Part 2: Presentation by Marguerite Ford
Former City of Vancouver Councillor, 1976-1986
Edited for clarity. For complete remarks, please refer to the video.
I think I’m here under false pretences because I didn’t actually have to hire a planner. I was elected after the first TEAM Council and they had everything in place to start with. So I benefited from their wisdom and their choice of planner.
The choice of planner really matters because the planner decides to a large degree to the kind of city we have. And planning is important because the design of cities decides to some degree the kind of people that live there.
I always used to say, if Paris didn’t have the boulevards, would Paris have a fashion industry? if you didn’t have the boulevards to see others and be seen? Paris got a fashion industry and New York got a garment industry is that because the cities were different?
One of the things that a director of planning is going to need to know is what makes a city, how planning affects the kind of City, how cities work.
Lots of planners are good at how cities look, but how they work is to me very important.
And selecting a new planner, the Council is going to have to choose a person who fits their ideas and hopefully they have been able to express what those ideas are to the public so that the public knows what they are likely to be getting.
It’s the job of the Council to inform the public and bring them along if necessary, and if they don’t bother to do that, there is going to be a lot of unhappiness and turmoil.
And the Mayor has to provide the leadership. It’s rare that a Council member has much interest or even knowledge of planning. Not everyone is a Walter Hardwick who did have that knowledge..
The Mayor has to provide the leadership, and it has to be a partnership with the new director of planning. I think that’s very important.
The Mayor and Council have to articulate what it is they are trying to do. They have to make sure people understand, and if it involves change from what people are used to, that takes quite a lot of time and serious consultation because people don’t change their ideas very readily.
But it’s not true that they don’t change their ideas at all. A lot of people say, it’s NIMBY, so we won’t pay any attention. But people are entitled to know what’s going on.
And the director of planning has to put that kind of change into context, so that it’s understandable, so that it’s actually workable, and so it does what is intended and not something different.
It takes a lot of negotiation and public consultation. I think that’s very important. And I do not think that having an open house with a bunch of nice posters does the job. It takes longer than that.
I think it’s very important that Council and the planning department and the director of planning work together and do their own jobs. It’s not up to the Council members to do the planning and it’s not up to the director of planning to do the politics, which sometimes happens.
So you have to be fairly clear in what it is you are trying to do and how you are trying to do it.
There are a lot of duties that the director of planning will have to have. Metro Vancouver planning is an important element because, when the region has been effective, there has been leadership from Vancouver. Both the Mayor and the planning department have to be involved, otherwise we are going to get a lot of sprawl, which affects Vancouver without Vancouver being able to do anything about it.
To accomplish any of the planning objectives, it’s up to Council to have the proper legislative framework in place so that the planning department can do what they need to do.
And the director of planning will have to have some autonomy. Along those lines, I dug up a quote from Art Phillip’s original inaugural address in 1973. He said, “Department heads should be given more independence and they in turn should assign more responsibility and authority to staff members throughout the civil service. I would like to see a general relaxation throughout the City staff where individual employees will feel freer to make judgements, offer suggestions, and bring about changes to the operations of City Hall.” That was spoken by a man with confidence – not all politicians feel that way. I think that’s great.
If I were to hire the new director of planning, I would look for someone who is well trained and has experience with the City; someone who is a good communicator and a good administrator to administer his or her own department; someone who is good at public participation, who understands planning principles well and can communicate them to the public and to Council, and someone to do a little education of Council members which is usually needed.
In other words, someone who is not be able to walk on water but looks as though he could.