Keeping Busy

My New Year’s goal of writing more frequent blog posts – even just short ones – is being challenged by my schedule. So as part of ongoing lemonade-making efforts, I will make a blog post out of my too-busy-to-write-anything-useful day today.

I attended a meeting this morning where the lead researchers of the Southwest BC Bioregion Food System Design Project reported out results of the first phases of their ongoing study. There is a lot to digest (pun!) here, and the actual reports are going to be made publicly available in a couple of weeks, so I will wait until then to have a longer discussion about what this research project means, to the region and to a City like New Westminster (we were one of 8 Local Governments that provided a little funding to help bring this research to life).

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Long version short – we are challenged to supply all of our food locally in this rapidly growing region, and without significant change in how and what we eat, the region will never be self-sustaining no matter how much ALR we protect. However, there are some significant economic and other advantages to encouraging increased use of ALR land for local food crops, and less reliance on food imports. There are also (somewhat paradoxically) some potential environmental/ecological disadvantages to this approach. It is a complex problem, as might be expected from an analysis of so many interweaving complex systems.

After this meeting, I took my first ever trip on the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam City Hall to meet with members of Coquitlam Council and staff to continue our discussion of the Brunette Overpass project. Nothing exciting to announce yet here, except for continued progress in finding common ground on the principles and challenges of the project. I remain positive about this file.

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It may be telling about our biases that the New Westminster contingent (Council members and Staff) rode the Evergreen together to and from the meeting, reducing at least by one or two the number of vehicles trying to get through the constricted interchange that connects our City. Its almost as if there are alternatives to more lanes…

Finally, this evening members of the New Westminster Advisory Committee on Transit, Bicycles and Pedestrians, and the Parks and Recreation Committee had a joint meeting to talk about potential design and functional elements of a waterfront connection between the Pier Park and Sapperton Landing.

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We are *really early* in this process, and although making a connection here is a Council priority, we have a lot of jurisdictional, engineering, and budget issues to work through. However, some high-level understanding of what people would want or expect from the connection is useful in setting some terms and developing concepts.

These are all projects I hope to be able to write more about soon. I’d love to hear your opinions about any of them.

NW Station glass

After several months of disruption, it is with little fanfare that the New Westminster Skytrain station was fully re-opened after renovation. Immediately noticeable in the new station is the mural stretching up the staircase to the eastbound platform.

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In a nice understated nod to local history, the glass mural is an amalgam of images from New Westminster history, some familiar, some not. The photos were drawn form New West Archives and the Vancouver Public Library collection, and collaged with colour effects by artist Sean Alward.

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The overall effect down the staircase is to mimic the flow of the Fraser River itself, with various pictures of “nature” juxtaposed with “resources” that we have created from nature through a 150+ year history of New Westminster’s development. And the people are more shadows, impressions imposed on the background. A really nice piece. And what’s with the blimp?

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Meeting with Coquitlam

Members of New Westminster and Coquitlam Councils, with staff support on both sides, had a great meeting yesterday to discuss the Brunette Interchange project.

The meeting included a tour of important locations on both sides of Highway 1. Both Councils took the opportunity to share ideas and issues, and have a better understanding of the many concerns with the current traffic through this corridor and with the potential solutions offered by the Ministry of Transportation.

I still have serious concerns with this project, but was really pleased with yesterday’s discussions between the two Councils. The meeting was positive, respectful, and informing, and I am looking forward to the discussions ahead.

Metro Conversations

I’m just not blogging enough! The many challenges on my calendar are ganging up and creating some issues with my time. I have a plan to manage this, a rather extreme one by some measures, that will be unleashed when I get back from my scheduled Christmas vacation, so until then, I encourage regular readers to go to better local ideas sources, like Tenth to the Fraser. Seriously, I’m biased, but New Westminster’s 2016 Citizen of the Year is really kicking some butt over there.

