Today I am pleased to give my first State of the City address, reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the opportunities in 2007.Good afternoon, Citizens. I would like to begin by acknowledging and respecting the traditional territories of the First Nations Coast Salish people.
Before I begin, I would like to make special mention of the tremendous efforts underway to restore the jewel of our city, Stanley Park. Over the holidays, we saw several devastating storms take down thousands of majestic trees and damage pathways and structures in the Park.
Like so many Vancouverites, I feel a strong connection to Stanley Park and I am committed to doing all that I can to restore the park to its former glory. One of my first priorities has been to invite Federal and Provincial officials to visit the park and view the damage first hand, in order to ensure that they will be there to support the City of Vancouver as we begin the restoration efforts. I was encouraged that federal Environment Minister John Baird, whom I met in my most recent visit to Ottawa, was one of the first leaders to answer my invitation. I was also pleased that Premier Gordon Campbell toured Stanley Park with me on Friday, one of his first actions upon returning from holidays. His staff have been in regular contact with City Hall and I'm grateful that the Premier has made a commitment to working in partnership with us.
I know this has been a difficult Fall and Winter, not only for our City and Park Board staff, but for all citizens who have endured the unusually harsh weather. I believe we may be seeing the effects of global climate change, right here at home. This is a reminder to us as a community that we must continue to do our part in protecting our local and global environment.
As we move closer to 2010, Vancouver is emerging on the world stage as a City of the Future.
I look out at the skyline, dotted with cranes fuelling a construction industry that is hiring thousands of local citizens. Unemployment is at a 30 year low, while our City works to support both the Canada Line and the new Trade and Convention Centre construction. The future Athletes' Village in Southeast False Creek, which recently won a national award for its sustainable transportation strategies, is starting to take shape as crews complete work along the False Creek shoreline. Vancouver International Airport continues to grow with new routes being added every year, while the Port of Vancouver is preparing to meet growing demands on its infrastructure.
2007 promises to be a year of discovery for Vancouver, as we continue our journey as an Olympic and Paralympic host city. It will be a year of celebrating our innovations and successes, and challenging ourselves to go a step further to ensure that we remain the best city in the world to live, work, invest and play.
As a City Council, we can be proud of the work we undertook over the past year to build on Vancouver's successes and to address some of the most difficult challenges in our community. Looking ahead to 2007, it is clear that we must continue to provide leadership and work in partnership with senior levels of government to bring about positive changes for our citizens.
As your Mayor, my focus is on achieving Five Goals for a Better Vancouver:
In order to achieve these goals, I will play a leadership role in the following areas:
I will focus my efforts as Chair of the Project Civil City Leadership Council to move forward in meeting our aggressive targets to reduce homelessness and to improve the safety and civility of our streets.
Another key aspect of Project Civil City is to reduce the open drug market. I believe those suffering from drug addiction need new treatment options that will help them re-establish stability in their lives. In collaboration with the Four Pillars Coalition, I will play a leadership role in pulling together key stakeholders to develop and find support for research into new treatment programs, in order to address the large number of addicted people who do not respond to traditional treatments.
Protecting our local and global environment will continue to be a priority in 2007. To raise the awareness of our citizens on this important issue, I have invited Al Gore, former Vice-President of the United States, to come to Vancouver to give his message about global warming and its impacts to the people of our region. I also hope to open a dialogue with Vice-President Gore in order that he can link the good work he is doing with the important need for cities to EcoDensify.
Transportation is another critical area where I intend to focus my time over the coming year. I will be working closely with Councillors Ladner and Anton, in our roles as Translink Directors, to get moving on completing the Millennium Line rapid transit corridor as a way of reducing the long line-ups for buses on Broadway and helping to enhance British Columbia's second-largest downtown.
I plan to seek funding from the Provincial government to help defray the cost of the new bicycle lane expansion on the Burrard Street Bridge.
I would also like to explore how we can improve the accessibility of the ferry system that links neighbourhoods bordering False Creek and Coal Harbour. It is one of the last pieces of transit infrastructure that remains relatively inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Later this year, I will be asking Council to consider when we can begin construction of the first phase of the Downtown Street Car network, connecting Granville Island, Science World, Chinatown and the new convention centre. We have identified millions of dollars of funding towards the development of this vital transportation link and I would like to see us move forward as soon as possible to make the Downtown Street Car network a reality.
This Council should also seriously consider increasing the number of taxi licenses we have in the city. A report will be coming forward in the near future and I intend to support new taxis, provided that they are vehicles using alternate sources of energy or provide better access for people with disabilities.
Vancouver's aging arts infrastructure is in need of repair and replacement. When compared to cities such as Toronto and Montreal that have received millions of federal dollars in the last decade to revitalize their theatres and cultural institutions, it is clear we have much work to do. I commit to ensuring the needs of Vancouver's Arts and Culture sector are heard in Ottawa. As well, I will be supporting a significant funding increase for the arts in the 2007 civic budget.
