Chuck Puchmayr answered my questions!

Chuck Puchmayr is running for New Westminster City Council, and he answered my questions!

1. There are two types of people in the world: people who like simple pop-culture “what type of cheese are you” quizzes that they can then share on Facebook, and people who don’t. Sadly, I don’t have a quiz for you but this is close enough: are you an order muppet or a chaos muppet? Which muppet are you?

Chuck: Sorry Brad, that’s classified information.

2. When was the last time you visited City Hall? What changes would you propose to make City Hall more welcoming? When was the last time you attended a City Council meeting? What changes would you propose to make City Council meetings more welcoming? Sorry, I guess that was kind of four questions.

Yesterday, Monday, better sound system for overflow seating in public hearings.

3. Buy Low Foods recently shut its store in Uptown, leaving a hole in the market for grocery stores. What will you do to ensure that there is proper competition among grocery stores and a Save-On Foods opens in that location, restoring the competitive marketplace that the Competition Bureau foisted upon us in 2014?

Consumers fare better when there’s competition. Buy Low is the same company as Save-On. The Competition Bureau was played brilliantly by Pattison after the 2014 ruling.

4. New Westminster has a number of advisory committees, task forces, and working groups. Upon being elected, which one would you like to chair the most and why? No need to restrict yourself to an existing one either, if you feel strongly that a new one needs to be formed (that you’d obviously chair) feel free to answer that!

I have been productive on all committees and would go wherever appointed.

5. What is your favourite neighbourhood, and why is it Brow of the Hill?

All of our neighbourhoods have unique characteristics. I have lived in the Brow, Queen’s Park, West End and now Moody Park. The Brow had the most vibrant cultural diversity.

6. The process leading up to and including the public hearing for the temporary modular housing in Queensborough was… challenging, to say the least. This question is only for the non-incumbent candidates: on the final motion to amend the OCP and rezone the property to allow the temporary modular housing, how would you have voted? Please note that you may describe why you would have voted a particular way, but you must say whether you would have voted in favour of or against the motion on the table.

Note: Chuck is an incumbent and thus didn’t have to answer this question. He voted in favour of the motion on the table.

7. Who would be on your sasquatch hunting team?

My best friend Ed as he would surely scare any Sasquatch we encountered.

8. How do you propose engaging with renters, new immigrants, and youth?

By communicating the following : work we are doing to protect existing and develop new rental property; our work on new Canadian inclusion and diversity; our outreach to youth through youth centre, youth advisory committee and public engagement.

9. With absolutely no apologies to Chris Campbell, what would your entrance music be? Please note that if you dare pick We Built This City by Starship you are hereby banned from ever running for public office ever again.

Right now, during the election it would be Welcome To The Jungle by Guns N’ Roses.

Thanks Chuck!

Troy Hunter answered my questions!

Troy Hunter is running for New Westminster City Council, and he answered my questions!

1. There are two types of people in the world: people who like simple pop-culture “what type of cheese are you” quizzes that they can then share on Facebook, and people who don’t. Sadly, I don’t have a quiz for you but this is close enough: are you an order muppet or a chaos muppet? Which muppet are you?

Troy: My daschund that I rescued came with the name Chaos and I hated that so I renamed him Brad Pitt. I guess that makes me an order Muppet.

2. When was the last time you visited City Hall? What changes would you propose to make City Hall more welcoming? When was the last time you attended a City Council meeting? What changes would you propose to make City Council meetings more welcoming? Sorry, I guess that was kind of four questions.

It was about a couple of weeks ago, I had to have a meeting with the electoral officer. I always visit City Hall to pay my electricity bill. I guess a more welcoming approach would be to make the public park and enter through the front doors, it almost seems weird to use the backside and I am sure the architect that made the building is not happy about that. I would propose a big comfy couch along with a good cup of Java to make city council meetings more welcoming. The last time I attended a City Council meeting was around ten years ago when I was still a law student. I also attended the 2008 Canadian Constitutional Affairs Conference in Quebec City and made a vow to return; I am back. I almost forgot to mention but I was an elected School Trustee from 2008 to 2011 and I think that also counts.

3. Buy Low Foods recently shut its store in Uptown, leaving a hole in the market for grocery stores. What will you do to ensure that there is proper competition among grocery stores and a Save-On Foods opens in that location, restoring the competitive marketplace that the Competition Bureau foisted upon us in 2014?

I am saddened for the loss of Buy Low Foods as it was one of my favorite grocery stores and that is for sure. What is more sad is that there is now a vacant space, people that used to work at that location no longer do so and it diminishes our sense of community. Losing that flagship store was like a punch in the gut. As for proper competition, it seems that there is only so much City Hall can do as we live in a free and open market space. If I could wave a magic wand, I would do it in a way that the shoppers had fatter wallets and were not attracted to the lowest hanging fruit but that they would reach for the locally grown produce and farmed products. This would help with our local economy, support local farmers, and help in the fight against climate change. On that note, I would also make a new program to match land owners with those that want to grow their own food, just like the community gardens program and also institute a rain harvesting initiative to feed those local crops. We can turn acres of trimmed lawns into productive yields of corn, squash, beans, and herbs, etc. Maybe the space could be the farmers market which happens at my favorite park by city hall at Friendship Garden by closing the parking lot. At least those with cars will have a place to park when visiting the Farmers Market. By the way, my dog Brad Pitt loves Friendship Garden.

