BTWW 2019

My ride to work for Bike To Work Week yesterday was pretty typical. Nice weather for a 20km ride, and 4 people attempted to murder me.

One was a person in an SUV blowing through a stop sign into my path on a residential Vancouver street, which was easy to forgive because she gave me that ubiquitous “oops” wave. One person pulled a bone-headed u-turn right in front of me as I am going down a hill on another designated bike route in Vancouver, causing me to lock up both wheels on slick streets. No “oops” wave this time, but he did give me a dismissive spin of his tires as he shot away from the scene, which I guess is acknowledgement. One was an attempted dooring on a traffic-calmed bike route, followed a few hundred metres later by a guy in a CLK brush-passing me at 50km/h when I try to stay out of the door zone on another traffic calmed bike route. I foiled them all.

There were also two places where City works crews (one in Burnaby, one in Vancouver) chose to completely close off a relatively safe bike route with no warning and no indications of alternative routes in order to do horticulture work, which is kinda a nice nod to Bike to Work Week.

There were also three places where I was forced to make sketchy moves on the bike because of horrid cycling infrastructure failures. One infrastructure failure in Burnaby is a long-standing grievance at Royal Oak station that will get someone killed eventually. Another is the relatively new one in Burnaby I have already lamented, that the City of Burnaby has now made even worse with the addition of a pedestrian fence. The third one is related to recent construction at the Nanaimo Skytrain Station in Vancouver that has been there for a few months, and seems like it may continue to be there for a very long time. All three of them are adjacent to or near transit stations, so perhaps I should be complaining to TransLink? But not one of them would be acceptable, or last this long, if it was cars forced to make the sketchy move. If drivers were forced to even lighten up slightly on the gas pedal for a brief moment, there would be signs and flagging people and traffic studies. Because even where cycling routes meet transit stations in pedestrian-heavy areas adjacent to popular parks, it is cars that are accommodated first, and the rest of us can fuck right off and get killed. In the context of a ride where several people in cars did actually try to kill me, these little grievances and seemingly minor inconveniences start to grind your gears.

But I’m tired of complaining. And I’m tired of hearing that “scofflaw cyclists” are the bane of urban areas. I’m tired of reading study after study showing that pedestrians and cyclists are getting killed by cars at increasing rates at the same time that driver fatalities are going down. I am tired of Police and ICBC telling me to make eye contact and dress up like a Christmas tree or I had it coming when some asshole left hooks me. I am tired of the profound gap between the lack of responsibility that the people who choose to use cars feel, and their absolute righteousness around their use of cars. I am tired of arguing for basic cycling infrastructure against the societal priority of (preferably free) storage of cars in all public space. I am tired of meetings at City Hall where the only time we discuss cycling infrastructure, it is in the context of how we can maybe afford some half-measure some time off in the future if it doesn’t irritate too many people, but we certainly can’t afford to build something that is safe, connected, and integrated. I’m tired of ceding so much space and energy and money and atmosphere to cars. I’m tired of us treating this City-destroying and planet-killing addiction like it is untreatable, or even beneficial. I’m sick and tired of car culture, of Motordom.

Cycling is making me tired. But it isn’t my legs that hurt, its my heart. I’m afraid that this weariness has taken away the joy I used to get from riding a bicycle.

Poe?

I get a lot of correspondence as an elected official. I try to read it all, and try to respond to most of it – almost all with the opening line “I’m sorry I am so late replying to this e-mail, I get a lot of correspondence as an elected official.”

There are those few letters that come in every once in a while to which I have no idea how to reply. Bravo? Thank you? Please let your care professional know you have access to the internet? I try hard to take every one seriously, but at times I feel like I’m being played. There is a name for the specific phenomenon I am talking about: the Poe.

Poe’s Law is an internet adage that says “Without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.”

