Dear Vancouver Resident,
You have received this letter because your opinion matters to us. Really it does. We know you don’t believe us, but it’s true. Please don’t tear this up. Come on, don’t.
Lately, we’ve noticed that when it comes to major civic projects, such as housing developments, bike lanes, viaducts, green space, golf courses, bowling lanes, daycare centres, homeless shelters, casinos, traffic calming, garbage pickup, off-leash dogs, and well, pretty much everything else the city does or regulates, many of you have been complaining about a lack of public consultation.
We’ve heard your concerns loud and clear. Yes, we have. Because we’ve been listening all along, even when you said: “They don’t care about real people – they’re just in the pockets of the big developers.” We heard that too.
Which is why we’re launching a public consultation process aimed at improving our public consultation process.
We would like to complete this process without a single one of you being able to say, “I had no idea,” or “This is the first I’ve heard of this,” or “You didn’t ask me the right questions,” or “Why are you ramming this down our throats?”
To be clear, this letter you’re holding in your hand right now? This will be the first you’ve heard of this.
When council resumes in September, a motion will be brought forward asking city staff to look further into the issue of public consultation. The motion will be posted on the City of Vancouver’s website, where you can go and read it. The media will cover the issue extensively. People will debate the merits of the motion in various forums and on comment pages. It may be a topic on open-line radio programs, where you can call in and voice an opinion about it.
If the motion passes, city staff will be asked to produce a detailed report that includes recommendations.
This process may take several months. No, we are not “just hoping everyone forgets about it.” Nor have we “swept it under the carpet.”
When the report comes to council, once again it will be posted on our website and will once again be the subject of stories by the media, which will treat it like a whole new story. City staff will answer the questions of councillors, the public will be allowed to speak to council in committee for as long as it takes for everyone to be heard.
Then, taking into account everything that has been said, council may amend certain parts of the motion before voting.
If the motion passes, a seemingly endless series of public meetings and workshops will be scheduled throughout the city over the span of several months. These workshops will be held at all hours so everyone has a chance to attend, with city staff available to answer questions and record your input. Surveys will be conducted, and information packages with detailed questionnaires will be mailed to all households or hand-delivered where practical. Community groups with specific concerns may wish to hold their own meetings. City staff will be happy to attend those as well. They’ll even bring muffins.
In fact, if you can gather together two or more people in a coffee shop, city staff will meet you there, buy you a coffee and go over, line by line, the entire 65-page report.
If you are not able to attend any of the 60 scheduled workshops or meetings, Mayor Gregor Robertson will go to your home, make you dinner, and explain the entire report to you while doing the dishes, then tuck your children into bed. He will sleep lightly on your sofa in case any questions about the process occur to you in the middle of the night. In the morning, he will make breakfast for your children, walk them to school and stay long enough to answer any questions their classmates may have.
Staff will spend six months wading through everything that has been said or written about the report regardless of how dumb it is and then, finally, after working ridiculous amounts of unpaid overtime, will produce a draft plan that will be presented to council and again, made public.
You will hate this plan because you do not agree with every single point contained within and because there’s something about the font that makes you tense. More meetings will take place, you will become angry, you’ll yell at us and demand a decision be delayed until there can be more public consultation.
When we suggest that the public has already been consulted, you will call us liars, and accuse us of “ramming this down our throats” and “not asking the right questions.” You will suggest we are “in the pockets of developers.”
You will say: “This is the first I’ve heard of this.”