|Mayor Jack Volrich -1980|
Tonight 15 October 2022 I could not sleep (I am writing this 16 October) thinking about the significance, to this rank amateur in all things politics, of the win for Vancouver Mayor of Ken Sim.
In spite of my above statement my life has revolved on a few men of politics.
The first one was on 26 June 1966. I was a conscript of the Argentine Navy. I was handed a 1906 Mauser and told to report to the troops surrounding the Casa Rosada, on Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. Through a loudspeaker President Dr. Arturo Illía (a simple country doctor) was given 60 minutes to vacate the building. Forty five minutes later he went home in a taxi. The coup ushered in many years of repressive military regimes. In 1972 Illía gave a talk on the discrepancy between huge American company budgets and the small ones of Latin American countries at the Jesuit Universidad Iberoamericana. I was a professor there. I met him and told him of my role in his unseating as Argentine president. With a big smile he gave me a big abrazo.
My second political experience happened when I was a beginning and inexperienced magazine photographer in Vancouver. Vancouver Magazine Editor Malcolm Parry and Art Director Rick Staehling dispatched me to City Hall in 1980 to a council meeting and told to take an unflattering portrait of Mayor Jack Volrich. My photograph became, I believe, my second Vancouver Magazine cover.
My next venture into city politics involved two men. One was the Southam mediafortune scion Harvey Southam and his Equity Magazine Editor Mike Campbell (brother of future Vancouver mayor and premier Gordon Campbell). One day I walked into Southam’s office and told him that I had had a very pleasant lunch with Alderman (what they were called then) Bill Yee and that he could be Vancouver's first ethnic mayor." Southam looked at me, and with a smile on his face he replied, "Not while we are around."
Rick Staehling who by that time, 1987, was working at Equity in the presence of Editor Mike Campbell, told me to photograph Alderman Harry Ranking with a green filter (to make him look older, etc). Ranking was running for mayor against Campbell’s brother Gordon. To my complete surprise my photograph was a two-page spread with a huge banner headline Quietly Communist. The article was written by the right-wing Vancouver Sun columnist Doug Collins.
After that, with the increased influence of magazines in Vancouver, I photographed all the mayors except for the incumbent who just lost. I visited Mayor Sam Sullivan at his City Hall office many times as we were friends.
I was unaware of the power of city hall in their relation with developers until I met architect Ned Pratt. He accompanied me on a tour of my Kerrisdale neighbourhood that was systematically being torn down and so-called monster house were replacing what had been there. He told me, “I am sure that the folks at City Hall are being bribed.”
I know next to nothing about Ken Sim except that people I speak with all tell me (where do they get their facts?), “Sim is in bed with developers.”
An influential woman, elderly now, but still powerful, Nini Baird,
has the theory that the increasing density of Vancouver is due to the isolation
of the towns and cities of the interiors. With little future, with no railroads
or buses, the folks there come to Vancouver for what they think will be a
better life.My daughter who lives in Lillooet can only come to Vancouver in her car and for medical services she has to drive to Kamloops.
It was Premier Gordon Campbell who sold BC Rain to CN and then CN folded it. I believe that there are many spots between North Vancouver and Squamish where short double tracking would make it possible for trains going in one direction to wait while another was going into the opposite direction. The lovely Pemberton train station is now a café and the other lovely Lillooet station is empty.
Anywhere else, in developed countries, the isolation of
Vancouver’s interior would be a scandal. Whistler can be reached by a bus but you must take it at the airport.
I remember well, at a lecture, that former Premier Mike Harcourt gave at the downtown campus of Simon Fraser University. He said, “To solve homelessness we have to build homes.” Will Premier-in-waiting David Eby and Mayor Ken Sim get together (do Vancouver Mayors and BC Premiers ever get together?) and build homes?
I have lived in two big cities, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, two smaller ones, Austin and Veracruz and I can state that Vancouver has become a pot-hole city with few rivals. Streets are rarely re-paved. Patches are placed on patches. Construction on Marine drive around Main has been going on for so long that the Egyptians could have done a quicker job. Buenos Aires I define as controlled chaos. Vancouver has to be uncontrolled chaos.
But then Vancouver, unlike Buenos Aires (in spite of its now 83% inflation the trains and the subways run on time and the streets are smooth), is a city where lack of foresight gave us a three lane Lions Gate Bridge and a four lane tunnel in Richmond.
We in Vancouver have to re-define the meaning of a ghetto. Folks who lived in our Chinatown lived there because they could not afford to live anywhere else. The immigrants who come in do not want to live there. They can afford to live where they want. Chinatown will become a museum and like our other museums, the Vancouver Museum and the Maritime Museum made irrelevant and forgotten.
A ghetto, now. is not one place. It is the surrounding outer areas of Vancouver or the Gulf Islands where people think they are able to purchase less expensive housing.
Vancouver in its day had City Planner Ray Spaxman. He had a vision for our city. Can Sim find someone like him to give our city a positive future? Architecture and political writer Sean Rossiter brought depth to reporting for Vancouver Magazine and the Georgia Straight. What publication or radio station will pick up where Rossiter left off?
Before Kennedy Stewart was involved in this election, months ago I would ask passers-by or people in restaurants if they could name our mayor. Few could.
Perhaps Ken Sim might become Ken "Terrific" Sim. My only advice to him is to study the accomplishments of a former mayor, Mayor Arthur Phillips.
And I am sure that Bill Yee must be quietly smiling.