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Taking aim at the mayor - Metro US

Taking aim at the mayor

A recent jaunt to Seattle provided an opportunity to reflect upon transport developments taking place with our metropolitan sibling to the south.

While the clunky Monorail continues to move thousands of tourists between the Space Needle and the city core, and the downtown buses are still free, the better people-movers are the new light rail system, which reaches Sea-Tac Airport, and the Seattle Streetcar, connecting downtown to the burgeoning South Lake Union neighbourhood.

The streetcar, which opened more than two years ago, is the result of intense lobbying by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, as well as other business leaders who had a vested interest in the economic development of the South Lake Union area into a hub for biotechnology and medical research. Today, the neighbourhood is attracting smart growth and high-paying knowledge economy jobs that benefit the entire city.

By contrast, the successful Olympic Line streetcar along Vancouver’s False Creek was halted after the Winter Games — and the future for a local streetcar is still very much uncertain. Unlike Seattle’s leaders, Vancouver’s collective of politicians and transport planners can’t see the forest for the trees — focusing on short-term costs instead of long-term economic impacts that could help the cash-strapped Olympic Village and the rest of our region.

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Now that Gregor Robertson has passed the halfway mark of his mayoral term in Vancouver, a vocal group of critics have taken aim at some of his most symbolic actions over the last year and a half. These include his promotion of backyard chicken farming, and the infamous veggie garden on the lawn of city hall.

The naysayers are at least right to be irked by his focus on fowl. Not only has it made for bad politics, it has proven to be an unnecessary sideshow when there are bigger issues to focus on at the municipal level — from economic development to much-needed transportation infrastructure.

Even so, urban agriculture shouldn’t be dismissed — and Robertson is right to push ahead, minus the poultry publicity that actually damages his image and green agenda.

Popular community gardens are springing up across the Lower Mainland. According to Vancouver bureaucrats, more than 1,000 people are on waiting lists for their chance to plant tomatoes and sunflowers in a gardening plot of their own.

By providing green space and promoting density, these gardens represent smart city policy.

As for the backyard chickens? Not so much.

– Derek Moscato is a writer with a focus on urban issues, transportation, architecture and economics; dmoscato@yahoo.com.

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