One of the things I’m working on that is filling my time is a plan to bring “urbanist” conversations out of downtown Vancouver and into the urban areas where a lot of cool transformation is happening, as the hipsters, entrepreneurs, and young families are being priced out of the urban core. It is all the fault of the group in that banner photo above.

Nathan Pachal is a software guy and well-known transportation blogger from Langley City. Kiersten Duncan is a recreation leader, an Urban Development / Environmental Science student, and community activist in Maple Ridge. Mathew Bond is a transportation engineer and leader in the mountain biking community in North Vancouver District. What we all have in common is we are all first-term City Councillors in our respective communities, and we all want to increase the communication in our communities about urban living, city planning, and sustainable development issues.

Working together, we are cooking up some plans. The first manifestation will be a series of “Metro Conversations” in each of our respective communities, a bit of a riff off of (rip-off of?) the SFU City Conversations program. The first will be Next Week at the Network Hub, where we will be talking about “Short Term Rentals”.

With the advent of digital booking platforms, the sleepy Bed & Breakfast industry has exploded into a controversial city-shaping force. The likes of AirBnB and VRBO may be a boon to tourism that makes home ownership more affordable, or may be disruptive to traditional neighbourhoods and exacerbate a housing affordability crisis. How do short term rentals fit into our communities, and what (if anything?) can local governments do about them. Should they do anything?

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We have a Panel with a well-known New West business person you may not know was an AirBnb operator, the already-famous Tej Kainth from Tourism New Westminster, and Iain Majoribanks, who brings an academic viewpoint, having studied the impact of AirBnB on housing affordability. They are going to help frame the conversation (yes, lots of time and space for audience participation) and provide a window into their experiences with STRs.

It is free, but space is limited, so you should go to the Eventbrite Page and get a ticket to make sure you get a seat. We’ll let you in at the door, but only until the space is full! If so, you will have to sit outside and feel shame until the post-conversation social (place so far undetermined).

Sunday

This is the latest in my continuing series on how inept I am at continuing my series on the things I am up to in the community outside of the regular Council Meeting schedule. However, there was so much happening on Sunday, it is worth trying to post.

June 12 is Philippine Independence Day. In 2016 that means 118 years since the Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines free of Spanish rule and for the first time unfurled the Flag of the Philippines. It would be another 48 years before the Treaty of Manila was signed, making the Philippines truly independent, but the June 12th anniversary is marked as the one where the Filipino people themselves declared their “inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence”.

This day is celebrated in New Westminster in honour of our third largest (and fastest growing) ethnic group in the City. We were honoured to have a representative of the Consular General and other dignitaries from the Filipino community, and we raised the flag of the Philippines over Friendship Gardens, with all of the appropriate speeches from people of importance.sunday1

Some of us had to rush off from that event to Sapperton Day on East Columbia Street.

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I made it just in time to take part in the annual tradition of the Red Tape race, where elected types and their proxies race tricycles for the honour, the glory, and a bag of kettle corn. You will have to read the sports pages to see who won… because it wouldn’t be classy for me to point it out. 😉

Important duties dispatched, I joined the crowds at Sapperton Day enjoying the sunny weather and great variety of events. I did all of those things a politician is meant to do:

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…and even had my bike handling skills tested by the good people at Caps and HUB.

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Then it was off to the New Westminster Lawn Bowling Club for the annual tradition of a Lawn Bowling Battle Royale between Team Mayor Cote and the New West Youth Ambassadors. It was a tightly fought competition where accuracy by far outweighed precision for both teams.

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This was a day of fun and games here in New Westminster, but as the clouds parted and the sun shone on our events, very dark news was unfolding. As the details of the horrific attack in Orlando trickled out, bad news became worse and more troubling as the day went on. Early in the afternoon, a few organizers from New West Pride put the word out that an impromptu vigil would be held at the Rainbow Crosswalk on Columbia Street. Social media news spread quickly, and scores of people showed up.