This has been extended beyond its original intent as a characterization of religious extremism and has been applied to the wide variety of on-line crankiness. And once you recognize it (something that likely only happens to elected officials and local newspaper editors, I suspect), it changes how you view a letter like this, that we at New West Council received last week (personal info redacted out of common decency):

 We often get letters addressed to a wide reach of local and provincial elected types. The content here was, however, a curious mix: The Roman numeral date, the pejorative salutation, the way he spells “Apparatchik” correctly, but immediately uses “they’re” in place of “their”. We commonly hear…uh… unusual opinions that leave me questioning how they are even asking me to act on an issue, but in this case the ask is kind of benign if a little confused: Speak out against China doing something but let other countries do it (those other countries are allowed, as far as I know, but I digress…) So is this a slightly cranky guy venting his deeply felt convictions, or someone mocking Mayor West, and the rest of the recipients? I would have happily assumed the former, but see those two attachments to the e-mail? (ps: never open attachments to an e-mail unless your IT department has vetted them!). They are these two graphics:

OK, now I’m thinking he is having us on, so I Google the person who sent it. His name has many, many hits, mostly in the form of letters he has written to editors of local newspapers from Montreal to Spokane, often with the honorific “Rev.” added, to opine on everything from racism (he is against it), homophobia (also against), potential names of future NHL teams (interesting), pipelines (he is for them), Alberta Premiers (he is against them – past and present), and the viability of DC-Marvel crossovers. He even got a pro-Derrek Corrigan letter published a few years ago in the Burnaby Now.

So, seriously, I don’t know if the Reverend takes himself seriously, but he definitely has lots of time and opinions, and I’m not sure I have time to address them all, so I don’t think I’ll reply. But don’t let that dissuade you from writing me a letter, or asking me a question with that red ASK PAT button up there, I will try to get to it as soon as possible. If I think you are serious.

Bullies

I’m on vacation, I’ll be back next week. However, this letter to the editor of the Burnaby Now entered my social media feed, and much to MsNWimby’s lament, I had to take a few minutes to pen a retort. I thought of sending it to the Burnaby Now, but I thought it would look weird for a New West City Councillor to get something like this published in a Burnaby newspaper, so instead I’ll just post it here.

Letter: Why can’t bullied kids just get with the program?

Editor: Last weeks’s Burnaby NOW had a letter from Diane Gillis raising important questions about why pedestrians don’t work harder to protect themselves from getting hit by cars. I think it provides a great platform to offer similar safety tips for youth suffering from another well-identified danger in today’s society: schoolyard bullying.

It does not matter who is right and who is wrong in schoolyard bullying – it is the bullied child who is at greatest risk of injury or psychological trauma.

Sadly, there are too many children who do not understand or know of what they can do to avoid bullying. I chair the communications subcommittee of my local Concerned Parents of Athletic and Cool Children chapter, and we coordinate anti-bullying messaging for our children, and those who do not qualify. At the November CPACC meeting, we discussed ways to reduce bullying.

All children should consider these anti-bullying safety tips.

  • Wear more attractive / fashionable clothing so the cool kids will not notice your lack of flair. If wearing professional-sports-team-branded clothing, be especially aware of the sports franchises preferred by the local cool kids.
  • Don’t go to places where bullies hang out, like malls, schools, or outside.
    If you have to go to those places, look out for bullies.
  • If you see a bully, run away really fast.
  • Don’t make eye contact with bullies.
  • Don’t use your phone and/or headphones, or carry anything of value while walking where bullies might spot you.
  • If a bully approaches you, hand them your lunch money and beg for mercy.
  • Wear a helmet.

Something I think is telling. Yesterday afternoon at about 3:30 p.m. – just after school gets out and when most kids were playing sports or hitting the Mall – as I was driving past a schoolyard in Burnaby, I saw a skinny, nerdy kid getting taunted by a group of pretty cool-looking kids.

When I saw his Minnesota Wild t-shirt, his last-year’s Walmart Nikes, wire-rim glasses and his clarinet case, it was all I could do to stop from yelling “Hey Nerd!” and slapping the little loser myself.

There is a lot more to the concerns of many of us regarding keeping all kids safe from bullying. And as long as we can continue to blame the victim, none of us will ever have to recognize our own personal responsibility to keep our community safe for all, or even acknowledge what the real dangers are.

Fandom

As a Canucks Fan, often I am unsure who to support when Playoffs come around. That last sentence is really funny to fans of 28 other teams, even though for some (I’m looking at you, Buffalo) it cuts close.