4. New Westminster has a number of advisory committees, task forces, and working groups. Upon being elected, which one would you like to chair the most and why? No need to restrict yourself to an existing one either, if you feel strongly that a new one needs to be formed (that you’d obviously chair) feel free to answer that!

I wish to chair the Indigenous Reconciliation Committee. I have previous experience chairing meetings, and it doesn’t hurt to have an actual Indigenous person chairing the meeting.

5. What is your favourite neighbourhood, and why is it Brow of the Hill?

Yes, I live at Brow of the Hill area but really, my favourite neighborhood is probably downtown because that is the gem in the rough that has the best potential to make New Westminster an attraction. While we don’t have a walled city, UNESCO World Heritage Site like the one I am writing this from: Old Quebec City, we do have a history of the New Westminster Quai which with great vision and passion, we can turn this place into an attraction and a place where people will want to be. We are the original Capital City of the Province of British Columbia, we had the first hospital, maybe even one of the first court houses, and we have some fine Victorian style buildings. As we demolish the past to make way for the future, perhaps, we can think about heritage conservation and re-create a unique Victorian era heritage village, even it means relocating structures (actually this is being done take for example 8th Street or Blackford Street).

6. The process leading up to and including the public hearing for the temporary modular housing in Queensborough was… challenging, to say the least. This question is only for the non-incumbent candidates: on the final motion to amend the OCP and rezone the property to allow the temporary modular housing, how would you have voted? Please note that you may describe why you would have voted a particular way, but you must say whether you would have voted in favour of or against the motion on the table.

I’m not a big fan of “temporary modular housing”; however, the Indian Reserve I am a part of near Cranbrook BC, went with modular construction for a new school and gymnasium and it seems to work well even though its situated right beside one of British Columbia’s finest Victorian era wooden churches (St. Eugene Church). I would prefer stone masonry structures, but I guess modulars could also be clad in stone facades to give it that permanent feel. What people need to understand is that we need to think outside of the box when it comes to creating low cost solutions for the homeless, the at risk and for people in need. If it works for the Aboriginal community, why would it not work for Queensborough? There is a building downtown Vancouver made of shipping containers. As we move into the 21st century we need to keep an open mind about what we are building, how its done and to how to be more efficient. I would have voted with an unequivocal yes because we need solutions and the modular housing is just that. I am thinking that architecture wasn’t the real problem it was perhaps, NIMBYism (not in my backyard). As much as we want to have a beautiful and lovely city we also need spaces for the less affluent and such spaces should not be in segregation.

7. Who would be on your sasquatch hunting team?

I don’t hunt Sasquatch and believe that would be in poor taste. Some people believe Sasquatch are almost human and we don’t go out hunting humans (at least not anymore). If I wanted to find Sasquatch to see one or to take a picture, I would have Todd Standing on my team.

8. How do you propose engaging with renters, new immigrants, and youth?

I can relate to this question on two levels, I don’t consider myself a youth as I am not a spring chicken anymore. With respect to renters, I am one. With respect to new immigrants, I am married to one. How do I propose to engage with them, I think City Hall could be more open, could consider brochures in other languages including Chinese, Indonesian, Tagalog, etc. We could have community get-together’s for social events. When we get to know our neighbors we become closer as a community.

9. With absolutely no apologies to Chris Campbell, what would your entrance music be? Please note that if you dare pick We Built This City by Starship you are hereby banned from ever running for public office ever again.

Well at first I was going to say Helter Skelter because I just saw Paul McCartney play that song at a sold out show in Quebec City but then I changed my mind and went with Jukebox Hero by Foreigner.

Thank you Troy!

Nadine Nakagawa answered my questions!

Nadine Nakagawa is running for New Westminster City Council, and she answered my questions!

1. There are two types of people in the world: people who like simple pop-culture “what type of cheese are you” quizzes that they can then share on Facebook, and people who don’t. Sadly, I don’t have a quiz for you but this is close enough: are you an order muppet or a chaos muppet? Which muppet are you?

Nadine: I don’t support the use of muppets to describe personalities. Controversial enough position to start with? I hate the term “chaos muppet”. Don’t @ me.

2. When was the last time you visited City Hall? What changes would you propose to make City Hall more welcoming? When was the last time you attended a City Council meeting? What changes would you propose to make City Council meetings more welcoming? Sorry, I guess that was kind of four questions.

