Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Good ideas die at the intersection of pride and ego.

The municipality has released its plan for consultations on the ferry marshalling changes it wants to make in the village.

The plan is very basic...we will take our proposals to business owners one on one and have some Open House meetings where we will answer questions.  It is a typical "tell and sell" strategy, and it's a shame.

There were a number of plans developed on previous years that were far more inclusive designs.  The best set were the Snug Cove concepts prepared in 2010 by JWT Architecture and Planning.  These plans were interesting in a number of ways.  First they were based on a through design process that took into account constraints and precedents and they were co-created with the major stakeholders, including Metro Vancouver and BC Ferries.  They integrated ferry marshalling with village planning so that traffic solutions could be achieved at the same time as improving the village.  The designers chose 16 key design principles, and offered four different solutions that took into account every ferry marshalling study done to that point.  The four options were offered up to the community for review and comment, and the site even walked people through a process for choosing which elements were most important.  I believe that it it came up with four solid designs, only one of which I liked (option A), but I and many others said that we could live with any of the four.  Such was the integrity of the process.

All that needed to happen to put these designs into play was a costing exercise and some policy changes.  Unfortunately we had a new "action oriented" Council elected in 2011 who vowed to have nothing to do with anything the previous Council had engaged in.  In the name of doing something, they commissioned a ferry marshalling design that was not done with any consultation and which missed a number of key constraints.  There is a useful discussion on this option on the forum here, the quality of which survives until Andrew P. starts launching vitriol at Sue Ellen Fast.  You can scroll through that garbage and see some of James Tuer's posts about what went into the concepts and why other plans should be given the same treatment.

in contrast, this new plan was designed in workshops with Councillors, staff and a couple of committees.  There was no public consultation or stakeholder engagement.  The design principles are more of a wish list rather than design constraints and it makes no reference whatsoever to previous plans, to other precedents or to a range of options.  It is not a village improvement plan, but rather a traffic solution.  It is not at all sensitive to the human and natural context.  The analysis on previous plans  goes like this:

"Improvement plans for the Snug Cove Village, the Government Road Corridor, and ferry marshalling improvements have been under discussion in Bowen Island for the past decade. Considerable resources have been expended on exploring options that could be pursued, and in reviewing these options with the community. For a number of reasons, none of these options have ultimately been implemented."

That's it.  

The public Consultation recommendation in the original plan says this:

It is proposed that staff and consultants be directed to hold a Public Open House at which the Government Road Corridor Improvements and ferry marshalling improvements be presented for the community’s information.
That's it.  The fleshing out of that contains no surprises.

So we are about to embark on a five phase development of the Government Road corridor based on a cursory design process, with no stakeholder collaboration, with a financial plan that is based on conservative estimates (of $5.5 million) that don't account for a number of unknowns and that will make irreversible changes to the village with no village planning.  It doesn't take into consideration the overall design of the village at all.  It is a road works project. This is unwise and unnecessary because we have four plans that could do an incredible job of marshalling ferry traffic AND improving the village.

The solution is unsafe.  Ten years ago when we had centre lane marshalling, the through lane was a dangerous place for children and was absolutely hair raising for drivers, especially as people were returning to their cars ready to load. It only too a few days before someone was hit by a car.

I hope the business owners, when they are consulted, urge the Council to return to the JWT concepts.  I hope somebody will have the sense to realize that this road works project is not the village revitalization that we need.  

But I know this Council to be stubborn and completely in love with its own sense of forward thinking initiatives.  What will happen now is that a number of detractors will urge a more comprehensive and integrated approach, Tim Rhodes, Andrew P., Richard Goth and others will perhaps malign them and associate them with the sins of previous Councils.  

And God forbid if they go ahead with this monstrosity, I wonder if they will find a way to blame previous Councils for the inevitable cost overruns, safety issues and general ugliness of the whole thing?

