CityHallWatch civic wishlist for 2016

2016 wishlistOne of Vancouver’s top civic reporters, Mike Howell, of the Vancouver Courier, has released his civic-minded wish list for 2016 (summarized further below).

From that, we felt inspired to develop this CityHallWatch list. Would you like to suggest something more as your civic wishes for 2016? Please send us an e-mail to Note that in the civic cycle, 2016 is a crucial year bringing us mid-way on the path to the next civic election in 2018. CityHallWatch covers many of the topics listed below. Please check back later for links and updates.

  1. Information integrity: An overhaul of the provincial Freedom of Information Act, and Vancouver’s FOI Department. In Vancouver, most responses should be fully answered within the limit of 30 business days.
  2. Campaign finance integrity: True reform of election finance rules in place for the 2018 civic elections, including a ban on corporate and union donations, meaningful limits on amounts of donations, continuous reporting, and more.
  3. Community planning integrity: Adoption of a policy of using household surveys for community plans (concrete and timely examples: Grandview-Woodland, and Joyce-Collingwood), to enable meaningful public involvement in decision making.
  4. City finances integrity: Public reporting by budget line.
  5. Transit integrity: An honest and objective review of the costs, benefits, and alternatives for a Broadway subway, and in fact the entire transit vision for Vancouver.
  6. Park Board peace: A happy conclusion to negotiations on new Joint Operating Agreements between the Vancouver Park Board and community centre associations in Vancouver, resulting in a new era of harmony, cooperation, and community empowerment.
  7. Park Board gift for the people: Delivery of outdoor pools that have been promised to certain neighbourhoods.
  8. A general moratorium on “spot rezoning”: This means generally sticking to existing zoning guidelines and policies and not negotiating special deals for developers on a spot by spot basis.
  9. Affordable housing honesty: An honest look at the factors escalating housing and rental prices in Metro Vancouver, and meaningful actions to bring sanity to the market.
  10. Media challenge: More reporters in the mainstream media step out of their comfort zone to investigate and cover the underlying dynamics, issues and stories behind City deals and decisions. Less reprinting of the content of official media releases. More tough questions to politicians and officials.
  11. Climate integrity: More transparency on GHG emissions from the city, including a comprehensive and independent audit of CO2e emissions. Many of Vancouver’s policies and actions are exemplary, but there could be significant misrepresentation of the actual facts.City Hall at night

Here are others that deserve honorable mention.

  • Procurement integrity: Publicly open tenders, stop sole-source contract awards, stop sale of public land (at pennies on the dollar).
  • More details for the public on the proposed virtual monopoly the City is entertaining for Creative Energy’s district heating system.
  • Create a municipal ombudsperson and lobbyist registry.
  • Reduce the bloated Corporate Communications office.
  • The mayor holding regular press conferences and attending community meetings (rather than being missing in action at all times except for formal business and photo ops). The same goes for a good number of Council members.

The gist of Mike Howell’s list.

  • That the new city manager have a monthly on-the-record briefing with media to answer questions about issues that arise as the year progresses.
  • That city council put a stop to the year-end meetings – or any others during the year — where heavy policy stuff and significant issues are dumped on the same agenda. The Dec. 10 meeting that dragged on for about 12 hours (in between short breaks) was a perfect example. Issues included protection for renters, funding crumbling historic buildings in Chinatown, approving new bike lanes and reviewing the compensation of city council and park board commissioners.
  • That requests made under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act are responded to more quickly and, when responded to, actually arrive with some useful information. Or, even better, just send that report or memo asked for.
  • That all police board members speak freely to media without having to get approval from the board’s designated spokesperson, Mayor Gregor Robertson. That means supplying their contact information to reporters and being available and open – on deadline — to discuss all sorts of policy, no matter how controversial the topic (pot shops, body cameras, etc.).
  • That the term “affordable housing” no longer be used by politicians and developers unless they clearly define what they mean.
  • That the usual suspects who show up to council to rant take a holiday, turn over the mic to first-timers waiting patiently in the lobby.

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