Opinion Column

Park board battles dominate 2013 issues list 0

Daniel Fontaine

By Daniel Fontaine, Dialogue with a Difference

Vancouver city Coun. Adriane Carr along with her legal counsel hold a press conference in front of City Hall in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday February 12, 2013. Carr appears with her lawyer at City Hall after the city manager quashed her motion, which examined a controversial park board plan, before it was put forward at council. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Vancouver city Coun. Adriane Carr along with her legal counsel hold a press conference in front of City Hall in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday February 12, 2013. Carr appears with her lawyer at City Hall after the city manager quashed her motion, which examined a controversial park board plan, before it was put forward at council. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

As we approach the end of the year, it is time for my annual countdown of the 10 most important civic stories of 2013.

In 10th spot is the ongoing spat between the Vancouver Park Board and a number of renegade community centre associations. The battle is about final say regarding the finances and programs being offered in local neighbourhoods. Things got so bad, the Vision Vancouver-dominated park board voted to essentially evict the community associations causing them grief. The battle is now before the courts, with no clear resolution in sight.

In ninth position is the ongoing debate as to the future of the historic Pattullo Bridge, which connects New Westminster and Surrey. Politicians living south of the Fraser are once again calling for a wider bridge, while many Royal City residents fear the onslaught of even more commuter traffic. Some New West residents even want the bridge closed to traffic permanently. The Pattullo is in desperate need of repair, including needed seismic upgrades, or it must be replaced soon. Expect this debate to generate more heat before any kind of final decision is made.

Taking the eighth spot is the controversy over a plan to construct a new separated bike path in Kitsilano’s Hadden Park. Once again, local residents were forced to ask the courts for help. This time a judge sided with them and the park board had no option but to back down from its original done deal.

Issue number seven was the high number of former and current civic politicians who ran in the May provincial election and scored victories. The biggest winner of all was Suzanne Anton, a former Vancouver councillor who was appointed by Premier Christy Clark as the new justice minister. Other notables from the civic stage who made the leap over to Victoria included Peter Fassbender, Sam Sullivan, Marvin Hunt and Linda Reimer.

In sixth position is the lack of visibility for Basia Ruta, B.C.’s new Auditor General for Local Government. Despite claims by business groups that municipalities overspend on a raft of pet projects and programs, cities appear to have been let off the hook once again this year. While she still has time to prove she has the same tenacity as Sheila Fraser, the high-profile former federal auditor general, patience is wearing thin. In fairness, several of her audits will finally be made public in 2014, so we will find out soon how seriously she is taking her new role.

Next week I will explore the five top issues to capture the public’s attention in 2013.

Daniel Fontaine is a local political commentator. Follow him on Twitter @Fontaine_D.

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