Friday, 15 November 2013


One year from today there will a civic election.  VISION will be lucky to hold on too any of its seats.  The party which started off as COPE has Humpty Dumptied itself.  Every move it makes and every step it takes is greeted by protests and law suits.  Most of the protests have related to land use and transportation issues.  Much of the resistance comes from people who do not see increased density as the ultimate aphrodisiac. 

VISION has reached its tipping point. It has done too many things to too many people.  The apparent collapse of the Bike Share program in Toronto is the embarrassment du jour.  It reveals how they make decisions from the relatively benign (back yard chickens) to mass rezonings.

In July 2013 I commented on  the bike-share program. This was in the context that the  companies recommended Vancouver Staff for the contract (Bixi / Alta) were already in trouble.

Seven months ago on April 19, 2013  Toronto's  Robyn Doolittle reported on the imminent collapse of Toronto's bike share program.  

Toronto’s cycling lobby leaned hard on council. It was 2010, a bike-friendly mayor was in office, and an election was looming. Toronto jumped on the wagon.
Now, taxpayers stand to lose millions.

“I think we got hosed,” Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works committee, said in an interview.

Just two years after its launch, Bixi Toronto appears to be veering towards bankruptcy. The company can’t pay its debt and isn’t breaking even on its day-to-day costs, according to city staff. It’s the same story elsewhere.

Across North America, Bixi projects — its American partner is Alta Bicycle Share — wouldn’t stay afloat without government subsidies. 

Alta, was also in trouble in Chicago.

Three months later on July 23, 2013, although Toronto’s bike-share problems were by then old news, staff  recommended a contract with the same troubled company.  Vancouver council approved.  Staff admitted that the company’s lack of success to date raised questions but, incredibly, they were ready to give it 6 million dollars anyway.  The proposal was arguably an illegal subsidy to a business contrary to the provisions of the Vancouver Charter.  

The obtuse bike report reflected VISION's opaque programmed budget system.  Non-Partisan Association councilors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball and Green Party councilor Adriane Carr opposed the adoption of  budget recommendations because they found it incomplete and incomprehensible.  Affleck said he asked for a detailed operating budget this year and last, to no avail.  "I don't know how much more clear I can make it," he said of his requests for a breakdown of budget line items.  Carr said her requests for clarification of budget specifics, in particular details as to how community amenity contributions are to be allocated, the answers she got were "too wishy-washy."


If you think we will not suffer a loss don't count on it. Gerry, Dobrovolny, Vancouver's transportation plugger upper is quoted in the morning Province, "We won't issue any money (to Alta) unless we are confident (bicycles and a sound business plan) are provided."  LOL

As far as the impact on traffic flow created by the bike lanes is concerned, it seems somewhat of a paradox, if not idiotic. that they would make lane separations that are as sturdy as the Maginot line  rather than to try them out first. The are designed to make it as expensive as possible for a future council to modify or remove them. 

It will take forensic accountants to determine the cost of the lanes  because the City doesn't provide line items in its budget.  All we can say is that they cost more than you think if you think that they cost less than they did. 

At the same time that they reduced street capacity for cars, they propose huge increases in density and tweet about walkable neighborhoods.

You can tell when VISION is getting nervous by the number of preening, self-congratulatory tweets the Mayor’s communications office sends out explaining how green we have become.

There is an array of hopeful political parties circling.  There are several possibilities. They could either (1) ultimately split the vote to ensure VISION another three years,  (2) split the vote to VISION's detriment,  (3)  each pick up a few seats , or (4) one of them could control council.

Four of the Parties (TEAM, NSV, COPE and CEDAR) have no incumbents and have not yet chosen their candidates.  TEAM has some fine people on board.  It has made overtures to NSV to merge, but it hasn't happened.    

NSV is also blessed with  good people some of whom belong to COPE.  Ironically,  COPE gave birth to VISION which has become the drum major for  the Development Industry.

CEDAR’s founders, the Chernen brothers, will likely run.  They have  no use at all for any professional politicians. This gives them a charm denied to the others.  They would like to take over City Hall and immediately do what they say needs to be done. 

The GREENs  will see Adrian Carr, who has connected with community groups and admirably irked the Visionistas  re- elected. Green could even gain some seats.

Which brings us back to the venerable  NPA- the party that has ruled Vancouver for most of its history. It starts from a position of strength compared to the others with its incumbent councilors, Affleck and Ball. Its name is tarnished in areas of traditional strength because of Sam Sullivan’s introduction of eco-density. The NPA can carry the next election if they:  (1) select candidates who are  intellectually credible but not alphabetically (E- Z) challenged . In our at large system a candidate’s position in the alphabet makes a difference.  (2) limit the slate to 7 or fewer council candidates, (3) commit to a workable system of local area planning ; (4) reject VISION's iteration of  Sullivan’s Eco-density, (5) Develop its platform by consulting  with neighborhoods and (6) Manage to attract members from the other parties. 

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