Here is the concise story of the Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee (WEMAC).
Responding to strong pushback from the community regarding “spot rezonings” in which developers asked for and received dramatic increases in height and density on development projects while offering much less than normal back to the community, Mayor Robertson abruptly announced in July 2010 that he would create the Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee.
Eight residents who waited six to eight hours for their five minutes to speak to council voicing concerns about his plan to create a hand-picked politically-appointed committee to represent the community were shocked later to discover his profanity and mockery of the speakers into a hot microphone he thought was off. This became know as the “f-bomb incident.”
Eventually, the committee was formed, funded by taxpayers. All meetings were held outside of the West End. The members never addressed their own community publicly, and one critical meeting even violated City legislation to close the meeting to the public observers when discussing a critical phase of WEMAC outcomes. WEN challenged the methodology and pointed out incorrect conclusions (i.e., the actual survey data differed significantly from the committee’s conclusions) in the final WEMAC report, but the City staff never acted on Council instructions to investigate and correct errors. Ultimately City Council adopted the recommendations unchanged.
WEMAC was disbanded in late 2011, but its “scorecard” to rank project applications was used to justify two developments (1401 Comox and Beach Towers) despite strong neighbourhood opposition to those projects. Some of the members went on to new political roles associated with Vision Vancouver. One co-chair was elected to School Board in 2011 under the Vision ballot. Another is currently (2013) the head of the Vision Vancouver “caucus” for the West End. Another is actively involved in the city’s advisory panel to the Development Permit Board. Most of the members were previously and/or are currently donors and supporters of Vision Vancouver.
October 6, 2011. Council adopted the WEMAC recommendations verbatim.
September 20, 2011. Mayor Robertson proposed a motion in Council that staff consider actions recommended in the report by this committee. The October 6, 2011 agenda and text of his motion are here.
July 28, 2011. The summary WEMAC Interim Report to Mayor Robertson, 20-July-2011 and the full WEMAC Interim Report with appendices were circulated publicly.
For official information about the Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee, including minutes of their meetings, please visit the City website.
The creation of this committee was unusual for Vancouver. This Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee appeared to be the ONLY one with members personally selected by individual Councillors (Clrs. Reimer and Stevenson) instead of by the entire City Council – usually Council selects members for advisory committees.
WEN requested information about the selection process and how the selection criteria were applied to ensure a good balance of representation. This information was only disclosed when the interim report was released over a year after the committee was appointed by the mayor.
It was the ONLY advisory committee that reported only to the Mayor.
Relevance of the Committee
- It was presented as a pilot for several other neighbourhoods.
- It could influence hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and corporate profits from the West End through rezoning and land use decisions.
- It could result in irreversible decisions affecting our neighbourhood for decades.
- It could have substantial impacts on City finances.
- Vision Vancouver has an absolute majority in City Council, and could use this committee to manufacture the appearance of public consultation while it fast-tracked rezoning applications during its remaining term until November 2011.
The original motion to create the Committee was strongly opposed by speakers before Council on July 8, 2010 since it appeared without and prior community consultation and it did not define clear functions and accountability. The Mayor’s response was that the 12 selected members would decide how it would operate.
Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee, official Terms of Reference (TOR) Committee’s Terms of Reference
Mayor’s Committee, code of conduct issues, 5-Sept-2010 An analysis of citizen concerns about application of the Code of Conduct to members of this Committee.
Information and list of all Advisory Bodies in Vancouver is here. These are examples of other advisory bodies that are selected by and report to Council (in contrast to this Mayor’s Advisory Committee).
Our City is faced with important urban planning issues that are not only pertinent to the West End. WEN believes that our City would function better if all the players (including elected officials, developers, consultants, architects, media, groups, and individual citizens) were devoted to creating systems that build trust, not erode it.
History of the West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee
October 8, 2010. Mayor Robertson announced members of Committee. The notice is here. The members were Christine Ackermann, Tony Clark, Marlann Cooper, Jim Deva, Michelle Fortin, Rob Hines, Lena Hozaima, Peter Jackman, Tiko Kerr, Dean Malone, Cherie Payne, and Carol Reardon. The city reported that 78 people applied. Councillors Andrea Reimer and Tim Stevenson selected the 12 members.
