Forum on civil liberties and 2010 Olympics tonight

IOCC- R2C panel-poster_webready

Who leaked the “privileged” legal opinions of the jurisdiction of City Manager over General Manager of the Park?

I was at Council Chambers to view democracy in action on Tuesday evening. By chance Councilor Anton had a motion about a perceived notion about the erosion of the independence of the Park Board. Rather than moving her motion she put it on notice for the next Council Meeting.

The City Manager, Dr. Penny Ballem, preparing for Anton’s motion ask the city legal department to prepare a legal opinion of the jurisdiction of the City Manager in regards to the General Manager of the Parks. She distributed the opinion to Councilors for their edification. It was not read into the record for the City clerk.

After the meeting I asked Councilor Meggs if he could make a copy of the document for me and he said: “ no, the information was privileged”

I asked Councilor Woodsworth if I could have a copy of the legal document and she thought it should be okay as it was an opinion about the Vancouver Charter and was public knowledge paid for by taxpayer’s dollars to prepare. However always being prudent she requested that I ask permission of the City Manager.

I asked the City Manager for a copy of the legal opinion and she told me it was privileged between city legal department, staff and Councilors.

Now on Thursday September 24 Francis Bula has a scanned copy of the document on her website.State of VanvouverWho gave the document to Ms. Bula? There are ten Councilors and who was most interested in the erosion of the independence of the Park Board? Which party would have the most to gain by leaking the document?

A bit of dog’s breakfast, humble pie and parliamentary behavour.

Cov Councillor Suzanne Anton

Cov Councillor Suzanne Anton

On Friday September 18, I wrote about Councillor Anton’s motion with regard to HST and landlords. Among the questions I asked was who is going to second the motion? As Councillor Anton is the sole Non Partisan Association Party councillor left she would need to work out a deal to have an councillor from Vision or Cope to second the motion to start the debate.

I was able to make it up the Council Chambers, after dropping of kids at in-laws and Arts Umbrella for dance and madly riding the tandem up Cambie Street without my stoker, to see what would happen with Anton’s motion. Luckily the motion was last on the agenda and it turned out to be an early evening of procedures from the Roberts Rules playbook. When most people go to City Hall they hate this stuff, it seems so petty and argumentative, but really is quite interesting to see how this parliamentary process plays out. Important too, as this is how we make decision in our democracy. Continue reading A bit of dog’s breakfast, humble pie and parliamentary behavour. →

Monday’s Park Board Meeting-same old, same old thing

Susan Mundick talking with Commissioner Mackinnon

Susan Mundick talking with Commissioner Mackinnon

While there were predictions that the Park Board meeting tonight could have some intrigue and excitement because of the recent announcement of General Manger’s pending retirement, in fact, the meeting was quite routine.

One minor deviation and the little bit of excitement to the meeting was a closely scripted statement from the Chair on the Board. Commissioner Raj Hundal, praised the General Manager for her many accomplishments at the Park Board. The Chair stated that the search for the GM’s replacement would be an open search based on the principles of best practices of management policies. Mr. Hundal also clarified the decision of who would be the next GM would be a Park Board decision in consultation with the City as the GM is part of the City’s senior management team. Rumors that the City was trying to undermine the Park Board’s independence seem to be false and just political spin of desperate politicians trying out an issue to profile on.

Of interest Ian Roberson of the NPA was absent from the meeting.

There were a lot of folks out at the meeting to support the Bicycle skills area in the Vanier Park motion. It was nice to see the room packed, but it was also great to have some air to breath when the Board approved the BMX park and many folks left the room.

The Board also approved the “ Walking Figures” move to English Bay.

Another positive element of the meeting was Eleanor Hadley was there, but was not signed up as speaker. She came and listened in the front row for ten minutes and made some kind of fuss about the washroom. Staff came to her assistant and the crisis was averted.

The meeting was over in an hour in half. Pretty good timing for the Park Board and the Chair kept the meeting well timed.

Vancouver Park Board meeting tonight could be a bore

Monday, September 21 Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, 7 pm, Park Board Office, 2099 Beach ave.

