Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gregor's First 100 Days

Well, he may not have scored a sit-down with Jay Leno, but Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson did at least reach the 100-day mark before Obama. Here's the update he and his Vision Vancouver team put out yesterday on their progress so far:

"We have just passed the 100-day mark since being sworn in to City Hall. These first few months have been as challenging as they’ve been productive. Despite the hurdles thrown at us, we’ve demonstrated that a Mayor and Council who are prepared to show leadership can get things done. Today, I would like to give you a brief report on what we’ve accomplished since taking office in December.

The Homelessness Crisis

Since taking power, Vision has hit the ground running. On our first day in office, we created the Homeless Emergency Action Team. After one week, we were able to secure funding from the Province and the Streetohome Foundation for five new emergency shelters. Over the last 100 days, these shelters have provided a safe and secure place to sleep for up to 500 people a night. Earlier this month, I was also pleased to announce that we’ve secured funding from the provincial government to keep the shelters open for another three months.

Both the VPD and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association can attest to the positive impact the HEAT shelters have had on reducing mental health calls, aggressive panhandling, and street disorder. The HEAT shelters are working.

The Olympic Village

Dealing with the Olympic Village mess left by the previous NPA administration has been one of the toughest problems we’ve faced. Nevertheless, I’m proud to say that your Vision team has risen to the challenge. As promised, we held an open, public council meeting to reveal the financial situation of the Olympic Village. We were up front with the people of Vancouver about the amount of financial risk the city was exposed to. We hired KPMG to provide an external review of the Olympic Village finances.

Thanks to the quick work of the Provincial Government and the Official Opposition, the City was granted the tools necessary to borrow money to finish the project. The new financing deal we’ve negotiated will save the City roughly $90 million in interest payments. We’re now working hard to make sure the Olympic Village stays on track and is done on time.

Public Safety

Vancouver, as Police Chief Jim Chu said earlier this month, is in the midst of a brutal gang war. The brazen nature of the recent gang shootings and the complete disregard for human life are unacceptable. Gangs do not care about municipal boundaries and we need a strong regional response to deal with them. Chief Chu and I met with the Prime Minister several weeks ago, and we made the case for more police officers throughout Metro Vancouver. Our city is doing its share in terms of funding our police. To fight gangs across the region, we need other municipalities to do the same.

Managing Your Money

The recent economic downturn has put a major strain on the City’s finances. As a Council, we’ve already taken bold steps to cut costs. Since December, we’ve cut $42 million from the City’s budget while maintaining services. We cancelled the expansion of the controversial Downtown Ambassadors program and implemented a hiring freeze. We’re working hard to keep taxes down in the next City budget.

Greening Your City

Vision has pledged to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world. To do this, we’ve reached out to ‘green’ business and sustainability leaders and formed the Greenest City Action Team (GCAT).Whether it’s expanding car-free days or community gardens, we’re making progress, with more to come. GCAT will be working to tackle climate change, increase sustainable transportation, and create green jobs in the weeks ahead."

I'm more or less in agreement with most of this; I just wish we could get past the partisan finger-pointing at the previous administration. Don't get me wrong, I'm the first to lay much of the blame for the Athletes Village mess at the feet of the NPA and former City Manager Judy Rogers (whose severance package topped $570,000 according to yesterday's Vancouver Sun and Globe and Mail). But Robertson has inherited the fallout, and so he should just get on as best as possible in dealing with it.

On the Olympics front, I have just been approached by a group of colleagues in Urban Studies at SFU to join their group studying the outcomes of the Games on Vancouver. Very exciting, indeed, and I shall be sure to share some of our discussions with readers of this Blog.


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