Appeared in the North Shore News – August 19, 2011
Was West Van council’s Esquimalt Avenue/ Hollyburn Mews densification decision tainted?
Note well: This is not one of those sly journalistic questions inviting readers to guess this is a quiz, and the “correct” answer must be yes – or why would the scribe ask it?
Nor is there any implied reflection on developer Michael Geller’s integrity. Geller, a 63-year-old architect and developer with strong credentials, was genially open about his plan to densify three Esquimalt Avenue lots, requiring an amendment to the official community plan.
The issue is whether some council members may have – perhaps unwittingly – violated the law that prohibits councillors from receiving any information about a matter subject to a public hearing after the hearing has been closed. Such impropriety or innocent carelessness once caused a court to quash two West Vancouver bylaws.
George Pajari, who has meticulously documented challenges to some municipal activities, last month wrote mayor and council that “there is reason to believe” the Esquimalt public hearing may have been “irreparably compromised by the actions of some councillors.”
The complication is that these occurred in the adjournment between the first and second sessions of the Esquimalt hearing.
Pajari concedes there apparently is no case law on that situation. But he believes his call to Don Sutherland of B.C.’s Office of the Inspector of Municipalities established that such between-session hearings would be “highly irregular.”
Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones – who cast the tie-breaking vote favouring Geller’s project – compared in-camera and public council records and said: “I want to assure the public that the public input and the public debate corresponds entirely with our policy and our standards. Both Coun. (Trish) Panz and Coun. (Shannon) Walker made comments referring to their own work in understanding public opinion prior to the close of the public hearing, which is exactly what the public expects of us all.”
Pajari’s version in his letter: “. . . one councillor stated she had met privately with residents to discuss the development” – evidently between the adjournment and the second session.
“Another councillor said she had discounted the value of the letters opposing the development based on discussions during ‘lunch with a client’ who had signed one of the form letters.”
My question: Do such contacts constitute “understanding public opinion”?
Chief administrative officer Grant McRadu – note, not the elected officials – answered Pajari: “With respect to your email . . . Mayor Goldsmith-Jones and Bob Sokol, director of planning, lands and permits spoke relative to and provided information regarding the process, and relative to concerns set out in the subject email.” Clear?
Panz and Walker, who both voted for the project, are first-term councillors, and veteran councillors will tell you it takes six months just to find the washrooms, as the saying goes. But if Pajari is correct, innocent error may be no excuse. He’s pursuing the issue.
. . .
My AmblesideNO! campaign continues.
Its ultimate target is the fascinating disconnect in many minds between new taxpayerbacked projects and the public debt that is destroying Europeans, Americans, and inevitably Canadians, even Tiddlycovers.
Latest: The proposed 28,000-square-foot arts bunker – I call it the Artsy Bunker – squat on Ambleside Beach, centrepiece of an “arts precinct.” The suggestion that no public money may be needed is hogwash. And there are four existing Ambleside public arts venues a kilometre apart.
Just say no.
. . .
The bullied have become bullies.
The public pressure by the bullying wing of the gay, lesbian etc. movement on politicians to attend the various Pride parades – eagerly abetted by the media – is reprehensible in the extreme.
The clear implication is that those who don’t submit are closet “homophobes,” i.e. anyone who isn’t 276 per cent behind the cause, and as such fair game to be “outed.”
The rights-demanders show zip respect for the right of politicians, including those who might support those rights generally, not to attend for whatever reason, and who feel intimidated into attendance – knowing that the usual suspects in the media, the academy, civil liberties groups and other sunny-day champions of rights they approve of, won’t back them.
This irony couldn’t be greater: In her previous life, short months ago, Christie Clark was super-keen about CKNW’s wear-pink day, a campaign largely against the schoolyard bullies of gays and lesbians. But as premier, Clark and none of her Liberal MLAs showed at the Vancouver Pride parade.
Maybe Clark began subscribing to Maclean’s. The magazine’s Web Poll – hardly scientific, to be sure – asked: “Is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford right to skip the city’s gay pride parade?” Said 56.4 per cent: “Yes, he should be free to do as he chooses.” Said 27.1 per cent: “No, it’s his duty as
mayor to attend major events.”
Let’s agree that the remaining 16.5 per cent responded frivolously: “Ugh, I couldn’t care less what happens in Toronto.”
The bullies, as wiser heads in the gay etc. groups must know, are cruising for a backlash by the non-elites.
. . .
RCAF! RCN! Yes!
© Trevor Lautens, 2011