Editorial: New councils face multitude of challenges

Editorial: New councils face multitude of challenges.

Citizens want meaningful input into how city grows:

By the end of the day Saturday, we’ll know who will govern us for the next four years.

The extension of the term by one year makes our choice that much more important. The newly-elected mayors, councils, school and parks boards may need to guide our communities through tumultuous times: economic uncertainty, unprecedented population growth, transportation demands, constrained finances, and the intractable problems of homelessness, poverty and mental illness.

Addressing many of these challenges will require the co-operation of municipalities throughout the Lower Mainland, as well funding and other forms of assistance from the federal and provincial governments.

Cutting through the noise of campaign slogans and empty promises, the issue of consultation was heard loud and clear. Whether it’s rezoning in Marpole or a bike lane through Kitsilano, citizens have let it be known they want to have meaningful input into the decisions our elected bodies make. It’s not enough to hold an open house so people can let off steam. There must be a robust and inclusive process in order for citizens to take part in the development of their city.

Too often in the city of Vancouver, and elsewhere in Metro, spot zoning has left citizens outside the decision-making process while bureaucrats (or worse, politicians) negotiate the variable development tax (a.k.a. community amenity contributions) with a project proponent. This is why a number of candidates have recommended resuscitating Vancouver’s CityPlan, which has fallen into disuse, to better manage growth. The idea would be to pre-zone the entire city, rather than zone one neighbourhood in isolation. It’s rather surprising that the city isn’t already following an official plan.

On matters of governance, there has been much discussion about limiting the number of terms a mayor may serve — some say two terms of four years, others three terms of three years — to prevent one person or party dominating for decades. The provincial government would need to rubber stamp any proposal from the municipalities. Still more discussion centres around setting limits, or even prohibiting, donations from corporations, unions or special interest organizations, as is the case in other jurisdictions. We might even toss around the notion of a ward system, or the single transferable vote, to make our democracy more relevant to those it is meant to serve. These are discussions the new municipal governments should encourage.

Metro Vancouver is blessed with an educated, articulate population with experts in many fields who have much to contribute in managing everything from public finances to housing the homeless, from preventing traffic gridlock to creating new forms of housing to address affordability, and from rebuilding the economy to ensuring the safety (and abundance) of our food and water supply.

What the new governments need to do is to open up and welcome their advice.

We wish all successful candidates the best of luck and thank all candidates for disrupting their lives to give us choice. It’s what makes democracy work.


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