I will ask Council to support the development of a robust strategy on how we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Province in 2008 as well as ensure we have a comprehensive plan to participate in the Cultural Olympiad and Vancouver's 125th anniversary celebrations in 2011.
I will also continue to encourage the development of at least two new "live sites" for use by all citizens during the 2010 Games, including the plaza area in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. It is my hope that another live site can be located on the previous bus depot site across from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
To protect and enhance the industrial land base in the city, I will be recommending that we explore the idea of using density as a means of reclaiming much of the industrial land we have lost over the last 25 years. In support of our local business community, I also plan to support Councillor Ladner's proposal to reduce red tape by introducing a region-wide business license.
I believe it is also important this year to forge a new spirit of cooperation and dialogue with First Nations. We must build on the two roundtable sessions we held last year with the Squamish and Musqueam Nations and continue to determine how best our city government can work to provide mutual benefits for all of our communities.
Over the past year I have spent much energy cultivating relationships in Victoria and Ottawa, explaining Vancouver's needs, and I am confident that these efforts will begin to pay off in 2007.
In my ongoing discussions with senior levels of government:
Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done to keep our city moving towards a more prosperous and sustainable future. Fortunately, as a City Council we have laid the foundation over the past year by establishing a number of new policy initiatives that we can continue to build on.
I would like to take a few moments to look back at some of these key building blocks, which are helping to accomplish the Five Goals for a Better Vancouver.
Recently, in collaboration with fellow Council members and through consultations with community stakeholders, I developed the Project Civil City initiative. It will provide us with a plan for achieving several important goals, including:
At the heart of Project Civil City is a commitment to use 2010 as a catalyst to improve our city and to bring other levels of government to the table to help us solve our most challenging social problems. It is not acceptable to simply 'clean up' the city for 2010. We must find long-term, sustainable and compassionate solutions.
To reduce Vancouver's ecological footprint, I introduced the EcoDensity Initiative. Given the public's increasing concern over the issue of global climate change, this policy initiative will form a cornerstone of the city's work to protect our local and global ecology.
To ensure the continued prosperity of our city, I was pleased to support the introduction of Vancouver's first Economic Development Principles, to ensure our economy remains vibrant into the future.
Recently, this Council supported the new 311 Service Vancouver initiative, a new communications infrastructure that will help to better connect City Hall with all citizens, including our diverse multi-cultural communities.
As a City Council, we also undertook a number of other important initiatives in 2006.
To protect and expand Essential Services to Citizens while Protecting City Taxpayers we:
To support the creation of more Affordable Housing and Social Housing we:
In support of our local Economy we:
To protect our Local and Global Environment we:
To improve Accountability and Citizen Access to City Hall we:
To encourage more Services for Families we:
And, in support of Arts, Culture and Recreation we:
Over the past year, I have personally taken on a number of activities aimed at improving the way we work together as a Council and fostering a collaborative relationship with senior levels of government. These actions include:
I intend to continue working in a spirit of cooperation with Provincial and Federal representatives to ensure that Vancouver's needs remain on their minds over the coming year.
In my inaugural address just over a year ago, I asked the citizens of Vancouver: "What kind of city do we want the world to find when they arrive in 2010?" Over the past 12 months we have collectively begun the journey of answering this important question.
Citizens have told me they want the world to see a city that finds compassionate solutions for its most vulnerable, while ensuring we maintain an attractive public realm that is enjoyable and safe for all. Citizens have said they love their city and want the world to find a Vancouver that celebrates innovation and community spirit.
How Vancouver handles itself up to and during the Olympic and Paralympic Games will brand us for a generation. We have many challenges ahead of us, and I am confident that the actions we undertake as a City Council over the coming year will be instrumental in moving Vancouver toward our key objectives for 2010:
I am excited about the sense of optimism and the resolve of our citizens to work together to meet the challenges before us as an Olympic and Paralympic host city. And I am looking forward to working with my fellow Council members to achieve the Five Goals for a Better Vancouver.
I want to take a moment to thank all of our public service employees, our corporate management team, the Vancouver Park Board, Police Board and Library Board for all of their dedicated service to our city. Our staff have worked closely with me and Council over the last year to undertake a number of new initiatives and they have done the city proud. I look forward to another productive year ahead.
I also want to recognize the contribution of citizen volunteers who gave their time and expertise to serve on advisory committees. Without the hard work of all our staff and valuable input from citizens, Vancouver would not be ranked among the most livable cities in the world.
I want to thank every member of this Council for your hard work and dedication. We have not always had unanimous agreement on policy directions, but every Councillor has wholeheartedly taken on the challenge and burden of public life and I thank you for the commitment you have made.
And in closing, I want to thank the citizens for giving me the opportunity to be Mayor of this wonderful city. Vancouver has an important role to play in the world. Our innovative approaches to public safety, the environment and drug addiction could have an impact on how other cities deal with these issues, especially as we prepare to showcase Vancouver on the world stage in 2010.
Together, with our city staff and the citizens of Vancouver, we can look forward to a very positive year ahead.