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Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

City Limits

Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem’s secret (fictional) meeting Add to ...

An in camera meeting of Vancouver City Council – the Mayor’s Office, Feb. 12, 2013

Present: Mayor Gregor Robertson, all councillors, and city manager Penny Ballem

Dr. Ballem: Thank you all for being here. As you all know, when I was hired to do this job in 2008 I promised all of you, and especially you, Mr. Mayor, that within the first six years of our mandate you wouldn’t be able to tell this place from Portland. Today, I’d like to update you on our progress.

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I’m pleased to say that this week alone we have made some major strides toward our goal with the approval of “food cart clusters” or, as Councillor Deal likes to refer to them, “cluster-trucks,” and with an unbelievably complicated policy report on arts and culture events in small spaces. Does anyone even understand that thing? Show of hands? Anyone? I didn’t think so.

Both of those items build on the good work we have done to date, but we need to do more and we need to do it faster.

Which is why today I’d like to tell you about the third and final phase of The Portland Plan.

We already have greenways and bike lanes, car share programs, and Farmers Markets all over the city. We have a young, hip, urban counterculture, and a growing craft-beer industry. And goodness knows we have the mary jane.

But we need to take this to the next level. This is, needless to say, confidential. So far we’ve managed to move ahead with the plan without anyone really noticing. I’m hoping to keep it that way.

So here we go. No. 1: Start offering incentives for more dog-friendly businesses like doggie delis, dog-walking services and doggie spas, and increase the number of dog parks. We know how people love their dogs in this city. Let’s make Vancouver even more dog-crazy than Portland. Councillor Stevenson, sorry guy, this one is yours.

No. 2: Offer some tax relief for independent bookstores, secondhand clothing stores and pottery studios. The amount of the rebate will depend on where they set up shop. As well, let’s amend the zoning to make sure there is nothing stopping anybody who wants to open a brewery from getting started. Councillor Tang, I’m giving this one to you. It’s time we get your face out there.

No. 3: Buy some product placement for the city on a popular TV show. If they’re drinking Tim Hortons coffee on Homeland, and talking about Oregon wines on Hawaii Five-O, how hard can it be to get Lena Dunham to mention Wreck Beach in an episode of Girls? Councillor Ball, you take that one.

No. 4: Laneway houses, garage houses. I know we’ve been doing well there, but what we’ve got so far looks pretty neat and tidy and architectural. Let’s see if we can’t encourage some real off-the-grid hippy stuff when it comes to design. Like hire a couple of boatbuilders or something to do some demo projects. Think vertical gardens and geothermal heat and lots of curved wood. Yes, Councillor Reimer, I’m looking at you.

No. 5: Reduce the speed limits in residential areas and adjust the timing of the traffic lights so people can’t just drive anywhere. I’ll talk to engineering about that one. Oh, and get rid of the viaducts.

No. 6: Let’s pack those food trucks into every vacant parking space along every business strip in the city. I’m talking about Broadway, Main Street, Dunbar, 4th Avenue, Commercial. Yeah I know, restaurant owners will complain. Tough. These things are PR gold. Every time we announce two more are opening up it’s a major new event in this city. Councillor Deal, needless to say…

We are in the home stretch here. My commitment to you is that I will not rest until we can give the people of this city a bike-centric vegan food cart festival with a child-friendly craft beer garden and all-ages dance tent that this city can be truly proud of.

Are you with me? Good. Now let’s get to work.

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