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.
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:
With a fair smattering of this:
And, if I’m lucky, occasional moments of excitement like this:
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.
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.
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!
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!
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 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!
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!)
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.
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).
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.
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:
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:Her 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.
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:
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:
Another exciting week for the world’s most entertained City Councillor.
As you can see above, I went “All in for the Arts” at the Arts Council of New Westminster fundraiser at the Match Eatery in Queensborough. I was surrounded by Stephen O’Shea and Erin Jeffery, who are both incredibly generous with the thumbs-ups.
While fundraising, we were entertained by local analog electronic auditory waveform artist HARGOW, who also happened to perform at the Tenth (10th!) PechaKucha New West event on Saturday. This was (IMHO) the best PechaKucha yet, with stories that reflected so much that we love about community and about New West. The Mayor spoke, as did the coolest Malt Fermenter in New West. We had Renée Sarojini Saklikar stunning us with a personal poem about New Westminster history to Jen Arbo dropping the news about an exciting new venture where she hopes to see New Westminster’s future written.
I had a Youth Advisory Committee to meet with (which made me feel every bit of my 46 years old), and attended a tour of a recently-built pool in an unnamed nearby community as part of my duties on the Canada Games Pool Planning Taskforce. We are deep into information gathering here, and hope to have some exciting news this spring.
I made a quick appearance at the well-attended VIBE event at the Anvil to try my hand at blackout poetry, but had to run to my curling game before the choir performance, which was disappointing, as I really love complaints.
Speaking of complaints, I went down to Front Street on Saturday to talk to a couple of the business owners. With the Parkade removal moving along fast, there have been a few minor glitches, but the City and the BIA are doing a lot of work to help the businesses down there keep operating, and to keep people knowing that you can’t drive your truck on Front Street, but you can still get down there and buy some wine or some coffee. Different business owners are having different experiences, but almost every one I talked to is really looking forward to letting the sun shine on their storefront for the first time in 50 years.
Everyone’s favorite brewery had a Founders Club celebration this week, the RCFM had their Annual General Meeting (exciting changes in 2015, lots of great new ideas for 2016!), and the Vancouver Foundation held their Neighbourhood Small Grants celebration for New Westminster at Century House.
If you don’t know about the Neighbourhood Small Grants, you should look them up. This is a great program where the Vancouver Foundation provides grants to a variety of small events, ideas, or programs in the region. They are easy to apply for, and granted every year, to help you run a block party, hold a community dance, start a sewing circle, or an art project where people put on a Fez and sit on a Chaise.
A busy week in the community even without Council Meeting. The Downtown BIA had their AGM at el Santo last Tuesday, and I had a meeting one evening with some residents on the Quayside concerned about the Q2Q project. I also attended the first NWEP Green Drinks get together of the year (pic above), which was my first chance to check out Rain City Juicery.
Both Councilor Harper and I attended the Queens Park Residents Association meeting, where there was a great discussion about the City’s OCP process and Heritage Preservation in Queens Park.
We had a quorum of Council show up for the annual Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk for Senior Services Society of New Westminster. It was a slightly chilly but dry evening on Saturday, and it was great to get caught up with our MLA and MP, while raising money for a great cause!
Finally, I spent a lot of time at the Royal City Curling Club last week, playing my regular league game on Tuesday, doing my volunteer shift as bartender on Saturday, and then standing in on Sunday as Acting Mayor, when His Worship couldn’t make his league curling game, and he needed a spare!
So I haven’t been blogging much, but I have been busy running around town doing things that don’t leave time for the writing about them. One thing that has been pointed out to me is that I haven’t updated that gallery on the bottom of the page with my smilin’ mug in various places in the community. So this post will (hopefully) re-start the regular blogging of Community events I am attending.
There are a few reasons for this, other than my vanity.
I was recently reminded by a long-time Council TV watcher that Council doesn’t really do “council reports” at the end of our meetings, telling everyone what we have been up to over the last couple of weeks, and to many people the idea that Councillors are doing something outside of Monday meetings is really important. Community events are part of the schedule, and we always have more invites than we can possibly attend, so I guess there is a benefit in people knowing what I attended. Secondly, as a politician, I am supposed to make sure there are lots of pictures of me doing things, again to dispel ideas that I am sitting at home doing nothing. Thirdly, I hardly get to talk to my Mom these days, so it is nice that she can receive periodic confirmation of my still being alive. (Hi Mom!)
Aside from all the excitement around elections – all candidate events, get out the vote effort, and even scrutineering at the polls (hey, if you like democracy, you should take part in it) – there were other events happening in the City over the last couple of weeks, so here is my what-I’ve-been-up-to report.
The annual New Westminster Homelessness Coalition fundraiser was on October 15th at the Columbia Theatre. I sat with other politicians, activists, advocates, outreach workers, staff members of service agencies, volunteers, and concerned citizens. We were there to raise money to help those who seek to house people in New Westminster, but we were also there to talk about past successes and failures, and about the challenges ahead.
We were given an inspirational (and at times heartbreaking) speech by Judy Graves who made a career of her calling – direct outreach to Vancouver homeless to find out what they need to get into a shelter, or just to get through the day. We also heard time and time again that New Westminster is doing great things to help homelessness, punching above our weight when senior governments are dropping the ball.
The election is over, so it is a good time to remember that Canada is the only G7 country without a national housing program. We used to have one, several actually: one to help people buy houses, another to help builders increase the stock, more to help people form a Co-op and manage their own affordable housing alternatives. But the Liberals withdrew funding from new social housing in 1993, and in 1996 they announced they were getting out of the business of subsidies to existing social housing. Some provinces (notably BC in the late 90s and Quebec) stepped up to fill the gap, most did not. Where Canada built 20,000 units of social housing annually in the 1980s, that number dropped to about 1,000 annually in the late 1990s. When the Conservatives took over, they did nothing to change this file. I am optimistic that this trend will change with the new government.