The President of NWPride, the Mayor and MLA Judy Darcy spoke, and several other members of the community said a few words about their personal experience or feelings. Candles were lit, silence ensued, and people shared a moment of being with other people, supporting one another, as a community is meant to do. There is a lot that people much smarter and more profound than I have said about the violence in Orlando, and I was left struggling for words for the day.

To me, and I think many others in our community, Pride in New West has been a celebration of inclusivity and acceptance. I’ve met so many great, engaged, interesting people through the organization and have enjoyed so many events they have brought to or supported in our City. So it is easy for a vanilla straight, male, cis, person like me to forget that Pride is also about a struggle for acceptance, and that the struggle is not over, even here despite how “accepting” we think our community is.

It is banal to talk about gun violence in the States; it is a national sickness that I lament they will never have the courage to address. The dog-whistle racism of blaming this event (well, every negative news event for the last decade) on a poorly defined religious/cultural stereotype is equally trite. Unfortunately, those are also useful distractions for the media in an overhyped election year. However, at its core, this was an attack on gay men for no other reason than their being openly gay. Whether you are in Orlando or New Westminster, this attack is meant to make you feel less safe simply because of who you are. That is why it is important that we don’t just celebrate, but announce acceptance; sometimes through small acts like a rainbow crosswalk or lighting up the Anvil Centre with rainbow lights, because we need to demonstrate that there is a community here who believe in this struggle, and are ready to support that struggle, hoping we can make our world more just for our friends, and for ourselves.

So you want to do something local to help with the celebration, and the struggle?

Here is a link to how you can help Pride New West out.

Outta here (for a bit)

I have, once again, been really slow to get new posts up here, and this one is mostly to tell you it is going to be a bit of time before you see another one.

The picture above is from an SFU City Conversation I had a couple of days ago with two other City Councillors, under the guise of us representing Young/New leadership in local government in the region. Nathan Pachal is definitely young (under 40) and new (in the job for only a few months), Mathew Bond is definitely young (40ish?) and is new (this is his first term on Council), and I am only young in the context of the average age of City Councillors across the region, and that new-Councillor smell is starting to wear off. It was great to be in the company of these two very bright and very engaged local government representatives

It was also good to have three Councillors from municipalities across the region come together to talk to a (mostly) City of Vancouver audience and expand the focus of the conversation to the wider region. The audience was receptive to our self- and hometown-aggrandizing, and we could have gone on for hours talking about public engagement, housing affordability, transportation, taxation, and other challenges our region faces. We were thinking maybe we should PodCast.

I also got a commitment from the organizers that a future City Conversations panel would discuss the issue of gender and ethnic diversity in local government politics, for what might be obvious reasons from the photo above!

So that is it for now. I am off to enjoy a quality long weekend with a couple of friends suffering on my bicycle for some seriously needed recuperation and to get my swollen-up cynicism gland drained. I will be far away from blogging devices. I have three (!) Ask Pats in the queue, and will button them up soon after I return. Hopefully.

In the meantime, if you want to enjoy your screen time in a hyper-local way, you should be over at Tenth to the Fraser, and see what real, local, high-quality content looks like instead of slumming over here.

Have a good long weekend, watch for flying anvils.

Community Update update

I’m having a little trouble with the “community” posts here. I was hoping originally to give a weekly update of what I have been doing in the community when I’m not in Council meetings, to give people a better idea of what Council life is like. It is also (apparently) obligatory for politicians to post regular pictures of themselves smiling in the community to remind people that they exist. So mix those together, I figure, and it can be all about Pat once a week.

Two problems: much of what I do is boring subject matter for a blog post, and doesn’t necessarily come with a good photo. If I summarize most evenings, it looks like this:

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And, if I’m lucky, occasional moments of excitement like this:

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Which is all positive, good stuff, but not usually compelling blog info.

The second problem is I usually forget to take photos. #BadPolitician.

So once a week became one every fortnight, and occasionally irregular, and by then there are 20 events piled up and I get this long-winded “Community” post with many dull things and terrible photos.

