I came to council chambers this morning, not completely sure why. I think I wanted to look at all your faces, and those of your staff. I’ve spent the last few years projecting my hate on to this city as if it were an ex-lover that had “done me wrong”. I was hating it for a number of reasons. The 16 years I’ve spent watching people die and suffer in the Downtown Eastside while more feasibility studies, conferences and reports were produced, and the rest of the city whined about how the neighbourhood makes Vancouver look bad. I started to hate you because of this beautiful place that I along with 1600 other people signed a petition to save, and a smaller group of us fought through court systems, bureaucracy and finally bulldozers and lost in favour of 4 beige faux heritage duplexes that look like all the rest of the junk out there that’s supposed to make us look like we appreciate old things.
Speaking of old things, there is also the Pantages, another reason why I’m pissed. Maybe it’s that no one actually knew what do with a developer that genuinely wanted to do a good thing, and not have to have his ass kissed for it. Maybe he was just decent and a business man, that wanted to find a way to make it work. They put together business plans did community outreach that would rival any effort City staff has made in years. They wanted to give jobs to people, and I know this is a hard one for people to believe, but poor people want work, not more studies or reports. It was about the density in the beginning, it wouldn’t have cost you a dime. Instead, your controlling, destructive and uninspired staff, put them through 38 months of hoops and basically screwed them around to the point that the theatre will be coming down shortly.
Today, I came down to hear about Woodwards. I was part of the first protest around the building on May 6 1995 and have maintained a connection to the project through campaigns for affordable housing, protests with each new developer that wanted to take it on, Woodsquat, and various community art projects I was asked to do, by the community, the City and finally from Westbank. I came today, because I wanted to bare witness to the bullshit once again. Always trying to do the right thing, or think were doing the right thing. Woodwards has been flawed from the beginning. There was alot of optimism in the early days, but because the community could never buy it on its own, they would always be dealing with you, your staff, and developers that like to have their ass kissed and act like there doing the community some big favour. While they make all the sweet agreements at the beginning, they eventually found their way along with your help to squeeze out of just about every commitment they made to the project; grocery stores and affordability to non-profits for example. So now we have W2. Trying to find a way to cover their costs by running a cafe, sounds good. No, why don’t we have JJ Bean instead, let W2 sink and leave the space open for people who can pay. Why not, we seem to do this frequently, put people through the City of Vancouver bureaucracy torture test, and see if they survive, or if they cry Uncle.
I am angry because I care about the city I live in, and the people I know and love who are trying to survive here, trying to make it a better place, a truly livable place, and they are being quashed at every turn. I gave up on Council changing very much over the last few years, left, right, middle, doesn’t seem to matter, you all seem to lose your will, your sense of honesty, and your ability to say what’s in your heart. Maybe because you have so many people to please. You along with your staff have turned this city into a passionless marriage, where we are polite, things seem safe, but we all know they aren’t. It is only getting worse here. More violent, more addiction of all kinds, most expensive rents in the Country, more homelessness, and an abominably low level of support for its artists. I’ve spent the last 720 words telling you what makes me mad, what I think is wrong with the city, it’s staff, and you, our elected council. We’re not much better as citizens, but we do try, as I imagine you do, to make this place work. I think If I wanted to ask you anything, I would want you to learn how to listen again, to be good for your word, like in the case of the Pantages and Woodwards. Just because we elected you it doesn’t mean you know what is best, nor does your staff, and when they are messing up like they have repeatedly, they need to be called on it, and fired if necessary. I want you to fight for us; as hard as we are willing to fight to make Vancouver truly livable, to make it a real passionate marriage where we’re not afraid to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done, because we know the marriage is worth it.