allegations of bullying and harassment by Vancouver School Trustees, assuming that is what drove a half dozen of the most senior board staff to book off on “stress leave” practically simultaneously.

That happened at about the same time as the B.C. School Superintendents’ organization complained in writing to the Ministry of Education about working conditions at the Vancouver School Board and the minister (after that letter was leaked) asked WorkSafe B.C. to look into the matter. That was more than three months ago.

All of that also happened shortly before the Minister of Education decided to sack the whole board, ostensibly for failing to file a balanced budget on time.

Meanwhile the former VSB secretary treasurer Russell Horswill landed himself a job with the Burnaby School Board, superintendent Scott Robinson returned to work “part time” this week and the remaining four stressed-out senior staff are back full time.

Housing affordability and availability is bound to be a continued concern this year along with higher property taxes as we peruse the just-posted property assessment report. Those values were set last summer and at the height of the hottest market in recent memory and at a time when the usual council commitment to keep tax increases at the rate of inflation was casually kicked aside.

And we wait for a final determination from council on just what to do about Airbnb and the dozen or so smaller websites that deal in short-term rentals. The good news is that the frequently litigious platform profiteer is making noises about limiting its listings more in line with council’s wishes to only owner occupied residences. But we will see.

We will also see if the province and then the city accede to demands of another platform facilitator, Uber, which has every cab company in the province fearing for their current monopoly.

But I digress. For the past two months there has been a Vancouver survey being conducted on the future for character homes in the city. We will soon see a report from staff on these pre-1940 piles.

There is, however, still time — until Jan. 15 — to put in your two cents worth via the city’s online poll.

In spite of the vast majority of citizens having told the city they value character homes, the city for years has pursued a policy, which heritage advocate Michael Kluckner refers to as “demolition green.”

Older homes are being torn down willy-nilly then turned into wood pellets to be burned, apparently as a nod to recycling.

There is, he says, a need to change the culture at city hall, and particularly among the staff, to one that is more supportive of “renovations, in-fill housing and green.”

At this point the process is slow, opaque and expensive to the point that tearing down character homes is seen as a preferable option. And those teardowns, by the way, inevitably mean at least 50 per cent bigger houses, more cement covering more land, and destruction of whatever tree canopy may have existed to make way for the obligatory two or three car garage.

This year the city has the opportunity to change that. One question will be: Can they convince their staff?


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