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Preface

The appended transcript deserves careful examination. It records in writing what Vancouver Police Department representative Brian Montague said about PiDGiN protest at a press conference on the 17th of April, 2013.

The video stream currently available on the Vancouver Police Department web site only permits a straight play-through that lasts approximately twenty minutes. There is no slider button to permit backtracking and instant replay. Few watchers of the video are likely to have the patience or concentration to wait for a full circular twenty minutes to get one more listen to exactly what was said. This transcript seeks to avoid editorial smoothing, and attempts to capture verbal nuances of hesitation, uncertainty, and groping.

Persons unwilling to plow through the entire transcript may have interest in skipping to the appendix to view highlighted themes extracted from the VPD discourse, accompanied by questions that these themes raise. For a condensed version of the VPD’s unconstitutional decision to arrest the picketers, readers can also see a previous article here, written April 18th.

Notes on the text | All text is Constable Brian Montague speaking, unless marked as “Media.” The appendix contains commentary by Joe Jones. The source of audio and video stream can be found under “Latest Press Conference” at http://vancouver.ca/police

Anyone who witnessed on 19 April 2011 the seven hours — all morning and all evening — that Vancouver City Council spent cobbling together last-minute amendments to Vancouver’s Street and Traffic By-law (reference Agenda Item 1) should have an excellent idea of how bureaucracy cannot cope with freedom.

More than two weeks earlier on April 7, the issue of “Structures on Streets for Political Expression” had already eaten up an entire afternoon. By one well-placed account, the contentious report first appeared online and available to the public at 1:30 pm on Tuesday April 5. Report presenter Peter Judd made several apologies for the lateness of a document that the City had had more than five months to prepare. The public had only 48 hours of lead time. The five speakers heard on that first afternoon included Clive Ansley, legal representative for Falun Gong, and Micheal Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

Despite the generality of the bylaw amendments proposed, the report to council (amended version) made clear a desire “to align with direction provided by the B.C. Court of Appeal in the matter of the Falun Gong.” The elephant in this bylaw closet was the ongoing protest outside the Chinese consulate on Granville Street. The bylaw amendment itself adopted a cumbersome and much vaguer designation to generalize its effect and coverage.

Graphic Is Building Massing Drawing for STIR Project Now Under Construction at 3522 Porter Street, 1896-1898 Victoria Diversion, 3615 Victoria Drive (DE413947) ]

Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing (STIR) has been around for two years now. The city web site still claims that STIR is “a time limited (2.5 year) program” that has fastened onto

an opportunity to increase rental housing supply during the current economic downturn, while supporting the development industry to maintain jobs and invest in the City’s economy.

The “short term” is now promising to become indefinite long term. The recent Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2012-2021 (July 2011) says:

Enhance on-going rental incentive program building on lessons from STIR. Continue to achieve secure purpose built rental housing. Focus on assisting smaller projects. (Appendix B, page 4 of 11)

“Assisting” indeed. This rich and supposedly temporary package of giveaways to Vancouver’s development industry appears to have become highly addictive.

All that Vancouver residents get back from providing heavy subsidies to developers is a vaguely specified requirement for production of market rental housing.

In other words, the developer rakes in a package of fee waivers, favorable property tax assessments, parking reductions, priority permit processing — and at the same time achieves steroidal density and obtains latitude to build even smaller boxes than usual.


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Vancouver’s in-control municipal party, Vision Vancouver, votes as a bloc. You’re surprised? Parties exist to march in step. They call it discipline.

The just updated Vancouver Council Votes web site covers 39 of the most contentious issues to come before City Council 2009-2011.

Most of the contention surrounds “planning” — aka spewing out turgid bureaucratic justifications for handing over as much as possible as fast as possible to the local real estate speculation industry. What else is a poor city to do when so much of its economic base has slunk off to elsewhere?

On four separate occasions, four different Vision councillors have strayed. First, a roll call of the rigid toers of the line: Heather Deal, Kerry Jang, Gregor Robertson, Tim Stevenson. Now to inspect the anomalies.

George Chow on 24 September 2009 opposed the form of development slated for 1450 McRae Avenue. No coincidence — Chow has strong connections to Shaughnessy. (When the earlier main vote took place on 1 April 2008, Chow with Deal joined NPA’s Capri in opposing the sizeable McRae development at the edge of that special region.) Four sessions of previous public hearing saw 53 persons speak in opposition and 7 in support. On the correspondence side, 4 letters supported and 427 opposed. Amusing side note: one of the speakers in opposition back then, Tony Tang, is now the 2011 Vision replacement for George Chow.

Andrea Reimer on 18 May 2010 opposed the rezoning of 2250 Commercial Drive (Van East Cinema). Reimer lives to the south of that location. The developer proposal involved outrageous fudging, perhaps too much for Reimer to stomach. Chase the details on that 2250 Commercial rezoning if you need a purgative.

Vancouver City Council’s two standout issues in the first half of 2011 landed for wrap-up on the same afternoon of 19 April 2011 as Unfinished Business.

Dozens upon dozens of speakers had come out for the public hearings on development proposals for their adjacent areas: Northeast False Creek and the Chinatown portion of the Downtown Eastside. Postponement of conclusion to a daytime afternoon meant that few of those speakers had the live opportunity to watch Council’s discussion and decision.

The Northeast False Creek items ran for eight sessions between February 17 and April 10. Out of a total of 193 speakers, 114 were recorded as “in opposition” — 59% against. Zoning for new height in Chinatown ran for five sessions between March 17 and April 14. Out of a total of 112 speakers, 82 were recorded as “in opposition” — 73% against.