I was last at City Hall to file my candidacy paperwork. Before that, probably the Temporary Modular Housing Public Hearing and before that likely an ACTBiPed meeting. To make City Hall more welcoming, we should add more comfortable seating to start. We should then ask members of the community what would make their City Hall feel more welcoming. This was done by the WINS table a few years back and we should incorporate their feedback. To make meetings more comfortable, perhaps we should consider a Council Meeting 101 package and workshop. We should also strive to use plain language and bring council meetings into the community.

3. Buy Low Foods recently shut its store in Uptown, leaving a hole in the market for grocery stores. What will you do to ensure that there is proper competition among grocery stores and a Save-On Foods opens in that location, restoring the competitive marketplace that the Competition Bureau foisted upon us in 2014?

The Buy Low Foods community room was an incredible community asset and I hope residents support grocery stores that have community rooms.

4. New Westminster has a number of advisory committees, task forces, and working groups. Upon being elected, which one would you like to chair the most and why? No need to restrict yourself to an existing one either, if you feel strongly that a new one needs to be formed (that you’d obviously chair) feel free to answer that!

The to-be-created Renters Task Force. I’d also like to chair the Community Social Issues Committee that I’ve sat on for a number of years (sorry Councillor McEvoy)

5. What is your favourite neighbourhood, and why is it Brow of the Hill?

As the immediate past President of the Brow of the Hill Residents Association, I can confidently say #BeLikeBrow

6. The process leading up to and including the public hearing for the temporary modular housing in Queensborough was… challenging, to say the least. This question is only for the non-incumbent candidates: on the final motion to amend the OCP and rezone the property to allow the temporary modular housing, how would you have voted? Please note that you may describe why you would have voted a particular way, but you must say whether you would have voted in favour of or against the motion on the table.

I would have voted yes. I have previously worked as a Housing Support Worker for the Elizabeth Fry Society and understand how soul shatteringly difficult it is to find affordable (read 30% of your income) housing, particularly for people on income assistance, disability, or a pension. We are in a housing crisis and I believe that everyone has a right to housing.

7. Who would be on your sasquatch hunting team?

My golden retriever Gus. He’d love to meet a Sasquatch. In fact, he’d love to meet just about anybody. We really wouldn’t be hunting, just going out to say hello.

8. How do you propose engaging with renters, new immigrants, and youth?

By bringing people who identify as renters, new immigrants, and youth onto committees and task forces and asking them how to do this and then listening to them. By going out into the community to places where people we want to reach gather. By being humble. By practicing cultural humility. By asking questions. By never making excuses for why it’s not happening. By asking people to come and then making space for them. By not giving up until our public engagement reflects our community.

9. With absolutely no apologies to Chris Campbell, what would your entrance music be? Please note that if you dare pick We Built This City by Starship you are hereby banned from ever running for public office ever again.

My theme song is Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix.

Thank you Nadine!

Questions for New Westminster mayoral and city council candidates, 2018 version

It’s election time in New Westminster and you know what that means? Questions! And not highly personal and completely offensive questions written by an asshole, I have some silly and serious questions! Let’s go!

1. There are two types of people in the world: people who like simple pop-culture “what type of cheese are you” quizzes that they can then share on Facebook, and people who don’t. Sadly, I don’t have a quiz for you but this is close enough: are you an order muppet or a chaos muppet? Which muppet are you?

2. When was the last time you visited City Hall? What changes would you propose to make City Hall more welcoming? When was the last time you attended a City Council meeting? What changes would you propose to make City Council meetings more welcoming? Sorry, I guess that was kind of four questions.

3. Buy Low Foods recently shut its store in Uptown, leaving a hole in the market for grocery stores. What will you do to ensure that there is proper competition among grocery stores and a Save-On Foods opens in that location, restoring the competitive marketplace that the Competition Bureau foisted upon us in 2014?

4. New Westminster has a number of advisory committees, task forces, and working groups. Upon being elected, which one would you like to chair the most and why? No need to restrict yourself to an existing one either, if you feel strongly that a new one needs to be formed (that you’d obviously chair) feel free to answer that!

5. What is your favourite neighbourhood, and why is it Brow of the Hill?

6. The process leading up to and including the public hearing for the temporary modular housing in Queensborough was… challenging, to say the least. This question is only for the non-incumbent candidates: on the final motion to amend the OCP and rezone the property to allow the temporary modular housing, how would you have voted? Please note that you may describe why you would have voted a particular way, but you must say whether you would have voted in favour of or against the motion on the table.

7. Who would be on your sasquatch hunting team?

8. How do you propose engaging with renters, new immigrants, and youth?

9. With absolutely no apologies to Chris Campbell, what would your entrance music be? Please note that if you dare pick We Built This City by Starship you are hereby banned from ever running for public office ever again.

Psst, candidates, I’ll email these questions to you soon so hang tight with your responses!