While the agenda on Monday’s Park Board Meeting may not be the most exciting ever posted, think of the debates of whales in captivity and the expansion of the Aquarium, there will be something of a buzz at the meeting given the bombshell last week when the General Manger of the Board, Susan Mundick offered her letter of retirement which was accepted.
link to agenda for the meeting

On Monday, September 14 at a special staff briefing of Park Board Commissioners, the General Manger unexpectedly announced that she was retiring. The general wisdom on her position as the “Great Helmsman” of the Board was that she would stay on until after the Olympics and then retire. After Vision’s sweep to a majority on all boards in the last election there was much speculation after Judy Rogers, the City Manger was replaced with Dr. Penny Ballem, about whether the Vision Park Commissioner would replace their General Manager? But it never happened. Somehow the case was never made on why the general manager should be replaced and it seems some sort of accord was work out between the board and her.

Why is the General Manager resigning now? Raj Hundal the Chair of the Board issued a statement on Tuesday September 15 praising Susan for her past hard work and accomplishments.The Chair’s Statement. In the statement Susan says: “I feel that leaving now is the right decision and the right time.”
The Chair’s statement goes on to say that Susan will stay on for the transition to a new manager. Not much clarity on why she is retiring now was offered.

Then on Friday September 18 there were media reports from a leaked email that the City manager “….describes Mundick’s traditional transition plans as “inappropriate” and demands that Mundick step back.”24 Hour story

Also on Friday there was a meeting between the City Manager, the General Manager of the Park Board, the Chair of Board and Commissioner Jasper. What happened at this meeting? Was another “transition plan” developed? Continue reading Vancouver Park Board meeting tonight could be a bore →

Walking Figures by Magdalena Abakanowica comes to English Bay

Magdenena Abrakanowicz's "Walking Figures"

Wikipedia regards Magdalena Abakanowica “… as being one of the most important and influential female artists of the 20th century.” Why they have to preface her description with “female” seems is a bit curious and insulting. Is John Cage described as one of the most influential male composers of the 20th century? I think not. If I could ever figure out the full functionality of Wikipedia it would be worth to try and edit this sentence.(put that one on the “to do list”.) Wikipedia

Anyways, I have always been a big fan of her work. While she is more known for her textile works of headless figures that are more bound to museum space than outdoor monumental works, the Walk Figures definitely are recognizable as her work.

Abakanowicz was trained in Poland and lived through both the Nazi occupation and the Soviet occupation of her country. Part of her artistic training was done while social realism was mandated by the Soviet state and was the only allowable form of artistic expression in Poland. One can only imagine the acts of subversion in art schools at this time. One would have two portfolios, one to be officially graded and one for yourself and to be shared with trusted friends. Think of all those poor art students in Soviet gulags that dared to be Egon Schiele knock offs. (OK maybe that was my art school. Everyone trying to be Egon Schiele, Max Beckman, Anselm Kiefer, Jasper Johns Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Beuys all at the same time). No joke though, Poland under the Soviets was a very oppressive and controlling society.

Her groups of figures have an unsettling sense of a critique of totalitarianism. Groups of headless duplicated figures assembled in a military parade speaks to a socially imposed conformity that is at once intriguing and then repelling at second thought.

What appealed to me about her work in art school was her use of serial casting. A method of creating one object and then creating a mold of that object and then casting multiple copies from different materials. Her early works used paper and textiles as the material of the casting. This method of working was a way of commenting on our own identities as consumer and our connection to the methods of production. Her work speaks to the real horror of conformity when we are all striving to be different.

“Walking figures” is installed in at Queen Elisabeth Park as part of the Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale as a temporary exhibition. At the September 22 Vancouver Park Board meeting commission will be asked to decide to move the sculpture to English Bay. Staff is recommending that the Board approve the instillation this sculpture as a temporary installation for a period of 18 months from Sept. 2009 – March 2011.
VPB staff report

Although I have some issue with Vancouver International Sculpture BiennaleBiennale website around the issue of the use of public land for promotion of art that will be sold at a private gallery, I am looking forward to this working being down in English Bay. I have only seen her work in books so it will be a real treat to experience “Walking Figures” in person.

