Because the dog is smarter than the tail.
If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog.
- From the film “Wag the Dog” (1997)
In Vancouver’s new era of “vision” municipal politics illusion means more than reality and getting elected is more about show business than leadership. Nothing crystalizes this new reality better than Vancouver’s proposed Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan.
The two hundred page tomb of tired, failed and lyrically “up-cycled policies” from the past is a frustrating and ultimately comical read for any Vancouverite who understands the history and unique dynamics of the area. Forget the costly bike lanes and other “shenanigans” of our current crop of civic leaders. If you care about Gastown and the Downtown Eastside and need a good laugh and a cry ending with a solid WTF – read some of this plan and then Google the South Side of Chicago and the definition of the word “ghetto”.
Homelessness, metal health, drug addiction, and crime are serious issues that all of us in this community care deeply about. Now after after over two years of consultations, “studies”, and endless meetings hijacked by the usual cabal of tired Downtown Eastside poverty activists, we have been served a series of goals without true plans – resulting in only wishes.
You need to dig more than seventy five pages into the document to find any real policy meat. And when you get there you just discover it’s rotten and smells like Blood Alley after a warm summer evening. There are many platitudes, promises and hopes. But no solid commitments with any teeth. Not one. And the numbers just don’t add up.
You do get a sense as your eyes grow tired and you realize you are reading another page that sounds exactly like the last that you may be witnessing a colossal exercise in moral deception and an excellent study of public policy gone astray. The plan states it is meant to “ensure that the future of the Downtown Eastside improves the lives of those who currently live in the area, particularly low-income people and those who are most vulnerable which will benefit the city as a whole.” What does this mean?
Pages are dedicated to discussing the “complex local economy” that consists mainly of income assistance, crime and binning. Anyone walking the streets of the Downtown Eastside today will tell you that’s not a long term economic strategy and that the majority of the recent improvements in the neighbourhood are the result of young people from all corners of society stepping in to set up shop in the hood. They are the ones ensuring the sidewalks are washed and swept, trash is picked up, the scammers and dealers are kept at bay, and the local community is respected and employed so that a new generation of children can walk to school along Hastings Street.
Over the past twenty years Vancouver has emerged as a leader in urban planning constantly ranking as one of the worlds great cities. This recognition and achievement has been won through thoughtful planning and clear direction from all levels of government. The new Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan is an indication we are loosing our way and allowing complacency and political show business to rule the roost during an election year. Let’s not be known as a pioneer in developing concepts and devices for housing segregation.
The plan goes to council March 12th.
You can read the plan here.
Email your comments directly to Council for their consideration at email@example.com.
By Andy Patton
Photo by Jeff Topham