WV council shuts out WV people 5-0

Appeared in the North Shore News – June 17, 2016

West Vancouver councillors unanimously approved a waterfront plan Monday that had more holes in it than the Titanic.

Final score: Politicians and Financially Bulletproof Bureaucrats 5, Lesser Mortals and Present Businesses 0.

Schizophrenically, the five –  Coun. Michael Lewis absent –  rhapsodized over green space. And supported a new community arts building smack on said green space.

Supported, cross their hearts, West Van heritage. And issued death warrants for the Silk Purse, approaching century status, the Music Box, and the John Lawson arts building, dates of execution TBA after the new arts centre is built.

Supported protecting precious waterfront. And waxed enthusiastic –  specifically Coun. Mary-Ann Booth, but Mayor Michael Smith is also a big advocate –  for sipping wine in a waterfront bistro.

Supported, over strong opposition, removal of the Ambleside motorized boat ramp. And murmured empty words of sympathy for the ramp users.

Supported expelling evil motor vehicles and parking stalls from Argyle. And fell silent about access to beach and facilities for the disabled and frail. Bellevue Avenue businesses crying to keep overflow parking on Argyle? Stiffed. Mercilessly.

Supported –  the key blunder – extension of the trendy Spirit Trail imposed on narrow Argyle (and linked, nobody asked, to where westward?). Clearly to become overpoweringly dominated by a two-way cycle speedway separated by some manner of barrier from herded pedestrians. And councillors went on about inclusive use of waterfront by all “stakeholders.” The stake is through the heart of West Vancouver.

Absent from the pitches of town hall staffers Raymond Fung and brainy bafflegabber Jim Bailey was any tangible substance behind the colourful charts, word-filled balloons, the usual governmental hype.

Size, site, building timeline, above all costs of the dream and of levelling present buildings? Just trust us. Win-win solution. “It’s incremental, not irreversible,” Coun. Craig Cameron intoned. Humbug. Council gave the busy bureaucrats carte blanche.

Only Coun. Bill Soprovich questioned some whacky estimate of $1 million. Which wouldn’t pay for zip. Explanation: More bafflegab. And even Sop, council’s perennial hard-eyed skeptic, joined Booth, Cameron, and –  disappointingly –  Couns. Nora Gambioli and Christine Cassidy in supporting the wordy motion.

I repeat earlier questions:

What benefit to Ambleside’s existing businesses (Mayor Smith’s long-stated priority)? Not for nearby restaurants competing with the proposed bistro, one of which publicly aired its tax plight a few years ago.

How will people afoot –  families with toddlers and buggies, the frail, picnickers bearing stuff, etc. –  cross the wall of speeding cyclists? (Fung displayed a “map” with a couple of impressive black arrows intersecting the trail. That’s it, folks – jump on that arrow.) And the Harmony Arts Festival, the evil fossil-fuel burners essential to erect and service the booths? Silence.

But there was one magical moment. A 10-year-old boy, Antoine, clearly and with presence beyond his age, spoke up for youth concerts at the Music Box: “We always have a sold-out show … (There is) a special atmosphere of music, art, and view.” He urged renovation of the existing structures and a courtyard to connect the Music Box and Silk Purse. He ended: “It will be cheaper.” Torrent of applause, biggest of the evening.

Antoine spoke more sense than the whole damned council and staff.

If I’m unpardonably harsh, no pardon, thanks: This issue moves me to my West Van guts.

• • •

Before it closes June 26, spend an hour with Nanitch: Early photographs of British Columbia from the Langmann collection, a compelling exhibit at North Vancouver’s Presentation House Gallery. Newcomers especially will benefit from observing how crude life was in this young province. Oldcomers can use the reminder. Entry by donation. Drop five bucks.

B.C. as a white colony and photography are close to the same age (it’s astounding how sharp images had become by the mid-19th century). Both photographer and subjects took the occasion very solemnly. Just examine the faces. I found one faint smile, and that in an early 20th-century photo.

Gratitude for this excellent show for Uno Langmann, owner of a top South Granville antique store – full disclosure, decades ago he put me together from my only bicycle accident (doored by a nice Triumph TR in Shaughnessy) and drove me home. If I was too shaken to express thanks, here they are now, with accrued interest.

• • •

Horseshoe Bay is West Van’s jauntiest village –  this month eclectically staging a Taste of H.B., a beer tasting, a community picnic, and, on June 26, an art crawl. Tomorrow, Saturday, starting with a pancake breakfast at 9 a.m.: Anniversary celebrations for Sewell’s boating operations (85 years), Troll’s restaurant (70), native art store Spirit Gallery (25), and antique store Lalli Loves It! (5) –  Lalli being the nickname of Laura Blodgett, one of the most charming exports the U.S. has ever made to our country.

