With Whitecaps rejected, a great opportunity lost in New Westminster

The news that the Whitecaps will not be bringing their USL Pro Soccer franchise to Queen’s Park Stadium has left a lot of Royal City residents scratching their heads. It looked like a win-win deal and public support was strong.According to a city report, 66 per cent of the 106 emails received by the city were in favour, with only 29 per cent opposed. Out of 327 resident feedback forms collected at the consultations, 59 per cent were strongly in favour and an additional 7 per cent voiced support with some reservations. Only 32 per cent were opposed. And 80.3 per cent of Chamber of Commerce members were in support. A pro-Whitecaps online petition had almost double the support of an anti-Whitecaps petition.

So what happened?

First of all, small but vocal special interest groups were very effective in their opposition, exaggerating small deficiencies and literally shouting down proponents. You can’t blame the baseball community for screaming blue murder. It’s a proven strategy for even the smallest of minorities to sometimes get their way.

Second, a perceived information vacuum was quickly and happily filled with misinformation by opponents. Huge cost figures were pulled out of thin air and rumoured. Some “heard” a brand new soccer stadium was going up. Traffic would over run the neighbourhood day and night. No more May Day, etc.

“There’s no information!” opponents cried. But there was information. For example, it was disclosed over and over that there would be only about 14 games per year on weekends, that no civic events would be disrupted, and the facility would be open to youth sports.

But even now triumphant letters are coming in about “stopping the bulldozers.” An effective misinformation campaign is hard stop once it gets going.

From a financial perspective, it seems the Whitecaps and the City were pretty close to a deal. The “$11.4 million” cost figure being quoted as justification for turning down the proposal is bogus. It does not include the funds already set aside in the city’s budget for the facilities and ignores completely the contributions coming from the Whitecaps side.

To me, to make sense of the Whitecaps proposal, as with any business case, you need to look first at the business model.

The current business model, a large, empty and aging stadium, is clearly not a good one. You have all the costs, including potentially huge investments for seismic upgrades, with zero chance to recover the investment. Under this model, its best to bite the bullet, knock it down and replace it with a very low maintenance facility.

The demolition plan is exactly what Parks & Rec recommended.

It makes zero sense to invest further in the structure, as the chance of another pro sports tenant is gone. Baseball’s “victory” will probably be a pyrrhic one, with their shrine going the way of the buffalo anyway.

The other business model, upgrading the facility to secure a big-name, well-liked tenant, was a good one, with an array of positives, both tangible, and intangible.

On the tangible side, you have direct and indirect revenues to offset the expenditures. Directly, rent would be paid. Indirectly, local businesses would have a larger audience to market to. There were also direct, local job opportunities.

On the intangibles side, we have heritage, brand awareness and regional relationships. Heritage is likely the most valuable asset New Westminster has, and putting money into the stadium and filling it with fans would have improved that asset.

As a city, our brand is vital to attracting new residents and businesses. A lot of money is being spent marketing New Westminster as transforming, revitalizing, embracing the future, on the rise, and welcoming.

The Whitecaps have developed a tremendously loved and admired brand, and linking that image would have helped city’s “rebranding” efforts considerably.

All number crunching aside, I feel bad for the thousands of New Westminster children and their parents who have seen a dream evaporate. No soccer or baseball player is being denied a chance to play, but kids will not be walking or riding their bikes in droves to Queen’s Park Stadium to see and engage with professional athletes anytime soon.

And that, as the kids say, sucks.

David Brett

© New Westminster News Leader

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Whitecaps not coming to New West

81836newwest140822-Stadiumfile1

Mayor Wayne Wright blames time and an inability to not “get all the positives out to the city” for not being able to bring the Vancouver Whitecaps to town.

He made the comments in the aftermath of Monday’s decision by council to kibosh plans to convert Queen’s Park Stadium into a soccer-only facility to attract a development team for the Major League Soccer club.

“It’s no secret I was a big proponent,” said Wright. “It was a huge economic development for the city. We should have got all the positives out to the city … It was a progressive thing for the future.”

New Westminster and the Whitecaps signed a memorandum of understanding on July 7. But the Whitecaps needed a final deal by Sept. 15 so it could apply to play in the USL-Pro League starting in March 2015.

But on deadline day council got sticker shock.

A report to council pegged the total cost at $11.4 million. But the city has set aside just $3 million in its budgets for the area which would have meant borrowing nearly $8.4 million.

