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Vancouver: Litter Strewn, Poorly Maintained, Unkempt & Unsafe

Street trash, unsightly streetscapes, boulevards left unkempt with uncut grass and strewn with trash, overflowing waste receptacles, poor parks maintenance that make them unsafe for use by families — this is the legacy of Vision Vancouver, this is how our majority municipal government realizes its much touted greenest city action plan, yet another obfuscation, among many more, that belies the reality of Vision governance, as over the course of the past six years of a two-term Vision Vancouver administration, Canada's west coast paradise has become a blighted, third world landscape.

In his weekly column in the Vancouver Courier, Michael Geller writes ...

In the past, I was generally proud of how our city was maintained.

However, in recent years, I have noticed a general decline. Weeds are growing in street medians and sidewalks. Boulevards and parks appear overgrown, and more cigarette butts, chewing gum and garbage are strewn about.

There is also an increase in the number of unkempt properties, presumably slated for redevelopment or unoccupied, which become scars on otherwise beautiful, well-maintained streetscapes.

On a recent visit to C Restaurant at the foot of Howe Street, I was disgusted by the neglect of a once-prized waterfront walkway. Weeds were growing through pavers, under benches and around tree grates.

A couple of weeks ago, Park Board Commissioner John Coupar asked us to join him on a walk along the pathway from the Olympic Village to Yaletown.

"Invasive species have grown up all along the shoreline of False Creek, choking out the trees that were planted to enhance the livability of the Village," John pointed out to us. "From Granville Island to the Olympic Village, through to Yaletown, Park Board maintenance has become near non-existent. A beautiful waterfront area that was meant to be enjoyed by the people of Vancouver is becoming overgrown and covered with invasives, including blackberry, morning glory, broom ..."

Nearing the controversial Concord Pacific sales centre opposite the Village, John pointed out a blighted landscape of broken bottles, shopping carts, discarded mattresses, and refuse of every description, carelessly scattered all along the fenced off area on the north shore of False Creek.

"Governance is all about setting priorities. It is clear to me that Vision Vancouver has not prioritized Parks and Gardens. Cuts to operating budgets in Vision's first term have not been restored. A structural deficit in the Park Board maintenance budget remains. While from a distance all looks green, a close inspection of our parks all around Vancouver reveal standards have slipped drastically. Our staff are under siege, are working hard, but without the boots on the ground to keep up, it's clear that a proud history of horticultural excellence has slipped away."

"The lack of respect for the legacy and history of the Vancouver Park Board system continues unabated. I am very concerned about the future of Park Board, which cannot survive in a meaningful way with four more years of Vision neglect."

Recently, VanRamblings had the opportunity to speak with former Park Board chair, the Coalition of Progressive Electors' Anita Romaniuk, on the topic of park maintenance. Here's, in part, what Ms. Romaniuk had to say:

"At Douglas Park, near my home, families in the neighbourhood have told me they feel the park has become unsafe. Park Board maintenance — weeding, the cutting of the tall grasses, and attention to the bushes around the periphery — has gone by the wayside with the Vision Vancouver-led majority Park Board, a Park Board that while politicizing the institution has cut nearly $3 million annually from the budget."

"Parents have reported to me that children running through the tall grass and bush area of the park have emerged — much to the horror of their caregivers — covered in dog feces. Who's maintaining our parks? The present circumstance is unacceptable, unsafe and unconscionable."

Reports from friends living nearby John Hendry Park, on Vancouver's eastside, tell us the situation is no better at Trout Lake. Says a friend:

"Over the past few years, I've noticed that the grass in the park is rarely cut and tended to, and the park poorly maintained, which has lead to a situation where teenagers partying on weekends casually throw their discarded beer bottles into the tall grasses. Broken glass is everywhere — creating an unsafe situation for park users. We used to love to picnic in the park with our friends and family; not any more."

In his weekly column published in today's Vancouver Courier, civic affairs commentator Allen Garr covers the selection of the "dream team" slate of Vision Vancouver Park Board candidates seeking office this November 15th.

A question: Do you honestly believe that the cynical, one issue identity politics new faces of the probably well-meaning, but misguided Vision Vancouver Park Board slate would do anything at all to remedy the years of neglect our parks have suffered under a Vision-led municipal government, that Coree Tull, Trish Kelly, Naveen Girn or Sammie Jo Rumbaua would, for one moment, consider themselves stewards of our parks system?

Or, do you believe, as Park Board watchdog Jamie Lee Hamilton does, that:

(These four political naifs were nothing) other than ... willing participants to the deal-making of the (Vision Vancouver) backroom ... no different than the current Vision Commissioners, who always and still do as they are told ... this new younger crop (constituting) the new faces of Vision, but sadly for voters (members of) ... the same old Vision. (With these four) ... the only outcome of moving forward with Vision will be the complete dismantling of an independent Park Board.

In the past, self-serving Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie hit the airwaves, blaming Mother Nature, claiming that spring and summer rains caused the grasses to grow "a bit longer than normal," all the while failing to acknowledge the $3-plus million annual cut to the Park Board budget.

Louie has even gone so far as to cite an opinion survey that says an overwhelming majority of Vancouver citizens are happy with the level of trash pickup in the city — none of which squares with Bal Brach's story for the CBC last evening, when she reported that complaints to the city about neglect of our streets and our parks is up six per cent this year alone.

More than a few Vancouver citizens would beg to differ with Louie's assessment of the state of disrepair of our streetscape, and our parks.

In fact, one person went so far as to write an e-mail to Vancouver City Councillor George Affleck, and City Hall, writing ...

"To tell the truth, we have been looking to move to West Van as it is so much cleaner over there. Even in the busy areas of Ambleside. North Van is much cleaner also, just check out Lonsdale Ave. It's such a pity Vancouver has been allowed to get so bad."

As far as basic street maintenance is concerned, Charles Gauthier, president of the Downtown Vancouver Improvement Association, says the city no longer spends the budget on cleaning like it used to. He has noticed a significant decline in those funds in the last 10 years.

"Power-washing sidewalks, removing gum from sidewalks, trimming around the tree wells where there has been weeds," he lists. "Grasses grown has reached heights that are unacceptable," says Gauthier.

Former 24 Hours civic affairs columnist Daniel Fontaine has written ...

Long grass and overflowing garbage bins do appear more acute in Vancouver than other neighbouring jurisdictions. While most of us expect West Vancouver to look picture perfect, even Coquitlam, Burnaby and Richmond are doing a better job of keeping their cities looking clean and green.

Few could have predicted when Vancouver set a target of becoming the greenest city in the world it would translate into poorly maintained boulevards.

Michael Geller told News1130 reporter Alison Bailey, last evening, that he wants the City to openly admit if it doesn't have the money to properly maintain streets and parks, or tell the public if it's a deliberate strategy in keeping with the goal of making Vancouver a greener city. Geller also commented that a public discussion is both timely and necessary on what Vancouver citizens believe is important in terms of keeping the city clean.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at June 27, 2014 7:20 PM in Decision 2014


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