The question is not an easy one, as being a Canucks fan for several decades, I have built up a long series of grudges against the entire NHL. With the possible exception of the Blues, I have at least some reason to hate every team. Even the Canucks were coached by Keenan for a while, which is pretty unforgivable, and you still sometimes see somebody wearing Maki’s #11 Canucks jersey with Messier on the back, and shake your head. But we soldier on. We are all Canucks, as they say.

With the first Round of the Playoffs under way, I do have to make a call here to maintain my attention until the Giro starts, so here is the first Patrickjohnstone.ca listicle:

In inverse order, the teams I most hope win the Stanley Cup, 2018:

16: Boston The dirty, rotten, oughta be kicked out of the NHL Bruins are everything wrong with Hockey. They cheated and cheap-shotted their way into the playoffs again. Bruins Fandom is, based on my own anecdotal experience, correlated well with sociopathy. I hate the Bruins so much I don’t even order from Boston Pizza, I don’t even watch re-runs of Cheers.

15: Toronto At this fragile time for Canada’s Confederation, I’m not sure we could handle the indignity of watching Premier-elect Doug Ford hoisting the Cup at Dundas Square in June. For the good of the Nation, and all that is holy, Toronto must lose.

14: Los Angeles Almost as bad as Boston, but not even as good at being as bad. Drew Doughty? Dustin Brown? Dion Phaneuf? I guess their moms love them. I went to a Canucks Game in Los Angeles once, and really, not even their fans like the Kings, and they have won a couple of Cups recently. Gross.

13: Winnipeg It would be intolerable in the rest of Canada if the Jets won. It seems half of the population of every other City in Canada is “from Winnipeg”, and drags their Jets and Bombers jerseys out for important games, embarrassing all in their vicinity. It makes me wonder if there is anyone left in Winnipeg, and if people are so damn proud of Winnipeg, why does no one live there? I’m with The Weakerthans here.

12: Columbus
12: San Jose
12: Nashville I have no specific love or hate for any of these teams, I just have this weird notion that if another team wins their first Cup before the Canucks win their first cup, it somehow diminishes the Canucks. So: No, no, and no.

9: Tampa Bay
9: Anaheim
9: Philadelphia The second half of my 6-way tie of ambivalence. Same as above, except these teams have won Cups in the past and the further-shaming-the Canucks factor isn’t in there. No love here, no specific hate, I would find any of these wins supremely uninteresting. So: Yawn, yawn, and yawn.

6: New Jersey A little bit like above, but I want to think a Jersey win would at least make David Puddy happy. And guy deserves it after all Elaine put him through.

5: Colorado They really snuck into the playoffs, and have no hope. But everyone loves a good underdog story, and I am not made of stone. Is Partick Roy still involved?

4: Minnesota Wait, they still have a team? How is that even a thing? I guess if they win, it would piss off Winnipeg, so that’s a bonus.

3: Washington They have Ovi and he isn’t getting any younger, so it would be good to see him get a reward for being one of the most skilled goal scorers in the history of the game. If Ovi is winning, the game is more fun to watch. Bonus: watching CNN tie themselves in knots when they find out that Washington D.C. has a hockey team, whose Captain is a big Putin supporter, should make the obligatory visit to the White House interesting.

2: Vegas There are lots of things that make me want to support Vegas: the brilliance/ stupidity of the drafting process that made this possible, the ugliness of their entire marketing package, their pretty killer social media presence. I can;t get past the sense they are punking us all, daring us to take them seriously, sort of like the Beck Hansen of Hockey. They also have the most Canadian roster of any team, so I want to cheer for them. What’s wrong? The smug look on Bettman’s face if it were to occur. It is possible that the T-Mobile Arena is the only one he could stride into carrying the Con Smyth, and not get booed. And I can’t tolerate that.

1: Pittsburgh I have nothing against Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby is the best player of his generation, deserving of all the accolades he gets, and probably a lot more. The franchise has done so much right over the last decade that the word “dynasty” may come back to the NHL. Besides, what else does the City of Pittsburgh have going for it? Give them this. Go flightless waterfowl!

This is fine

This shouldn’t fill me with rage. I think the intent was to do the opposite; to provide me a guide to supplant anger and frustration with quiet acceptance. A serenity prayer to bring calm to the unrelenting intensity of our times. Instead, I found myself yelling at the radio on a Sunday Morning:

“You entitled asshole! How dare you tell everyone calm down!”