WEN congratulated the members and encouraged them to get familiar with the petition signed by 11,000 people that stated ”No Rezoning Without a Comprehensive Plan.” It hoped the Committee would seek out all the key facts and share everything openly with the public in a timely way. It also recommended that the Committee make every meeting and document open to the public to ensure that it would not be a secret committee rubber-stamping rezoning applications in their recommendations to the Mayor.
July 19, 2010 West End Neighbours urges Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to clarify “Mayor’s West End Community Advisory Committee”. Yesterday West End Neighbours sent a letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson urging him to improve the design of the controversial “Mayor’s West End Community Advisory Committee.” that the Vision Vancouver Councillors voted as a bloc to create, after strong opposition from non-Vision Councillors and from citizens who had spent eight hours at City Hall for their chance to get their concerns across. For more information, see RELEASE, WEN to Mayor Gregor on West End Advisory Committee 20-July-2010.
July 19, 2010 A letter was sent to Mayor Robertson outlining concerns with the proposed “Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee”. The City is expected to announce “by mid- week” an online application for people who wish to join this Committee. Before the call for applications is rushed out, West End Neighbours outlined concerns and suggested ways to ensure it worked in the public interest. The letter contains a table comparing the vague wording of the Committee’s terms of reference with what is expected to ensure good governance. See the WEN to Mayor Robertson, Mayor’s West End Community Advisory Committee, 19-July-2010-1 letter.
July 16, 2010. The Mayor apologized by telephone to WEN spokesman Randy Helten.
- The West End “No Rezoning Without a Comprehensive Plan” petition had grown to 8,000 signatures. [currently over 12,000]
- Nearly 48,000 [currently 60,306] people had viewed the YouTube video showing the Mayor’s dialogue with two Councillors Stevenson and Deal.
July 15, 2010 The Mayor and Councillors Tim Stevenson and Heather Deal insulting remarks after passing a contentious motion to set up a Mayor’s Advisory Committee ignited a lively discussion in the media. See some of the coverage here.
July 12, 2010. Mayor slams citizens appealing for transparency in hand-picked “Mayor’s West End Community Advisory Committee”
Unaware the microphone was still on after a Vancouver city council meeting, Mayor Gregor Robertson and two Vision Vancouver councillors showed their true colors. The Mayor was ranting about citizens who had endured eight hours at City Hall on July 8, 2010 for a chance to express sincere concerns about the Mayor’s motion to create a “Mayor’s West End Community Advisory Committee.” The clip remained on the City website until removed on Sunday. See more details in the media RELEASE Vancouver Mayor slams citizens seeking transparency, WEN, 12 July 2010-3.
July 8, 2010. Two important reports on the findings from public consultation were released in the last couple of days. The first is the West End Resident’s Association (WERA) report on “What makes the West End Great? Planning for Change, Affordability, Livability, Sustainability!“ that consolidates discussions from a community forum involving 80 people held May 29, 2010.
The City has also issued the results of two public engagement sessions held May 12 & 13, 2010. The City conducted a survey and the results are reported in the Memo to Council summarizing the feedback collected at the West End Community Engagement sessions and in the Full Consultant Report.
The City report’s key messages with respect to planning issues were “there should not be any more site specific rezoning until a comprehensive community plan is developed and the public should be more involved in the planning process.” This is consistent with over 7,000 signatures on a petition demanding no spot rezoning until there is a comprehensive West End Plan.
July 8, 2010. Vision Council members passed a critical surprise motion to establish a “Mayor’s West End Community Advisory Committee” in spite of a number of presenters that opposed the motion. These were the concerns expressed at the Council meeting:
- The haste of the motion given the potential implications for the West End as well as for other neighbourhoods.
- The lack of prior consultation with community members
- The lack of time to review the findings of the two just released reports about community issues
- There was no opportunity to examine other possible alternatives to a Council appointed committee.
- The committee of 12 appointees was designed to “rubber stamp” Council decisions and to ignore larger issues.
- It ignored the issue of the current rezonings that were causing such a “stir” in the community.