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Signs, Snow, Whistler Bankruptcy, and Other Olympic-Sized Misadventures and Malfunctions

Recently, a series of Olympic flags went up on lamp posts along a stretch of the Dollarton Highway in the District of North Vancouver.  These were specifically within the boundaries of the Burrard Band (Tsleil-Waututh), one of the four Native “host nations” to the 2010 Games.  I wrote the following letter to North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton.

Dear Mayor Walton:

I have noted with some dismay the recent placement of VANOC signage on lamp posts along parts of the Dollarton Highway.  These signs include the corporate logos of several Olympic sponsors, notably RBC and Coca Cola.  For me, the inclusion of corporate logos (and hence advertising) on public property represents an unwanted intrusion of the corporate sector onto the "Commons".

Given that as a taxpayer I have paid part of the costs of this public infrastructure, I am frankly offended by these signs.  Furthermore, I do not recall that the issue was presented to the public by Council for approval.

I am therefore respectfully requesting that you and Council instruct District staff to remove these signs as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,

Christopher A. Shaw, Ph.D

Mayor Walton’s assistant responded:

Dear Dr. Shaw:

Thank you for your e-mail of January 20th.  Mayor Walton has looked into this matter and has asked me to forward this response to you.

The Olympic Torch Relay signage that you are referring to along parts of Dollarton Highway and Cates Park are within the Tsleil-Waututh Nation boundaries. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation are one of the Four Host Nations.  Because the signage is on First Nation property, the District does not have the authority to have these signs removed.  The District of North Vancouver taxpayers did not contribute any monies towards the cost of these banners. 

These banners are temporary and will be removed in March and replaced with the Tsleil-Waututh’s own banners which I hope you will find less offensive. 

Louise Horton

Executive Assistant to Mayor Richard WaltonDistrict of North Vancouver

 I responded:

Ms. Horton:

One more question: Did the Tsleil-Waututh pay for the lamp posts to which the banners are attached? If not, perhaps they should put their banners on non-District property.

Failing this, it seems to me that I should be able to advertise my company on any other lamp posts in the District. I'm assuming that this would be fine with the mayor and council?

Sincerely yours,

Chris Shaw

Ms Horton’s reply:

Dr. Shaw:

Yes, you are correct in saying the District owns the street lighting posts. However, the roadway travels through the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and through an agreement between the parties, the District has allowed the Tsleil-Waututh to install and maintain banners of their choice.

The District does not permit commercial advertising on street banners.  Banners for community events held by non-profit groups, neighbourhood recognition banners and public art banners are permitted.

Sincerely yours,

Louise Horton

Once again into the breach I went:

Ms. Horton:

Sorry to be a pest about this, but I'm not having an issue with the Band or their Olympic partnership with VANOC or the use of native symbols or VANOC ones, rather the logos of Coca Cola and RBC on public property.  Neither of the latter constitute a non-profit entity.

Hence, more clarification is sought.

Sincerely yours,

Chris Shaw

Silence from the District ensues.

There you have it: official gobbledegook from our public servants on Olympic issues and the privatization of public space for the same.  You really can’t make this stuff up.

Other topics of the day in relation to the Olympic Circus: snow and resort defaults.

We know that there is little snow on the mountains, especially near the Olympic venues on the North Shore.  VANOC recently announced that it would be hauling snow down from higher elevations to cover up the bare patches on Cypress and other sites.

Questions to John Furlong, VANOC CEO:

 1. Are you going to be cutting any trees to get to the higher elevations for your (sic) snow? If so, who gave you permission?  What about roads into the area…are you constructing any?  What will all of this cost?

 2. Have you considered the impact of removal of snow from the other sites and the impact this might cause for habitat of local species?

 3. Have you considered the impact on the local reservoir?

 Lastly, we learned this week that Fortress, the company that acquired Whistler-Blackcomb from a bankrupt Intrawest, is now in default to its creditors.  The news sparked speculation that the resort might close before the Olympics.  Since the province and Feds can hardly allow such an embarrassment to occur just before “our time to shine”, look for both to find some sort of loan package to bail out the company to keep it afloat.  If so, they will be joining the City of Vancouver as real estate speculators, apparently the newest Olympic sport.

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