Mapping the 2018 New Westminster Election Candidates

Now that the nomination period is over, we know who will be running for municipal public office in New Westminster in 2018. We have:

  • 4 mayoral candidates (1 will be elected)
  • 14 city council candidates (6 will be elected)
  • 16 school trustee candidates (7  will be elected)

New Westminster’s election isn’t as chaotic as Vancouver’s. We don’t have anybody running under an alias (unless you count James “Jimmie” Bell), we don’t have anybody running for two positions, and we don’t have anybody running who lives outside of New Westminster.

Update: After some comments on Facebook and discussions I’ve had, I’ve removed the map. Although candidates’ addresses are (currently) public information, making this information more widely disseminated can potentially discourage some to put their names forward, as home addresses can be used by people who aren’t so nice to do not so nice things.

The geographical information of where candidates do and do not live is still interesting, however! Here’s a little summary of which candidates live in which neighbourhoods (as defined by the city’s Residents’ Association Boundaries map):

Connaught Heights

No candidates.

West End

Troy Hunter (council)

Moody Park

Mark Gifford (school trustee)

Chinu Das (council)

Mary Trentadue (council)

Chuck Puchmayr (council)

Glenbrooke North

Cathy McCallum (school trustee)

Ellen Vaillancourt (council)

Nikki Binns (mayor)

J.P. Leberg (school trustee)

Douglas Woodward (school trustee)

Massey Victory Heights

Lisa Graham (school trustee)

Brow of the Hill

Paul McNamara (council)

Steve Tsonev (school trustee)

Benny Ogden (council)

Angela Sealy (council)

Nadine Nakagawa (council)

Patrick Johnstone (council)

James Bell (mayor)

Queens Park

Bryn Ward (council)

Alejandro Diaz (school trustee)

Daniel Fontaine (council)

McBride Sapperton

Jaimie McEvoy (council)

Cyrus Sy (school trustee)

Mary Lalji (school trustee)

Danielle Connelly (school trustee)

Maya Russell (school trustee)

Scott McIntosh (school trustee)

Dee Beattie (school trustee)

Anita Ansari (school trustee)

Quayside

Mike Ireland (council)

Downtown

Harm Woldring (mayor)

Jonathan Cote (mayor)

Queensborough

Gurveen Dhaliwal (school trustee)

 

And just to keep things on the up-and-up, here’s the original (and now kind of redacted) blog post.

What we do have is a map:

It’s pretty easy to see that there are some neighbourhoods that are under-represented (Connaught Heights doesn’t have any candidates, Queensborough, West End, and Massey Victory Heights only have one each) and some that are well-represented (Moody Park and Brow Of The Hill). Sapperton has eight candidates!

Mayoral candidates all live between First and Seventh Streets. Well, I’m not entirely sure if that’s true because Harm Woldring put his residential address to be that of his business downtown. But hey, who am I to say that he doesn’t live there?

Council candidates all live between 13th Street and Cumberland. Only one lives in Sapperton.

School trustee candidates have the largest geographical spread, from Queensborough to Sapperton.

Use this information however you want! Maybe you want to vote for people that live furthest from the Fraser, now you’ve got an easy reference guide!

The Official CanSpice City Council Candidate Platform!

That’s right, I’m running! Without further ado, here’s my platform. I hope you vote for me for New Westminster City Council!

Housing

Housing is obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. There are people who would say yes to everything and people who are concerned about overdevelopment. Obviously the people who say yes are right, and I’m hoping that you’ll say yes to Brad in New West with my fantastic housing platform.

First, some people are concerned about too many towers in New Westminster. They block views, they throw too much shade, they create concrete canyons. I totally sympathize. There’s nothing I would want more than to walk down a street and not be shaded from the blazing sun. I hear skin cancer is a myth anyhow. And that’s why the first plank in my housing platform is to do away with towers. No new towers in New Westminster! And especially no more towers downtown where they can block views! Instead I propose a single six-hundred storey tower to be built at the top of New Westminster at the Westburnco Sports Courts. It’ll be perfect! Because it’s at New West’s highest point there aren’t any views to block! It’s not downtown!

Now I’m sure that some of you are going to poo-poo that idea. That’s okay, disagreement is fantastic, and that’s why I’m willing to compromise. Instead of a single six-hundred storey building, and in keeping with my NO NEW TOWERS theme, I propose a series of underground buildings. That’s right, instead of going up let’s go down! You can’t block a view with a hole in the ground! I affectionately call this one my “Morlock Manors” plan. These underground buildings will also be cool in the summer and warm in the winter, as the ground acts as a natural thermal regulator. That means less electricity used on heating and cooling, which means they’re better for the environment!

Now I’m sure some of you are going to poo-poo that idea too. And that’s why I have a third idea. I propose giving a series of grants to Douglas College to found a Materials Science department, and direct them towards innovating a cost-effective replacement for cement and steel that is also transparent. This new material will be used in all new builds taller than three stories. That’s right, with transparent towers you don’t have to worry about blocking a view, you can just look right through to the mountains and the Riverfront!

