3 min

Dear Mayor Larry

About those unkept promises

Credit: Xtra West files

Your Worship; What’s the matter, Mayor Campbell? Are you running out of energy, is your reformist zeal pretty much spent now that you have your safe-injection site up and have proved you were right all along about their effectiveness?

Congratulations on that, Mayor Larry. But, you know, there’s still lots to do and only a year left to keep your promises to the gay community and others. It’s not looking so hot these days. You promised our community a ward system two years ago. You didn’t deliver. And I mean “you” very literally.

Other COPE city councillors stumped hard to get the turnout for the wards vote. But you said it was time COPE did the “heavy lifting” and were barely to be seen during the referendum. That’s in contrast to Your Worship’s omnipresence during the Olympic referendum.

I beg your pardon, Mayor Larry, but wards are more important by far for the future of democracy in this city than the Olympics ever could be. Whole areas of this city feel unrepresented at city hall. The aspirations of entire communities, including the gay community, have been ignored by politicians and bureaucrats for decades, and those communities have no recourse under the at-large system. Gays did our bit in the referendum: the gay-heavy areas of the West End came out overwhelmingly in favour of switching to wards.

This debate wasn’t about COPE vs the NPA. It was about changing to a system that would empower neighbourhoods and communities-and make it possible to elect independent candidates that reflect the values of smaller communities. This debate should also not have been about Your Worship sitting on his hands because he’s doesn’t have the warm huggies for some members of COPE these days.

Mayor Larry, I hate to be the one to tell you this, and I say it with respect: It’s not about you. Democracy is about your service to others. And this time you failed to do your job. We could be heading for a ward system right now if you’d personalized the debate to sell wards and get out the vote. You let down the less powerful.

Which brings me to another key promise you made the gay community in the 2002 civic election that brought you to power. You called a press conference at Little Sister’s to promise that under your leadership, this city would reform policing and move to a community policing model.

Now, I know that you are only one vote on the city’s police board, but you have profound moral authority as the mayor and as someone who promised reform and got elected. Have we seen your demonstrate any police reform since the election? Not at all, Your Worship. And now your own appointee to the police board, Kelly MacDonald, has resigned in frustration. How much time, Mr Mayor, did you spend working with her to develop a police reform agenda? Hmmm, that’s what I thought. Be a big guy: pick up the phone and ask MacDonald to come back to the police board-and work with her for reform.

On the eve of your election, this city was decades behind other cities in shifting to genuine community policing. Two years later, Your Worship, we’re further behind. Yes, further behind. Chief Jamie Graham makes excuses for cops who abuse and kill. He shuts down community policing centres, rather than enhancing and empowering them. He declines to introduce courses in sensitivity training for cops.

What do we hear from you? Silence at best, and endorsement of the status quo at worst. You’re beginning to look like Robin to his Batman (you are definitely the cuter of the two, it must be said).

Mr Mayor, this city suffers from outdated policing techniques, alienation of the public from its police force, police harassment and abuse of citizens-and all this is defended by the chief. Our neighbourhoods have no major input to the priorities of police working in them.

Vancouver is now being given $7.8 million in fine revenues by the provincial government for additional policing. It’s up to you to prove you are more than a charismatic mayor with a single issue agenda-safe-injection sites.

Get out there and rally this city around police reform and community policing. Insist that new money be spent fully and exclusively on democratic policing. Lead the way. Make this last year count. Our community, and the entire city needs this. It’s the least you can do after blowing the wards vote.

Our community had high hopes for you and the COPE council in 2002. And your charisma resonates in this community. But, Mayor Larry, charisma is no substitute for living up to your promises.

Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.