I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the “Year In Review” forum hosted by previous NPA candidate Michael Geller, largely because I suspected an overwhelmingly NPA supportive crowd would be the only ones to show up.
And, for the most part, I was correct – former and current NPA board members, elected officials and supporters roamed the room, with few Vision or COPE supporters in tow. In fact, one of those former NPA elected officials tried to tell me that the morning remained civil and well-behaved because “the right-of-centre” had been behind the organizing, suggesting that had the “left” been at the helm, chaos and hostility would have ruled the day.
This is exactly the type of comment that I have come to expect from your typical NPA, Quadra-type of supporter. When confronted with the question, I told the individual that having grown up in Marpole/Kerrisdale, I knew first hand that civility was by no means exclusive to her end of the political spectrum.
That bit of nonsense aside, I found the morning to be a fantastic endeavour that could prove to be a model for civic engagement for all parties – assuming, of course, that the pool of interest is widened with future sessions.
First and foremoest, let me say that Michael Geller is an absolute gentleman and a scholar. His demeanour is completely disarming and welcoming, his intent seems to be without political motivation as its driving motivation, and his genuine interest in improving Vancouver is obvious. He admitted that my post from last week was a welcome wake-up call for him, and I thanked him for the invite.
The first panel session involved former NPA Councillor Gordon Price, former Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate Jim Green, and Geller, and was moderated by architect Joost Bakker. 14 topics were brought forward for discussion, including the Burrard Bridge bike lane trial, the Woodsward’s development, the Olympic Village, the STIR program, laneway housing, the HEAT shelters, parking and the Green agenda.
The banter between the three participants was amusing, for the simple fact that positions held true in time of election didn’t necessarily fall in line within this particular debate. Green was passionately advocating for increased density in the city, Geller was singing the praises of how Vision Vancouver had handled the Olympic Village, and Price was strongly backing the maintenance of the social housing compoent of the Olympic Village regardless of costs.
This is what I enjoyed most about this first panel – the urban experts that were willing to advance viewpoints that had little adherence to their former partisan posts or the current state of their former political homes.
Geller was angry with the province for their lack of interest in his modular housing proposals directed towards lower income families and the homeless. Price was fascinating in his views on the concept of “motordom,” where from the 1950s onward, cities were built according to the facilitation of the the seamless use of automobiles. And Jim Green beamed about the Woodward’s development, which he used as a model of mixed use and composition that the Olympic Village should be patterned after.
All in all, a fantastic session that only scratched the surface of some of the most pressing issues of the day.