The report estimated the cost to fix the field and the concrete grandstand, and to expand seating capacity to a minimum of 3,500 was $7.07 million. Building a full-sized replacement baseball field elsewhere in the city was pegged at $1.14 million while a proposed artificial turf field next to the stadium had a $3.2 million price tag.

“You’ve got to look at the numbers,” said Wright. “I don’t think the gap was an $8 million gap.”

Wright said the tight timeframe to determine the costs and do community consultation were the project’s biggest obstacles.

“There’s always two sides to a story, and this is one of those things that’s got a lot of intangibles to it,” said Wright. “[It would have been] nice to partner up with somebody that is high calibre such as the Whitecaps.”

He said although the grandstand is iconic, it’s also falling apart. He doesn’t see the point in spending $1 million to rehabilitate a wooden grandstand, built in 1928, that’s only used once or twice a year and continues to degrade.

Wright said New Westminster business would have received a lot of economic benefit, while the community would have gained improved recreation facilities and a strong relationship with the Whitecaps.

Wright did not officially vote on the proposal but the rest of council unanimously turned it down.

“What it really came down to here is the financial numbers don’t work,” said Coun. Jonathan Coté, who will oppose Wright in the mayoral race in the November civic election.

Coté said the revenue the city would have received from the Whitecaps lease “would have come nowhere close to recouping the city’s capital costs.”

Coun. Bill Harper said going ahead was too risky.

“When we first took a look at it, it was very quite exciting in terms of getting a professional sports team to actually use a stadium that’s used once a year. Not only that, but professional sports teams like that would raise the profile the city,” said Harper. “It would make the city more attractive [to visitors], and for economic development. At that point we had no idea what the reaction was going to be in the community.

“We knew being in the summer time was a problem, and the timeline was a problem but in our view taking the opportunity and time to look at it was important. That’s what we did.”

Harper said the baseball community set the agenda by attending open houses and council meetings to voice their opposition.

But although the sport would have been turfed from the stadium, New Westminster Baseball president Ron Suffron was happy about the decision for financial reasons.

“The numbers just don’t work, that’s all there is to it. And the timeframe never worked,” said Suffron. “That whole process was crazy to spend that kind of money behind closed doors just didn’t make sense.”

Suffron said baseball needs to improve its promotion of games so the grandstand is used for more than just May Day.

Queen’s Park Residents Association president David Brett believes New Westminster has missed a golden opportunity to both save the stadium and to align the city with a marquee group like the Whitecaps.

He said the staff report’s one-page financial summary doesn’t fully analyze the proposal.

“It appears to only tally the capital costs, but it does not reference any revenue anticipated from the project, and it doesn’t seem to define the contribution from the Whitecaps. It’s not spelled out what the sports franchise was going to contribute,” said Brett. “I don’t think the way council has disclosed this to the public is quite right.”

Signs opposing and supporting the Whitecaps have popped up on lawns all over New Westminster. Petitions and comments from both sides have dominated social media talk in the city.

“The opponents have been very loud and somewhat rude, and I think a minority have influenced the decision,” said Brett. “You can disagree without being disagreeable, and I think this has not been a very fair process from the opponents’ side. A lot of misinformation has been disseminated.”

The Whitecaps have resumed discussions with other Lower Mainland municipalities to find a place for its young prospects to play in 2015.

“[W]e are disappointed by city council’s decision not to proceed with this proposal,” said president Bob Lenarduzzi and chief operating officer Rachel Lewis in a joint statement. “We truly appreciate the support we received from members of the New Westminster community and are thankful to those residents and businesses – as well as our supporters – for all of their efforts.”

The team will be owned and operated by the Whitecaps, developer Ian Gillespie and development consultant Gary Pooni, a New Westminster native.

© New Westminster News Leader

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WOW New Westminster Public Art is Visionary

This is a letter I sent to New Westminster officials on Sunday, May 4th, 2014.

Dear Mayor and Council,

With this letter, I would like to voice my support for the New Westminster public art arranged by the Vancouver Biennale organization. I am particularly enthusiastic about Brazilian sculptor Jose Resende’s profound WOW New Westminster shipping container proposal.

Like many in the Royal City, I have recently been investing considerable time and energy on an ongoing campaign to reduce the impact of heavy truck traffic on our residential streets. Surely container tucks are among the noisiest and ugliest vehicles rattling their way through our streets and psyches. Containers symbolize the jarring, disturbing and unsettling presence of huge machines invading our quiet spaces.

