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Gays well represented on West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee

'I think it's only right that our voices are heard,' Deva says

Half the members of the newly created West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee are gay, Xtra has learned.

City councillor and committee co-chair Tim Stevenson says the city received nearly 80 applications from interested community members. Twelve were selected.

The gay committee members are: Jim Deva, co-owner of Little Sister’s bookstore; Tiko Kerr, artist; Christine Ackermann, director of the West End Residents’ Association; Michelle Fortin, director of Witara Downtown Eastside outreach program and co-organizer of the Vancouver Dyke March; Dean Malone, CEO of Plum Living; and Robert Hines, organizer of the Green Party of Canada.

Also on the committee are: Tony Clark, Marlann Cooper, Lena Hozaima, Peter Jackman, Cherie Payne and Carol Reardon.

“I think it’s very exciting,” says Stevenson. “It’s really a cross-section of people.”

Calling the new committee an “exercise in community,” Deva says he is excited to be part of it.

“It’s going to be fascinating,” he says. “It’s going to be a real way of watching community interaction shape development.”

Deva, who joins the committee as a business owner, homeowner and former renter, says the gay representation on the West End committee is fitting.

“It’s how it should be,” he says. “It’s the West End and it’s been the heart of the LGBTQ community. I think it’s only right that our voices are heard.”

Hines says public input in decision-making on rental housing is “absolutely essential.”

Ackermann agrees. West End renters need to be fairly represented, she says.

Proposed developments should focus on affordability, livability and eco-sustainability, she adds.

Randy Helten, head of the West End Neighbours group concerned about development proposals in the West End, applied for the committee but was not selected.

“I’m fine with that and I wish them well,” he told Xtra.

Helten says he hopes the committee will serve the community well and urges them to “ask themselves at every step, every action, every word” whether they’re acting in the public interest.

Gathering public input is exactly why Fortin applied to the committee.

“For me, it’s all about the process and ensuring everyone has a voice and that the outcome was influenced by as many voices as possible,” she says.

Mayor Gregor Robertson proposed the committee’s creation in July, in the midst of public concern surrounding a series of recent development proposals in the West End.

Committee members are expected to provide advice to the mayor regarding the area’s building developments but will not have direct decision-making power regarding projects.

“It is absolutely not a planning process,” Robertson said when his motion passed. “It is meant to be an interim step to enable the community to better consider input.”

“It is an advisory board,” says city councillor and committee co-chair Andrea Reimer, adding that she was “blown away” with the number of queer applicants the city received.

“Obviously it is a really important constituency in the West End,” she says.

Last summer, lesbian city councillor Ellen Woodsworth opposed the committee’s creation, concerned it might be an alternative to a much-needed West End community re-envisioning process.

Vision councillors have denied the committee is a replacement for a new community plan.

City staff is expected to report on the Vancouver communities being considered for the next visioning plan by the end of November, and a decision will be made by the end of the year, Reimer says.