The Coalition Requests a Meeting With Mayor Robertson to Discuss Opportunities for Doing Things Better

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 16, 2014

Representatives of 25 Community Groups seek early meeting with Mayor Robertson

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods would like to thank all the participants in this year’s election for their hard work and efforts to better the City we all love.

We look forward to working with the elected Council and Mayor in helping to establish a better relationship between the city and its neighbourhoods.

Our recently developed Principles and Goals document was held up by many candidates as a blueprint for solving this issue, and was endorsed by all parties except Vision.

We appreciate the Mayor’s apology for mistakes made and his promise to do better.  Certainly we want to collaborate with Vision Vancouver to ensure that neighbourhoods continue to be the buildings blocks of our city’s future.

We will be contacting the Mayor shortly to arrange a meeting with him at his earliest convenience. We look forward to a new relationship with the Mayor and Council, one which is beneficial to both groups, and, most importantly, beneficial to the best interests of the City of Vancouver.

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Statement Regarding “A Better City” Slate

In order to avoid any confusion, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods wishes to make clear that the organization known as A Better City is not affiliated or connected in any way with the Coalition.

We note that A Better City has taken a full-page advertisement in the Vancouver Courier tomorrow announcing their preferred slate for the November 15 election.  While welcoming all citizen input into the municipal election, we re-confirm that the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods and its member associations are non-partisan groups that do not endorse slates, parties or candidates.

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Mayor Rejects Collaborative Approach

Mayor Gregor Robertson rejects collaborative process between the city and its neighbourhoods

In an interview with the Vancouver Courier on October 30, 2014, Mayor Gregor Robertson acknowledged that the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods’ principles that promote a collaborative process with the city and communities for community planning was “worthy”, however, he rejected it saying it “doesn’t align with the city’s existing policy”. The Coalition is disappointed to hear this position from the current Mayor on behalf of the ruling Vision party.

The Coalition asked all the parties running candidates in the 2014 civic election if they would support the Coalition’s principles. All parties, except for Vision, supported the principles, including the NPA, Greens, COPE, Cedar, Vancouver First, One City and independent candidate Bob Kasting. This was confirmed in public at the Coalition’s candidates meeting on October 15, 2014 in front of media and an audience of about 400.

“The Principles,” said Coalition Co-Chair Larry Benge, “promote a collaborative process consistent with the city’s CityPlan practice to implement growth that is sustainable, affordable, and livable. Yet Mayor Robertson dismisses this as simply a means to avoid change, when in fact it is a means to accommodate change.”

We are also concerned that the Mayor, in the same interview, said our members come too often to present their opinions to Council. “We conclude that Mayor Robertson does not want to hear alternative views,” said Co-Chair Fern Jeffries. “He wants citizens to refrain from presenting their views, and the opinions of their neighbourhood associations, to our elected officials. We represent a more democratic perspective.”

Further, Mayor Robertson is unaware who the neighbourhood associations are, even after his six years in office. He dismissed them as politically motivated when in fact they are long established non-partisan groups and associations, some with more than 50 years history, with the objective to represent their neighbourhoods on issues that concern them. This is a very important role in our democracy particularly because Vancouver does not have a ward system or any other systematic way of hearing from neighbourhoods.

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods is a group of 25 such associations and groups that came together in the summer of 2013. The Coalition is a vehicle for citizen engagement, for inclusion, and for a collaborative partnership in community engagement. We look forward to a more positive relationship with City Council.

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More On Society Act Changes

As previously posted, the Coalition has written to the Province regarding our concerns about proposed changes to the BC Society Act.  The following story from News1130 discusses some of out concerns:

Local organizations fear they will be more vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits, if the province goes ahead with changes to the law governing non-profits. They believe the effort to make non-profits more accountable goes too far.  At issue is a proposed new clause in the Society Act that says any appropriate person can make an application to the courts on the grounds that the society is carrying on activities that are detrimental to the public interest.

Jak King with the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods believes organizations like his, which have opposed certain developments, could become the target of lawsuits launched by the affected developers. “It would become a real barrier for us to continue our protest against the development, because we are a neighbourhood organization with no resources and completely run by volunteers.”

King’s colleague on the coalition, Larry Benge, takes it one step further. “Maybe it threatens the future of that society, because it would go bankrupt trying to defend itself.”

The coalition says while transparency is important in a non-profit, over-regulation of small grassroots organizations can be very harmful. More than two dozen B.C. societies have expressed similar sentiments.  A letter penned by the West Coast Environmental Law says the legislation “invites harassment of societies by any deep-pocketed and litigious opponents.”

