2016 Winners and Losers: Courier columns in review

December is my month to indulge in Bing Crosby crooning holiday favourites while sipping glasses of mulled wine. The end of the month provides some relief from the hectic year, and time for reflection.

Looking back on this year’s subjects I wrote about in my Vancouver Courier columns, here are some of the 2016’s “winners and losers.”

Last January, I kicked off with a column calling for direct elections of Metro Vancouver representatives in the face of yet another financial boondoggle — the $205 million purchase of a new office tower in Metrotown.

  • Winners: Metro Vancouver staff who will occupy the elegant new tower.
  • Losers: property tax payers from Lions Bay to Langley Township who are on the hook for the costs.

My column on how pets increase happiness and quality of life for city dwellers seemed to strike a chord with readers.

  • Winners: the proprietors of Catfe and other pet-oriented small businesses.
  • Losers: urban planners who have not yet factored our furry friends into their work.

A February column on real estate prices suggested what was practically unthinkable earlier in the year — home prices might actually drop in Vancouver! Not only did it rank number seven the Courier’s “Top 10” most-read list, it envisioned the price dip we are beginning to see in the marketplace today.

  • Winners: Anyone who sold a home in July.
  • Losers: real estate agents since August.

Last spring, my columns shared a common theme on civic engagement.

I wrote about a controversial development proposed by the Kettle Society, which was eventually passed by city council though only after months of community uproar. Another column described how we now rely upon 3-1-1 to request city services.

A book tour presentation by former New York transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan spotlighted the demands on public space.

And though I could not have guessed in March he would win the U.S. presidency, I speculated as to whether a Donald Trump-like figure could become our city’s mayor. I was more skeptical then than I am today.

  • Winners: city HR departments that hire community engagement experts.
  • Losers: rank-and-file citizens who still struggle to get city hall to listen to them.

Two of my columns this year described the dysfunction happening at the Vancouver School Board. Public opinion is split as to whether firing the trustees was necessary, but there is little doubt that the work of the VSB is proceeding more smoothly under the watch of appointed trustee Dianne Turner.

  • Winners: Vancouver students, parents and educators who are getting some stability back.
  • Losers: VSB staff who were bullied by yet to be publicly identified trustees.

In August, my column on Vancouver’s “pavement politics” made the case for putting in an asphalt surface on the city’s newly acquired Arbutus Greenway right of way. The city, thankfully, saw the sense in that argument, and paved the pathway.

  • Winners: joggers, dog walkers, cyclists, scooter riders, etc.
  • Losers: absolutely no one.

Several of my columns looked at the politics around energy in Vancouver, and how it has been impacted by our activist mayor and Vision majority council. After watching council approve an effective ban on the use of natural gas, I criticized FortisBC for not having a strategy in response to the demand for more renewable energy.

As a counterpoint to that column, I wrote about the challenges of district energy, and the increased costs faced by jurisdictions that have shifted away from non-renewables. Finally, my interview with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi revealed his frustration with the “bad ethics” behind Vancouver council’s anti-pipeline stance.

  • Winners: activists who seek to block Canada’s energy exports.
  • Losers: anyone who thinks their utility bill is high enough.

Courier readers will know that my beat may be local government politics, but my passion is for dynamic communities like my Fraser Street neighbourhood. It is why one of the year’s last columns was about the volunteers who made a big difference in our ever-changing community.

We all have won, thanks to their efforts.

My best wishes go to Vancouver Courier readers, and I wish you all the time to savour the holidays and another year gone by.

– originally published in Vancouver Courier newspaper