Transportation

Transportation is obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. Traffic is a nightmare, and most of it is caused by people from outside of New West driving through New West. My first transportation proposal is therefore to ban private motor vehicles from crossing New Westminster’s borders. Whoever’s in is in, whoever’s out is out. No more through-traffic means no more traffic! New Westminster’s streets will be for New Westminster’s residents! Oh and of course because transit is the best we will let every SkyTrain and bus cross into and out of New Westminster however they please.

But what about getting goods into New Westminster? Astute readers will note that I didn’t ban trains or bicycles, which gives industry a choice of transportation options. I look forward to the fleet of electric cargo bikes being used for deliveries within New West! But wait, there’s another option, and it ties into the current Q2Q ferry and my proposal for replacing this service.

The Q2Q ferry pollutes and it’s relatively slow. That’s why I propose replacing it with the Q2Q Qatapult. Bonus: turn it around and you have a quick and effective way to get people from Downtown to Uptown! And with a series of Qatapults around town we can use them for delivering goods to all of New Westminster’s neighbourhoods!

Obviously the Q2Q Qatapult will be fully accessible from the very start. What kind of city implements a transportation project that doesn’t accommodate all of its citizens? A crazy city, that’s what kind of city.

Tying into my Westburnco Estates proposal, we will obviously need some way to get all those people around. And let’s face it, some people are not too keen on traveling by Qatapult. That’s why I’m proposing high-speed rail between the six-hundred storey tower and the Braid SkyTrain station. At a modest 300kph the travel time will be a zippy 26 seconds!

I was going to propose a tunnel underneath New Westminster from Sapperton through to the Queensborough Bridge (but definitely not the Stormont Connector, that’s crazy) but that’s already in the Master Transportation Plan. Ah well, it’s not like other New West political parties aren’t proposing things that are already in the works, so what the hell! Let’s put a tunnel underneath New Westminster!

Note that I have no idea how much this will cost in materials and labour and whatnot, but it’s not like proposing these things without figuring that out has stopped anybody before!

Parks and Recreation

Parks and recreation are obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. Some people want to make sure that the Canada Games Pool keeps its ten lanes when it gets rebuilt despite it only having eight now, and some people want to make sure that sports like trampoline and gymnastics that don’t involve buying a shit-ton of equipment each year are killed by postponing the Arenex replacement construction. These are crazy ideas. Mine are much more sane.

My first proposal for parks and recreation builds upon the city’s recent parklet projects. I feel that  this is too slow. One parklet per neighbourhood per year is just too darned slow. And that’s why I am proposing a parklini project, where unused tires are filled with dirt and have a tree planted in them. We can easily put down twenty parklinis a year and scatter them around the city, beautifying every neighbourhood equally!

And for the kids, some of the parklinis can be filled with sand and turned into sandboxinis! Wow, this is a sure-fire way to get the toddler vote, it’s almost like I put a little thought into this!

And let’s be fair, hockey and lacrosse are Canada’s national sports, so it only makes sense to invest in and promote them. Luckily we don’t need to do anything stupid like build yet another arena because with the drastic reduction in vehicles on the street we have acres and acres of pavement for street hockey and street lacrosse!

Continuing with the outdoor theme, I propose what I like to call the “JJ Lee Expedition”. Every Friday at noon a random selection of New Westminster residents will portage to Downtown Vancouver and hunt businessmen for their pelts, which will be brought back to New Westminster to turn into new clothing. Hey, JJ Lee didn’t call his book “The Measure of a Man” for nothing!

Economics

Economics is obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. With no businesses how do people live here?

The answer is simple. New Westminster is embracing various economic clusters. We have the health care cluster, other people have proposed a bridal shop cluster, and I’d like to hereby announce a bagel shop economic cluster. This will be centered in Victoria Hill, and all commercial shops in Victoria Hill will be required to sell locally-made bagels. Now you too can have your daily bagel, New West! The only restriction for this will be around naming: no naming your company “Royal City Bagels” or “Hyack Bagels”. Think up something original for a change, people!

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous is obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. I have a number of proposed policies to deal with this contentious issue.

Voter turnout in New Westminster is woeful. Some people say the way to help increase turnout is to engage the youth. I totally agree, but I don’t agree with who they target — people between 18 and 35. Who cares about millennials anyhow? They’re too busy eating avocado toast to worry about civic politics. That’s why I’m proud to be the first to announce a tween platform to try to improve the turnout for the all-too-important 10 to 12 age group. New Westminster needs an anthem, and who better to write and perform the anthem than Beyoncé? I hear she’s called Queen Bey and who better than a Queen to write the Royal City’s anthem? All official communications will be done via FaceTime. Council meetings will be held on a public Minecraft server, and all committee meetings will be held in Roblox. Flossing will not only be encouraged, it will be mandatory. And no I’m not talking about dental hygiene, old people, I’m talking about the dance! Geeze, dad!