 

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The Coalition writes the Minister of Housing – Stop the Sale of Public Housing!

The Coalition is deeply concerned with the proposed “sale” of social housing.  The tender document invites the non-profit sector to “buy” the land and building, with BC Housing financing the deal.  These are aging buildings  and included in the deal is the understanding that the properties will be re-developed.

Neighbourhoods are concerned with this commitment for redevelopment – with no consultation or discussion taking place at the community level.

The full text of the letter is below:

October 23, 2014

Hon. Rich Coleman
Minister Responsible for Housing PO Box 9052, Stn Prov Govt Victoria BC V8W 9E2

Dear Minister Coleman,

RE: Neighbourhood Engagement in Planning and Development

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods is a consortium of 25 Vancouver Residents’ Associations representing residents across the city. As a coalition, our purpose is to ensure that planning and development in our neighbourhoods happens within specific guidelines that focus on meaningful consultation, public engagement and collaborative planning.

We are writing to express serious concern with your proposed plan to offer significant public lands and housing throughout the City of Vancouver for sale and potential redevelopment without any prior discussion with impacted neighbourhoods. There is a tendering process currently underway for the first two such properties. Therefore our concerns are immediate and urgent.

It is our position that there is no need for haste in selling off BC Housing operated land. On the contrary, there are many reasons to undertake a thorough collaborative planning process with residents and the communities in question, with a focus on local preferences for land ownership and development. We believe that this must happen prior to any decision any one of BC Housing’s holdings.

We are alarmed by the speed of this drastic change in policy. While it is understandable that nonprofit housing societies would want to purchase rather than lease the lands on which they operate, it is unclear whether or how the public, or the neighbourhoods, or indeed residents of the housing will benefit from such a change in ownership.

Local input is critical to ensure that these properties continue to meet their goals. As such, any plans for use which will bind BC Housing’s ability to deliver services must, in our view, incorporate such input. The tender must be halted to ensure the future viability of these properties.

On behalf of the many Vancouver residents we represent we ask that you terminate the current tender, and suspend the policy to allow for a full and open public discussion of the merits and efficacy of undertaking such a change. As taxpayers and residents we share ownership of the properties in question which your government manages on our behalf. We wish to have sufficient time and information to allow for fulsome consultation and collaboration on the future of these public lands.

The Coalition’s Statement of Principles and Goals outlines more completely what collaborative planning entails. We attach a copy for your reference.

Yours truly,

Fern Jeffries, Co-chair, CVN
Larry A. Benge, Co-chair, CVN
On Behalf of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

c.c. Premier Christy Clark

      Shayne Ramsay, CEO BC Housing Vancouver Mayor and Council

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Where Was Gregor? Asks Letter Writer

The letter of the the day in Province today is from Randy Brophy who wonders why Mayor Gregor Robertson was a no-show at the Coalition’s Town Hall Meeting.
“Robertson,” he writes “was the only mayoral candidate who did not to bother to show up, sending instead Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer. She was the only candidate booed and laughed at during the question-and-answer period, starting with when she said that only provincial government should be concerned about developers funding political parties. During her closing comments, folks yelled, “Where’s Gregor?”…
Reimer took a lot of hurried, scribbled, heavy handed notes, seemed aloof, uncomfortable and reminded me a lot of a frustrated elementary school teacher I had who used to take notes before reporting us all to the principal. No doubt she ran back to her 33-member, $2.2-million-a-year taxpayer-funded communication staff for a better script.”
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Coalition’s Meeting Calls For More Collaborative Planning

The Candidates copy 2The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods held a successful candidate town hall meeting on October 15, 2014 at St. James Community Square at West 10th Avenue in Kitsilano. A panel of 11 mayoral and council candidates from various parties answered questions submitted online and at our free public event. There was a packed house of about 390 people.

