A few weeks back, I watched with concern Toronto having a rhetoric-heavy debate about removing the relatively new bike-lane on Jarvis Street. Last minute efforts to save the bike-lane were ultimately unsuccessful, although as small consolation, Council chose not to use bike-lane infrastructure funds to remove it – a previous intention that had been seen as adding budgeting insult to active mobility injury.
A few months back, Toronto's Deputy Mayor started a political flap, stating on the floor of City Council that downtown was no place to raise kids! “Where’s little Ginny? Well, she’s downstairs playing in the traffic on her way to the park,” he exclaimed.
Flap, indeed. Urbanists and parents alike were quick to denounce the comment, including me. In a way though, we might thank the Deputy Mayor for saying candidly what unfortunately many politicians, and many parents, might still think.
I heard similar comments from a Calgary council member years ago while I was leading that city's Centre City Plan. We’re dreaming if we think families will move downtown, the Alderman told me.
As Olympics excitement grows in the first week of the London 2012 Games, we in Vancouver watch with great interest, and occasional feelings of deja-vu. Last week in Atlantic Cities, I wrote about Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics experience with Olympic jitters and the host city funk, and the ability of the Games to change cities through the “power of the collective experience.”
Returning home to Vancouver last week after taking in some of the 100th Anniversary world-famous Calgary Stampede, I find myself thinking about the relationship between city-defining events and place-making. I also couldn’t help remembering an unusual moment in my career that relates to the Stampede.
In 2006 when I was 36, after 4 rounds of interviews, I found myself in a closed-door session with Vancouver's City Council. I was being recommended to Council to become the new Director of City Planning, replacing former Co-Directors Larry Beasley and Dr. Ann McAfee. Council was meeting me for the first time, before going in-camera to officially decide on my hiring.