Apathy is Dead, On May 2, 2011, I am VOTING for ACTION on Climate Change

A message from get your Vote On
Yes, we are starting a national campaign with one PDF. We are asking for 10 minutes of your time to increase the youth vote and make sure everyone shows up with the right stuff on May 2.

Link to PDF
Rap version of the message
Continue reading Apathy is Dead, On May 2, 2011, I am VOTING for ACTION on Climate Change →

Making Places to Go

“When you have to go you have to go”, this the slogan that I used last summer when as President of the West End Residents Association (WERA), we staged a little event in Nelson Park entitled “Potty Power” to advocate for the replacement of the washroom in the park. At the “Potty Power” event, in a tongue and cheeky way, I gave away little potties to toddlers to demonstrate the need for a washroom in Nelson Park.

Potty Power images
Potty Power Utube
WERA letter to VPB

The need for a washroom as part of the built environment in the public realm is a serious issues that needs to be addressed. In Nelson Park, in particular, there used to be a washroom in the field house. When the park was redevelop in 2007 the field house was demolished and the washroom was not replaced.

Nelson Park is a heavily used park in the West End. Now after the park’s redevelopment there are even more users. There is an enclosed dog park, which is the first in Vancouver and very well liked and utilized. The dog run is surrounded by a community garden. In summer and into the early fall, there is a Farmers Market in the park every Saturday, which is also very popular. There a new plaza in the middle in the park with a water feature and a very well used play structure for preschoolers to enjoy. The park also has a unique and originally designed water fountain that really creates a special sense of “place” (link to fountain video). The park is also well endowed with many benches for folks to sit on. To say the redevelopment of the park has been a huge success is an understatement.

But the one element of the park that is missing is a public washroom. It’s a fact of nature that “when you have to go you have to go”. The need for a washroom in the park is held widely by the residents and businesses in the surrounding area. The Mole Hill Community Housing Society (MHCHS) has had problems with public defecation and urinating in its property, which is directly adjacent to the park. The Dr. Peter Centre at the Thurlow Street side of the park also supports a washroom in the park and so do the Farmers Market organizers and vendors.

At the April 18, 2011 Vancouver Park Board meeting, a staff report will be introduced recommending a washroom be installed in the park (link to staff report ). The report recommends a fully accessible automated washroom from the City of Vancouver’s Street Furniture Program. It is an innovative use of the program for City Engineering and the Vancouver Park Board to partner and improve the public realm of the city by providing a public washroom in Nelson Park. Furthermore, these automated washrooms also have inbuilt design features to discourage inappropriate use.

VPB update Monday 18 April 2011, 11 pm. Board approves the staff report.

Nelson Park was always a beloved place in Vancouver’s West End. With the new attention to the park through its redevelopment it has become increasingly unique and well used. In a larger sense, what makes Vancouver a more livable city is the special and distinct spaces throughout the city that encourage us to walk and explore, to use the public space and interact with our neighbours.

Nelson park staff report on redevelop on VPB website

link to Sandra Thomas story in the Courier story

link to Frank Luba story in the Province

Jessica Barrett story in the West Ender

Emergency Preparedness motion at Vancouver Park Board


Ellen Woodsworth’s motion at Council

With the recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand the need for a more comprehensive and extensive emergency preparedness plan to respond to natural disasters is very apparent.

While there are agencies such as the City of Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program (NEPP)that are mandated to develop plans with professional disaster response teams and communicate these plans to various communities in Vancouver, a lack of knowledge remains about what the “plan” is when an earthquake does happen.

The West End Residents Association (WERA) was fortunate to have a community member, Randy Helten spearhead a project to increase the community awareness around emergency preparedness by being the community conduit and organizer for a number of workshops in the community centres and neighbourhood houses. Mr. Helten set up an “emergency preparedness” page on the WERA website to promote upcoming workshops and to communicate information about what one needs to know when the big one hits.

Mr. Helten’s efforts were a huge success by increasing attendance at NEPP workshops. With simple tools of postering in the community, posting information on a website and a little bit of earned mediaWestender Story, the community knowledge about responding to earthquakes was greatly increase.

