Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside makes the Beeb

On the eve of the Olympics, right on the front page of BBC News is a story about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The story is lovingly titled Vancouver: ‘Drug Central’ of North America and recounts many of the horrors of the DTES including rampant drug use, homelessness, and prostitution. It also brings in the gang wars in the suburbs of Surrey and other places, quite correctly tying those drug wars into what is happening in Vancouver proper. With that little show known as the Olympics coming to town, expect a great deal of stories like this in the near future. And on a hopeful note, the BBC story ends with this little tidbit:

Vancouver’s problems will last long after the Olympic spirit has left.

It occurs to me that if Vancouver were a politician or a sports celebrity, right about now is when they would be making their tearful apology to the world, as we realize they are not so holy than thou after all.

Oak Bay News web fail

Mis-posted story on Oak Bay News website
Mis-posted story on Oak Bay News website (Click for larger screenshot)

The web is filled with fail, as I pointed out the other day, and it appears that Oak Bay News is no less guilty than anybody else, as can be seen on the right.

Given how strict most old media places are about posting, I really wonder how this slipped through. Might it have been somebody getting access that they shouldn’t have?

Grab bag o’ Links

  • Treadmill by Josh Keyes
    Treadmill by Josh Keyes

    Saltspring Island Coffee Roastery runs into difficultly getting a new factory zoned (Times Colonist). I am deeply suspicious of statements by the proponents that appear to be ultimatums, such as Mickey McLeod who said that “the operation might move off-island”. However, given Saltspring Coffee’s track record, I am inclined to believe them. Hopefully a compromise can be reached.

  • Every single time the cops do a sweep of trucks on the road, they pull a lot off. Victoria Police found exactly the same a few days ago (Times Colonist). Until such time as they start cracking down on the companies that own these trucks, don’t expect the story to change. Also expect more people to die, like those poor farm workers in the Lower Mainland  who died when their van rolled over (CBC) a few years back.
  • Milwaukee is considering putting residential/commercial on its library sites (Library Journal via Planetizen), something Toronto has been also been working on (Town GVPL has also worked on non-traditional branch locations, with the recently-opened Goudy Branch in Langford, which is located in a strip mall (Times Colonist). Expect to see more of this, especially given how valuable the land that a lot of libraries sit on.
  • The TLC’s little internal feud will hopefully be over with a vote tonight, although I doubt it. Infighting of this size usually either takes a split in the organization or many years to heal.
  • Lastly, on a lighter note, a look at “Art for Urban Planners” (Planetizen), including the work of the almost-surreal Josh Keyes, whose work is shown on the right.

Tri-City News backs more bike infrastructure

The Tri-City News, covering Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge and part of the Black Press stable of regional newspapers that includes Oak Bay News, has published an editorial calling for governments and business to do more to support biking. They start:

Those road warriors who are taking to the streets in rain gear and helmets to take part in Bike to Work Week deserve congratulations. The roads are not yet safe, despite some efforts to install bike lanes and bike-friendly policies, and those folks who put their lives on the line to keep their greenhouse gas emissions down and heart rates up to get to work on two wheels deserve our respect.

The Tri-City News seems to be strongly in favour of many green initiatives, judging from their past editorials. Interestingly, the article they published on STV going down to defeat includes an image of a cyclist promoting STV on their bike. Guess somebody in the Tri-City News loves bikes…

Metrocascade: a new website of Victoria blogs

A new one-stop shop for all of the blogs about Victoria, including the Times Colonist, was launched recently at Alongside a whole bunch of blogs I didn’t know about, Metrocascade includes Michelle Kirby, Sean Holman’s Public Eye Online and Bernard van Schulmann, all fairly well known. The site itself has a blog, which apparently puts the start as early February, probably why I only saw the first visitors to my site yesterday. It is great to see more websites devoted to our little part of the world and I will be following this one quite closely.

Labour intensive buses are a problem

So laid-off lumber workers don’t want to relocate to Victoria or commute to get paid less driving our buses? So says the Globe and Mail.

Imagine if we had a transit vehicle that would have a better rider to driver ratio? Oh wait, we do. It is called rail transit. I guess all those years of ignoring it are coming home to roost.

The upcoming demographic tsunami isn’t going to make it easier to find people. Figuring out how to move all those old people is something that keeps a lot of planners up at night, as this page on the Canadian Urban Institute website shows. Given all the talk of stimulus plans, now is a great time to start investing in capital-intensive rail transit over labour-intensive buses, before we have nobody to drive our buses.

Thoughts on the election

It has been almost two weeks since the election and I have been doing a great deal of thinking. . These past two weeks have been a mad scramble as I finish up coursework for my college term. I have had some time to chat with various people and think myself about what it all means. So what did I learn?