No surprise, the essayist in question is a white septuagenarian upper middle class Canadian male idling away his dotage by providing accumulated wisdom via the established media. Perhaps the messenger was the message.

For his regular Sunday morning essay, Canada’s kind leather-elbow-patched uncle Michael Enright decided to remark on a sense of despair or foreboding expressed by his fellow white-coiffed legacy journalist Gary Mason. In it, Mason remarked on the many aspects of our current troubled times, and invoked an interest in just getting away from it all. To which Enright prescribed a healthy dose of calming baroque music.

Which brought this to mind for me:
As Mason pointed out, this is a terrible time for many parts of the industrial world, and Canada is surrounded by storm clouds. This appears to be the decade where all the bad cheques written by 30 years of NeoLiberalism get cashed. Climate tipping pints are passing like telephone poles on a desert highway, stagnation of wages and erosion of social supports are run up against a cost of living inflated by speculative money trading and wealth measured by the ability to avoid taxation. For the first time we can be sure this generation will have less than the previous, and the next will be left to pick the scraps. Instead of lifting leaders willing to address the causes of inequity and despair, the exploited and disenfranchised are turning to despotic strongmen driving wedges to split apart the fibres of our society. To quote Mason’s article “We are living in times as dangerous and unpredictable as there’s been in 80 years.”

This is no more apparent than in media, the industry these two men inhabit. Hedge fund managers own every newspaper of note in Canada, a small collection of very rich and politically-connected individuals own every other traditional media channel, and use them to shamelessly shape political opinion. The President of the United States openly calls for the destruction of media organizations that counter the narrative presented by his defacto propaganda channel. In Canada, the second party in the House is increasingly being managed by alt-right propagandists and white nationalists who were apparently too radical for Rebel Media. Meanwhile, the emergent new media streams are being dominated by algorithms designed by the security apparata of hostile nations to bend our minds into false narratives and shape our political views at a scale that would have terrified Orwell.

That is the landscape that one of our dead-tree media stalwarts caught a momentary glimpse of, and suggested he felt the need to escape. To which Enright, in all of the comfort and security of resources drawn from the savings account of future generations, replied: just listen to Beethoven. It’ll all be fine. “The best medicine for what ails Mr. Mason and the rest of us is music”.

In an effort to avoid the long stream of profanity I feel, and to speak in the generational parlance of Mr Enright: Bollocks!

The only Sabbath Mason needs now is a Black one. If music is to be applied to this malaise, let it be loud, aggressive, and filled with calls to action. The Clash, Rage Against the Machine, Anti-Flag, anyone who has taken seriously the hard work of yelling at fascists. Now is not the time for journalists to chill to a Bach cantata, it I time for the Fourth Estate to stand the hell up and start shouting about the chaos they are seeing.

If the likes of Enright and Mason are as seriously concerned about the fate of their children and egalitarian society as they claim, I don’t understand how solemnly lamenting their fate while enjoying a little Puccini is seen as a valid response. These gentlemen have been granted (earned?) three hours of national radio every week / ample column inches in an ever-shrinking media landscape. I humbly suggest they get past their woe-is-me head-under the pillow bullshit and start doing their job.

The media already has enough old men yelling at clouds for being a lesser shade of white than in their halcyon youth, dispatching their “I got mine” wisdom nuggets from their comfortable porches on the Sunshine Coast or “cattle ranches called the Schively” (dear Christ, did Enright actually say that!?). These are not the realities of young people in Vancouver or Toronto struggling with stagnant wages and housing crises and collapsing hopes, of First Nations across the country still waiting for the promise of some sort of reconciliation for their inter-generational sabotage, of a globe of youth facing terrifying implications of global climate shifts and concomitant migrations spawning a new rise of wall-builders (metaphorical and literal) and sabre-rattlers and possessors of ICBMs that can deliver hypersonic glide vehicles to any point on the planet as easily as their software that can deliver hundreds of thousands of duped votes to ballot boxes in the same far-off places.

