OPINION: City of Vancouver hampered by status quo mindset

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Welcome to 2020, Vancouver. The optimist in me sees the new decade as one filled with promise — provided we have the right leadership.

Yet, the City of Vancouver’s recent record-breaking tax increase is an indication of a frustrating lack of new ideas and direction within the bureaucracy. Council’s fortunes look relatively bleak as long as the city administration remains mired in status quo thinking.

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We see how transformative leadership has brought positive change to other local institutions.

Last July, for example, TransLink was awarded the 2019 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award by the American Public Transportation Association. Under the leadership of CEO Kevin Desmond, the transportation authority has pushed past the controversies that dogged it to build a reliable and sustainable system.

The arrival of several new RapidBus routes and the successful 11th hour labour negotiations with two of its unionized workforces are just some recent accomplishments.

The good news kept coming last spring from YVR, which under the leadership of CEO Craig Richmond was awarded the best airport in North America for the 10th year in a row by air travel review site Skytrax's annual World Airport Awards. The Skytrax awards are based on votes from a staggering 13.73 million passengers around the world.

Across B.C., thanks to a new school curriculum public education is taking a leap into the 21st Century, though aging school infrastructure (particularly in Vancouver) and the BCTF’s lack of progress in contract negotiations still ties the hands of our teachers.

At the beginning of the month, a City of Vancouver media representative speaking about their so-called Greenest City 2020 initiative was asked why so many of the city’s targets for this year were not met. The answer may surprise you.

In a post on Twitter, the city responded by saying: “The over-arching goal of becoming greenest city in the world is not quantifiable, so in that sense it’s aspirational.”

 

So, the fact that so much of the city’s branding, print collateral and every waste collection container that was emblazoned with “Greenest City 2020” was all about being “aspirational”?

Just like the promise to end homelessness by 2015, it is time to put the Greenest City pledge in the dustbin, along with the rest of Gregor Robertson’s Vision party marketing schemes.

The council elected in 2018 that thought the table was set for change has been served up cold leftovers from the previous administration.

Coun. Colleen Hardwick even commented how she thought Vancouverites voted for change in 2018. That’s only partly true, however. While the majority of votes for mayor went to other candidates, Kennedy Stewart still squeaked through as the status quo candidate who would uphold and build upon Robertson’s plan.

Stewart has also employed some of the similar tactics used by his predecessor, such as having glossy marketing videos produced to promote him, name dropping friends in higher office, and posing for pictures with international leaders.

The mayor also took the unprecedented step of announcing his 2022 re-election campaign barely a year into office.

Which of his accomplishments as mayor he plans to run on is not clear, but shaving a percentage point off your seven per cent property tax increase probably won’t cut it.

Vancouver took an indirect hit from Port Coquitlam mayor Brad West, who boasted online about his council’s approval of a comparatively tiny tax increase. According to West, PoCo approved a “0.48 per cent increase for residents, 0.11 per cent for local businesses, all while making unprecedented investments in infrastructure and core services.”

Ouch. That hurts if you live in Vancouver.

But getting trolled by a suburban mayor is the least of the indignities the city will suffer if it sticks with the status quo.

Vancouver’s challenges are well-documented, whether it is housing affordability, decay in the Downtown Eastside and the opioid crisis, transportation gridlock, or the bureaucratic inertia that stalls progress on all the above.

That does not mean, however, we cannot adopt new approaches to dealing with them.

After nearly a decade running city hall, Vision will have left an indelible mark on how the administration is formed and operates.

All the more reason council should be looking for ways to hit the reset button at 12th and Cambie in this term.

@MikeKlassen

mike@mikeklassen.net

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