Meeting 1

Ten of the eleven candidates and their parties, endorsed the Coalition’s Principles and Goals document including: Kirk Lapointe (NPA), Melissa De Genova (NPA), Adrian Carr (Green), Cleta Brown (Green), Nicholas Chernen (Cedar Party), Glen Chernen (Cedar Party), R.J. Aquino (One City), Meena Wong (COPE), Lisa Barrett (COPE), and Mayoral candidate Bob Kasting (Independent). Only Vision Vancouver’s Counsellor Andrea Reimer rejected our proposal outright. Although 2 representatives per party were invited, Councillor Reimer was the sole Vision Vancouver attendee and Mayor Gregor Robertson did not join his mayoralty rivals at the town hall meeting.
Meeting 2
Many of the Coalition’s principles include collaborative planning processes that incorporate aspects of CityPlan and other similar approaches to planning. The Principles and Goals call for broader neighbourhood representation in the planning process, including full neighbourhood surveys, to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard, especially those who may not be able to attend Council or neighbourhood association meetings.  A full neighbourhood survey ensures that 100% of residents are canvassed.
The Coalition was pleased to hear several of the candidates mention a return to an updated CityPlan process and this was greeted with overwhelming and supportive applause by local residents.  The ten candidates who endorsed the Coalitions’s Principles and Goals, each discussed how it can improve Community Planning and also spoke of a much needed restoration of trust, respect and transparency at City Hall.
In stark contrast, Vision Vancouver and Vision Counsellor Andrea Reimer’s lack of support for community-based collaborative planning and unwillingness to endorse the Coalition’s Principles and Goals document were both met with highly negative responses from the Coalition and the town hall audience.
Yesterday, Vision Vancouver claimed on their website that NPA Kirk Lapointe’s comments at our town hall ” are resulting in raising fears from neighbourhood groups that the NPA will throw out long-standing neighbourhood plans, and ignore existing targets for affordable housing”
Not true!
Three Vancouver reporters who attended the event, including Charlie Smith, editor of the Georgia Straight who moderated the evening, Jeff Lee (Vancouver Sun) and Naiobh O’Connor (Courier) also confirmed Vision’s statement as “head shaking” and incorrect.
The Coalition will be following up with more details of the evening with the candidates’ responses, additional questions that could not be answered given time constraints of the event, as well as commentary of our own. We will upload photos from the evening and video content as well.
We thank Charlie Smith for moderating the evening, all parties and candidate participants, the staff of St. James Hall, and all the local residents who came out to our event. We also thank the videographers and all volunteer Coalition members who contributed to making our event a success
Photos by Elivira Lount & Lawrence Keane
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Town Hall – Putting the “Community” back into Community Planning

Plans are finalized for an exciting Town Hall meeting on Wednesday evening.

Participants include Mayoralty Candidates:  Meena Wong, Bob Kasting, and Kirk LaPointe

Representing  the Vancouver Green Party are Cleta Brown and Adriane Carr.  In addition to Mayoralty Candidate Kirk LaPointe, Melissa De Genova will attend for the NPA.  R.J. Aquino will represent OneCity.  Glen Chernen and Nicholas Chernen will represent the Cedar Party. In addition to Mayoralty Candidate Meena Wong, Lisa Barrett will represent COPE. Councillor Andrea Reimer will represent Vision Vancouver.

Our Moderator is Charlie Smith, editor of the Georgia Straight.

Should be a great evening.  Come with your questions.

 

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Municipal Parties Endorse Coalition’s Approach to Collaborative Planning

6th October, 2014:  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods is proud to announce that the NPA, COPE, Vancouver Greens, OneCity, Cedar Party, and independent Bob Kasting, have now endorsed the Coalition’s proposal for improving the planning and development process in the City.

One of the major news stories in Vancouver last year was the unprecedented level of discontent with planning and development in neighbourhoods across our city. In response to these concerns 24 diverse communities from all across the city came together to form the Coalition, with a common goal to fix these divisive processes. All member neighbourhood associations gave input to establish principles for a collaborative planning process.

Following those discussions, in April this year the Coalition issued a document called “Principles & Goals” outlining a new and more respectful relationship between the City and our neighbourhoods. The “Principles” define a collaborative, accountable, and transparent partnership that views Vancouver as a community rather than a commodity, and which will produce a livable, inclusive, and sustainable city.

Last month, the Coalition announced a pre-election meeting to which all municipal parties have been invited.  The two-hour Town Hall will take place from 7:00pm on Wednesday, 15th October at St. James’ Hall, 3214 W. 10th Avenue.

Entitled “Planning, Development, and Community Engagement: Putting The Community Back Into Community Planning”, this town hall meeting will investigate how parties plan to bring peace to a divided city. Georgia Straight editor, Charlie Smith, will moderate the discussion with a focus on the Coalition’s “Principles and Goals”.

We call on all parties and candidates in Vancouver to endorse this new collaborative approach before the election in November, and we invite the public to attend and submit their written questions to candidates.

– 30 –

Download this release: CVN Release Endorsement final.pdf

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