Amalgamation seems to be all the rage these days, with Toronto going completely ape-shit and taking over half of Ontario, and the North Vancouvers taking a look into merging (yeah, I didn’t know there were two North Vancouvers either!). New Westminster needs to buck the trend and anti-amalgamate. Each neighbourhood will become its own city! And because of this we’ll have more mayors and therefore have a stronger voice in Metro Vancouver! Take that, Vancouver! You can’t push around all ten or twelve or thirteen or god knows how many of us there’ll be!

I also propose an official commission into finally figuring out just how many neighbourhoods New Westminster has.

Some people say New Westminster is Vancouver’s Brooklyn. While I don’t agree, I do think that we need to explore this idea further. That’s why I’m proposing razing New Westminster to the ground and rebuilding it to be exactly like Brooklyn. After this grand project is complete, New Westminster’s film industry will flourish as all of those films set in Brooklyn can now be filmed in New Westminster!

And I would like to finish with my most serious platform plank. Politics has been dominated by white men for too long, so I’m not actually running. Surprise! I bet I had you all fooled there!

So instead of voting for me, go out and support women and people of colour and people from other underrepresented groups who are taking the brave step in running for public office. And most importantly go vote!

New West Elects 2018 Bingo!

To help make the New Westminster election silly season even more silly, Cavanagh Productions (that’s the fancy name for me and my wife sitting around drinking and making shit up) have come up with a set of Bingo cards to help you laugh at… I mean laugh with candidates through this campaign season. Okay, Alice came up with the Bingo cards, all I did was type this up.

Here are the rules!

  1. Pick a candidate. They can be running for either City Council (or Mayor!) or for School Board trustee.
  2. Pick a number between 1 and 19. To help you pick (and to make sure not everybody picks 7 because god knows when you ask someone to pick a random number they always pick 7) here’s a helpful link.
  3. Click on your number to get your card: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.
  4. When your candidate says something official (press release, Tweet, Facebook, blog post, letter to the editor, campaign speech, etc) that’s on your bingo card, mark it off.
  5. If you get five boxes in a row, you win!

There will be prizes of buttons! Everybody loves buttons!

On Queensborough

This is going to be a bit of a lengthy post on various thoughts I have on Queensborough and the recently passed Temporary Modular Housing project.

On Yes In New West’s role

Yes In New West is a loose group of New Westminster residents who came together a couple of years ago to push for more choice in housing options, particularly those in the missing middle — townhouses and rowhouses. We’ve done a few small campaigns since then, an all-candidates meeting here, a letter-writing campaign there, but nothing that large.

During the process for rezoning the land on which the Temporary Modular Housing (or TMH) would be built, a group of Queensborough residents formed to try to stop it. They attended the Advisory Planning Commission meeting about the project and were unsuccessful at stopping it there.

Right around that time I made some modifications to Abundant Housing Vancouver‘s letter-generator program, and then launched a campaign to send letters of support to New Westminster city council. I was expecting maybe a couple dozen letters of support. I had asked AHVancouver how many letters they’d sent for various campaigns. They had put together a similar campaign supporting TMH in Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood, and another one for TMH in Richmond. These campaigns sent 119 letters in support of Marpole and 137 in support of Richmond. I thought we’d be lucky to get to fifty.

Then the New West Record put out an article about us. In our first day we had 30 letters of support. In three days we broke a hundred. After ten days we hit 138 and broke AHVancouver’s record for letters of support for a TMH project. A week later, and just an hour before the start of the public hearing, we sent our 196th letter.

The letters came from every single neighbourhood of New Westminster. They came from Sapperton, which has similar housing supplied by the Elizabeth Fry Society, in a building that faced similar opposition six years ago and is today hosts people that are a valued part of the community. They came from Brow Of The Hill, which has Westminster House and Last Door Recovery Society housing, whose residents volunteer at community events across Metro Vancouver. They came from Downtown New West, which has Genesis Society and Salvation Army housing near Qayqayt Elementary School, which have no problems coexisting.

And 25% of the letters that had addresses came from Queensborough. Queensborough has only about 10% of New Westminster’s population, so the Queensborough TMH had greater support there than from anywhere else in the city.

I was overwhelmed at all of the support Yes In New West was able to shine a light on. YiNW can’t take the credit, the 196 letter writers are more than deserving of all of the applause. We merely unlocked their support to let the city see how compassionate and welcoming they are.

On Queensborough

I like Queensborough. I think that it’s been dumped on in the past, but it’s getting better. The streets aren’t that great, there aren’t as many amenities as there should be (but it does have more park space per capita than the city average), the transit sucks, the sidewalks are crappy or non-existent, but it’s a nice community. I’ve been to the last two Queensborough Children’s Festivals, and they’re always full of energy, full of life, and full of community spirit. The last one I was at it was filled with people wearing shirts that said “Queensborough, Community With Heart”, and I still feel that that’s the truth.

