I am pleased to report that since my last newsletter, there has been much work done to advance my 5 Goals for a Better Vancouver.
We recently passed our annual budget which resulted in a city controlled tax increase of 3.51%. Our budget was also able to increase funding for our parks, community centres, libraries, fire and police services.
It was important to me as the Mayor that we maintain a balanced crime reduction strategy that focuses not only on the symptoms, but also works toward crime prevention. That means providing funding for after-school programs in our community centers as well as literacy programs in our libraries. This type of approach balances the immediate need for increased public order and apprehending criminals, with long-term crime prevention strategies.
Given my interest in keeping any new tax increases to a minimum, I am proud of the work that Councillor Ladner, Chair of the City Services & Budgets Committee has done in producing this budget.
On the housing front, I am continuing to work with Council, staff and Minister Rich Coleman to meet the Project Civil City goal of eliminating homelessness with a minimum reduction of 50% by 2010. I am pleased to report progress on a number of fronts.
Although support was not unanimous, Councillors Anton, Ball, Capri, Ladner and Lee joined me in supporting all of the staff recommendations relating to the Dobell/Fairbairn report (pdf). This report calls for the development of 1500 new social housing units as well as $5 million in funding to upgrade 500 single room occupancy units in our downtown eastside. The Dobell/Fairbairn report was commissioned by this Council last year, and could form the framework for real change in helping the city tackle the homelessness issue in the near future.
I can also report that I have held two separate meetings with Minister Coleman (responsible for Housing) in the last month. The province is currently in active negotiations with the City to fund the development of social housing on three of the twelve city owned sites we have set aside for this purpose. This is very good news and I am confident my ongoing discussions with both the Premier and Minister will result in significant new investments in helping to address the homeless issue in Vancouver.
I want to encourage as many citizens as possible to participate in the ongoing citizen dialogue regarding EcoDensity. Given the recent Census data which indicates significant population growth in the suburbs, much of it related to a lack of adequate housing options in Vancouver. It's clear there is much work yet to be done.
I was pleased to see that over 1000 people attend a recent EcoDensity Fair held at Riley Park. I want to thank everyone who took the time out to participate and look forward to continuing this discussion.
As many of you are likely aware, I recently endorsed the establishment of CAST (www.castvancouver.org). I believe CAST (Chronic Addiction Substitution Treatment) offers hope to people suffering from drug addiction as well as tackles head-on the issue of reducing the incidence of drug related crime and public disorder.
I was joined at the launch news conference by Hon. Joy MacPhail who has agreed to sit on the CAST board of directors along with the Hon. John Reynolds, Dr. Don Rix and David Holtzman. I believe CAST works well with the Four Pillars Coalition goals as well as Project Civil City. I encourage your feedback and thoughts on this important initiative which is now moving forward to the next stage.
Next month, city staff will be reporting back on the Project Civil City implementation plan as well as recommending a candidate to become the new Civil City Commissioner. It is my intention to host another roundtable discussion in April to obtain feedback on the implementation plan in advance of final approval by Council. If you want to download a complete copy of the report, it will be available later this month on the city's website at www.vancouver.ca.
I am pleased to report that Council has set aside $300K in our recent budget to establish a new cultural tourism strategy for the City. I look forward to working with both our tourism and cultural sectors to implement this new strategy in the coming months. Stay tuned for some exciting news on this front in the coming months.
I want to congratulate Councillor Ball for her efforts to source private funding and for her motion to establish the City's first Poet Laureate. I had the honour this week of thanking Dr. Yosef Wosk for his founding $100,000 contribution toward the poet laureate program. I was also pleased to introduce George McWhirter as the City's new poet laureate. Congratulations to everyone involved in the process of selecting Mr. McWhirter.
The Poet Laureate was chosen by an independent assessment committee from the literary and poetry communities that included Association of Book Publishers of BC Executive Director Margaret Reynolds; City of Victoria’s Poet Laureate Carla Funk, poet and non-fiction author Gary Geddes and was supported by representatives from the Vancouver International Writers Festival, Vancouver Public Library and the Office of Cultural Affairs, part of the City of Vancouver Cultural Services Division.
Mayor Sam Sullivan