[CityHallWatch appreciates the efforts of a Vancouver citizen to provide this analysis of a very important policy before Council on April 19]
Bylaw on Political Expression in Vancouver:
What Nearly Happened, What Happened Next, the Current Situation,
and What You Can Do
1. What Nearly Happened
On Thursday 7 April, Council heard a staff report (“Structures for Public Expression on City Streets”) containing proposed amendments to Section 71 of the City’s Street and Traffic By-Law (http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20110407/documents/penv1StructuresforPublicExpressiononCityStreets.pdf).
The proposed amendments stated that
If you were to “build, construct, place, maintain, occupy, or cause to be built, constructed, placed, maintained or occupied in any street, any structure, object, substance, or thing” that “conveys non-commercial public expression”
Then you would need to apply the City Engineer for a permit to in which you would need to
• Submit a plan and specification “for any proposed structure, object, substance or thing, detailing the construction methods and materials to be used.”
• Submit a proposed traffic management plans for affected vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
• Pay a non-refundable permit application fee of $200.
• Pay a security deposit of $1,000.
Fortunately, Council did not vote on the report, which might well have passed, and Council will consider the report again at City Hall at 9:30am Tuesday 19 April.
1.1. Why It Nearly Happened
- Problems with the review process at City Hall that allowed a flawed set of by-law amendments to be released.
- · 48 hour lead-time between the release of the staff report (1:30pm 5 April) and the start-time of the meeting where the staff report was to be heard (2pm 7 April).
- Standard publicity from City Hall about the release of the staff report.
1.2. Why It Didn’t Happen
- Publicity by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (http://bccla.org/pressreleases/11free_expression.html – this link no longer works, but here is a PDF version we saved BC Civil Liberties Association BCCLA on streets bylaw public expression April 2011– ) and Vancouver Public Space Network (http://vancouverpublicspace.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/city-moves-to-regulate-any-structure-object-substance-or-thing-used-for-political-expression) drew attention to problems with the proposed by-law amendments.
- Eighteen speakers signed up to speak to the report before the 7 April meeting started. Council heard just five of them on 7 April, requiring a second meeting to discuss and vote on the staff report.
2. What Happened Next
- On Sunday 10 April, the Mayor announced a change of heart about the proposed by-law amendments (www.theprovince.com/news/Vancouver+protest+bylaw+sent+back+drawing+board/4591790/story.html).
o The Mayor acknowledged criticisms of the proposed by-law amendments.
o The Mayor instructed staff to produce a new set of proposed by-law amendments.
3. The Current Situation
- Staff released the new set of proposed by-law amendments mid-morning Thursday 14 April. As Ian Baillie, Executive Director, Vision Vancouver noted in a 14 April e-mail, the new set of proposed amendments:
o Eliminate the proposed $200 permit application fee and $1,000 security deposit.
o Remove requirements such as a traffic management plan or full-time attendance at a structure.
o Allow protest structures in front of Consulates conducting business in residential areas.
- When releasing the amendments, the City stated that the amendments were “for enactment at the Regular Council Meeting following the Standing Committee Planning and Environment meeting on April 19, 2011.”
- Vancouver Public Space Network have said that “ “rapid fire” lawmaking on a matter of this importance is highly problematic” (http://vancouverpublicspace.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/supporting-free-speech-in-vancouver-vpsn-recommendations-on-structures-for-public-expression/#more-1082).
o Can staff incorporate useful revisions to the new set of amendments between now and the 19 April deadline?
4. What You Can Do
If you would like to suggest revisions to the new amendments or speak to other aspects of what nearly happened, then sign up to speak to Council on Tuesday 19 April. You can do so by calling Meeting Coordinator Bonnie Kennett at 604.873.7269 or sending an e-mail to email@example.com. See the City’s Notice of Meeting page for 19 April (http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20110407/penv20110407ag.htm).