Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Watching the second hand of a clock / Letters to the North Shore News

Ben Hecht,  a highly-regarded screen writer ("Some Like it Hot", "The Front Page") and former Chicago newspaper reporter, once observed that, "Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock."

Recently some have been given pause by articles in the North Shore News surrounding aspects of the OCP process.  Here are two 'Letters to the Editor' of the NS News that point to significant aspects of local stories where the NSN reporters and editors overlooked the essential core to the story.
To the Editor, North Shore News, May 25
RE: Missing the number on OCP reporting / Denisty, housing dominate OCP meeting / May 22

Dear Editor,
RE: Density, housing dominate OCP meeting, May 22, page A10

In reporting on the OCP Public Hearings your reporter missed the most significant and demonstrated aspect of public support.  By stating that "more than half of the speakers expressed general support for the OCP", the reporter implies that there was only slightly more support "for" than "against".  

A more factual basis is easily obtainable from the DNV's sign up sheets for the hearings.  Of the 69 speakers, 8 made general comments, while 46 spoke in favour, while 15 opposed. 

These numbers clearly demonstrate that the OCP meets with overwhelming support from those who have engaged in the process from across the District.  The majority of those speaking for the OCP couched their remarks in terms of achieving outcomes that direct action towards a more viable and livable community for the greater good.
These wide-ranging aspects of public endorsement were largely missing from your article.

Doug Curran      dougcurran@shaw.ca
To the Editor, North Shore News, May 30
 RE: Some other perspectives on LAPs / "Open Space", May 25
NB:  This letter was edited by NS News.  The edited portions of the original are included here in blue italics
Dear Editor,

Your recent May 25th "Open Space" article commented on the diminishing weight given to the "direct democracy" experiment of neighbourhood-developed LAPs within the OCP process.  What has become apparent is that in their narrow local focus, many LAPs are both out-of-date and have become impediments to the broad cohesive perspectives required for effective planning on a district-wide level.

The local activism of LAPs through neighbourhood planning as endorsed in your article, has serious drawbacks when decision-makers mistake activism for democratic involvement.  What arose from many of the LAPs was actually a disguised agenda of local interest groups intent on forcing their own vision on the LAP with little appetite for fully engaging the broader community . 

Overall the LAPs are of varying uneven quality; some are quite good, founded in well-researched goals, while others have resulted in virtual private community fiefdoms that prevent appropriate change and adaptation for the affected neighbourhoods, leading to their eventual stasis and decline.  
This patchwork of LAPs has left the DNV with an uncoordinated set of local ambitions which thwart effective overall planning objectives that would meaningfully deal with the District-wide problems of transit, sustainability and housing diversity that we suffer from now and will become more pronounced over the next ten years.

In the case of Lower Capilano, a number of those involved in the years-long (1996-2006) LAP process fought vigorously against housing policy initiatives within the OCP that they themselves had written into the original LAP.  This calls into question either the understanding behind the original policies, or the commitment to these ideas when the possibility of implementation arises, as now, through the revised OCP.
As many of these LAPs contain irreconcilable inconsistencies, the full acceptance of LAPs into the new OCP would hamstring the DNV in both legal and practical terms. It would enshrine the problems we have at present, not engage them.  It is sufficient that these LAPs will be attached as historical footnotes to the OCP, but they can be nothing more.
Doug Curran         dougcurran@shaw.ca

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