Appeared in the North Shore News – March 2, 2012
AWRIGHT, youse cub reporters, line up, shut up, listen up, and learn good from an old bastard. Er, old master.
The lesson today is: At times in your trade – don’t let me hear you call it a “profession” – you will ask questions to persons in authority that you can take to the bank they won’t answer.
Which is why you ask the questions. You are putting on record silence. Which speaks.
OK, there’s a faint hope clause even in journalism. You could be wrong. They could fool you and reply. If they do (and if you don’t need a translation into English), there’s your story. If they don’t, there’s your story too. Can’t lose.
I clearly recall such a personal occasion. In fact it was last week. And, belatedly, I did get a response Monday, which blew my theory that is accurate 99 per cent of the time.
I emailed West Vancouver’s mayor and councillors three questions: “Are you satisfied with the WV bus shelters? Are you satisfied with the (in-camera) process that debated and approved them? If you are uneasy about that process – three of you were not party to it, and two have already expressed some misgivings – would you consider trying to renegotiate the contract with Pattison Outdoors?”
I’d heard a rumble that council might reply. Time passed. My theory looked 100 per cent accurate. Then Mayor Mike Smith emailed me:
“Council has asked that we respond to your request as a group. I have looked into this issue and offer the following:
“Council had previously challenged staff to find revenue opportunities to help offset the need for tax increases. In early 2011, staff were authorized to negotiate with Pattison Outdoor Advertising in regard to a possible opportunity.
“An agreement between the district and Pattison was reached and announced at a June 6, 2011 open council meeting.”
This I had been tipped to: “A manufacturing defect in the shelters which caused leaking was identified and has now been fixed. Adjustments to some shelters are being made to better accommodate the pedestrian environment.
“The overall revenue to West Van over the 20-year term will be between $1.1 and $2.3 million depending on ad revenue.”
(Interjection: Let’s say West Van’s share of Pattison Outdoors’ revenue is $2 million. That’s $100,000 a year for a town whose 2011 operating and capital budget totalled $93,820,375. Wow. If council was swayed by that . . . well, another lesson for you rookie reporters: If you’re gonna sell yourself – at least go big.)
Mayor Smith continues: “The district would have had capital expenditures of approximately $700,000 if we had paid for the shelters.
“I do not think there is any appetite on council to attempt to buy our way out of this contract. I have observed in driving through West Van that they are being well used by our citizens, especially when it is raining.”
Some valuable facts, from a mayor who has already set the standard for blunt openness. But it says here that the process – the in-camera meetings, the announcement of a done deal to citizens who didn’t know any deal was contemplated – fatally wounded the deal.
What’s to be done? If councillors had the moxie to publicly acknowledge that the Pam Goldsmith-Jones council made an honest mistake, mesmerized by pretty pictures, and urge Pattison Outdoors to consider the citizens’ widely held dislike of the bus “shelters”- they’d be making a statement, putting it out there, and the onus would be on the company to respond: Back up. Or ignore. Which (see above) speaks.
My sense is that Jimmy Pattison is a popular, even beloved citizen. What’s the price tag on that, Jimmy?
I’ve received one response applauding the shelters. Of the many opposed, I treasure this: “The one that bugs me once a week is at Marine and 15th outside the Esso station, where I fill up. That was always a nasty right-hand turn onto Marine Drive, but the hoarding has now made it difficult to see oncoming traffic until half the car is out in the curb-side lane.
“I hope that if someone demolishes one of these eyesores they are taken to court and successfully plead that far from committing vandalism, they have committed beautification.”
. . .
The AmblesideNow redevelopment awaits West Van council’s initial green light Monday – as ceremonial as the Queen’s signature on legislation.
Grosvenor’s current vision: Two eight-storey commercial/residential edifices on the police station site, joined by a public access atrium connecting Marine Drive and Bellevue.
Can’t improve on Scenery Slater’s Feb. 24 letter to the News editor, in part: Council seems “bound and determined to take the ‘village’ and turn it into yet another Metrotown or Coal Harbour.”
. . .
Is this the only country in the world where, watching women’s curling and specifically Manitoba vs.
Quebec, a husband turns to his wife and says: “What’s the best outcome for national unity?”
© Trevor Lautens, 2012