So I’m going to try to post more frequently with very short posts, essentially Instagram-style, maybe as often as one every couple of days, between my regular posts that are more topic-based. As a result, I may put a few in the queue and have them come out on a regular basis, not necessarily the day the events occur, to sort of meter these things out. Let’s see how this works.

My big highlight last weekend was giving a Jane’s Walk on Saturday. I blended talking about history (of which I know little), architecture (of which I know less) and geology (or which I know a lot) in a talk and walk looking at building stones of New West.

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As it was a Jane’s Walk, I also interspersed my talking part with a few quotes from Jane Jacobs’ monumental book on the nature of neighbourhoods The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Including this one, where I asked my walkers to think and chat about whether New Westminster fits the bill to realize its full potential:

To generate exuberant diversity in a city’s streets and districts, four conditions are indispensable:

1. The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two. These must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the places for different purposes, but who are able to use many facilities in common.

2. Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.

3. The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce. This mingling must be fairly close-grained.

4. There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purpose they may be there. This includes dense concentration in the case of people who are there because of residence.

In combination, these four conditions create effective economic pools of use. The potentials of different districts differ for many reasons; but, given the development of these four conditions, a city district should be able to realize its best potential, wherever that may lie.

By this accounting, we are doing pretty well…

Community – Ides of April edition

I’ve been busy. Not the least with riding in (and recovering from) my first long bike ride of the year. The Pacific Populaire is 100km, 700+ riders, and on a beautiful spring day like we had last Sunday, pretty much the best 4 hours a person can spend. We had a great turnout from the @FRFuggitivi which bodes well for the cycling season ahead!

The Fraser River Fuggitivi, and a few hundred friends.
The Fraser River Fuggitivi, and a few hundred friends.

Since my March 27th post, here are a few other things that have kept me busy.

We had another meeting with the Youth Advisory Committee, where representatives from the City’s Bylaws department and Fraser Health talked about smoking. Not the usual “why you kids shouldn’t smoke!” stuff (the youth of today are smarter than we were at that age about addictions and peer pressure), but to have questions about smoking enforcement answered for them. Mostly, they want more and better enforcement of anti-smoking rules, want to know why people can smoke in parks or at SkyTrain stations, things like that. It was another one of those generation-divide type conversations, and I’m not blowing smoke when I continue to say that these meetings are really educational and inspirational for me.

The Royal City Curling Club had its annual DonSpiel- the last event of the curling season, and a good time for all. I was not on a team this year (too many things scheduled that weekend) but was able to pinch hit for one game. The theme this year was Team Jerseys, so the team for which I was asked to spare with chose to go with a grunge theme and call themselves “Curl Jam”. We won, we had fun, and we got a great pic for the back of our next Cd!

Curl Jam. We hurry hard for no-one.
Curl Jam. We hurry hard for no-one.

The same weekend, I attended the opening of a showing of Jack Campbell paintings at the Plaskett Gallery at Massey Theatre. I wrote a blog a couple of years ago when Jack died remembering my sometimes neighbour, and I am really happy that the Massey Theatre Society decided to show his works this month. It is on until April 28, and worth a visit, if only to get a sense of what New Westminster’s waterfront looked like though an artist’s eyes in the decades past.

I recognize that place!
I recognize that place!

I attended an event at Douglas College where a group of marketing students presented their semester projects, as a part of a partnership between the College, Envision Financial, and local not-for-profits. The student teams are matched with an external NFP that needs to solve a marketing, development or promotional problem. The students get real hands-on experience, the NFP gets the benefit of solid advice from people trained in marketing and promotions, and good things result. This year’s teams talked about their work with the Chrons and Colitis Canada, the Royal City Curling Club (them again!), and the Eagle Ridge Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop. This is a great program, and an example of how Douglas College is really stepping out to make a bigger impact on the greater community. Kudos to everyone involved.