Paradoxically, shipping containers are also a fitting metaphor for our City’s very existence. The great river that lumbers past our doors is itself a highway, a vital corridor for the commerce that sustains life here and abroad. If not for that highway, New Westminster would never have been imagined on these hills. Canoes, long boats, sailing ships, steam vessels and now massive freighters navigate the mighty Fraser bringing from near and far the things we make, need and want. Containers may carry cars and TVs, but they also carry the belongings of thousands of families arriving here from distant shores.

In our zeal to protect our livable avenues from invasive transport vehicles, we risk inadvertently repudiating the commercial activity that makes possible our City, region, and world. What better way to dispel the notion that New Westminster is against global transport than raising the lowly shipping container to the level of high art? The conversations this spectacle would raise are limitless.

WOW New Westminster, both literally and figuratively, embodies the delicate balance we all must strive for between livability and economic prosperity. Through this striking public art, the Royal City can brand itself as a visionary community, navigating a path that carefully integrates our transportation soul with our people centric future. It’s an inspiring mission.

WOW.

Sincerely,

David Brett
New Westminster

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Time to embrace our Royal City identity

Niki Hope’s column, Is it time to drop the ‘Royal City’ tag? (The Record, April 4) raises interesting and important questions for New Westminster. Our outward identity, our “brand,” should align with our collective mission, vision and values, which, in turn, should inform and inspire every corporate decision we make.

To me, Royal City is an excellent brand, one we should keep, reinforce and leverage to the full.

As a city, we compete with many other municipalities for people, businesses, attention and resources. In any competition, differentiation is key. Royal City is a very unique and well-known slogan that not only sets us apart, it succinctly conveys a lot of positive and attractive meaning about our town.

“Royal City” suggests history and significance. Westminster is the seat of British power, so it’s logical that New Westminster would share a certain connection to the monarchy. We are a very old city known for carrying on age-old traditions such as May Day and the Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery, honouring the monarchy.

Emphasizing our authentic and enviable heritage in a very young metropolitan region is not something we should be shy about. And underscoring the past in no way undermines a current and forward-looking orientation.

On the contrary, being authentically old-fashioned has become the epitome of hip.

Today, everything handmade, artisanal and local is in demand. If it’s retro, kitschy and funky, it’s cool. Vancouver’s Main Street, once just plain old and dowdy (I lived there for a while in the ’70s), is a thriving centre of fashion and urban chic.

But old stuff alone does not make for a happening youth scene here in the Royal City. You need young people. Lots and lots of them. Attracting more young people (and retaining the ones we have) should be a top priority.

To make New Westminster a thriving youth destination, we’re going to need a lot of vision, a lot of time, a lot of jobs and a lot of money. A “with the times” rebrand will not help, and could make things much worse. The opposite of cool is trying to be cool.

New Westminster is like a place that time forgot, full of charming anachronism and esoteric knowledge. Hyack is a word known only to locals who proudly translate it for outsiders. We still have pageants. Old-school parades with people in white pants and funny green jackets march through town like it was the ’60s.

Speaking of green jackets, I just got my very own Hyack blazer the other day. It’s pretty cool. No. Very cool.

David Brett is a New Westminster resident.

© Royal City Record

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We Were the World

It was 1985. Big hair, big ties and big budgets. Boomers were trading flower power for buying power, VW busses for BMWs, scruffy jeans for three piece suits. Then Africa happened.

This is a story of changing times and shifting values. It’s a story of an emerging worldview based on a belief that the planet is sacred and fossil fuel is anathema. Climate change is the new poverty. This article attempts to explain why.

In the mid-1980s, the devastating famine in Ethiopia was suddenly in the headlines and on our televisions. The images were heart wrenching, mobilizing an astonishing outpouring of charitable concern. On March 7th, 1985, Michael Jackson et al released the single We Are the World that swept the globe and sold 20 million copies. “There are people dying” rang out Stevie Wonder’s voice. If you can get past the hairstyles, the famous video is still a moving testament to the power of music and celebrity to inspire the masses to “make a better day.”

The 80s pop culture ethos was infused with the feeling that people in faraway places should not go hungry, especially when the rich world was so incredibly well fed. A war on hunger was declared, and everyone was enlisting. What a great cause, and a heroic global media can be thanked for propelling the story forward with gripping coverage of the suffering Africans.

Now, hit the fast forward button on the VCR, right past the DVD era, all the way to the era of the PVR/DVR, and the age of the carbon protester. The ‘80s zeal is still there, but the mission is entirely different, and the related headlines seem to lack the gravity of a continent in crisis.

Take, for example, a huge 2013 Vancouver Sun front page story that screamed “Hidden Sponsor Revealed.” The shocking expose? Port Metro Vancouver paid $5,000 to sponsor the Canadian Coal Association Convention in Vancouver.