I never went to one of these workshops before Mr. Helten took on the project of being a community advocate for earthquake response, but as a result of his efforts I did finally attend one. My takes-aways from the workshop were:

1. Protect your head.
2. Have enough water and food to last 48 hours without assistance.
3. Have cash on hand, the bank machines are not going to work.
4. Have a radio.
5. Have flashlight, matches and candles

This is all I can remember from the workshop.

Through talking with friends I realized that there is a general lack of knowledge about what folks should do and where to go when there is an earthquake. People are simply unaware of what the community plan is, unlike the citizens of Japan. To me this speaks to a need for more planning at the community level.

At the April 4 Vancouver Park Board meeting COPE Commissioner Woodcock is moving a motion to address the lack of knowledge at the community level in regards to an emergency response. Commissioner Woodcock is just back from New Zealand where she had the unique opportunity to experience an earthquake. Ms. Woodcock knows first-hand how communities respond in an earthquake. This personal experience in New Zealand has led to the motion to resource more planning at the community centres in order to develop a community plan and more effectively communicate it to residents.

The motion:

Whereas Japan is a leader in having organized its citizenry in earthquake preparedness, and Christchurch has organized a Civil Defence Emergency Management plan involving a series of partnerships between City Council, emergency services, community agencies and neighbourhood volunteers for effective emergency response and relief, and were immediately deployed after the February 22, 2011 earthquake, and

Whereas Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program (NEPP) delivers sessions on Family Emergency Preparedness through community centres; while at the same time there is no coordinated Response measures in effect

Whereas Vancouver actively supports volunteers in Emergency Social Services and Amateur Radio through the Office of Emergency Management and the Police Department, however does not have programs in place to engage women’s and disability organizations to address more specific family needs

Whereas there is no single program that consolidates neighbourhood emergency Preparedness with Response teams through the Office of Emergency Management, the Police Department and Community Centres across the City

Be it resolved that in order to provide the most effective earthquake crisis relief, the Park Board work with the City to expand Emergency Preparedness and Response services at community centres, which includes providing tools, training, and support to a network of neighbourhood volunteers.

Adrian Dix on the HST and the Liberal’s economic record

more images of the event

Demo at Denny’s in support of temporary migrant workers

On Saturday March 26, 2011 at Denny’s Restaurant on Davie St. a demo was organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Migrante B.C. in support of temporary migrant workes.

Filipino migrant workers recruited to Canada under the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) have filed a $10 million class action suit against Denny’s Canada restaurants in BC, charging the company did not live up the employment contract the workers signed before they arrived from the Philippines.

The lawsuit alleges the workers were required to pay approximately $6000 each to an agency that was recruiting employees for the Denny’s Canada locations in BC operated by the Northland Corporation.

It is also alleged workers did not receive the hours of work, overtime pay, air travel and other conditions they were promised. The suit has been filed in the BC Supreme Court on behalf of the Filipino migrant workers employed at Denny’s from 2006 until the present.

Images from the demo

Why I am endorsing Adrian Dix as the Leader of the BC NDP

The next leader of BC NDP needs to be a person who has the ability to connect with the community on issues at the grass-root level and who is committed to progressive evidence-based policy development and can deliver results

Adrian Dix is the candidate who has a proven track record of working with community groups and has a deep understanding of what the challenges of progressive policy development are and he has demonstrated a commitment to responding to the critical needs of BC citizens.

Here are a few reasons why I am supporting him.

In my participation with the Save St. Paul’s Coalition I have had numerous discussions with Adrian regarding the need for the renewal St. Paul’s Hospital. Adrian has met with the Coalition and has offered many recommendations as to the most effective methods of advocating for this issue. Adrian has raised the issue of St. Paul’s Hospital in the Legislature as the NDP Heath Critic and his questions have lead to information being accessible to the Coalition that would not have been otherwise.

With Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver West End, Adrian was instrumental in ensuring that the renewal of St. Paul’s Hospital on the Burrard St. site was in the 2008 NDP election platform.

Adrian has always been approachable to have informal discussions about St. Paul’s Hospital and has supported the Coalition in its endeavors here in Vancouver and at the Legislature in Victoria.

