Tag Archives: Articles

The Limits of Free Speech

The following article news4  was published in the Nov 15th issue of The Global Canadian, a new North Shore community newspaper, available at various locations (contact us for a list).

The Limits of Free Speech: When a citizen spoke to Mayor Mussatto:

AT A RECENT COUNCIL
MEETING, MAYOR DARRELL
MUSSATTO WELCOMED A
CITIZEN TO THE PODIUM BUT
HASTENED TO PULL OUT THE
RULE BOOK ON THE WHAT,
WHY AND WHEN OF SPEAKING
BEFORE THE COUNCIL.

GAGANDEEP GHUMAN
November 15, 2017
It’s a seemingly routine task that most
mayors and councillors are familiar with.
A speaker comes before the council, is
formally welcomed and allowed to speak
while politicians listen patiently. It doesn’t
matter if the speech is boring or irrelevant
or repetitive and it may not even matter if
the politicians are really listening or merely
pretending to do so. The idea matters, the
idea that you are being listened to by those
who have the power to shape your city. The
whole scene is an affirmation of democracy
and this political contract between the people
and politicians plays out in the villages,
towns and cities across the country.
It does play out in the City of North Vancouver
as well but a recent council meeting
could make anyone wonder if the spirit of
democracy is being squeezed out of even
this basic symbolic act of a citizen speaking
and the councillors listening. At a recent
council meeting, Mayor Darrell Mussatto
welcomed a citizen to the podium but
hastened to pull out the rule book on the
what, why and when of speaking before
the council.
“You spoke about development on the
second and the 16th (in October). Are you
speaking about development again? Are
you speaking about developers and development
again? You are allowed to speak
only once every three months on the same
issue. Well, you can’t speak about development.
You can speak about other things but
you are allowed only one topic every three
months. I know you come every week, but
you can’t say the same thing every week,”
he said, warning a speaker before him.
“I will speak and see how it goes,” the
man said.
“Yes, give it a shot,” the mayor said
laughing, and then reminding him again
about the rule.
“We have a rule. You have to speak
about something different. You can’t just
come back with the same thing,” he said
“It’s not the same,” the man insisted.
“It’s the same. It’s about developers
and my name will come up in the next 30
seconds and how bad I am. You can’t just
do it every week. You can do it once every
three months. Just in the future, you can
talk about one general issue every three
months, so you get the full two minutes
when it comes to development, but if you
wish to talk about something separate…
find a topic you haven’t talked about in the
last three months and then we would love
to hear from you,” Mussatto said.
Fred Dawkins of North Vancouver City
Voices says this kind of limitation only
serves to discourage public engagement.
“It’s clear that the mayor and his voting
bloc on council too often view citizen input
as an inconvenience, not a welcome sign of
an engaged public. It’s hard enough to get
people to engage in municipal affairs without
putting a lot of arbitrary restrictions on
their right to speak. If civic officials can’t
take being criticized in public for their decisions,
they shouldn’t be in politics,” he says.
The changes to the public input were
introduced after a heated debate in 2015
when a staff report suggested to council
the public input be done away with altogether
because the input was often accusatory,
repetitive and not relevant to the
topic being discussed. After hue and cry,
the council decided to keep the public input
period, but not without restricting it with
limits on the number of times one topic can
be discussed in three months. Other changes
also included limiting the numbers of
speaker to five unless there is a unanimous
vote to allow more speakers.
In fact, when he reminded the speaker
about the only-once-in-a-three-month rule,
the mayor seemed to be keeping a promise
of being strong in implementing the rules.
“You have to be respectful and play by the
rules and I will be firm,” he said back in
2015. “No member of council or public
can question the motives of the council.
They can’t question the motives. They can’t
express a negative opinion of the personality
or the character of the council member
and nor can they speak disrespectfully. I
will rule with a tougher hand,” he said.
Former councillor Bob Heywood says
the policy is on the slippery slope of public’s
right to freedom of speech, access to elected
officials, and bona-fide public input for
council to make its decisions.
“If this policy is being used to weed out
individuals that are against certain applications
or future decisions, then the policy
cannot withstand the test of “fair and
reasonable”. We don’t really know if all
persons and lobbying agencies are being
held to the same policy test. Perhaps it is
time for someone to challenge this policy,
maybe a review by the BC Ombudsman?”
Heywood says.
Former council candidate Amanda
Nichol says she feels the elected officials
used their position and power to change
policy to muzzle criticism.
“I feel like it might have been done to
censure particular individuals that a majority
of the council did not like, did not want to
hear from, and did not want those watching
council to hear from. It might lead one to
question, why? What, in two minutes, are
those individuals saying? How is it that the
questions, comments cannot just simply
be addressed and/or followed up on at a
future meeting?”
Former mayoral candidate Kerry Morris
says it’s wrong to limit speaker input
at council meeting to just five individuals,
and it’s wrong to limit the topics on which
anyone can speak, over and over again, if
that is what they choose to do.
Council watcher Cathy Lewis says there
have been several times that the speakers
have been interrupted and told they were
not allowed to speak on the same issue that
they brought up in the last three months.
“At most meetings, there are no more than
three speakers and many times no one
signs up to speak. Whether I think it is
fair? I think it is a change to the bylaw that
has muzzled the public from being heard,”
Lewis says.