The article, that included a half-page photo of an overflowing coal train, reported the allegations of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change. They claimed that Port officials were “bias in favour of the industry” and failed to display their logos at the event. PMV confirmed they did indeed want to keep a low profile, owing to an application for a new coal transfer facility in the region.

How did such a seeming non-story relegate hard news and even Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s latest hijinks to the back pages? Was it just a slow news day in Vancouver, or has a fundamental shift in priorities dramatically changed the focus of our public discourse? How has the image of a coal train become as upsetting to readers as scenes from a refugee camp?

Measured in ink and video tape, it ain’t the 80s anymore. The children are no longer “the world.” A new consciousness has emerged where our perishing earth is “the world.” In the new narrative, an epic tragedy, starving people are at best part of the chorus. The protagonist in this tale, the planet, is in the spotlight. It’s a sad script. The hero’s own children are plotting her murder.

But where did this new storyline come from? What author is writing this gloomy drama? To attempt an answer, I put forward the case of the Pacific Northwest of North America. Sometimes called Cascadia, the vast area encompasses northern California, Oregon, Washington and Southern British Columbia. The region is currently gripped in a titanic struggle over fossil fuel transportation.

Coal trains with fuel destined for Asian markets require significant new port facilities and infrastructure, and the opposition is akin to a holy war waged against the forces of darkness. Much like their oil pipeline cousins, the ferocity of the resistance is astonishing. I suggest that the roots of the hostility are not to be found in dry science or cold logic, but, rather, in religion.

In his fascinating book Cascadia, The Elusive Utopia, Vancouver Sun religion columnist Douglas Todd examines a curious Pacific Northwest phenomenon. From census data, the region’s populace is found more than any other US area to answer “none” to the question of religious affiliation. Paradoxically, surveys show that the “least-churched” people in North America indicate that they are “spiritual.” This enigma was the focus of the 2004 book The None Zone.

A contributor to both The None Zone and Cascadia, Oregon scholar Dr. Mark A. Shibley, in a 2011 paper, describes an influential Pacific Northwest belief system he calls “…Nature Religion—a popular religiosity that makes nature sacred.” Nature Religion, and amalgam of beliefs and practices venerating nature, Shibley argues, redraws the line between sacred and secular, with important implications for public policy. “…I argue that in this region earth-based spirituality is religion, is widespread, takes various forms, and is influential in civil society.”

Eminent German philosopher Rudolph Otto famously framed religious experience as an encounter with the “numinous,” a sensing of something powerful, fearful, and “wholly other.” In the sparsely populated and mountainous Pacific Northwest, the overwhelming beauty and grandeur of nature translates for many into a moving, emotional experience.

Those living in metropolises like Vancouver and Seattle can, within a few minutes, find themselves paddling in spectacular fiords, hiking amongst bears in wild forests, or wandering hopelessly lost on deadly mountain bluffs. In Cascadia, nature is the numinous, wholly other from whence many derive their religious experience. Church pews are vacant, but the hiking trails are busy.

Shibley cites author Bron Taylor whose book Dark Green Religion, a detailed study of radical environmentalism and other earth focused groups, defines Nature Religion as “…religious perceptions and practices that are characterized by a reverence for nature and that consider its destruction a desecrating act.” Northwest advocates engaged in resource and land use policy debates are well known for overlapping moral and spiritual metaphors with scientific information.

When it comes to overlapping Nature Religion with public policy, no better example can be found than Vancouver’s popular mayor, Gregor Robertson, who recently banned coal exports, even though Vancouver had no coal to ban. Formerly an organic farmer on BC’s rustic and beautiful Cortes Island, Robertson went on to build a successful organic juice company called Happy Planet.

Not far from Robertson’s farm on Cortes is Hollyhock, a spiritual retreat centre of considerable renown, offering guests training and experiences in shamanism, teleportation, meditation, yoga, psychic healing, holistic medicine, Buddhism, naturalist wisdom, cooking, and even how to write a grant application. Guests gather in the sanctuary to meditate before breakfast. Hollyhock describes itself as “linked intrinsically to our ecology…” and fits well within the above definition of Nature Religion.

As this Hollyhock promotional video reveals, this “spiritual community” of “brothers and sisters” openly integrates Nature Religion with social and political activism.