Far from the luxury of seeking Bechet as an escape from the bedlam of a society stacked against them, there is a generation in this country, and across the industrialized world, who are feeling right now the doom of this bedlam, and cannot even dream of a dotage of relaxed musical contemplation. And it is you, Mr. Enright, and your industry that is, right now, the first up against the wall, being torn apart by a new wave of fascist demagogues from Moscow to Manila to Beijing to Washington, as dictators have always taken apart the free press at the beginning of their destructive rule. If you need contemplation in this time of chaos, be it in contemplating whether you are willing to take up the fight now to protect the things that made your life so comfortable?

Escaping from it all is a luxury that serves to demonstrate the privilege too many in your generation (and in your industry!) don’t even recognize as existing. Taking that luxury at this time may be the final (but not greatest) insult you generation imposes on your children.

Damn, I need a coffee.

That New Premier Smell

You may have seen this graphic across the #CDNPoli Social Media this week:

It reinforces whatever political biases you bring into it: Horgan is doing OK; Wynne is a wreck; PEI doesn’t matter. But I took something else out of it, and had to draw my own graph to demonstrate it:

Politics is a hell of a business.

For the rest of us who slept through Statistics 101, an R of .92 is a pretty high correlation, so I can definitively say popularity as a Premier in Canada correlates negatively with time in office. Any Premier above that trend line is doing better than average, any premier below the line is doing worse than average. Arguably, Pallister is doing worse than McNeil on average, but you know which I would rather be going into re-election.

Because in politics, it doesn’t seem to matter if you are above or below the line here. The only lesson to be learned from this graph is that the best you can hope for in Provincial Politics in Canada is to get things done before that New Premier Smell wears off. As years in office accumulate, any successes or victories are quickly weighed down by a legacy of being to blame for everything that may have gone wrong. Inevitably some of that is your fault (no one is perfect) and some is beyond your control, but in politics at the highest level, it simply doesn’t matter.

The only good way out of politics is to recognize when the door has been opened for you, and get out. Problem is, that kind of self-recognition is the first thing to be eroded by electoral success and access to power. Entering politics in the first place requires hubris, time in politics increases hubris, getting out requires absence of hubris. You can see the problem here.

I’m not sure how this plays out at the Municipal level, but I am just going to leave this post here, and hopefully someone will point it out to me when I am considering my 6th term for Council.

Vacation

I haven’t written much here as of late, and I’m only here to say I’m not going to for a bit longer.

It was a busy last few months, and @MsNWimby and I have taken a vacation. We’ve relocated for a couple of weeks to some place sunny where we can ride bicycles in the morning, sit on a beach getting caught up on some reading in the afternoon, and spend altogether too much time staring off in to the distance and thinking about the plans ahead…

If you follow me on Facebook, you may see the occasional glimpse of my vacationary adventures. I’ll post if I feel like it, but hey, I’m on vacation.

Regular (or at least the usual semi-regular) programming here will resume early in January. I have a bunch of half-formed ideas for posts, a few things in the queue, and some ideas about next year, which looks to be a busy one. Also, there is some sort of electoral event arriving in October, the “silly season” for which has clearly already started. Alas.

In the meantime, I hope you are spending Christmas doing the things you love the most, with the people you love the most. See you in 2018.

on diversity

On Saturday, local government elected types met in North Vancouver for a Council of Council meeting. For a great write-up of what the meeting is and what we discussed, surf over to Nathan Pachal’s great South Fraser blog. I want to talk about another conversation that came out of the CofC.

At the event, Councillor Trentadue leaned over to me and made the observation (I paraphrase) “Crazy how little diversity there is in this room”. This lack of diversity was also noticed by others covering the event, noted in a few tweets:

I had an afternoon meeting for the Lower Mainland LGA, and side-bar conversations with a few of the Councillors continued on this theme, partly because some members of LMLGA are working on an event to discuss the general lack of “civility” in civic politics, and how that creates barriers to full participation. The story of Mayor Read of Maple Ridge announcing she will not stand for a second term was also fresh in our minds. It would be puerile to assume these issues are not interconnected.

But it go us to talking about the why. Is it the electorate not voting for diversity, or is there something structural in the job that prevents diversity? That seems like something that should be easy to figure out.

