CityHallWatch welcomes letters and essays on any of the topics covered on this website, in the interest of promoting a greater understanding of our City Hall and the entire system of our city functions. We hope that this service may fill a gap by providing a space for people to express their views where major media outlets may not happen to print your letters.
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Unpublished letter to The Province, by Don Gardner (21 March 2011), critiquing the newspaper’s coverage of an open house meeting on development in the Mount Pleasant area. Link is here: https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/ongoing-case-studies/the-mount-pleasant-story/unpublished-letter-to-province-editor/
Essay: “Tunnel Vision Vancouver,” by Eric Levy to CityHallWatch, 2-August-2011
Tunnel Vision Vancouver, essay by Eric Levy
As a taxpaying Vancouver resident, I wish to submit the following essay on Tunnel Vision Vancouver (but without publication of my e-mail address):
The incumbent Mayor subjects the city to a destructive regime that imposes its will arbitrarily, without concern for negative consequences and with blatant disregard — even contempt — for dissenting opinion, as shown by his foul-mouthed outrage at disagreement, displayed after a contentious West End meeting. His narrow-minded focus on implementing the demands of special interest groups, even when these conflict with each other and therefore entail contradictory policies, leads to a piece-meal and chaotic approach to civic government. For this reason, his party, Vision Vancouver, would be better named Tunnel Vision Vancouver. Such tunnel vision leads to conspicuously bad governance. Limited by a parochial mindset concerned primarily with implementing pet preferences, the Mayor’s tunnel vision cannot take into account vital factors and opinions outside his constricted range of awareness.
The most spectacularly disastrous result so far of the Mayor’s tunnel vision concerns, of course, the recent riot — now known as Robertson’s Riot — following the final game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Unable to see beyond his desire to enable more people to watch the final game outdoors, the Mayor peremptorily ordered the installation of additional giant TV screens, without taking adequate measures to ensure public order and safety. The ensuing riot, causing millions of dollars of damage and blackening the image of Vancouver worldwide, would not have occurred, had the Mayor been able to think beyond the limits of his own narrow preoccupations. Ironically, the irresponsibility displayed by his decision to provide spectators with a big picture on the TV screens stemmed from his inability, due to tunnel vision, to see his actions in terms of the big picture: to consider, that is, his actions in a context wider than his own impetuous impulses.
Yet the indications of disastrously bad governance due to tunnel vision appeared long before the Robertson Riot. Soon after he assumed office, the first sign of the Mayor’s administrative deficits concerned cyclist policy — installing separated bicycle lanes in various corridors of the city, without concern for either dissenting opinion or negative impact on public safety. Immediately following reconfiguration of the NW entrance to the Burrard Bridge to accommodate cyclists, the vehicle accident rate, according to ICBC statistics, increased six-fold. Yet the Mayor ignored this fact, and pressed on with installation of the $5 million separated cyclist lane on Hornby Street, though there cyclists had already been provided with a wide and demonstrably secure painted lane. This stubborn insistence on catering to the presumed needs of special interest groups (in this case, cyclists), regardless of loss and injury caused to the wider public, epitomizes the tunnel vision of Vision Vancouver.
It is a government that spurns consensus and privileges special interest — to the point of pandering to contrary special interests simultaneously. Consider, for example, the Mayor’s policies on residential backyards. On the one hand, he rewrites by-laws in order to “ruralize” backyards, by permitting the raising of chickens and the growing of wheat. On the other hand, the Mayor’s policies abolish backyards by permitting the construction of laneway houses in them. Here is a superb example of the Mayor’s left hand not knowing what his right hand is doing. At one and the same time, he attempts to ruralize and densify residential Vancouver.
Yet glaring contradiction in policy is not the worst aspect of the Mayor’s government. In privileging special interests, he repeatedly disregards public health and safety. Just as his favouring of cyclists led to his endangering motorists (as shown by the six-fold increase in Burrard Bridge accidents noted above), and just as his giant TV screen decision led to millions of dollars of riot-caused damage, so his favouring of residential chicken and wheat farmers threatens homeowners and their families. For chickens spread various diseases, such as avian flu and staph infection, directly to human beings, while airborne wheat allergens inflict suffering on the segment of the population allergic to them.
The tunnel vision of Mayor Robertson and Vision Vancouver never sees the big picture. All it registers are the special interest groups whose concerns mesh with its own fragmented and inconsistent ideology. One of these favoured groups is the business lobby to which Mayor Robertson and Vision Vancouver have sacrificed much that the non-commercial portion of the city treasures. Consider, for example, the capitulation to the Business Improvement Association lobby, which led Council to suspend its own noise violation by-laws, and permit loud, amplified music in numerous places downtown, without the obligation to obtain a permit, even though the formerly mandatory application form for Street Entertainment on City Property recognizes that “performances are disruptive to people living and working in the area.” A more significant capitulation to business interests, at the expense of ordinary residents, concerns the Mayor’s decision to shift the bulk of the taxpaying burden from businesses to homeowners. With characteristic refusal to consider dissenting opinion, the Mayor privileges business owners over homeowners, while at the same, through his Laneway Policy, debasing and congesting the neighborhoods inhabited by these overtaxed and otherwise ignored homeowners.
The tunnel vision of Mayor Robertson and his party is unable to recognize and rectify mistakes, because it sees only that which reinforces its own preconceptions. With respect to Laneway Housing, for example, despite vigourous dissent from residents, the party refuses to reconsider the matter at this time, preferring instead to await another “evaluation” next year from the City Planning Committee — a body that would be better named the City Cramming Committee, as it unfailingly favours developers and dismisses the impassioned objections of residents.
As long as Mayor Robertson remains in office, the mayhem, waste, and ideologically based favouritism engendered by his tunnel vision can only increase. Indeed, his next project –expressly designed to make Vancouver yet more expensive, with no proven benefits and much costly inconvenience to residents — concerns the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, supported by all members of Council except Councillor Anton. The City has been on this eco-bandwagon before. The notorious Eco-Density Charter, promulgated by the preceding mayor, Sam Sullivan, attempted speciously to link densification of residential neighbourhoods with ecological benefit. As a recent e-mail (July 11, 2011) from Councillor Reimer shows, Tunnel Vision Vancouver has repudiated the eco-claims in that Charter, but retained its densification drive nevertheless: “I don’t believe that density is inherently ’eco’ and in fact there is evidence that suggests it can make things worse for the environment without strong, specific environmental plans.” Now, led by Mayor Robertson, Tunnel Vision Vancouver plans to impose another version of eco-nonsense upon us. It was not enough deceitfully to exploit the false claims of eco-babble in order to destroy the single-family neighbourhood. Now the Mayor and his party, in their crassly overweening presumption, purport to transform Vancouver into the world leader in eco-friendly urbanism. The Mayor’s appalling record regarding crowd control, cyclist-lane construction at the entrance to the Burrard Bridge, and the introduction of poultry pathogens into the backyards of Vancouver is not encouraging evidence that this next initiative will lead anywhere other than to yet another instance of wasteful expense, confusion, and possible danger to public safety. This mayor must be succeeded by a better one before he further damages the city he governs.
With best regards,