Robertson, a Hollyhock sojourner and onetime treasurer, found himself amongst some influential and ambitious people, such as Joel Solomon, the head of some well healed philanthropic organizations. Solomon has said in interviews that he and several “like minded” west coast folks had developed a 500-year vision for the world. Funders affiliated with Joel Solomon contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of Robertson’s political career, leading to his election as Mayor of Vancouver in 2008.

Five hundred years is a long time, and in that intense concentration on the distant future we find the crux of how public discourse has transformed from the 1980s focus on world hunger to our present obsession with planetary collapse. The ‘80s popular reaction to African famine was fueled by the urgency of thousands of children dying right now and visceral images of mass starvation. Climate catastrophes predicted to occur in 50 to 100 years’ time, on the other hand, can only be imagined.

How can anyone change popular sentiment and public policy concerning events that might occur many decades in the future? Primarily, would-be opinion shapers need a strong moral framework from which to prophesy and denounce the status quo. This framework, as if written on stone tablets, in addition to shame and guilt, must instill a deep fear of cataclysmic consequences for non-compliance. Nature Religion helps foster a world view that can tolerate great sacrifice in the present for promised bliss in the future.

Through efforts to restrict access to electricity generating fossil fuels like coal, in hopes of saving the planet, pundits and politicians are forced to make a terrible trade-off. The premature death and morbidity of millions now through energy poverty, it is reasoned, must be stoically accepted to preserve the sanctity of planet earth. The eschatology of Nature Religion sees a utopian future through obedience to the deity, earth, and a terrible Armageddon through defilement.

And Hollywood is doing a fine job bringing the myth to life. Waterworld, Avatar, The Day After Tomorrow, Wall*E, and, for the indoctrination of the kids, Ice Age: The Meltdown. The eco-disaster movie has replaced towering infernos with melting ice caps, with John the Baptist-like eco heroes crying in the wilderness, but also getting the girl at the end. Nature Religion, no longer a fringe movement from the wild-west, has become mainstream.

But in many parts of Africa, huge numbers of children are still suffering, but they are no longer “the world.” “We Were the World” might be the chorus of today’s superstars, as they strain to be heard over carbon protests and climate anthems. The priorities have changed, and the priorities are wrong.

The contention that poverty reduction should remain our top priority is supported by the fact that, gratefully, the war on poverty is working. As Bill Gates and others have been pointing out, the idea that economic development and foreign aid is ineffective is a myth. Through real, quantifiable, verifiable results, we see ‘80s dream of “a brighter future” coming true.

Quantifying costs to humanity of a slightly warmed planet 50 years hence, however, is a highly speculative endeavor. Despite this uncertainty, sadly, many children today are taught to believe there simply won’t be a habitable planet for them when they grow up. Climate criminals have stolen their future, left them for dead, and fled the devastated earth for Elysium. That is until Matt Damon saves them.

The 80s kicked off a tidal wave of action to relieve the suffering of the world’s poor. For the starving abroad and the homeless on our doorsteps, huge effort has produced real progress. In 2014, what are the results of millions of lives investing millions of hours and billions of dollars in climate initiatives? The fruit of all the effort seems elusive.

Saving the world for the future is a lofty goal, but saving the children now is nobler still. After all, they are the world.

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Keeping everyone in the loop, Neighbours watching out for each other

dave-brett-qpra

All it takes is the rumour of burglars ransacking your neighbours’ homes to find out how strong – or weak – the local grapevine is.

The president of the Queen’s Park Residents Association, David Brett, found out that bad news really does travel fast, when folks started sending out emails warning of a “rash” and “string” of thefts in the neighbourhood recently.

The emails triggered a bit of a panic in the neighbourhood leading Brett to take a closer look at the issue of communication, particularly about crime, in his community.

“The neighbourhood needs to come up with a strategy to broaden the communication, because I sit on the policing committee and often I don’t hear about things that are happening in the neighbourhood because they don’t have my email address or I don’t have theirs,” he said.

In this instance, Brett took action and shared his concerns at the city’s community policing committee meeting in January.

At the meeting, it was decided that representatives from the New Westminster Police Department would speak directly with residents in order to clear the air on what was happening in Queen’s Park.

About 40 to 50 residents, along with Deputy Chief Laurin Stenerson and Shelley Cole, coordinator of the department’s crime prevention unit, attended a meeting of Feb. 16 to discuss the break-ins in Queen’s Park.

“As it turns out, the actual number of break-and-enters in the neighbourhood, the police would not consider to be a rash of break-ins but somewhat in keeping with normal levels,” Brett said.