Queensborough is filled with kind and welcoming people. Despite the efforts of the Facebook group Queensborough Residents for Responsible Community Planning (QRRCP), I cannot think of Queensborough residents as being unwelcoming. I believe that they’re just lacking the experience that others have when it comes to living in a community with housing for people who may have been living on the street, or are fleeing abuse, or are aging out of foster care with nowhere to go.

Acceptance often comes after exposure. We here in Brow of the Hill have been living with recovery houses for so long that they’re a fabric of our neighbourhood. We’re accepting of a wider range of people from a wider range of socioeconomic situations because we have that exposure. Queensborough residents don’t, so they can’t build up that acceptance and are more likely to believe in strawman arguments (“our kids will be playing in parks strewn with needles” or “mentally ill women will break into our schools with axes” or even “our property values will go down”) that have no bearing in reality. It’s only after exposure that the acceptance will come, and I’m very confident that Queensborough will accept these women as fellow neighbours and not as outsiders or others.

On Queensborough TMH

The Queensborough Temporary Modular Housing will provide shelter for 44 women who are either without a home or are at risk of losing their home. This isn’t a drug recovery centre, this isn’t a mental illness facility, it’s for women who do not have a place to live. That’s an important distinction, because being without a home does not mean you’re a drug user or have mental illness challenges. They could be teenagers turning 19 and aging out of foster care. They could be seniors on fixed incomes facing increasing rent and medical costs. They could be women fleeing domestic violence. All of these women — and those with other issues that were either caused by or the cause of losing their housing — have a right to a safe place to live.

So to hear fear-mongering from the Port Royal Mom’s Group or online petitions about vague “dangers to our children” is disheartening. Those same vague “concerns” in the QRRCP petition (which I will not link to) show up:

Queensborough Residents For Responsible Community Planning (QRRCP) is a group of local residents who are concerned with the precise location of this project, given its close proximity to large groups of children accessing school and community services.

…the current site is in direct proximity to over 680 students and hundreds of additional children who are potentially at risk to harm from exposure to active drug use, a potential increase in local drug trade/associated criminal activity, and, individuals exhibiting high risk mental health behaviours.

Of course, these concerns are largely unfounded. Qayqayt Elementary School has three recovery houses closer than this project is to Queen Elizabeth Elementary or Queensborough Middle School, and they coexist just fine. And tarring an entire group of vulnerable people with “active drug use” or “criminal activity” or “high risk mental health behaviours” is just plain scare-mongering. What about the 18-year old who’s transitioning out of foster care? What about the 75-year old woman who’s on a fixed income and cannot continue to pay her ever-increasing rent? What about the woman fleeing domestic violence? Why are you tarring these women with such fearful words? It’s almost as if they’re cherry-picking horror stories to drive up people’s fears to get them to oppose the project.

Nowhere in the petition does it mention the loss of parkland, which you’ll seen see was a theme of the majority of the speakers at the public hearing. I don’t know why they made this shift of narrative.

On The Public Hearing

It was disgraceful, and the overwhelming majority of that disgrace falls on the group of people who came out in opposition to the project. They were rude, they were disrespectful, and they created a hostile environment for everybody involved. The only raised voices I heard from anybody who was supporting the project was asking the loud opposition crowd to be quiet.

Women who had been given assistance through similar projects came out to speak in favour of housing, and a number of them bravely shared incredibly personal and heartbreaking stories. A lot of people from Elizabeth Fry and other similar organizations spoke about the massive benefits of projects like this, not only for the people involved but also for the community. I spoke, yes, but the brave women who shared their stories are the ones we should be focusing on.

And then there were the group of people in opposition. With threatening words towards council like “we’ll be watching” or “November, guys” (pro-tip: if you’re going to threaten politicians about an upcoming election, get the month right) and the clapping and shouting after anybody in opposition spoke, this group made City Hall feel like a riot was going to break out. Two women who were going to speak in favour were intimidated by this behaviour into leaving before they could speak. The safe and welcoming place that City Hall is meant to be was completely transformed by the intimidation of the opposition group.

Queensborough-Richmond MLA Jas Johal was in the lobby, but unfortunately did not speak about the project. After I spoke in favour, I passed him in the audience and he gave me some kind of a smug smirk. I learned afterwards that he was seen chatting and laughing with a group of people in opposition who were being loud and intimidating. This is poor behaviour from someone who is supposed to be a leader in the community.

None of the bullying came from people in support of the project. None of the intimidation came from people in support of the project. If someone in opposition to the project felt bullied or guilty because they stated their reasons for opposing the location, maybe that’s their conscience making an appearance. If you feel guilty because you’re opposing a project because it’ll take away park space when women who lived on the streets and could have died without projects like this speak up, then maybe it’s your conscience making you feel guilty that you place park space above housing a vulnerable neighbour.

I urge everybody to watch New Westminster City Council’s statements made after the Public Hearing as they voted in favour of the project. If you only have 15 minutes, skip to 30 minutes into the video and listen to Jaimie McEvoy’s heart-wrenching story.