© Trevor Lautens, 2016

Bah! to batty bully-boy bicycle backers

Appeared in the North Shore News – June 3, 2016

You may have heard – or bellowed yourself – something like: ‘‘By Jing, that moron Coun. Thimblehooper! I’ll never vote for that idiot again!’’

The Thimblehooper moment has come in West Vancouver.

Because only a council of Thimblehoopers could consider for one New York minute voting for a project contemptuously hostile to West Van interests as this:

Turning  over a chunk of Argyle Avenue to the cyclist lobby’s Spirit Trail.

In all earnestness, I think better of councillors Mary-Ann Booth, Bill Soprovich, Christine Cassidy, Craig Cameron, Nora Gambioli and Michael Lewis, and Mayor Michael Smith. I personally like every one. There have been dud councillors. Not in this lot.

Because it would be an act of certifiable insanity to surrender to the bully-boy bicycle lobbyists – who arrogantly jammed motor traffic to intimidate Vancouver into bowing to their demands – and their enablers among the busy-bee bureaucrats in WV town hall. A total loser.

Just for starters: Closing Argyle to motor traffic would strip away 104 parking spaces. From a downtown screaming for parking already! Bellevue Avenue businesses, for years spotted by struggles and closures, would especially be further hurt.

As for businesses on Ambleside’s one-block-over Marine Drive, which Mayor Smith for years has thrown a ton of political might and muscle into reviving – do you think losing those 104 parking stalls would help? And would the sweaty Lycra-and-spandex crowd patronize Chez Michel, Daichi Sushi, Carmelo’s, Blue Eyed Marys and other good restaurants, let alone pause to drop a dime on the street’s fine furnishing stores, women’s fashions, jewellers, florists, gift shops, and so forth?

Exercise? What a good thing. But exercise vendors Steve Nash, Trevor Linden and Ron Zalko don’t ask citizens to subsidize their businesses, especially by donating publicly funded thoroughfares to an interest group that pays zero for the surfaces they move on.

Even worse, the proposed Spirit Trail section imposed on WV’s gorgeous Seaview Walk – a paved surface, night lighting, and, most unbelievable of all, clear-cutting of Tantalus Park, tucked in near the traffic circle above Horseshoe Bay, were initially suggested – threatened an outrageous environmental wound.

Town hall ran a couple of meetings. The opponents were as defiantly rude as any I can recall. Their written responses could fill this space. One, close to my heart: “That the importance of off-leash (for dogs) is not listed under the key themes is a gross oversight.’’ No oversight, I’d have said: Dogs, leashed or unleashed, would get in the arrogant cyclists’ way.

But, to be fair, and a hopeful signal for the Argyle issue: This time town hall materially backed down. No paved surface, no lights, no clear-cutting, dogs still allowed off leash – a mixed benefit because a potential danger to man and beast, and still not a desirable sharing with cyclists.

Western Residents Association co-chair Chris Adshead, and all credit to his and similar sincere views and to WRA’s determination, acknowledges that the staff’s Seaview discussions “started off very poorly” but “we were later pleased by the way the district has consulted and listened,” and the work so far done “has not altered the rustic feel of the trail.”

Apart from the foregoing, there are more than enough questions about town hall’s waterfront vision.

Some West Vancouver Community Arts Council members are grieving over the proposed destruction of their charming Silk Purse building. Smith has mused that an all-new combined arts building, situated eastward, is an idea. One that I’d predict the artists, musicians and (presumably) concert attendees would resist.

Notionally, the arts may be a fit. In fact music through the walls while painting or teaching would be, put gently, a distraction.

Spirit Trail and waterfront change critics: Crowd in to council chambers at the crucial June 13 meeting. By the way, what ever happened to Coun. Thimblehooper?

• • •

And this just in: As Jeremy Shepherd reported Wednesday in these pages, North Van City council dumped – barely, 4-3 – the Mussatto Party’s insane fantasy of a $4.24-million bicycle tow lift (yearly maintenance, $133,000) for the sad exercise buffs who sweat pedalling up Keith Road. Applause for councillors Rod Clark, Holly Back, Don Bell and Pam Bookham. Scorn for Mayor-for-Life Darrell Mussatto and his unbreakable political machine.

• • •

Two North Shore theatrical home runs in a row: Theatre West Van’s second version of Fawlty Towers at the Kay Meek and North Shore Light Opera’s The Merry Widow at Presentation House – which drew a rave review from highly experienced opera critic and musician Hillary Clark – sold out. I tried love and money and couldn’t get tickets to either. I’m aiming for Mary, Mary at Hendry Hall, on stage till June 11.

© Trevor Lautens, 2016