Winter turns Vancouver’s street cred to city management crud

Apart from keeping us safe from crime, there are few priorities for a city greater than its day-to-day obligations to keep the streets clean, pick up the trash and keep taxes wisely low.

In recent days the City of Vancouver went up to bat. Strike one, two, three.

Meet the Gang That Can’t Shovel Straight. Not just snow, either.

Let’s start with the problems of the streets, because that leads eventually to the trash and the taxes.

I have a news flash for the city administration: our pristine branded scenery has been known on occasion to be blanketed by snow. Sure, we have had some freakish breaks from flourishing flakes – 1,000 days or so since the last Snowmaggedon – but most winters witness two or three prettifying snowfalls.

Of course, beauty can be in the eye of the beholder, and if instead of tweeting and taking selfies and making snowmen you were trying to conduct business, commute, walk, wheel or visit in recent times, you would feel like you were a contestant on one of those arduous Japanese TV game show obstacle courses.

This year, the city has been caught off-guard about its preparation and response, as if we were situated on the summery Mediterranean and not the wintry Pacific.

Conclusion: the city talks about climate change but can’t handle climate changing.

Main streets were post-Olympic sliding tracks to and from work and in the crush of holiday shopping and family gatherings. Side streets were a shambles.

The city bylaws – as pot dispensaries can attest, typically stronger on paper than in practice – didn’t compel people or businesses to shovel sidewalks. Then again, why bother when the city didn’t in many places, either.

In an effort to make matters a little more bitchy for those who weren’t holidaying like the mayor, the city seemed to break its own rules by clearing bike paths faster and better than it did its walkways.

This would rub salt into the wounds, if any were available. The lineups at the firehalls were Dickensian. Please sir, more melting agent.

One byproduct of the city’s sudden Ice Follies was that Smithrite, the contracted recycling company, wisely balked at careening around and creating a run on WorkSafeBC claims – not that there’s any urgency or that anyone tosses out, say, bottles or boxes at this time of year. Even garbage trucks didn’t pick up in some neighbourhoods (read: where the tax base is lowest).

And did we mention transit? Well, in a case of penny-wise pound-foolishness, TransLink learned what much of Canada knew about the value of snow tires.

Just a thought: wouldn’t it have been shrewd to outfit even a small part of the fleet – say, the trolleys most likely to encounter the most treacherous hills – as a precaution?

Property taxes will rise nearly 4% this year – an inflation rate we knew some time last century – and here is where it is necessary to call out bovine manure.

As it was passing its 3.4% property tax increase, the city slipped in another 0.5% in a wicked and cruel emotional exploitation to deal with the fentanyl crisis.

This half-point smokescreen disrespects our most vulnerable to draw attention away from the city’s inability to either control costs or show us line by line how it spends.

The funds are back-of-the-napkin-devised and blandly directed as to do nothing in the short term but commit false hope – the impact on transit, housing, social services, first-responder support is well down the tragic road.

Politically, it’s obvious: in the long term, the city suspects we’ll forget about the 0.5%.

In the short-term, the city hopes we don’t notice the other 3.4%.

Even more galling – and familiar – was the mayor’s view that, were the city not allocating new funds, we’d be closing libraries or cutting police or fire services to fight the scourge. It is a piteous pivot that pretends to help those in need but will simply feed the goat that is our city administration.

Kirk LaPointe is Business in Vancouver’s vice-president of audience and business development.

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