Jacobs and Florida and Gehl oh my! Who really influences our local politicians?

While Vision Vancouver accuses the NPA of being influenced by Big Oil and the NPA accuses Vision of being influenced by Big Union, both are accused by the other parties of being influenced by Big Real Estate. COPE meanwhile has been accused of being influenced by Big Radicals and the Cedar Party, well...muscle cars? It’s unclear just who the Greens are guilty of being influenced by, but guessing from the populist rhetoric about development I’d wager to say that it’s Big Community. Big angry communities pissed off about development.

But who, in a less sensationalized sense, truly influences and inspires those who are running for a seat in City Hall? Which authors, urbanists, architects, activists or academics have wiggled into their hearts and minds and inspired them to create the platforms, policies, strategies or bylaws that they do? Can one even be inspired to make a bylaw? I suppose Mayor Robertson recently championing a change to bylaws that has allowed the craft beer industry to thrive in Vancouver was inspired by something; A trip to Portland probably.

In any event, over the past few weeks I’ve set myself a goal of tying to find out who, besides these afore mentioned usual suspects, influences and inspires our local politicians. There have been some surprising answers along the way.

I began this exercise a few weeks back when I wrote this first of three posts. In the time since then I’ve attended numerous debates and meet the candidates events and just straight up started asking them.

If you're in a hurry because you want to go vote, jump over to the 4th page for my condensed analysis of their answers.

Turns out that yes, these people are genuinely interested in cities, not just politics in the city, but the design, function, potential and the lived experience of people in cities. Here are a few of the responses I was able to gather.

Geoff Meggs shared with me a few different people whose ideas have been on his mind lately, but he mentioned late Vancouver City Councilor Jim Green first. Jim, in Meggs’ opinion, “combined a huge commitment to social justice with a practical attitude about how to build the city” It was interesting then that he went on to cite Charles Montgomery, Mike Davis and Saskia Sassen as three others who have been on his mind (and I’ll give Geoff credit here – his answers were the most unexpected and exciting. I give Mayor Robertson credit too for pulling out an more obscure one too, later.)

“We tend to look at regional scales as getting to be a pretty large scale perspective but she [Saskia Sassen] looks at the global scale and tries to understand how the global economy functions with cities. Charles Montogomery, Happy City is another one. I Really appreciate the way Montgomery thinks and writes about city design and how that related to the social experience of the city. Mike Davis, ecology of fear,  is another stimulating book that looks at some of the same things. ” – Councilor Geoff Meggs on urban thinkers whose recent work has resonated with him.

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