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Sam's First Slashes

Social housing, bridge bike lane axed by Vancouver council.

By Sam Cooper 22 Dec 2005 | TheTyee.ca

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The NPA circled its wagons to reverse a couple of the previous council's works this week, but the Christmas break will be none too soon for Mayor Sam Sullivan, who is already facing charges he's lost control of council.

As reported in The Tyee, last Thursday all but one of Sullivan's colleagues voted against his plan to disband citizen advisory committees while they are reviewed, and NPA councillor Kim Capri joined the opposition's successful motion to reexamine the makeup of the board that will complete the review.

Vision Vancouver again rallied support from citizens on Tuesday, with about 40 speaking in favour of continuing the previous council's plan for an experimental closure of two lanes on Burrard Bridge to be used by cyclists only, but the NPA motion to cancel the trial passed 6-4, with all Vision councillors opposed, and COPE councillor David Cadman absent.

The NPA also passed a motion clearing the way to change the COPE council's development plan for Southeast False Creek in order pay back $50 million taken from the city's property endowment fund to increase the development's amenities.

'A little charade'

The citizens haunting Sullivan included ghosts from the council past, as Fred Bass and Anne Roberts chided the mayor for trying to hastily ram motions reversing COPE initiatives through council without due process before the Christmas break.

But in an effort to prevent a repeat of last Thursday's marathon session, Sullivan proposed changing the hearing process so that all citizens would speak without being questioned by council, and then remain for questioning afterwards if they wished.

Last time, it appeared Vision's Raymond Louie and COPE's David Cadman were able to mount filibuster tactics with lengthy questioning of citizens that may have helped wilt the NPA caucus resolve.

Louie, who seems to be Vision Vancouver's leader with the endorsement of former mayor Larry Campbell, challenged the chair on the changed process; lost the challenge vote 6-4, and then left chambers to tell reporters Sullivan's process change was limiting democracy.

Louie told reporters Sullivan has already lost control of his slim majority council and his leadership style has poisoned all councillors.

"This is not fair process; it's a result of him wanting to ram things through," Louie said. "My goal is good government, and I don't think he has thought this change through."

Vision Councillor Tim Stevenson said the change showed the NPA didn't ever intend to listen to citizen speakers on the day's key issues.

"We know not one NPA councilor will change their mind. A decision has already been made, all they are doing is playing a little charade here," Stevenson said.

Sullivan wounded?

Stevenson added he thought Sullivan lost a no-confidence vote of sorts last Thursday on his review plan, and NPA councillors Peter Ladner and Suzanne Anton may start jostling for leadership within the party if he continues to waver.

Inside council chambers, former COPE Councillor Anne Roberts argued the Burrard Bridge lane closure trial was a fair compromise built for a complex issue, that mustn't be so hastily dismantled.

"The change to process you made today is clearly designed to ram this motion through," Roberts said. "You will set a tone for three years that you will never shake. There is no valid reason to ram this through in the week before Christmas."

And Kari Hewett, a cycling advocate speaking in favour of continuing the lane closure trial, told council she was also concerned about the change in process.

"It's confusing for me as a citizen, and I'm sure it's confusing for other people trying to follow the democratic process of this city," Hewett said.

But during a break in proceedings, Sullivan told reporters the change was made for citizens' benefit.

"Today we heard 42 people in three hours, and on Thursday it took eight hours to hear 14. There was a lot of obstruction happening last time. I think it is more democratic what we did today."

'It's not easy being mayor'

And asked if he was avoiding public consultation in favour of slamming through reversals, Sullivan said the recent election gave the NPA a mandate for change.

"These are issues I ran on in a huge process of public consultation called the election," Sullivan said.

Before he could be ushered away by handlers, Sullivan was asked if he had already lost control of city hall.

"I tried to bring in a collegial atmosphere but it hasn't been reciprocated," Sullivan said. "It's not an easy job being the mayor, I was elected to lead the city and I will do my best."

During a break in proceedings, NPA handlers chose Councillor Suzanne Anton instead of Sullivan to explain her party's rationale for trying to advance three important issues before the Christmas break. Anton said all three are time sensitive, and part of Sullivan's election platform.

"Every event I went to with Sam, he spoke about the (Burrard) Bridge," Anton said.

'He is our leader'

In a phone interview the next day, Anton said it's not true, as Louie and Stevenson suggested, that NPA councillors were forced to vote the party line on the bridge and Southeast False Creek, and added Sullivan's leadership of the party is not in doubt.

"I totally disagree. He is our leader, but at the same time we are an organization of consensus," Anton said. And explaining her colleague Kim Capri's choice to vote with the opposition to reexamine the citizen committee review board last week, Anton said, "Kim is independent minded, but we (NPA councillors) all are."

It seems apparent in council sessions so far that Raymond Louie and Anton are natural rivals, with the two butting heads more than a few times in council last week.

Anton said she has a good working relationship with Vision Councillors George Chow, Heather Deal and Tim Stevenson, but singled out Louie as the reason for dysfunction within the council chambers at this early stage.

"Raymond has shown the least interest in being part of talking with other people on council," Anton said. "I'm hoping it turns into a positive relationship in the next three years."

Asked whether she has ever thought about running for the mayor's seat in the future, Anton said she is too busy focusing on her current job.

Sam Cooper reports on politics for The Tyee.  [Tyee]

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