Speaking of Kudos, the New Westminster Police Department had a banquet to thank their volunteers last week at the Anvil. You may not have realized it, but the NWPD have more than 100 volunteers, who contributed more than 15,000 hours in volunteer service in 2015, in outreach, crime prevention, victim services, and other functions. We are a small town, and are lucky to have our own police force that understands and can concentrate on building our local community, but their work would be no-where near as effective or affordable without the efforts of people like Bruno Bersani and Alana Dochtermann, who each volunteered over 280 hours in 2015!

While at the Anvil Centre, I dropped by the opening of a new show at the New Media Gallery. The collection is called Germinal, with three pieces around themes of animal/human hybrids, and freak evolution, and genetic migration and… subjects that might make people a little wierded out. There is a large video collage, a mesmerizing projected work where genetic algorithms are used to create and modify words, and a very cool interactive video work where you can get your animal face on. Well worth a visit!

This past weekend also saw the 65th annual Opening Day of the New Westminster Little League season, where Councillor Trentadue took the role of Acting Mayor and threw her patented off-speed sinker across the plate, a pitch that would have surely induced a swing and a miss. The woman has skills. It was a beautiful day at Queens Park stadium! baseball

There was also a Fundraiser for the Royal City Farmers Market held a 100 Braid Studios. I was able to try my hand at painting with wine, see some of the works of the resident artists at 100 Braid, and help raise a little money for the best little Farmers Market in the region (we are less than a month from the Tipperary Park opening for 2016!)

We used the same wine, MsNWimby used talent..
We used the same wine, MsNWimby used talent..

Finally, the start of April also brought an entire new and exciting venture to New Westminster. You all know Jen Arbo and Tenth to the Fraser, the website, but you may not know she has been working with a team to expand the 10th media empire. A print magazine with the same title was just launched with an “Issue #0”. It is a slick new format, really well produced, with a plan to give local writers, artists, photographers, and other artists a medium to add to the conversation that is already occurring at TenthtotheFraser.ca.  I am totally not unbiased here, I have a great interest in seeing this idea fly, because there is a need for a breadth of voices in this community, and because I think the printed word still has a market. The key to me is to respect and challenge the audience by producing high-quality content, and I think “Issue #0” is a sign of good things to come.

Sure to be a collectors item.
Sure to be a collectors item.

If nothing else, the Launch Party at 6th Street Pop-up was a great event where much, much fun was had (see top of post).

Community – the rest of March.

My plan to provide regular Smilin’-Politician-in-the-Community blog posts keeps getting derailed. But let’s see if I can catch up since my last report about two weeks ago, because I have been smiling quite a bit.

We had a meeting of the Mayor’s Public Engagement Taskforce, which has been doing some pretty cool work as of late in figuring out how the City can do a better job engaging with the public (expect to see some reporting coming out this spring). I also had an ACTBiPed meeting, and have been doing some work with the Mayor’s Canada Games Pool Taskforce.

I attended the UNIBUG Forum. The User Network for Insect Biology in the Urban Garden (UNIBUG) is a citizen science initiative at Douglas College that lets people doing urban gardening contribute to research into beneficial insects, while providing a learning network to help them garden better. If you have a garden box, a backyard gardens, or even planter gardens in New West, you should check out UNIBUG and see if understanding your bugs is right for you!

I attended two artist talks at the New Media Gallery, both relating to the recently-closed exhibit OTIC. Jesper Norda spoke about his piece The Centre of Silence, and showed us some of his remarkable earlier works. Then on the closing day of OTIC, composer John Oliver walked a group of us through the exhibition, bringing his interpretations of the works, drawing from his vast experience in composition, avant-garde music and psychoacoustics.

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It was interesting to me, as someone who thinks pretty squarely about topics of science (when they talk about the mass of the air in the room, I can’t help but do a Fermi Estimate: “22 Litres per mol, 30grams per mol, so ~700 grams per cubic metre… etc.”) to be given a completely different viewpoint that connects the actual science to how we interpret sound. It was educational and brought a whole bunch more out of the exhibition I already really enjoyed.