So I don't know what to say.  The consultation (really just information sharing) will report back to Council that there are a few concerns but that we should go ahead with this anyway.  Refinements will not save this thing or make it better.

I know what I want.  I think we should continue with the good process that was started in 2010.  We should return to the Snug Cove Concepts and cost out Option A.  We should make the policy changes necessary to implement it, continue to work together with BC Ferries, Metro Vancouver and the business owners and get to work creating the next iteration of our village.  

(Edited to remove the surname of an individual who requested it.) 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Living under a winter high

Fog in the Queen Charlotte Channel 

Just beautiful weather here the last week.  We have been living under a high pressure system that is forcing some wonderful meterological phenomena.  Notably, the high pressure traps cold air near the sea and creates an inversion, meaning that the moisture can't escape and form clouds, so it lingers at sea level forming think banks of fog that fill the Strait of Greorgia and Parts of Howe Sound.

Last night the fog bansk were as thick as they can get and all night long we were treated to the soothing symphony of dozens of different fog horns sounding out in the dark.  the Point Atkinson lighthouse, which is miles away at the entrance to English Bay has a classic two tone deep "eeeee-ooooo" and the whistles and horns from moving ships in the night answered the call.

This morning in the bright sunshine on Bowen, the fog did it's best to fill the Sound, but we somehow escaped the cool, and we are being treated to an incredible display of light and blue sky and grey fog flowing in from the Strait.

Yesterday, the kids and I went skiing at Cypress and the view from Mount Strachan shows the way the fog coats the city and eases part way into Howe Sound.  It made for beautiful views, and a gorgeous sunset.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Winter sunrises

All week we've been treated to sunrises like this. Red sky and pink sea. Warm and stormless January continues.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Killarney Lake frozen over

Finn playing with the ice on a frozen Killarney Lake. We have had cool temperatures and no wind or rain the last week or so and our lakes have frozen over. Folks have been skating on Josephine Lake as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Today is a long sigh

Mannion Bay

Just in from an hour SUPping around Mannion Bay and Miller's Landing.  It is sunny and warm today - 5 degrees C - and there is not a breath of wind out.  The water is so calm there isn't even any swell in the Queen Charlotte Channel.  Everything is flat and calm and quiet, like a long sigh.

I started out from Pebbly Beach and rounded the north point.  Headed out towards Miller's Landing for 20 minutes, and then sat on my board, bobbing on the sea.  Out in the channel, a seal was splashing.  No sign of the huge pod of hundreds of dolphins that had been spotted earlier this week of Cowan Point.  Utter calm.  Utter, utter calm.

It could have been a summer evening on the water except that there were no boats around.  I had the whole of Howe Sound to myself.

Coming up from the beach I ran into Norma Dallas who owns the Bowen island Marina and we talked about what it feels like to be out on the water all alone on days like this.  We agreed that the words to describe it are "humility" and "gratitude."  That we are alive to experience this is simply a gift.  To have snow capped mountains and a calm ocean to hold me, is an incredible thing.  To feel my smallness in all of that timeless beauty is a fine teaching.

Why I left the forum

The Bowen Online Forum is a phenomenon. A small group of islanders regularly post there on issues of interest. Conversations often get heated personal insults are flung about and in general it deepens divisions in our community while providing a useful place for reactionary commentary by a few that is often taken for a majority opinion. The more vitriol that gets spilled there, the more page views it gets, and the more money the owner makes.

I posted there extensively during the national park debate, going back on a previous vow that I made never to post there again. During several months I debated with folks and speculated and ended up fighting for my point of view. Last spring I realized that I was deeply ashamed of who I had become there. I was developing a dislike for people, and found myself constantly attacking and defending. I left the forum because I didn't like the part of myself that was showing up there.

But I still read it, because it is interesting a lot of the time. Recently a poster has disappeared from the forum. She was a tireless digger of facts and a passionate advocate for her ideas. Because of an almost obsessive and dogged determination to uncover small bits of evidence in long buried documents, she developed a bit of a reputation as a good researcher and someone who unearthed "the truth."