As the NDP Health Critic, Adrian has been a strong advocate for the preservation of the Therapeutics Initiative. The Therapeutics Initiative is a health care innovation from UBC comprising a panel of medical experts who evaluate prescription drugs for effectiveness against cost and make recommendations to physicians through a widely desisimated newsletter. This program saves countless dollars and is a good example where rational progressive policy is effective and costs less. Adrian has been an outspoken champion of this program and is a relentless critic of the BC Liberal attempts to drop this program.

For more info on TI:
http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/drug+assessments+taking+wrong+path/3979298/story.html#ixzz18D3Y7JpcSun Article

http://www.ti.ubc.ca/TI website

The City of Vancouver estimates that it spends $28 million per year on policing and firefighting services to help homeless folks. Much of this cost is because the police are being used as frontline mental health workers who are escorting folks with mental health and addiction issues to emergency departments. Many of these folks don’t need to be in such an intensive expensive medical setting. The lack of accessible mental health facilities and services is costing the City of Vancouver millions of dollars.

Adrian Dix has be an ardent advocate for the need of an Urgent Response Centre in Downtown Vancouver to help folks suffering from mental health problems and addictions who require services but do not need the more expensive support of an emergency department at an acute care facility. An Urgent Response Centre in Downtown Vancouver would save the City millions of dollars. Likewise, Vancouver Coastal Health would save funds and would create more efficiencies in Vancouver hospitals’ emergency departments by diverting this group to another source of care when appropriate. Adrian understands that compassionate care of the most vulnerable in society can also be the more cost effective.

Through my involvement with West End Residents Association (WERA) and the Renters at Risk Campaign, the need to reform the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) is an urgent priority. The BC Liberal Party revised the RTA and these changes have made security of tenure a critical issue for all of Vancouver, and in particular in the West End where 80% of residents are renters highlighting how pressing this issue is. The term “Renoviction” was coined in the West End and describes the tactic of landlords evicting long-term tenants under the guise of needing to do extensive repairs only to do cosmetic repairs to get vacant possession of apartments and charge higher rents on the units to subsequent tenants.

Adrian Dix has supported Spencer Chandra Herbert’s private members bill that would give the “right of first refusal” to tenants whose apartments are in genuine need of repair. This legislative intervention is another example of how progressive policy is a solution that protects the rights of tenants while allowing businesses to earn fair returns on investment.

Adrian has made firm commitments to reforming the RTA as Premier of BC and this would be a policy change that would greatly benefit the citizens of the province.

I am convinced that Mr. Dix has the depth of experience, the commitment to work with members at the community level on issues, the understanding of progressive policy development and the tenacity to find solutions that benefit all citizens of BC. This is why I am supporting Adrian Dix to be the next leader of the BC NDP.

Adrian Dix for BC website

International Women’s Day

Elder Rose Point of Musqueam Nation


More images from the celebration

Aquarium Concept Plan

At Thursday’s March 3, 2011 Planning and Environment Committee meeting at the Vancouver Park Board, the Vancouver Aquarium updated the Commissioners on their new expansion plans.

John Nightingale, from the Vancouver Aquarium, started the presentation by stating: “we are going low tech”, referring to the scaled-back footprint of the proposed expansion relative to earlier plans.

Last August the Federal and Provincial governments committed a $25 million capital investment in the planned expansion. Mr. Nightingale stated that funders asked the Aquarium to “cut back” the proposed scope of the new expansion.

The proposed footprint of the expanded Aquarium would be 20% smaller than was approved in the original development permit granted by the City of Vancouver. The expansion is being done in a phased manner, with the first phase potentially beginning in September 2011 after the peak summer season.

Mr. Nightingale also reaffirmed the Aquarium’s commitment to upgrade lighting from the number 19 bus loop in Stanley Park to the Aquarium despite not having taken action on this issue for the past four years. Of note, the problem of the inadequate lighting in this area was flagged by Spencer Chandra Herbert when he was a Park Board commissioner.

The Park Board committee was sufficiently supportive of the new concept plan to refer it to the April 4, 2011 Board meeting at Park Board Head Quarters on Beach Ave. There will be a staff report of the proposed expansion posted on the VPB website prior to the meeting.