While there were about six break-ins reported to police in January, three of them were break-ins to garages or outbuildings and not actual homes. Police also told residents that it’s common to see a rise in break-ins right after the holidays, when thieves know there are new, and often expensive, items in homes.

According to Cole, the best way to improve communication and protect your neighbourhood is by joining Block Watch.

“Getting involved in a neighbourhood strategy that everybody looks out for one another, watches over people’s homes and communicates with the police department, is definitely on the radar,” she added.

Brett said most blocks in Queen’s Park are part of the program, but each vary in how active they are in circulating crime prevention notices sent out by police, which is why he is encouraging everyone in the neighbourhood to sign up for email alerts from the residents’ association.

“Neighbourhood-wide communication is hard to achieve. It’s not an easy thing to get an email list for 500 residents,” he said.

Despite the challenge facing Brett, he is encouraging residents of Queen’s Park to visit the association’s website at http://www.qpra.org and sign up for email alerts.

“People don’t realize they have a voice on important committees through their residents’ associations,” he said. “That’s our challenge and that’s our job. We have to make sure that people know that we’re alive and well, and that we exist.”

© Royal City Record

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New Westminster sees “instantaneous” traffic increase as tolls rise on Port Mann Bridge

pattullo-bridge

New Westminster noticed an “instantaneous” increase in traffic after tolls increased on the Port Mann Bridge.

That’s the view of acting mayor Lorrie Williams, who thought a police incident might be to blame for gridlock on the city streets on Monday.

“On Monday when I left city hall, I thought there was an accident somewhere. There were cars coming down Sixth, Royal was packed, McBride was packed,” she told The Record. “It was everybody wanting to get onto the Pattullo.”

While there was an “instantaneous” increase of traffic on the Pattullo Bridge and New Westminster streets, Williams said it’s possible motorists will return to their regular routes. The introductory $1.50 tolls on the Port Mann Bridge doubled to $3 per trip for vehicles on Jan. 1.

“They might go back. There is always a little bit of to and fro. People have to decide whether they value time or money,” she said. “I think poor people are going to use the time up because they don’t have the money.”

Truck drivers don’t make a ton of money so it can be costly if they need to make a few crossings across the Fraser River, Williams said.

In October, council asked the province to immediately lower tolls for heavy trucks on the Port Mann Bridge to discourage the use of the Pattullo Bridge as a free alternative. Council also asked TransLink to: ban heavy trucks on the Pattullo Bridge, if the Pattullo Bridge continues to experience increased traffic volumes due to the diversionary effects of the Port Mann Bridge; approve an extension of the current heavy truck prohibition on Royal Avenue to 24 hours (other than for local deliveries); and establish regional tolling as a travel demand management measure for the Metro Vancouver area as an immediate priority.

While new businesses have opened in New Westminster that rely on trucks, including industrial sites in Queensborough, Williams doesn’t think development has contributed significantly to the dramatic increase in truck traffic in New Westminster.

“I think that’s a normal sort of development that happens. That’s normal business for any city. Every person who moves into the city contributes. That’s a natural increase that we expect to have with development,” she said. “I don’t want the unnatural one that’s caused by a toll bridge on the other side. It’s different because people who would normally use the Port Mann – if there was no toll we would not have this congestion. When I say unnatural, I mean it was caused by a certain event. Development is a natural phase of any city.”

Williams called TransLink earlier in the week to see if they had any statistics from Monday’s traffic counts on the Pattullo Bridge, but was told they weren’t available. She expects council to discuss the situation at its Jan. 13 meeting.

“This is New Westminster’s number one problem as identified by us and by the citizens,” she said. “I want the citizens to know that we are trying really hard to cooperate with people but we are certainly going to make sure that they understand what our position is. This is essential.”

Coun. Jonathan Cote told The Recordin December that he’d received statistics showing that traffic on the new Port Mann Bridge had decreased 10 to 13 per cent since a year earlier, and traffic had increased on the Pattullo Bridge. That followed statistics released by the city last fall that showed the average daily traffic volume on Royal Avenue has increased by five per cent, and the heavy truck volume had increased by 63 per cent, an increase the city said was partially due to the introduction of tolls on the Port Mann Bridge.

The increased traffic on Royal Avenue has alarmed residents of the Queen’s Park neighbourhood, who have written to B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone asking that the ban on heavy trucks on Royal Avenue be extended to 24 hours a day, from the current ban of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

David Brett, president of the residents’ association, recently took to the airwaves to chat about the “off the charts” increase of truck traffic seen in New Westminster since tolls were introduced on the new Port Mann Bridge.