It’s clear that the mayor and
his voting bloc on council
too often view citizen input
as an inconvenience, not a
welcome sign of an engaged
public. It’s hard enough to get
people to engage in municipal
affairs without putting a lot of
arbitrary restrictions on their
right to speak. ”
FRED DAWKINS
North Vancouver City Voices

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What Goes Up …

Comment from Voices:  We heartily agree with this sentence in the following article from The North Shore News today:  “What Goes Up …”,  ‘We also need our municipal governments to keep a closer eye on developers who walk in the front door preaching affordability and walk out the back door hawking luxury living.’  

We have calculated that over 7,000 new units have been added to the City of North Van since 2011 – and if you are searching for a new condo, or a rental – you will likely not find one to purchase under $500,000 and a rental under $1800.  That would be for 500 sq.ft.

From: http://www.nsnews.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-what-goes-up-1.23101123

Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster and the relationship between housing supply and affordability. It’s an unlikely trio that belongs to the realm of the mythical – at least, that’s the contention of a Kwantlen Polytechnic University professor who crunched 15 years of housing numbers and concluded Metro Vancouver has produced more than enough supply to meet demand. For every 100 new households, Metro Vancouver has built 119 new housing units, John Rose contends.

There will doubtless be sufferers of tower fatigue who will use the study as grounds for opposing every construction project. And it’s true supply has utterly failed to exert any gravity on the North Shore’s astronomical housing market. Over the past decade, benchmark home prices in North Vancouver and West Vancouver have risen 98 and 106 per cent.But even if Rose’s conclusions are correct and we do have enough physical houses, that still doesn’t mean we have an adequate housing supply. That’s largely because we’re burdened with a more than adequate supply of Airbnbs, empty homes, and speculators.

While the foreign buyers tax has helped, we still need senior levels of government to make a simple declaration: if you’re not going to live here then your money’s no good here. We also need our municipal governments to keep a closer eye on developers who walk in the front door preaching affordability and walk out the back door hawking luxury living.

Rose is slated to release his report this Friday. We hope all levels of government will examine it closely because for far too many trades workers, nurses, and teachers, the real myth is an affordable place to live on the North Shore.

 

Canada’s Best Places to Live 2017: CNV #72

Interesting comprehensive stats about our little City, rated #72 on the list.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A new report ranks Canada’s best places to live and affordability impacts many of the communities we live in here in Metro Vancouver.

The annual report from Money Sense named Ottawa as the top spot overall for the second straight year, but British Columbia was well represented near the top.

“BC actually does really well on this list. If I’m looking at the top 25, nine of those cities are in BC,” says Mark Brown from Money Sense. “No surprise, one of the things holding BC back is affordability. I don’t think that’s a secret.”

