It has been a while since I did an update of my non-council activities. It was a long, glorious summer, but like a student going back to school, Labour Day passed and I am right back in the middle of it, shuffling schedules and trying to figure out how I will survive this semester!
After a long weekend for the record books (yes I will blog about it), Tuesday evening I had a meeting with the Mayor’s Public Engagement Taskforce. This group is tasked with developing new and better ideas for the City to “engage” with the public – a slightly jargony term that includes outreach, consultation, and listening. We will be reporting out on our progress, but after a few early meetings where it seemed we were tying ourselves up a bit in process and definition, this meeting I felt like the group really had its legs and some great ideas and visible paths forward are happening. It is a really great group of staff and public, and I expect good things will come out of it.
Wednesday I had the first ACTBiPed meeting of the fall, and having not been invited to the “State Dinner” apparently happening in town, I consoled myself with some good discussion of sustainable transportation improvements the City is working on, and some others the City should probably be working on. The ACTBiPed group is heavy with very vocal advocates who have no trouble assuring their concerns are heard. Progress is slow and steady on the City’s Master Transportation Plan, and we are improving, but progress sometimes seems as glacial as the timing for the walk signal at 8th Street and 7th Ave.
Thursday was an Open House at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall for the Sapperton Green development. This long-discussed and slow-to-progress development project between the Braid SkyTrain Station and Hume Park has the potential to be the largest single development in the history of New Westminster, so it is important that we get the planning and public engagement right.
The open house was well attended, and although the plans are still rather preliminary, people’s reactions were quite varied. The scale is large, but the location is right for higher-density residential space and for increased employment lands, and this is the owners’ long-term plan for the site. The conversation is ongoing, and you can keep up here. The large warehouse currently on the property was recently leased for a long term, which is testament to the timeline of this project. Build-out is probably 20+ years, as you would think when you compare to the timeline of the (much smaller) Brewery District and Victoria Hill developments.
So please get involved in the conversation, but I want to correct one thing in the record: my phone number and other contact info is on the bottom of this webpage. I have no idea whose number is beside my name on this handbill posted on a telephone pole in Lower Sapperton. I don’t necessarily support the positions on this handbill, but actually want to hear from you, so better if you have the right number!
Finally, on Saturday, I was honoured to be able to “officiate” at the wedding of my friend Matt Laird and his amazing wife Mila. I hasten to mention I am in no way empowered to marry people, but through the the mechanistic shenanigans of bureaucracy and shadowy Beer Friday commitments, this duty was thrust upon me. I was proud to stand up there with a great couple, and it gave me an excuse to pull out the official jewelry.
If I think about my current role as a City Councillor, I have to count Matt as one of the most important people in making it happen. Not directly – he didn’t convince me to run, he didn’t take a big role in my campaign, and he didn’t even vote for me (having moved to Vancouver before the election) – but by being a friend, co-conspirator, advisor, and advocate when I started to get involved more seriously with community activism in New Westminster a decade ago. He was an early champion of the New Westminster Environmental Partners, and he was a tireless advocate for a more sustainable community, for better transportation infrastructure that protected our neighbourhoods, and for social justice in the City. He was a conduit to hooking me up with other people who believed in these things. He ran for election in the City, and never quite got over the top, but he made a huge difference in this City in the decade he lived here, evidenced by the “Who’s Who” of New Westminster Elite Undesirables® who trekked up to Grouse Mountain to celebrate his marriage.
When Matt met Mila a couple of years ago, there was a huge sigh amongst his friends (and apparently his family), as he found a whip-smart and down-to-earth counter to his sometimes pie-in-the-sky idealism, a calm voice to his endless excitement, and a ready retort to his occasional idiocy. The two of them make a fun and beautiful couple, and I wish them all the best as they start their new adventure in Cambridge (the one in Jolly ol’ England) where I think Jeremy Corbyn just found a supporter.
Finally, I took a short break from Sunday’s council preparation to attend the Massey Heights RA’s Hurrah. The RA President Jason Lesage took the photo at the top with Becky and I sporting the bedazzled paper hats being produced by kids at the Arts Council booth. It was good times and great weather at the top of New Westminster (WestBurnCo Park). Congrats #MVRA!