But she suffers from a major problem, and that is confirmation bias. She proves what she wants to see and she refuses to seek counter evidence. She is not actually a researcher in this respect, and she is not actually after the truth. She unearths facts that support her position, which makes her an excellent advocate. She speaks passionately about her views, supports them with written evidence and defends herself often by insulting others who have not done the same level of research as she has done. She, and others, seem to hold the view that a verbose post with many links is not an opinion, but is the unguarded truth. It is not.

During the post park debacle as some committees were being restructured, she posted some facts about the Greenways committee based on what was in the municipal records. She used these facts to justify why that committee should be disbanded. The problem was that she didn't have all the facts. In politics there are many things that go on out of sight of the official record, and in the case of the Greenways committee, there were some egregious acts of power committed that, if they had come to light, would have provided much more context about why this committee should not have been disbanded. I learned of these facts first hand, and they are not written down.

It is not my place to expose these facts, because they were revealed to me in a personal conversation, and they were private. The point I want to make is that just because someone has some facts at hand does not mean they have all the facts. Selecting facts to support your position does not make you a beacon of truth, it makes you an advocate for a position. Confusing the two is very dangerous, especially in cases where the truth is very different from the public record.

I left the forum because it is impossible to debate with someone who has confused truth and their own beliefs. Doing so will bring out the worst instincts in you.

The forum is a lovely little playground for Bowen Island's small town narcissism. When you are embroiled there, you feel like you are solving important problems and taking important stands. There is much more to living in this place than what passes for good thinking there. We are much kinder in real life than we appear on the forum. This place is far more beautiful and compassionate. The person I am writing about is a lovely person in real life, but a completely different presence online.

S I am not returning to the forum, and it is good that my fact checking friend is not there either. It makes it clear that the place is just a place for opinions. So I'll keep mine to my blog here. You can always comment here if you want,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

trees parks and parked cars

Well tidying really.  All around the village BC Hydro has been cutting trees.  In the area of Crippen Park where you can walk to the Memorial Garden, a bunch of alders and some maples have been taken out, presumably for safety although some have been saying that the cuts are too deep.  Near the lagoon, the beavers have been at at it, and there are a lot of trees down all along the north side of the water, and some huge trees that are in the process of being felled one nibble at a time.

Along the road sides up to ur house, there has alos been clearing of brush and young trees under the power lines.  So everything looks a bit sparser.

Crippen Park is a bit of a hot button at the moment.  The current Council has plans to build a loading yard in the park as an indicator of their agenda to make change at any cost.  It's an insane idea, and will be accompanied by a drive through roundabout at the intersection with Melmore and centre lane loading in the village.  the advocates for building this monstrosity in the park were the same ones who prevented the National Park from happening largely by saying that Crippen Park needed protecting from the evil development designs of Parks Canada.  The Bowen Island Improvement Association is out to improve everything except its own logic or outlook on things.

The last time we tried centre lane loading in the village, it was insanely dangerous.  a row of parked cars on one side, a through lane and a row of parked cars in the middle.  Crossing the street, especially with young kids, was a nightmare and it frayed my nerves to drive down there.

But they will have their way with the island.  They are obstinate and devoted to their agenda, which seems less about doing something visionary and more about sticking it to the previous Council and anyone who thinks the previous Council has any merit.  It's clear that vengeance isn't a very good governance tool, and I have no doubt a series of foolish decisions are about to be made.

Meanwhile, the beavers gnaw, and the lake freezes, and a pretty dry January trundles along.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Swimming with the Bears

A beautiful afternoon here on Bowen Island where the annual polar bear swim took place. More than 100 people gathered around a beach fire at Bowen Bay and on the count of 10 plunged into the chilly waters. Finn and I did it as is our ritual, cleansing ourselves for the new year.

Happy New Year to you all.