Appeared in the North Shore News – January 20, 2012
GOD and the devil know that any town council should be forgiven for a slip or two, when noble judges trump lesser judges and bulging-brained scientists can’t decide whether simple salt and aspirin are good or bad for you, or both.
So my guess and gut tell me that if West Vancouver council could revisit any decision made in 2011 – by a previous council, four members of which were re-elected in November – it would be the one agreeing to Pattison Outdoor’s “bus shelters.”
The quotation marks above are meant to be a wink and a raised eyebrow, a simultaneous challenge requiring practice in a mirror.
It says here that the “shelters” are just this side of bogus – a travesty on the good name of bus shelters. They were sold to council as bus shelters. Ha. The real vehicle involved is not the bus, but the vehicle of advertising.
The latest move has former mayor and backroom politico Mark Sager riding like cavalry to the side of West Vancouver’s very own world-class multi-billionaire Jimmy Pattison – if Pattison needs help in mustering community support.
Unless a new arrival from Mars, you know these are powerful and widely respected citizens. Sager was a political whiz kid who shot to the top fast and left early. A lawyer whose specialties include real estate development, his nod carries a lot of weight in municipal politics, and his West Van roots are deep. Dine upstairs at the fine Dundarave Fish Market and you’re in his former bedroom, when the building was Sager’s Maple Shop. Also, his father Henry drove an MGA, a special distinction.
Pattison is of course a legend, an East Vancouver guy who started as a car salesman and built an international business empire – whose philanthropy includes his vital role as a dollar-a-year helmsman for Vancouver’s sensational Expo 86.
No question, these are top citizens. But I doubt if they spend much time waiting in bus shelters.
These new edifices are impostors – designed as mini-billboards (in a town that prohibits the full-sized kind) with a laughably incidental afterthought of a shelter that does absurdly little sheltering.
I say “laughably,” but it’s no laughing matter for those so naïve as to expect to seek shelter in one of these devices when the Pacific winter rain doth fall and the nasty Pacific wind doth blow.
Briefly, they’re too tall and too shallow – designed that way to accommodate the billboards, not the bus patrons. Thus the (few) seats get wet in all but a mist. On dry days many are still an irritation: The billboard on the approaching traffic side obscures the approach of the bus, so those waiting are obliged to vault back and forth like chipmunks to check.
And then there are the annoyances for pedestrians and wheelchair users. Some shelters hog too much of the sidewalk for comfort. For a real bus shelter, I nominate the “old-fashioned” one at Marine Drive and Kew Cliff Road. It’s wood, it’s low, it’s deep, it’s dry, it’s in keeping with West Van’s character. And no ads.
Marie E. LeBlanc, writer of a recent letter to the North Shore News, is hardly the first citizen to scorn the new shelters. But the fact that complaints haven’t stopped since last May’s closed-door decision to accept the Pattison deal – apparently there were competitors – suggests that the shelters have few foulweather friends.
Did West Vancouver councillors have the opportunity or take time to examine what they bought into? Director of engineering and transportation Raymond Fung said they were “custom designed for the municipality,” a nice irony.)
But it seems Pattison Outdoors made an offer council wouldn’t refuse. The bait was a 20-year contract to build and maintain 30 shelters along Marine Drive – for free! Cash-hungry town hall would even get an undisclosed percentage of the advertising revenue, totalling $2 million. Such a deal.
Public reaction has made some councillors think twice. In a November interview Mike Smith, now West Van’s plain-talking mayor, was unusually equivocal in choosing his words about the billboard decision. Coun. Michael Lewis candidly says: “With 20-20 hindsight . . . I’d have asked for some public discussion.” Of which there was zilch. It was a done deal when the citizenry learned of it.
Now Sager, with his characteristic upbeat springiness, has surged forward to raise cash for a campaign called Curbside: Bringing Art to the Streets. It would buy shelter advertising space for the Harmony Arts Festival, and perhaps year-round displays of art.
It may not have figured in Sager’s motive, but his proposal legitimizes the shelters that many West Vancouverites don’t like, good cause or not. To coin a phrase, no matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney.
Unless I’m all wet, Jimmy Pattison should graciously pull the ineffectual shelters, and he won’t miss a meal from the lost revenue.
© Trevor Lautens, 2012