Oak Bay, just outside of Victoria placed third on the list, while North Saanich finished in fourth. Saanich and Central Saanich also cracked the top 14.

When it comes to Oak Bay, which happens to be the home riding for provincial Green Party leader, Andrew Weaver, Brown says, “It has access to all the great transit in the Victoria area but it’s also very well off. It’s a very high net worth community, homes are little bit more expensive but the residents appear to be able to afford it.”

In Metro Vancouver, the north shore boasted bragging rights.

“North Vancouver on the mainland does extremely well on our list. That’s a community that is extremely wealthy, has a very vibrant arts and community score. It also has access to transit. It comes in at number 20 overall on our list.” Port Moody, Delta and West Vancouver all cracked the top 25.

Population: 53,605
Economic Factors
Estimated Unemployment Rate 5.86%
Median Household Income $67,209
Average Value of Primary Real Estate $906,374
Average Rent $1,432
Average Property Tax $1,255
Average Income Tax $8,286
Mobility Factors
Population that walks to work: 6.8%
Population that bikes to work: 1.2%
Population that takes public transit to work: 13.8%
Weather Factors
Total Annual Rainfall: 1,698 mm
Days per year above 0ºC 297
Days per year above 20ºC 81
Health, Safety and Community Factors
Doctors per 1,000 residents: 3
Number of reported crimes per 100,000 residents 8,262
Percentage of residents employed in arts and recreation 3.9%

 

 

For a complete list of the rankings, click here.

Source: Canada’s Best Places to Live 2017: Create your own ranking

 

 

Density for sale $34.88 per square foot

Source: Decision on Onni’s bowling bid delayed 

From the North Shore News Jun 21st, comment from Voices:

The ‘over-excavated’ space will be a commercial venture, probably leased to an operator.   Bargain price: $275,000 for 7,884 sq ft = $34.88 per square foot.  Another 4-3 vote with the developer-funded slate voting in favour.

 

 

 

 

Stupid/can’t believe it/weird/ruining/ eyesore/shameful/dumb-ferris wheel

The comments above are part of facebook comments posted to the North Shore News coverage of this news: http://www.nsnews.com/news/ferris-wheel-approved-for-waterfront-next-summer-1.20573170.  

The article was posted yesterday and so far more than 200 people have chimed in with their thoughts.  We do note that the report that “Council united in support” can be taken with a grain of salt.  Councillors Bell, Bookham and Clark have previously expressed concerns.  For those Council watchers lately concerned with the seeming lack of engagement by residents, these comments prove that people are indeed paying attention.  The comments are exactly in the order posted on facebook, nothing positive yet.

For the benefit of those not on facebook these are the comments (names removed) to date:

 -What a stupid idea!! First they get rid of all local parking for the restaurants, now this which will interfere with driving in the vicinity. If actions speak louder than words it seems the developer driven CNV council is determined to drive all the small businesses out of the area. Why? To free up the space for developers?

It really can’t believe this idea has gotten approval. Practically every city has a Ferris wheel these days; the novelty is no longer there. I can’t imagine tourists coming to the Shore just to ride an overpriced wheel in the sky. Why don’t we build something for residents, like an outdoor pool or have a beautiful park instead? And where is this money coming from when the City somehow couldn’t find the money to restore the Brazenhead or the other shipping cranes as originally planned and promised? I, for one, am not a fan of this Ferris wheel.

-That photoshop looks weird. How can a Ferris wheel fit between Anatolis, Tap and Barrel and the new Presentation House? I thought counsel had ditched the original concept. (Where the Ferris wheel would be run by private biz and would be situated dockside (way south of drawing )! Something fishy here.

-I don’t think the Lower Lonsdale Business Improvement Assoc……really has the money for covering the expense or part of the expense….there is no big business in Lower Lonsdale….

-City Council is ruining Lower Lonsdale, 1st that ugly silver cube building that blocks the view of Vanc. waterfront, now a huge ridiculous ferris wheel???? Hope everyone remembers this next election time but by then it will be too late.

