I was in my local coffee shop when I overheard the following conversation at a nearby table. While I don’t usually eavesdrop, I couldn’t help myself. I found myself getting more and more excited as the conversation continued.
AT first all I heard was bits of general talk “… yes, I tell you I have it on very good authority … new year’s resolutions …”
The first voice I recognized was unmistakably Mike Magee. In detail he began to explain how Vision Vancouver had worked overtime and held meetings during the holidays to draft a motion which they planned to bring to the first Vancouver City Council meeting in the New Year. “This motion will ban donations from developers to civic parties during municipal elections.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but there was no mistaking what I’d heard and who had been speaking!
A few minutes later, another voice took over the conversation. I’d heard that voice many times on the news – it was Jim Chu, Vancouver’s Chief of Police! He was talking about the root causes of crime, and how increasing the police budget more than that of any other city department budget year-after-year just didn’t make sense. “I’ve been thinking – if we froze the police budget and invested the savings in building housing for the homeless, supporting childcare maybe … you know, beef up our community services … now that’s a much better solution. So, I’m going to recommend that to Council.”
The hustle and bustle of the café drowned out the conversation at the nearby table. I took a long sip of my coffee. And then, just as I had given up on hearing anything further, the din died down and once again I could clearly hear the conversation.
Now a new voice emerged – a voice I hadn’t heard before – someone the others at the table referred to as the recently appointed General Manager, Planning and Development for the City of Vancouver. I realized it must be Brian Jackson speaking “… you know I would never have given the green light to the Rize development at Broadway and Kingsway – it’s unaffordable, out of character, and too tall. We need to put the community in charge of decision-making for large developments like the Rize … it’s the community that should be instructing Council, not the developer.”
Once again, I lost track of the conversation as a crowd of young people – students on a break I would guess – came in to grab coffees to go. My own coffee was getting cool by now so I got a refill and waited for the students to leave. Once again, I could overhear the voices at the nearby table.
Was that Ian Jarvis, CEO of Translink, I was now hearing? Sure enough, the conversation had moved on to transportation and the hotly debated topic of moving people along Broadway from Commercial to UBC. “I’ve taken another look at all the options and it’s now clear to me that an underground skytrain would be fiscally irresponsible. It would bankrupt Translink. Street-level light rapid transit – you know, at-grade LRT – is the way to go. It has more than enough carrying capacity to meet increasing demand for decades to come. We know this … many cities around the world, cities larger than Vancouver, are relying on at-grade LRT with ridership levels far greater than the Broadway corridor will ever need. And with the money that would be saved – LRT being only 1/8th the cost of underground skytrain – we could afford to build another 90 or so kilometers of at-grade LRT throughout Vancouver … so here’s to the next Translink Board meeting!”
Then, just as the conversation was shifting to yet another topic, it became harder and harder to hear as the café’s sound system began blasting CBC’s Early Edition. It was my favorite broadcaster Stephen Quinn. The coffee shop began to disappear and I realized it was my radio alarm telling me it was time to get up.
It had all been a dream but a great dream to start 2013!