Counsillor Anton’s motion to exempt Landlords from Taxes

At the September 22 City of Vancouver (CoV) Council meeting, Councillor Anton will attempt to move a motion to exempt Landlords from the Provincial governments planned harmonization of the provincial sales tax with Federal government’s Goods and Services Tax (GST).link to the actual motion The Motion speaks to the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which is a Provincial initiative and how it adversely affect Landlords by increasing operating expense and cut into their profit margins.

The Provincial initiative is to harmonize the provincial sales tax with the GST. In effect what this “harmonization” means is that whatever goods and services the Federal GST is currently charged on, so too will be the new HST tax. To us poor consumers it means we are going to have pay more for things we buy. For example we will now have to pay HST on hydro. Think of what a burden this will be on lower income renters.

Another consequence of this new tax initiative is the Provincial government gives up its ability to target areas to tax and likewise exempt certain things from taxes to create incentives. For example bicycles have been exempt from the Provincial sales tax. Presumably the provincial government wants to encourage folks to live a healthy lifestyle and also wants to promote more sustainable transportation.

Marg Gordon and the BC Association of Apartment Building Owners.

As soon as the Hon. Colin Hansen announced the HST one of the first groups out of the gate to slag the tax was Marg Gordon, the Executive director of the British Columbia Apartment Owners and Managers Association (BCAOMA)(BCAOMA statement). Marg Gordon argued that Landlords should be exempt from the HST because their profit margins are already razor tight (hook story). Further, Marg Gordon argued that because rental increases are capped to 3.7% by the RTA, Landlords have no way to pass on the increased cost they would incur to tenants and therefore would have to absorb the cost. BCOMA statement on HSTprint

It is important to remember that the RTA regulates rental increase. The allowable rental increase is a formula of 2% of existing rents plus the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If they were any increase in operating cost to Landlords this would be capture in the CPI and rents would increase accordingly.

In addition to the mechanism that increases rents according to increase in the CPI, Landlords under the terms of the RTA have recourse to apply to the Resident Tenancy Branch (RTB) and request an increase in rents if they are able to submit creditable evidence that they should be granted an additional rental increase.(Section 43.3 of the RTA and Section 23.1 (b) in the regulations) Typically Landlord don’t like to go the RTB to apply for an additional rental increase on the grounds of extraordinary increase in operational expenses because they have to go before an arbitrator and open up the business books to public scrutiny.

The question is why should apartment building owners and Landlords be singled out for an exempt from the HST? Would not lower income folks being exempted from paying HST on Hydro have more merit in a progressive tax system?

Why is Councilor Anton moving a motion at CoV Council on an issue that is clearly a Provincial jurisdiction? Will any of the other nine councilors second the motion or will it die on the docket?

Unite Here Local 40 Rally September 11, 2009

Unite Here Local 40 Rally Friday September 11


On Friday September 11th Unite Here Local 40 held a rally to support workers of the Coast Plaza Hotel who are in negotiations for a new contract. The sticking point in the negotiations is the issue of the workers’ “transfer rights” to move their contract to a new hotel in Coal Harbour from the West End Coast Plaza Hotel which will close.

The hotel workers represent a rich diversity of Canadian society and are mostly women. There was a vast array of different languages and accents spoken at this rally. The negotiations are important for these workers as 150 of them could lose their jobs if they don’t get transfer rights. The jobs at the hotel represent “living wage” jobs that are mostly held by women.

The rally had an amazing vibe and good energy. The organizers of the rally did a wonderful job of leading chants and empowering everyone. The best chant was: ” Whose got the power? We got the power. What kind of power? Union power.” This got stuck in my head over the whole weekend (my wife can attest to that). I shot a lot of video needs to be edited and will post so you can get this chant stuck in your head.

Here are more images of the event. Congrats to Unite Here Local 40 on organizing such an amazing rally and standing up and giving voice to all these workers.

images of the rally

Tenants of Golden Crown Hotel speak about illegal evictions