"A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams." -- Herb Caen, San Francisco columnist, 1916-1997
Let's call Vancouver's upcoming municipal election a tale of two cities: Vision's view versus the Non-Partisan Association plan.
Mayor Gregor Robertson's version is a Vision Vancouver city council that fights homelessness, works for better housing affordability and public transit, promotes green technology and the environment, and battles provincial school underfunding and corporate influence attempts, while still delivering excellent basic services.
Hence the ruling party's slogan: "Go forward with Vision."
NPA mayoralty candidate Kirk LaPointe's approach follows the NPA slogan: "A great city, badly run."
The NPA complains about Vision not yet ending homelessness, but says be "realistic" and votes against the city's homelessness action plan.
The NPA says it supports some environmental issues, but doesn't take a clear position on the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline through Vancouver.
The NPA wants an "affordable" Broadway subway, but says details are forthcoming.
The NPA agrees with Chevron's "Fuel Your School" marketing program to give company money for education classroom projects, but doesn't criticize B.C. government underfunding.
Naturally, it's the opposition party's duty to criticize and be vague on their own plans -- the NPA's un-budgeted platform only came out last week, while the governing party has a six-year record to be judged on -- sometimes harshly -- along with its own promises for the future.
But on key issues the party differences are stark, and that makes for an important election.
Surprise, I support Vision
Regular readers know I support Vision, so it's no surprise that I believe Robertson and his council, school and park board team is the best choice.
With that, feel free to disregard my views, but I think the NPA has run a very strange and disjointed campaign.
From choosing ex-journalist and non-Vancouver resident LaPointe in a secret process, to the near-complete exclusion of incumbent NPA councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball, let alone other contenders, the party is taking a risky approach.
LaPointe even jousted with his former Vancouver Sun reporter Frances Bula at a news conference, calling one of her queries an "empty question" and then walking away without answering, all caught on video.
Odd behaviour for a candidate with a media background in mid-campaign mode.
So far, polling shows the strategy isn't working.
A Justason Market Intelligence poll last month put Robertson at 46 per cent, LaPointe at 32 per cent, Coalition of Progressive Voters' Meena Wong at 16 per cent and others at six per cent.
The hard truth is that Wong can't win, but COPE could take enough votes from Robertson to elect LaPointe.
Green party councillor Adriane Carr and her two council candidates also can't win a majority, but could help elect NPA councillors over Vision, as could COPE, which hasn't elected a councillor since 2008, by splitting the vote.
Now, I've advised against strategic voting before. But that only applies to ward systems, where I argue there's no way to effectively split your vote.
In a multi-member election with no wards, as we have in Vancouver, every candidate is effectively fighting all others, including colleagues from their own party.
The Greens get little scrutiny, but Carr often sides with the NPA at council and surprisingly opposes Vision's plan for a Broadway subway.
Meanwhile, the Green party declines to endorse the environmentally minded Robertson for mayor despite not having its own candidate.
The once mighty COPE has fallen a long way -- just 216 members nominated their candidates, mostly complete unknowns.
The Vancouver and District Labour Council, a former ally of COPE, endorsed Robertson, all Vision candidates and just two COPE candidates in the three levels of city government.
There are a number of new party and independent candidates, all of whom face an uphill battle to win in a city-wide election where funding and name recognition are critical -- as well as having a last name that starts with an A, B or C on the archaic alphabetically listed and lengthy ballot.
But polls are not terribly reliable, and it's ballots on election day that count. So judge for yourself -- and whatever your choice, get out to vote Nov. 15!