“We are not anti-traffic, we are not anti-cars,” he told CKNW. “I do think there are some unintended consequences to the tolls.”

Brett believes the increase in truck traffic on Royal Avenue is directly related to the tolls, as truck drivers aren’t keen on paying $9 each time they cross the Port Mann Bridge and have opted to take the free Pattullo Bridge.

Brett noted that a new elementary school is being built on Royal Avenue, and Douglas College and the existing John Robson are also located on the busy road. He said the residents’ association will continue to push for action to ensure livability and safety are protected.

“We think with reasonable lobbying, change is possible,” he said.

The Record could not reach Transportation Minister Todd Stone before press time.

Meanwhile, TransLink, New Westminster and Surrey will continue working on plans for a replacement Pattullo Bridge. In the first phase of the process, 25 options were whittled down to six, which will be presented to the public during Phase 2 of the public engagement process that’ scheduled for early 2014.
“We are open to a number of options. There is the four-lane rehabilitation, there is the four lane new, the three lane rehabilitation and then there is a six-laner,” Williams said. “We are open to some of those options and willing to discuss them with Surrey.”

While some Surrey councillors accused New Westminster of putting roadblocks to the process, Williams believes Surrey understands that New Westminster is taking the brunt of traffic increases caused by tolls on the Port Mann Bridge.

“I think Surrey and New Westminster have to stay on amicable terms and resolve this. I don’t think we should let the province pit municipalities against each other,” she said. “If we really play our cards right and talk to surrey and explain our position, and keep an open mind, I think we can come to a solution that makes everybody just a little bit miserable. That’s what compromise is.”

© Royal City Record

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New Westminster group lobbies for 24-hour truck ban on Royal Avenue

royal-avenue

The president of the Queen’s Park Residents’ Association took to the airwaves to chat about the “off the charts” increase of truck traffic seen in New Westminster since tolls were introduced on the new Port Mann Bridge.

David Brett recently spoke to CKNW about the dramatic increase in traffic seen on city streets since tolls took effect on the Port Mann. The residents’ association has written to B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone asking that the ban on heavy trucks on Royal Avenue be extended to 24 hours a day, from the current ban of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“We are not anti-traffic, we are not anti-cars,” he said. “I do think there are some unintended consequences to the tolls.”

Brett believes the increase in truck traffic on Royal Avenue is directly related to the tolls, as truck drivers aren’t keen on paying $9 each time they cross the Port Mann Bridge and have opted to take the Pattullo Bridge.

Brett noted that a new elementary school is being built on Royal Avenue, and Douglas College and the existing John Robson are also located on the busy road. He said the residents’ association will continue to push for action to ensure livability and safety are protected.

“We think with reasonable lobbying, change is possible,” he said.

Earlier this year, the city reported the average daily traffic volume on Royal Avenue has increased by 1,300 vehicles per day (a five per cent increase), and the heavy truck volume has increased by 360 trucks per day (a 63 per cent increase), an increase the city said was partially due to the introduction of tolls on the Port Mann Bridge.

The city fears the increase in tolls taking effect this month will send more motorists to the Pattullo Bridge.

In October, council asked the province to immediately lower tolls for heavy trucks on the Port Mann Bridge to discourage the use of the Pattullo Bridge as a free alternative. Council also asked TransLink to: ban heavy trucks on the Pattullo Bridge, if the Pattullo Bridge continues to experience increased traffic volumes due to the diversionary effects of the Port Mann Bridge; approve an extension of the current heavy truck prohibition on Royal Avenue to 24 hours (other than for local deliveries); and establish regional tolling as a travel demand management measure for the Metro Vancouver area as an immediate priority.

© Royal City Record

Original Article

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New West residents want to work together to conserve heritage

Queen’s Park residents are keen on working with the city to address heritage issues.

City council has directed staff to begin creating a Queen’s Park neighbourhood heritage working group.

The group is being formed in response to residents’ concerns about the loss of historic houses in the neighbourhood.

Deane Gurney, a director with the Queen’s Park Residents’ Association, told council residents are “very interested” in this working group and want to see it move forward.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said David Brett, president of the Queen’s Park Residents’ Association. “There is a great buy-in.”

Maureen Arvanitidis, president of the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society, said the move has been a while coming but the group is “very excited” about the opportunity.

A staff report stated the mandate of the working group could include: compiling information about the risks to the existing housing stock in Queen’s Park; identifying the legal framework for potential city initiatives to encourage the retention of houses in the neighbourhood; identifying heritage retention options that are suitable for the Queens’ Park neighbourhood; engaging with area residents to identify the level of support for proposed options; and working with the city to implement options and develop a monitoring program.