On October 17th, I did a repeat of the walking tour I led earlier in the year as part of Jane’s Walk, talking about the geology of the building stones of New Westminster. This is a slightly different look at the History of New Westminster – a 250-Million-year history of the rocks that make up some of our notable buildings, from Nanaimo Group sandstone at the Fisheries Building and CPR Station to the andesite of the Federal Building and the Jura limestone of the Anvil centre. No real point to this talk, but a fun mix if Geology 101 and local history.
Also on October 17th was the annual Tailgate Auction fundraiser for the Hyacks Football Program. This is a fun night of music and entertainment, with the centerpiece being an arm-wrestling challenge between several of the burlier looking Hyack Players. It is a great fun, and a good way to support a program that has done a lot to build confidence in a generation of players and pride in our school and City.
On October 21st I attended a wake for an old friend – the Newsleader Newspaper. As sad as it was to watch the Leader close and some real talent end up out of work, Wednesday’s get-together was generally a positive event, people looking back at the good work they did. I also got to meet some reporters whose work I have followed for years, but have never met, like Jeff Nagel, who is easily the best Civic Affairs reporter in the Lower Mainland.
On October 22nd, The Arts Council of New Westminster held a public engagement session to get feedback on their Strategic Plan for the year(s) ahead. If you are interested in the Arts in New West and how they are developed, you can take their survey here to help them reach you better!
October 23rd there was a Craft Beer Event at the RiverMarket, put on by our local craft beer mecca Barley’s Home Brewing. This was a well-attended event, where some regional craft beers were tasted, and an expert panel answered questions from the technical to the arcane about home brewing, the local industry, and the state of beer in a rapidly evolving market. Amongst the panelists was New Westminster’s own Jorden Foss of Steel & Oak, who coincidentally won an award for Best Lager at the BC Craft Beer Awards this last weekend. After having many conversations and a few beers, and hearing how the local industry is working together to build a local industry of fresh beer, I only reinforced my conclusion that beer people are good people.
October 24th, the Council of the Councils was held in Surrey at their new City Hall. This is a semi-annual meeting of Mayors and Councillors from around greater Vancouver, where the operational Boards and Committees of Metro Vancouver report out on happenings in the your water supply, sewer and liquid waste treatment systems, solid waste management, and parks and regional planning. It also provides us an opportunity to ask questions and fill in the details of how the regional government is going. Short version: water conservation worked this summer, we are going to be spending a lot of money updating the Lions Gate and Iona Water Sewage Treatment Plants, and we are doing well towards our solid waste reduction goals.
I also had a chance to tour Surrey’s new City Hall. It is rather amazing what $100Million will get you. Yowza.
Finally, this last Saturday night was the ninth (9th!) PechaKucha New Westminster event, at the Anvil Centre. I don’t know how Neal and Melinda Michael manage to always cob together 10 compelling and talented people to present at these events, but this event (coordinated with the Momentum Youth Festival) showed that after 3 years, they can still pull it off. It was a wonderful collection of talks, starting with funny, moving through challenging and heart-wrenching, and ending with hilarious. There was a juxtaposition of talks in the first half that had the entire crowd buzzing at the intermission, and the final punchline was a professional designer agreeing that the aesthetics of Kingsway match perfectly the transportation and urban planning aspects of the street: ugly. Much laughter ensued.
Last week I spent a lot of time doing terribly partisan volunteer political work for the upcoming election, which cut a bit into my out-in-the-community time. But I still got a few things in, including a relatively non-partisan All Candidate’s Meeting.
The Queens Park Residents Association always runs a great all-candidates event, and this year was no exception, The crowd is respectful, the questions thoughtful, and the setting delightful. You can follow the mood of the room (surprisingly lovey) from this storified collection curated by Julie MacLellan at the Record, including a lot of my (trying not to be totally partisan) tweets.
Other events last week were refreshingly less political.
Saturday morning, The City and the Alzheimer Society of BC held a community conversation entitled: “Dementia-Friendly New West”. There were presentations and opportunities for community feedback on various aspects of making a City more livable for people with dementia and those who support them. I learned a lot about the different types of dementia, and how it impacts the daily lives of people, be they the diagnosed person, a family member, or another caregiver. The City’s Social Planner provided results of a survey recently performed to determine the needs and challenges of people impacted by dementia. It was a great event, and an opportunity for me to learn a little more about city-building that they don’t teach you in City Council candidate school.
Saturday was also the 75th Anniversary of the Wait for me Daddy photograph, which made it a great time to unveil the Official Dedication Plaque installed at Hyack Square to recognize the people who put the Statue program together.
There were also special performances at the Anvil Centre. The University of Calgary Wind Ensemble performed an original piece by New Westminster native Brian Garbet which was inspired by the Wait for Me Daddy photograph. There was a performance by the Lord Tweedsmuir Theatre Troop inspired by the meanings of “Freedom” and “Discipline”, and performance pieces by three small troupes of multi-disciplinary artists that all combined music, dance, spoken word, video and performance to animate the personal stories of three New Westminster residents who have in some way been impacted by war and separation. It was an inspiring and sometimes chilling show.
Finally, New Westminster Fire Rescue had their annual Open House on Saturday at the Glenbrook Fire Hall. This is a great chance for families to learn about emergency preparedness and what our Fire, Rescue, and Ambulance teams do for a living, all in the guise of getting neighbourhood kids closer to firetruck. Hundreds of people showed up this year (it was a beautiful day!) and got to learn about fire extinguishers, the Jaws of Life, and did I mention firetrucks?