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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Welcome to Vancouver, A Ward-Free Zone 

Despite Global's overenthusiastic headline, Vancouver gave a tepid no (link permanence not guaranteed) to wards in a vote on Saturday. Turnout was 22.6%, less than half the Olympic plebiscite voting rate, and much less than the last civic election.

Final score was 54-46 for No.

Let me make a few guesses about the reasons for the outcome. In short, the same people who are out there voting in the civic elections (the west siders, to generalize a lot) turned out today. They favoured a system which favours people who actually vote, over one that offered regional representation.

They also, and I doubt this is a coincidence, favoured a system that keeps the number of councillors at a respectably low 10.

There was much back-and-forth about how neighbourhood representation would be aided by wards, or how wards would create a council of warring representatives, each only concerned with their own neighbourhood at the expense of the greater good. I suspect the truth is that whatever magic has resulted in Vancouver, it had little to do with the council chamber election system.

If I ran the zoo, I'd focus on Vancouver's only real problem, the Downtown East Side. I'd fix it in the only way likely to work: by putting the residents of the area in a culture where it was no longer normal or acceptable to be on drugs, off meds, or otherwise completely messed up. I'd accomplish that in the least popular way possible: dispersion and gentrification. Pop little tiny SRO-type developments into the corners of a wide number of co-ops all over the Lower Mainland. Make the current residents of nasty SRO units live in similarly priced (and probably more spacious) basement suites in the suburbs, just like SFU students. Then I'd do everything in my power to gentrify the heck out of the remains of the neighbourhood, until it was nothing but a pile of condos perched on endless numbers of Starbucks and upscale boutiques.

And that's why I'm not mayor.

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