Preamble: Below is a letter e-mailed from a Vancouver senior named Barbara to Mayor Kennedy Stewart, two councillors, and the planning department, regarding frustration with the City’s neighbourhood planning consultations, particularly, with a recent workshop on “Planning Vancouver Together: Complete, Connected Neighbourhoods” (https://shapeyourcity.ca/completeneighbourhoods). “Creating ‘complete, connected, and culturally vibrant neighbourhoods’ is a key goal of the City’s strategic Vancouver Plan,” says the promo material.
We reprint Barbara’s letter first (with permission), and then further below offer some suggestions on how to create change, for any seniors wishing to help improve the situation.
Now, here is Barbara’s letter, which relates to the “My City My Neighbourhood Mapping Workshop” (link) on April 28.
Sent: April 29, 2021 2:51 PM
To: Neighbourhoods firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: Re: My City, My Neighbourhood: Participatory Mapping Workshop TODAY!
I am writing to you today to give you feedback on my experience attempting to participate in My City, My Neighbourhood: Participatory Mapping Workshop yesterday. I am a senior and signed up for this activity as I feel I am part of a segment of our population that is not being heard by City Hall.
My experience reinforced this feeling. Firstly, I have some experience with computers, but definitely am not an expert. Secondly, I have participated in online meetings using Zoom and Google Meets successfully during Covid. The additional information to read beforehand was only sent to me on the day of the workshop around 9 am. Like other participants I assume, I found that difficult as timewise I had other commitments and not enough time to read and digest all the directions.
I assumed, like Zoom and Google Meets, that I would receive an email with a joining code or link but received nothing. I went to your website to sign in and was directed to Everbrite. This being a website you warned was not secure and might use my information.
I had difficulty signing in as the system was not recognizing my email and password. I changed the password but still could not get on. I then went to your chat and finally received some technical assistance. The person assisting me was very patient and clear in his directions and we both had trouble with getting me into the workshop to participate. The website was not created to be friendly or easy to navigate if there was a problem. I use a Macbook Air and have done so for many years successfully.
I came away from the experience frustrated and disappointed that I could not participate and felt the whole experience was a waste of time for me.
I believe that if you want a true representation of a neighbourhood and you want input for all types of people in Vancouver Neighbourhoods you need to ensure your website is friendly to use by everyone, including seniors. I see many seniors I know becoming increasingly frustrated trying, or not, to become part of a digital world where one needs an app to get service from the government, from Canada Post, utilities, ordering food, groceries, speaking to doctors and on the list goes. Many do not have wifi or cell phones and feel isolated from life.
These Neighbourhood Plans look good on paper but I am becoming increasingly aware that there is very little concern for the elderly or disabled being part of the community.
I would urge Vancouver City Council to think about what is happening. Are seniors to be warehoused like the homeless and become invisible in our city?
Here are some suggestions from CityHallWatch on how to create change.
- Work through Vancouver’s “Seniors’ Advisory Committee,” which advises City Council (web link provides agenda, minutes, contact information, etc.). People could write to the committee with their concerns and suggestions. It meets every two months. The next meeting is May 19 (Wednesday) and the agenda is yet published, but perhaps it could include a topic of “Immediate actions to improve seniors’ access to neighbourhood planning events and programs.” Council liaisons are Clr Christine Boyle and Jean Swanson (click here for their e-mail addresses). Meetings are open to the public, generally start at 10 a.m., and during the COVID era are being held online, but you can call in to 1-604-646-8916 to participate. Recent meeting minutes cover some specific development projects, but not any topics related to Barbara’s concerns.
- Encourage the City to mail upon request a paper version for crucial information on neighbourhood consultations, and paper option to provide input. The Census 2021 notices from Statistics Canada just arrived in the mail this week, prominently stating, “If you prefer to receive a paper questionnaire, please call xxx-xxx-xxx.” Perhaps the City too should still allow the paper option for the foreseeable future.
- Regarding workshops, which are the main concern expressed by Barbara this time, the City should send out clear instructions a couple days before the event.
- To address this topic, key influencers are Mayor and Council, the newly appointed City Manager Paul Mochrie, and newly-appointed chief planner Theresa O’Donnell.
- “A more user friendly website might help also,” Barbara told CityHallWatch. “I think there was a basic assumption that everyone had experience using the site and tools, which wasn’t necessarily true for all the participants.”
- Contact your local seniors’ network (if there is one), for example, the West End Seniors Network, and ask them to include this in their current advocacy.