I also wanted to note, after leaving the Norda talk on a Thursday night (I had to rush off to curling), I was riding my bike up Columbia Street and was amazed by the entertainment opportunities. There was an Open Mic going on at Old Crow Coffee, live music at el Santo, live music (and a new menu!) at the Heritage Grill, and a general buzz of activity downtown. I can’t help but feel we are turning a corner here…

Talking about turning corners, the group that tried to put together an electric racing cart series a couple of years ago are back on the scene, and it appears that a series is happening this summer. A few of us were given an opportunity to check the carts out in the City Hall parking lot, with a pro driver going fast around an impromptu circuit, and several of us going quite a bit slower:ud3

The carts are your typical high-performance racing carts, except that they are 100% electric powered, which makes them scary quiet, and scary fast. apparently we have a race coming this July in Downtown New Westminster. Hold on to your hats.

What kind of a Metro Area do we live in that a former transportation commissioner of New York can sell out a talk in a 700+ seat theatre and be given rock star status while here? There was a serious urban planning and sustainable transportation geek-out at the Vancouver Playhouse when Janette Sadik-Khan arrived on the Vancouver stop of her book tour. And I, of course, was the total fan-boy:ud1Her book “Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution” tells how she re-drew the streetscape of New York City following a motto that “The public realm is the public’s realm”. From strategically reclaiming poorly utilized parking spaces to closing a stretch of Broadway to make Times Square a human space again, he book is a manual of how to take out streets back from those who want to use them only as roads.

It is also full of condensed insight, beautifully concise explanations clearly honed by years of having the same arguments discussions about the same controversial simple ideas to make public space more useful and pedestrian spaces safer. Her page-and-a-half about curb extensions should be required reading for anyone who argues that removing them from Royal Ave will help anything.

So that, a trip over to Saturna to make life difficult for some scotch broom, and the wrap-up of the curling season (Team DeGobbi finished in the semi-finals! Congrats to Team Pierce for winning the Royal City Curling Club’s 50th Club Championships!), have been keeping me busy and smiling.ud4.

Community – one big event

This last week was actually a refreshingly slow one for me. Saturday seemed like the day for many events – The Royal City Youth Soccer 50th Anniversary Party and the Queens Park Pre-School fundraiser were both on the same night, but I couldn’t attend either! This is because of the amazing lady in the middle of the photo here:

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I’ve known Mary Ann for a little more than a decade now. I was her teaching assistant in a memorable Structural Geology class, as she was completing her undergrad at SFU at the same time as I was doing my grad work. Turns out she was a teenager working in her Parent’s lodge in middle-of-nowhere central BC a decade earlier when she met MsNWimby, who was doing fisheries field work in the area. Small world, for people who spend time bashing around the woods of Central BC professionally. After finishing our respective degrees, Mary Ann and I worked together for an environmental consulting firm, and had many long, long days together drilling holes  and purging wells and collecting samples in places like Merritt and Port Alice. I mostly remember some fun times, but I also remember those long field days that really, really sucked. Especially at Port Alice in the winter.

Long story short, Mary Ann returned to SFU to start a Masters, which blew up into a pretty complex and crazy PhD project. As a student I remember her not liking math and struggling with 3D visualizations of complex data, but as a field partner I remember her as incredibly hardworking, detailed and stubborn. The first part is funny because her PhD ended up involving complex hydrogeological models and a whole lot of statistics, the second part apropos because she hammered away at her weaknesses and defended the hell out of her PhD last month.

So apologies to RCYS and QPPS, but I had to join the celebration of my good friend completing a huge life-defining project on Saturday night. Congratulations Dr. Middleton!

I also had a CSAP board meeting last week, went to a International Women’s Day celebration event organized by Judy Darcy and Sue Hammell, curled two games, pruned the heck out of the fig tree that was trying to eat my entire back yard, and rode an elevator:

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Yes, people, it is open. Elevate at will.