Tough Choices at City Hall
It’s been a busy two months at Vancouver’s City Hall, although you are forgiven if it has slipped your attention, given the Federal election, the holiday season and the extraordinarily bizarre turn of events in Ottawa this week.
While the new council may have started off with a bit of a rocky start, the NPA members have coalesced relatively well and appear to be pulling as team – a critical element when they hold a bare majority of council seats.
Fortunately for them, they’ve focussed on fulfilling a few key election promises which has served to reduce concern for what many saw as a rough and tumble first Council meeting in December.
One promise particularly close to my heart, and that I’ve covered in previous columns, was the cancellation of the proposed two-lane closure on the Burrard Street Bridge.
As a forced commuter – I can’t figure out how to take public transit, get the kids to two separate schools 30 blocks apart and not frustrate my boss’s regular office hours – I applaud the move. To make it up to the bike riders who had lobbied hard for the change, councillors did approve funds to upgrade the bicycle lanes on the bridge.
Emergency services and Translink bus users, also concerned about the initial closure decision made without consultation, have also voiced their approval.
Other decisions taken have included Suzanne Anton’s motion to reduce the amount of waste produced in the city, the return of $50 million to the sacrosanct Property Endowment Fund, Peter Ladner’s innovate proposal to create a wireless Vancouver, a review of volunteer city committees and commissions, and the elimination of the private concerts Councillors used to receive at the beginning of each sitting.
We all like music, but surely we don’t need to pay for Council entertainment on top of everything else.
But the winner for toughest decision for the new crew, but the one that also most clearly demonstrated that a new sheriff is in town?
The previous mayor and council had voted to sponsor travel for mayors from around the world who were attending the upcoming World Peace Forum in Vancouver, along with covering the costs for a hospitality reception (read: party) and other events.
The costing for the event was escalading rapidly from the initial $50,000 offered by the previous council. Without a clear budget, it had to go.
Not an easy choice, especially so early in the mandate. Most mayors would love to play host to their buddies from around the globe and pose for some photo ops. But given the budget increases staring the Council in the face and the inevitable tax increase we’re all going to be asked to pay, is a social gathering for mayors the best use of a six-figure amount?
At the end of the day, this is why we vote for people – to make the tough decisions for us. And so far, the new Council is doing its job.
City budget consultations will be underway shortly. Make sure your voice is heard.
(as seen today in 24 Hours Daily)