In addition to representatives from the Queen’s Park Residents’ Association and the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society, the city has proposed the neighbourhood working group would include representatives from the city’s community heritage commission, other suitable city committees, a builder with experience building in Queen’s Park, a real estate agent with experience in Queen’s Park, a landscaper or person with an interest in the natural environment of Queen’s Park and area residents.

Brett’ suggested the working group should consist mainly of residents, as Realtors and builders could find themselves in a conflict of interest.

© Royal City Record

Original Article

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Banning coal simplistic, unreasonable and unwise

Opinion: Mineral is part of the fabric of our human existence
By David Brett, Special to The Vancouver Sun September 4, 2013
http://www.vancouversun.com/business/2035/Banning+coal+simplistic+unreasonable+unwise/8870473/story.html#ixzz2f4RHfEyP

Poor coal. It’s the mineral not even a mother could love. It’s the orphaned rock, dirty to burn and easy to hate. Vancouver was cheered recently for banning coal, even though it had no coal to ban. Oppose coal and you’re a rock star. Support coal and you’re booed offstage. Surely opposing West Coast coal exports to Asia is the smart, environmentally and morally right thing to do.

Or is it? A series of inconvenient realities suggest otherwise.

First, despite the current trend away from coal to cheap gas, China and other developing countries will need coal for the foreseeable future. The morality of denying them access to it is questionable. For hundreds of millions in China and elsewhere, consuming coal for electricity and heat is not a choice. Removing North American coal supplies from the market will not reduce consumption, but will likely increase prices. It will also encourage coal mining in less safe jurisdictions. Is it right for us to impose such hardships on our fellow human beings while presenting no current practical alternatives?

Second, the intelligence of actively choking off coal exports is suspect. The robust emerging economies of China, India and Southeast Asia are crucial to our own economic well-being. Stock markets tremble at even the hint of a slowdown in China. Consumer confidence here lives in simpatico with Asia. How smart is it to put our foot on the brakes of those economies by increasing their energy costs?

One way some pundits make such imprudence look clever is to style natural resource wealth as a handicap, as if knowledge-based sectors falter when resource extraction thrives. But this is a false argument because the extractive sectors are knowledge-based and already rich with intellectual capital. Just ask any geologist, engineer, or GIS software designer. Resource wealth drives innovation, not the opposite.

Another inconvenient reality is that poverty in the developing world will worsen if we manipulate energy supplies. Industrialization reduces poverty by releasing agrarian families from mere subsistence. It creates higher paying jobs, enabling increased education for children and autonomy for women. Over the long term, this results in a more affluent, service- and knowledge-based economy. The energy driving this gradual process is coal. Blocking North American coal supplies to Asia risks driving up the cost of living for the world’s poor.

Making life harder for the poor through our energy agenda is not something we in the West like to contemplate. Instead, we romanticize the notion of the noble peasant farmer, living off the land with a minimal environmental footprint. Subsistence farming is not poverty, we reason, it’s a cherished traditional lifestyle we should admire. Of course, most of us don’t live those ideals ourselves, choosing rather to educate our children for knowledge-based careers in the city. The dissonance is so real we pat ourselves on the back for paying a few cents extra for fair-trade coffee, as if that rights all the wrong we are doing.

Yes, the negative environmental, health and safety impacts of coal mining and use are significant. Poor countries are not oblivious to coal’s negative impact, but they need it at present to better the standard of living for their citizens. Why not provide these countries with North American coal that’s mined according to tough environmental and safety guidelines, creating well-paying jobs and prosperous communities on this side of the Pacific?

And why not encourage them to use the latest coal burning and scrubber technologies to reduce air pollutants?

The problem with public discourse on coal is that simplistic answers are preferred over holistic, well-reasoned and defensible solutions.

Coal adds to global warming and therefore we should ban it, they say. But the truth is we can’t ban coal. Australia will be more than happy to rake in the billions we will be leaving on the table for them.

Then there’s the “leadership” argument. If we “take a stand” and “send a message” that coal is bad, we do ourselves proud. But such hectoring from one of the world’s wealthiest cities is at best sanctimonious and at worst pure, selfish NIMBYism.

Coal is not just a much-loathed rock we can toss aside; it’s part of the fabric of our human existence. We have a complex relationship with coal built over millennia. We can’t rashly break it off over night. Coal needs a little love too.

A senior adviser to Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. (greenspiritstrategies.com), David Brett has spent much of his life in the natural resources sector.

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