On being heard

This group kept saying things like “we want you to hear us” or “yes to the project, but no to the location”. This sounds reasonable on the face of it. People want to be heard. But if you want to actually have a conversation, you have to do some listening as well. The people in opposition to the project stated that they wanted the project moved to another site such as a location on nearby Fenton Street. The city heard this request and did a detailed look at the site before determining that it would not work for this project. The money from the provincial government to build the building has a time limit on it, and the Fenton Street site required more work than could be done before that time limit, so it could not be moved to Fenton Street.

The city reported this, yet the people in opposition didn’t hear it. They continued to say “no to the location” even when they were told that the other locations would not work.

And the “yes to the project, but no to the location” argument is a typical (and here’s where some of you are going to get on me for using the word) NIMBY argument. It’s used to show some kind of sympathy, to show that you are actually in favour of housing vulnerable people, but for whatever reason the location just won’t work. “We’re in favour of townhouses, just stick them on busy arterials instead of our nice street.” “We’re in favour of towers, just not where they block our view.” “We’re in favour of temporary modular housing, just not so close to a school because we’re concerned about the safety of children.”

Well, guess what. If you’re opposed to the location you’re opposed to the project. The location is part of the project. You can’t separate them. Every location has its flaws; I can almost guarantee that if the Fenton Street site was the first choice of the city, these people would still come out and come up with excuses why the location is no good for the project. It’s next to single family homes, maybe, or it’s too far from transit, or some other excuse.

The only grace I’m willing to grant them is the loss of park space. Yes, the lot is currently covered in gravel, but it would not take much to throw down some grass and have it be a bit of a grassy field in a few months. The city should have come out right from the start saying “we realize that there will be a loss of green space, but the T in TMH means ‘temporary’ and the building will be gone in 10 to 12 years, after which we will restore the site to a much better quality than it is now.” Guarantee that the park space will be restored to the community and show that you’re listening to them on this point as well.

On The Future

The future is in Queensborough’s hands. It could go two ways:

One, the people in opposition rally in opposition to the project and protest on site when construction starts. The notice of public hearing sign was lying in the dirt when I went to the Queensborough Community Centre on Tuesday, and I’m hoping this wasn’t because someone was pissed off and knocked it over, I’m hoping that for whatever reason the city took it down and just left it there instead of hauling it away. I’m hoping that this wasn’t the start of larger protests. This reaction would obviously be a negative one, and definitely wouldn’t shine a great light on Queensborough.

The other way this could go is people welcome their new neighbours to their community. There are a number of people who have expressed interest in helping EFry with things like Compass Cards, or welcome packages. I’m hoping that kids from the two schools create gift bags for the new residents, similar to kids in Marpole. I’m hoping to see an overwhelming amount of support and compassion and empathy for our new neighbours and new members of our community.

After all, what did that wise man once say?

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

Local family “totally fine” with light sentence for son’s killer

The driver responsible for the 2017 crash that killed cyclist Kerry Hawkins and left three other people seriously injured has been handed a $1,750 fine.

A provincial court judge also sentenced Emerson Sutton to a one-year driving ban for the devastating collision, which happened on Vancouver’s SW Marine Drive.

Before sentencing, Hawkins’ friends and family addressed Sutton in court, where they delivered emotional victim impact statements describing the depth of Sutton’s loss.

Elaine Hawkins, Kerry Hawkins’ wife, learned she was pregnant three weeks before the crash.

“We beg the court to go lightly on Mr. Sutton,” Mrs. Hawkins said. “He says he fell asleep after a night of partying, and crashed into my husband without knowing better. Banning him from driving for twelve long months more than makes up for losing the love of my life forever.”

“Our daughter will never know her father, but Mr. Sutton shouldn’t have his freedom to move around taken away from him. That would be unthinkable.”

Hawkins’ mother, Jaqueline McFadden, held a photo of her son as she read her statement.

“It has been 12 months of indescribable anguish for our family. Every time I look at my granddaughter I see my son and my heart breaks knowing that Mr. Sutton could have to pay as much as $2,000 for killing him. He has suffered enough, he even threw up when he heard my son was killed at his hand.”

The Crown had asked for the maximum sentence of a $2,000 fine and six months in jail.

“We are totally fine with this sentence,” said Hawkins’ father, Bobby. “Our son was ripped out of our lives, and for all that pain and suffering Emerson has caused us, not being able to drive for one year is more than enough punishment for him. And then to have to pay $1,750 on top of that? That’s like buying a new laptop, how can you possibly imagine how much he’ll suffer because he’ll have to use an old computer? That’s nowhere near as bad as having your son killed.”

“And thank god he used a car to kill Kerry. Imagine if he’d accidentally shot him with a gun? That would have been terrible, he should be thrown in jail for a long long time if that happened. But killing him with a car? Eh, whatever.”