-What an eyesore. Is NV not getting enough attention? Enough taxes from the addition of thousands of homes? Do people not love NV for its natural beauty and tranquility? Why turn it into a cheap circus for the few people who can’t occupy themselves with something more meaningful than a silly ride? I just don’t get it..

-North Vancouver isnt the nice beautiful community i grew up loving.its gone all city n now this!ppl cant even afford to live here anymore hth do you think we could afford a ride on ferris wheel n wth would we want to???This is ALL FOR TOURISM isn’t there enough attractions?? THIS IS AN EYESORE!!!

-If people wanted a ferris wheel they could head over the bridge to the PNE. Except maybe the traffic situation is so bad they can’t get there anymore. Shameful and tacky.

-We need someone to run in the next election that will win the votes!!! Mussatto has been in office since 1995 and look at what he has created. This is ridiculous.
Local decisions brought us here not provincial, like people complained in the recent election. Who will run against Mussatto?

-Is this a joke? I live in that area and there is no room in that spot. Tap and barrel deck nearly done and the new arts building??!!

-dumb, dumb, dumb. I want to see mountains and trees, not skyscrapers and ferris wheels.

-no…no …please no…we don’t need this in our local community!! We have enough for attractions for tourists!!!! Please no!!!!

and more: Why not? They’ve already ruined the waterfront with all the condos and their atrocious “art gallery”.;We already have too much congestion on the North Shore we don’t need anymore.;Stupid idea…. ruins the view and not even original….; they are trying to turn lonsdale into a California feel fo sho;nother program that should assist with solving the transportation and housing affordability issues on the North Shore.;Y’all need to write letters rather than rant on fb posts. It’ll be heard a lot louder.;Seven seas should still be docked there; Ridiculous waste of money;Oh noooooo….I hadn’t heard about this in a long time. Thought it was history; 

and more.

 

Sky-high condo prices aren’t a supply problem

From the Globe and Mail (Gary Mason), quoting in part:

‘No, there is lots of “supply” in Vancouver and Toronto. That isn’t the issue. It’s who’s getting access to that supply that is a big part of the problem. And it’s also the type of “supply” being built.

Many of the condos being constructed are designed to be purchased by wealthy investors, the Lamborghini crowd. They aren’t being built for a couple of young professionals starting a family. Not unless you consider $1-million for 1,000-square-feet on the 10th floor of a tower in suburban Burnaby, B.C., reasonable. No, somehow, some way, governments need to encourage developers, through incentives or whatever it takes, to start building housing that the middle class can afford.

Right now, developers are getting everything their way. They are putting pressure on local politicians to speed up the approval process so they can erect more towers, more quickly, but they are doing nothing – nothing – about the costs of the units they are constructing. In fact, you could argue they are engaging in activity that is helping ensure the costs keep going up.

It’s ridiculous.’

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/sky-high-condo-prices-arent-a-supply-problem/article35091277/

Opinion: Housing reset — Supply myth exposed, but more of the same

Comment by Voices:  This article in the Vancouver Sun today applies equally to the City of North Vancouver.  Planned development is well ahead of the Strategic Growth Strategy, updated statistics to come shortly.  

Quoting in part: 

The City of Vancouver is finally admitting that they cannot build their way out of the housing affordability crisis. The supply myth has been driving ever-escalating amounts of market housing, but affordability is getting worse, not better. The city now says that “we have plenty of supply — what we need is the right supply.”

This is the conclusion of a recent report to council that proposes a housing reset. Although they correctly identify that a change of direction is needed, the city instead proposes more of the same.

The city has been approving market development at a record pace, yet prices continue to escalate. The new supply is not bringing affordability and never will if we continue doing the status quo.

In fact rezoning has been inflating land values while demolishing the older more affordable housing stock. People are being displaced and priced out of their city. This is what happens when the real estate market is disconnected from the local economy.

Many of the needed solutions are out of the city’s jurisdiction. However, the city’s own land-use policies of promoting unsustainable levels of market redevelopment has been largely responsible for enabling this crisis to escalate.

Source: Opinion: Housing reset — Supply myth exposed, but more of the same