May 9, 2014
Open Letter To Vancouver City Council,
We the undersigned would like to thank Councillors Heather Deal and Geoff Meggs for hosting “Protecting Vancouver’s Cultural Spaces: Preserving Culture In A Growing City” at the Fox Cabaret Monday, April 28th. If nothing else, it’s a signal that the loss of cultural spaces, the exodus of artists and low-income earners, the displacement of creative small businesses, and the need for reform, is on your radar.
Culture, affordability, and accessibility are issues that has hit a deep nerve in our city and many, including many of your political supporters, have spoken out. From many disparate movements there is a growing consensus that is getting organized around common values. We appreciated Councillor Deal’s admission at the beginning of the event that “the City could do a lot better.” We agree.
At its core space and accessibility are about power. As it stands we believe the condo and housing developers have a disproportionate amount of influence and control over Vancouver City Council. It would be naive for us to believe that the large sums of money developers contribute to Vision Vancouver Councillors is not intended to advance their interests and their agendas. This has left many in our city feeling disempowered and disenfranchised. Development, densification, and displacement are forces well within the purview of Vancouver City Council. The growing consensus in our city is that these forces need to be better managed and that we must begin to view cultural and community spaces as an asset. The panelist Kate Armstrong from Emily Carr articulated it well — City Council has been far too reactionary. There are many residents who want to work with the City, and other stakeholders, to help shape a more inclusive cultural and affordable vision for our city. This leads us to a concrete recommendation for how to move this discussion forward.
While the event at the Fox Cabaret was a welcome recognition of the problem, it fell far short of a meaningful, participatory, and open platform or process to engage Vancouverites. At the end of the 45 minute open Q&A many in attendance who wished to speak were not heard, many of those lined up outside did not make it in, and many more who had something to contribute were not invited. As has been demonstrated through many recent petitions, online comments, and from some of the guests at the event, there is a ton of passion and energy and creative ideas around these issues.
If Vancouver City Council is serious about change and being better it needs to open up this process to wider, deeper and meaningful engagement. There are many excellent and emerging participatory crowdsourcing processes that can serve as a model, i.e. the Gen Why Media / LeadNow / OpenMedia.ca Reimagine CBC Report, OpenMedia.ca’s Casting An Open Net Report, and even Iceland’s Constitution.
Many Vancouverites would embrace an honest opportunity to help crowd-develop a vision that focuses on themes such as: Cultural Space, Public Events, Affordability, Creative Small Businesses, Licensing & Bylaws. The more people invited to share their energy and their ideas, and have those ideas reflected into a collective vision, the stronger the roadmap and more broad the political support will be to carry it forward.
Many want to be part of the solution.
We look forward to working with the City to help develop the objectives and scope of a legitimate, open, and participatory crowdsourcing process that would invite Vancouverites to share their values and their ideas.
– Tara Mahoney, Gen Why Media
– Erin Frizzell, General Manager, The WISE Club
– Michèle Smolkin, filmmaker and writer
– Eesmyal Santos-Brault, Cofounder and Director of HiVE Vancouver Society
– Matt Hern, Groundswell
– Emma Hendrix, General Manager, VIVO Media Arts Centre
– John Brennan, Technical Manager, VIVO Media Arts Centre
– Jim Carrico, Red Gate Arts Society
– Caroline Adderson, writer, founder, Vancouver Vanishes
On behalf of the community of people whose thoughtfulness, cooperation and interdependency sets a wonderful example of what our greater Vancouver culture would support and celebrate if given the opportunity.
Developing A Vision For Culture, Affordability and Community In Vancouver: A Participatory & Citizen Focused Approach
We are calling on City Council to help crowd-develop a vision that focuses on themes such as: Cultural Space, Public Events, Affordability, Creative Small Businesses, Licensing & Bylaws.