I very much dislike citycaucas.com, a well-read blog focused on the civic politics of Vancouver. It’s not that they don’t have well researched information, it is the outright partisan pettiness of the blog that bugs me. Their latest missive on the (possible) revival of the long-thought-dead conservative Non-Partisan Association (NPA) is one example of this (the picture above is from that blog – the caption is mine.)
RE: A call for Improved Participation of the Public in City Planning and Governance
July 14, 2010
Dear Mayor and Council,
I am writing this letter to you in regards to the recent incident in council involving residents from the West End. Many of us have to come realize that this incident was not solely an issue of foul language, but an issue of respect and the rights of the electorate to be heard and their opinions taken into consideration. From my experience this is not a new issue, but one that has been present in the City of Vancouver for many years.
I called in to Bill Good’s show on CKNW regarding the issue of public participation in planning processes and Frances Bula stated:
“It isn’t working and it hasn’t been working for a long time. I have covered council for 15 years … and out of that time 99 of 100 decisions council goes ahead and does what was planned at the beginning even though hundreds of people sometimes show up. It is not a good process.”
I agree with this statement. In my 20 years working as a senior manager with a local NGO (the Environmental Youth Alliance), I worked on a range of planning processes from the South East False Creek development (mid 90s), to RTD’s planning and building of the Skytrain line (in this case our work to specifically try and save the (previously) largest green space in East Vancouver, the Grandview Cut). In many cases the processes we were involved in were drawn out, with little access to timely and important information. To be fair, there have been some examples of participatory processes and programs that have worked, yet by-in-large, as Frances says, these processes have been less than satisfactory.
With the advance of participatory technologies, especially spatial technologies, it is no longer acceptable to limit consultations to presentations at council, design charrettes and community events.
I would propose that we should learn from this incident, and that council take quick and decisive action to bring about meaningful public participation in city planning and governance. I would suggest the following actions:
In conclusion, though this incident clearly has had a negative impact on the perception of the openness of city council, it is important that council move quickly to demonstrate that this is not the case. This can be done through the city recommitting to open governance especially in the area of planning, combined with a concrete plan and set of actions which demonstrates how this will happen.
Thank you for your time.
Doug Ragan, MM, PhD (candidate)
College of Architecture and Planning
Community Development Specialist
University of Colorado
Participatory Planning Resources
Brazil Youth Atlas (EYA/SCARP)
Bridging the Digital Divide (World Urban Forum V)
Capable Cities in British Columbia- Key Informant ReportCreative Tools
Civic Engagement of Young People
Immigrant and Youth refugee guide (EYA)
Peers Asset Mapping Guide (EYA/PEERS)
Finding Home (EYA/Worldview Strategies)
Mapped! A Youth Community Mapping Toolkit for Vancouver
UMAP (University of Colorado)
UN-HABITAT Asset Mapping Toolkit (draft)
Youmap (City of Vancouver)
This is a photo collage done for the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in 2006. The photos are part of a larger exhibition focused on youth perspective on the urban environment. The photos exhibition was mounted by EYA and UN-HABIAT. Photos done by KK Law.