Comparison of these two issues and their outcomes offers striking lessons in social class, exercise of power, and switcheroo politics of deferral. In both cases, affected local residents spoke up to defend the interests of their own communities, with considerable support from other concerned people across Vancouver.

The Northeast False Creek situation brought together a spectrum of formally educated professionals who rallied to the issue of gambling expansion under the leadership of the Vancouver Not Vegas coalition. As early as the February 9 public forum, it became apparent that focus on Council’s power to approve or disapprove gambling expansion would be key strategy. And that proved to be the wedge that made it possible for Council to intervene, at least in appearance. Along the way, Concord Pacific’s years of egregious foot-dragging on agreed-to amenities emerged as a strong secondary concern.

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Recently Britain-based artrepreneur Martin Creed [1] brought his band into town to kick off a May-to-October exhibition [2] under the auspices of condo king Bob Rennie. This essay focuses on the Creed-and-Rennie performance at the 17 May 2011 Emily Carr and Rennie Collection Speaker Series [3].

Martin Creed started off his solo evening in the art school spotlight with tortured musings: “I just feel like a wanker, you know … It’s much more difficult to wank in public.” A little later: “You can’t talk … I’ll try and be fast … Ah, fuck!”

Further ramblings included: “I didn’t know what I was doing … It wasn’t making me feel good.” And: “I was trying not to decide what I was doing.” And: “If you walk away and have a reason you can take that with you.” This last, for me, was the most interesting thing I heard from Creed. But the kicker is, will Bob Rennie fork out art cash for that non-object?

Eventually Creed set his sights on dialogue and asked for questions or comments. After a few exchanges, he fell into a back-and-forth with a woman who pursued the nature of his relationship with another artist that he had collaborated with. Creed seemed to use the topic to veer off into repetitive put-on. If that is what he was trying to do, he lacked two of the requisites: stellar status and youth. Stellar is much more than a decade-old Turner Prize. Think Bob Dylan for contrast.

One theme that slipped in and out of Creed’s meanderings was making distinctions and separations amid the flux of experience. Creed did manage to describe the satisfaction of taking a shit and believing that the result was not himself.

Thanks to a single municipality with clear vision and sturdy backbone — Coquitlam — the juggernaut Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) has at least temporarily failed to careen its done-deal swath across B.C.’s lower mainland. The RGS aims to provide a policy blueprint that would govern the “pattern and form of development” of Metro Vancouver (formerly Greater Vancouver Regional District) for the next thirty years.

Grassroots criticism of the RGS began to acquire momentum in late 2010. MetroVanWatch has established a base for information dissemination and communication on the RGS issue. Various representations were made (or frustrated in attempt) to Metro Vancouver itself and to the 24 constituent jurisdictions. [See appended note for an account of representation to City of Vancouver.]

Points of concern for ordinary people (not bureaucrats, not politicians, not developer interests) have included:

  • Dubious public consultation process that culminated in a few poorly advertised, ill-timed public meetings late in 2010 for the affected 2.2 million population (locations were Coquitlam, North Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby — nothing in Vancouver)
  • Effective disregard of the overwhelmingly negative feedback received through the perfunctory public process
  • Extensive powers exercised by bodies not accountable to an electorate
  • A “strategy” that seeks to substitute growth for livable region
  • Facilitation of sprawl growth through removal of land from agricultural reserve and through expansion of urban containment boundary

Coquitlam’s refusal of the RGS on 21 March 2011, following a unanimous vote of their council, has thrown the extended and complex policy project into a “dispute resolution process.” On 8 April 2011 Metro Vancouver set sights on recalcitrant Coquitlam, proposing binding arbitration to force acceptance. Nine Metro Vancouver directors opposed that move.

Ida Chong, the provincial minister responsible, has responded to notification and directed Metro Vancouver to initiate instead “a non-binding dispute resolution process by May 16, 2011.” In other words, the Province told the Region to take off the jackboots.

On Saturday May 14, the Vancouver Sun weighed in heavily on the RGS issue, running both a lead editorial and an opinion piece by Daphne Bramham. The editorial in particular aligns with already reported concerns emanating from the province’s “three biggest business groups” — B.C. Chamber of Commerce, Business Council of B.C., Urban Development Institute. In fact, business interests have sought

to participate in the dispute process, saying they weren’t given the chance to be heard during four years of public consultations.   (Sinoski, May 6)

Black humor spreads its wings here. Grassroots critics have been told flatly and repeatedly that the years of process are so adequate they should not dream of making complaint. (Many meetings and passage of much time always provides bureaucratic grounds to assert worth of consultation — regardless of quality of advertisement, extent of engagement, or nature of response to criticisms.) Perhaps business interests will garner more respect?

Besides reinforcing the editorial focus on economic factors, Bramham blasts Metro Vancouver as “probably the most egregious example of Canadian citizens having no voice in decision-making.” Finally grassroots opposition has succeeded in generating this echo in mainstream media.

The worry now is that RGS will be taken to task for the wrong reasons. For example, if the Urban Development Institute wants to affect the current version of policy, it’s hard to believe that things like preservation of agricultural land, respect for a strong urban containment boundary, or maintenance of adequate industrial land will stand at the top of their agenda.

Where all of this RGS debate goes from here depends in part on how well you the reader understand the issues, and whether you take opportunities to speak up.