A hard three years ahead
Published Tuesday, December 30, 2008 12:00PM PST
As I wrap up my blog for this season, I can't help but think ahead to what they face -- and fantasize about a few utopian ideas I have myself for how they can make things better (see below).
It was hard campaigning in the fall and many cities saw new
mayors installed, sometimes to the surprise of the old mayors.
Vancouver's Gregor Robertson was the most reported-on symbol of the people wanting change. But Rick Green in Langley Township, Richard Stewart in Coquitlam and Ernie Daykin in Maple Ridge were also manifestations of what happens when the public gets restless with the status quo.
But both the
newcomers and the mayors who easily held on to their seats -- Dianne Watts in
Surrey, Lois Jackson in Delta, Pam Goldsmith-Jones in West Vancouver, Derek
Corrigan in Burnaby -- recognize that it's going to be a challenging term.
One of the most crucial activities that cities control -- land use --
has been knocked for a loop as housing markets and the economy in general go
into a tailspin.
For places like Surrey, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and
Langley, where aggressive development was re-making these one-time bedroom
suburbs, the stall means having to figure out where to go next.
Watts is trying to turn Surrey into a city with a real downtown, so the trick is
to keep development coming in order to shape that new future.
Maple Ridge had also been aggressively planning a denser urban core, so that their community could make the case for better transit and to start creating jobs closer to home. Now that's in question too.
The Olympics are coming and many municipalities are facing expenses to play their part, while hoping for a payoff to justify those expenses.
And, at the same time, many of these cities are trying to grapple with some persistent social problems, like crime and homelessness.
You can feel the anxiety about money permeating the inaugural speeches that mayors gave as they were sworn in at the beginning of this month. Rick Green in Langley, Richard Stewart in Coquitlam and Dianne Watts in Surrey all talked about creating economic development task forces or revising economic plans, to keep their city economies healthy. Almost everyone is talking about keeping costs down.
And, on the social front, they're all promising to do more to tackle homelessness and crime.
And this is all at a time when local politics blogs seem to be proliferating faster than private liquor stores -- it seems like everyone wants to jump into the biz of critiquing the local urban scene.
So good luck to all those city council members and, as part of the seasonal giving, here's my wish list for them in the next three years (and for those who will be watching them).
1. Here's hoping the public gives you at least a few months breathing room to work miracles. We all claim we want leaders, but when those leaders we've chosen don't accomplish the impossible in only a few months, we're so ready to dump on them. How about waiting just a few more minutes?
2. In return, how about if city leaders don't fudge the statistics so it looks like they're accomplishing more than they really are. I think all of us are getting a little tired of the claims to have reduced crime, when all that's happened is a normal fluctuation, or the rosy numbers on homelessness reduction, when everyone knows it's going to be a long, hard road on that.
3. At the city council meetings, wouldn't it be cool
if everyone actually talked constructively about how to improve transit, be
greener, solve homelessness, reduce crime, keep costs down, and make the city a
better place overall?
Instead of one group acting as it has the lock on righteous thinking and the opposition councillors acting like two-bit lawyers, coming up with any half-assed argument at all against the proposal in question. Okay, I'm being either crazy or naive here, but it was a thought. Just think of how much we could accomplish if everyone worked together on the things that really matter.
So there are my wishes for 2009-2011. I'm holding my breath waiting for them to come true.
I'm taking a holiday break now, so this will be my last post for a while. Until we meet again.