A Straight article about the funding announcement last summer:Matt Burrows article

Is it possible to coexist with wild urban coyotes?

Stanley Park Ecology Society in collaboration with the Pacific Spirit Park Society is putting on a workshop this Thursday on coexisting with urban coyotes.

There are an estimated 2000-3000 coyotes living in Greater Vancouver. Coyote encounters are common and the need to better understand Vancouver’s urban dwelling wild dog population is growing. Come join the Co-Existing with Coyotes program coordinator for an informative presentation and interpretive walk. Explore the complexities of living together with these clever wild canines in the urban environment.

Understanding Urban Coyotes

Thursday, March 3, 2011 – 7:00 PM

Fireside Room, St. Philips Church 3737 W. 27th Ave.

WALK: Sunday, March 6, 2011 – 2:00 PM

meet at the corner of 9th Ave. and Blanca

For more information: 604 681 9453

www.stanleyparkecology.ca/programs/public/publicwalks.php

www.stanleyparkecology.ca

www.pacificspiritparksociety.org

I have seen a few coyotes in my time in Vancouver and it can be a pretty exciting experience. I have never had any problems with them. Whenever I saw a coyote they were always going in another direction. To live in a city and see one of these animals is one of the thrills of living in Vancouver.

While I have not had any scary moments with coyotes, I do often see signs posted on hydro poles out and about the city looking for lost cats, so I know coyotes are out there doing there work.

I went to a workshop once before and it was worth the time to go to find out what one should do if one is confronted with a coyote.

Coyote encounters can be navigated in a safe and effective manner and there is a lot less to remember than wild bear encounter with trying to remember which course of action to do for the different types of bears.

With a few new skills and tactics it is possible for us to coexist with urban wild animals in most normal cases.

Vancouver Park Board approves monument to the Komagata Maru Incident

At the Monday, February 28 meeting of the Vancouver Park Board a monument to commemorate the Komagata Maru incident was approved in an unanimous vote.
Here is a link to agenda and staff report: VPB

The Komagata Maru incident is described in the VPB staff report:

The Komagata Maru marine vessel arrived in Vancouver harbour in 1914 carrying 376 British citizens of South Asian heritage. Due to exclusionary immigration policies of the time, 356 of these people were denied entry. The ship was in the harbour for two months and the passengers relied on the generosity of private citizens for food and water. The ship was eventually escorted out to sea. In 2008, the Canadian government and Province of British Columbia issued formal apologies for the Komagata Maru Incident.

Wikipedia on Komagata Maru

Diversity of Park Users

Our public spaces and parks provide opportunities for a variety of activities. In many respects the activities defines the space itself. Parks are places to exercise dogs, for kids to play, to read a book, talk with friends, play tennis, kick a soccer ball and to garden to name a few activities. But parks are also places where we mark with art installations and monuments.

The process of constructing history, of remembering and documenting is not always the noting of triumphs and success. The discourse of history includes speaking the truth and the process of reconciliation. Having a monument to the Komagata Maru allows us to formally acknowledge crimes of the past and own the responsibility of making the present more just and equitable.

Can our public spaces speak truth to power?

During the Olympics there was much debate about the nature of public space. Am Johal, the spokesman for the Impacts on the Communities Coalition(IOCC) hosted a series of public dialogues of different panels discussing varies discourses around the rubric “The right to the city”. “The right to the city” is a concept introduced by French social theoretician Henri Lefbvre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Lefebvre) describing the social construction of space.

One of the many take aways from this series was from Jeff Derksen’s presentation about how space is constructed by what ones does in itUtube of Jeff’s presentation. Events like Car Free Day are gestures of community groups to attempt to create space for people rather than space for cars. What one does in a space in many ways defines it.

In this respect art and monuments are a way of creating public space as well. The marking of a structure of remembrance serves both to create the public space in a physical way and through our contemplation of history represented by the structure, we create a space in our minds to hopefully better understand our culture and society. It may be difficult to remember the Komagata Maru Incident as it is an unflattering part of our history, but it is, nonetheless, important to remember and mark.