Running for office is a lot of fun

I had a blast doing almost everything with the campaign. Mainstreeting and talking with people at doors was a real high. There is a vast diversity of people in Oak Bay and in that diversity there are many smart and informed people.

I loved working on the website and all the other flyers. Doing this work allowed me to hone my message and think hard about the core ideas I wanted to talk about. I enjoyed posting on this website. It kept my hand in the writing game.

There are a lot of people in Oak Bay who want a young person on council

The vast majority people I talked to were receptive, be at it the door or on the street. Even if they didn’t agree with me on some or all of the issues, they all saw the value in having a young person on council. There were a few times that knowing that Oak Bay people cared was the only thing keeping me out there.

You get out what you put in

Although I lost, I did manage to collect over 1000 votes, 1167 to be exact. I spent just over $1000 , flyered about 1000 homes and knocked on a few hundred doors. I got about 400 visitors to my website. Basically, for every dollar I spent and every flyer I distributed, I got one vote. Does this hold true for the other challengers? Once their campaign financial documents are filed, I intend to pull them down and run some analysis. As for my own records, I will posting more details as soon as I finish my own campaign finance documents.

Not preparing a speech for the all candidates meeting worked for me

If you were there, you probably didn’t realize it, but I was operating on about 4 hours sleep, two hours the night before and two in the afternoon. I had spent a great deal of time thinking about what I was going to say but hadn’t actually written anything down. I enjoy speaking on the fly but have never talked to a strict time limit before and when that 45 second card went up, it through me off nearly every time.

Talking to people is the only way to go

This sounds obvious, but all that flyering and other non-contact stuff is only the window dressing. One of the most apparent ways this manifested self was with my signs. Of the nearly 50 I had out, only two of them came from the website. Every other sign came from personal contact of some kind, whether I knew the person beforehand or not.

Don’t worry about making a mistake with one person

The number of doors I flubbed with my delivery or people I tripped over my own tongue with while mainstreeting is huge, especially in the first few days. But I had to keep telling myself that this is only one person, there is going to be another person right around the corner. It also allowed me to try out different approaches to see what kind of reaction I got.

Accept defeat

I didn’t win a council seat. I didn’t even come close. But I knew entering into this race that my candidacy was a dark horse. Late in the campaign I set myself a personal goal of at least a 1000 votes. Setting this small goal allowed me to get out there in the last two weeks and hand deliver just under 1000 flyers and talk to many more people.

So what about 2011?

At this point in my life, I will likely run again in 2011. I don’t see myself moving in the next three years. The place I live is great, I pay almost criminally low rents and my landlord is amazing. Not to mention I live five blocks from Willows Beach, near shopping of all kinds, walking distance to Camosun and on a bus route to UVic and Downtown. But the world changes. As a renter, I have zero housing security. My house could be sold tomorrow.

But, all in all, I regret none of it. I refuse to beat myself up about thinking that if I had just knocked a few (hundred) more doors I would have made it. Or if I had done a million of the other things I thought about during the race.

Times Colonist finally posts candidate profiles

The Times Colonist has been teasing people in their community profiles that they would post full candidate profiles online. Well, they are now up and you can read the Oak Bay page. I don’t expect many people to see these and to date I haven’t had any traffic from the TC site.

Why don’t I expect many people to see them? In order to find them on the main TC site, you have to click on the Municipal Elections 08 banner, which looks exactly like every other advertising banner on their site, then you have to click on the map, which is rather difficult if you are trying for a small municipality like Oak Bay or View Royal.

All of this makes me sad, because nobody is going to get out and vote if they don’t understand the issues are where the candidates stand on them. This is why I spent a great deal of time trying to find somebody to organize an all candidates meeting. In previous elections, the TC has actually printed the full profiles, something they likely opted not to do because of the higher costs and lower profits throughout the newspaper industry, although I will note that the TC subscriber numbers are actually fairly steady.

Solving the housing crisis by cutting off water to illegal suites

The Central Saanich Council has come across a unique solution to solving the housing crisis: cutting off water to “persistent offenders.” Quite frankly, I’m horrified. Access to fresh water is a fundamental human right, not something to be used by a government in a dispute with a land owner. In the Times Colonist article, Denis Pilon, a UVic Political Science prof, points out that the person most likely to be hurt is the renter, not the landlord. This isn’t surprising, as any time council and a landlord get involved in a dispute, the renter gets caught in the crossfire.

All of this talk of punishing landlords who rent out substandard housing ignores the reality that landlords can rent out this type of housing because of the massive housing crisis in our city, a crisis that can partly be laid at the feet of our municipal councils, who have failed to provide real leadership.

Tonight at 7pm is the All Candidates meeting in the Garry Oak room of the Monterey Centre. Please come out and learn about each candidate stands for and ask us all questions. Hope to see you there.