I quickly went to the CivicInfo 2014 election results database to ask the question – do we not vote for women, or are women not running? Of the 19 local governments in Greater Vancouver that report on the (binary, natch) gender of candidates (Vancouver and Bowen Island do not provide this data) for Mayor and Council, the data gives us this:

For Council, 33% of candidates were women, and 38% of those elected were women.

For Mayor, 16% of candidates were women, and 16% of the winners were women. Perhaps more tellingly, there was a woman on the mayoral ballot in only 7 of 19 communities (three were elected).

As a first-level approximation, we can suggest that voters, when given the opportunity, vote for women at least as commonly as for men. However, there are half as many women running for Council, and a paltry one-in-six mayoral candidates are women. If it isn’t the voter’s fault that local government is so dominated by men, what is it about the job that so biases those who apply for the job? I have my own suspicions, but maybe I’m not the right person to answer that question?

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no data collected on whether candidates identify as persons of colour, members of a First Nation, or have disabilities. It is harder to tell if it is the voters that account for the shade of the average Council of Council room.

I should note that it was pointed out to me recently (through a letter to Mayor and Council) that there is a general a lack of diversity in our Council Advisory Committees, and that the City does not appear to be taking any specific actions towards increasing that diversity (hey, apply for a committee now!). It is also recognized that the current Public Consultation and Public Hearing model is dominated by, well, the dominant demographic. I don’t have the answers here, but strongly feel we need to broaden public participation at the community level first if we are going to see more diversity in elected roles. Unless we do, it is hard to call our society “democratic”.

Monday.

The most unusual Council Monday. Full of highs and lows.

It started out joyful with two great friends showing up to get married at City Hall (in a cyclist tradition going back at least to Moocher and Nancy in Breaking Away). They were married in the Mayor’s Office by my Council colleague who happens to be a Marriage Commissioner! I feel lucky to have met Jen and Simon through strange consequence of circumstances, and it was great to see their beaming faces on their special day. Good people.

A few hours later, all of Council was saddened to learn that a great friend and community leader in New Westminster had passed away from a pretty sudden illness. Bill will leave a big hole in our community, his contribution was huge. His career was saving lives, and his volunteer efforts were tireless. I feel lucky to have met him, shared many laughs, and to have taken his advice (although his attitude about maintaining a cleanly-shaved face was clearly a step too far for me). The only consolation this evening was in knowing that the community that he and Lynn spent so much of their time building is standing up to support Lynn at her time of sorrow.

Life is short, folks, but there is a lot of joy to be found in caring for others. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

Volunteers

As I noted a little earlier, this summer has been pretty active in New West. This last weekend the trend continued with the annual Pride Street Party. There were community groups booths, three stages with entertainment, an active kid’s area, beer gardens, food trucks, and local restaurants and beer gardens were filled to overflowing. While other parts of the City and the world were having confrontations about inclusiveness and diversity, thousands of people filled Columbia Street to celebrate victories won for inclusion and understanding, and had fun on a sunny afternoon.

It was a great day in New West, and one that would not have been possible without an army of volunteers.

New West Pride Society is a volunteer-run society that organizes and executes the entire event. The City helps with a grant through our festival grant program, and many sponsors step up to pay for everything from volunteer t-shirts to stage rental and advertising. However all of the actual work, the organization, the year of planning, the hundreds of tasks on event day, everything is done by volunteers.

It isn’t just Pride. The New West Farmers Market, the New West Cultural Crawl, The New West Grand Prix, the Hyack International Parade,  Pecha Kucha NW, the New West Film Fest, the events that make the City come alive, are run largely on the backs of volunteer labour. Lots of Volunteer labour.

No surprising point to this, just a short post to give an extra “Thanks” to the volunteers that make this City so full of great activity – from the Presidents of Societies that work all year long, to the folks who show up on game day to sell tickets or pick up litter. I hope that everyone who enjoyed an event this year will think about volunteering for next year’s version of whatever event they enjoyed (and it doesn’t have to be just one). It doesn’t take much time (many hands make light work), you might get a T-shirt (see banner), and it makes the event even more enjoyable for you. You can say “I helped make this happen”, you will help create more opportunities to enjoy the summer with your friends, and you will more likely than not make new friends.