Wednesday, March 26, 2014

7th Annual International Festival of Anthropological Film

Come down to The Old Barn Community Centre for the 7th Annual Anthropological Film Festival! Hosted by The Ethnographic Film Unit @ UBC. Join us on Friday night for screenings of the festival winners and reception, and on Sunday to view selected films for the festival! Stay tuned for a full schedule to be announced next week!
 All are invited - free food, lots of fun, and a great way to learn about global indigenous cultures.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Democracy and Marathons

Five years ago folks greeted the idea that I would run a marathon with polite disbelief.  Sometime during my 40s I started to say that I planned to run a marathon by my 50th year.   It was no idle goal: but it did feel rather insurmountable at the time.    I found lots of encouragement to maintain the status quo.  Things seemed okay so why bother changing? Our society makes the consumption of health destroying foods easy.  Our workplaces provide very little real opportunity to remain active.  For those of us who are parents we become so immersed in the fine details of parenting that we often neglect our own needs.  Yet, the idea remained alive.

Today I have the modest total of three full marathons (42.2km), 6 half marathons (21.1km), plus several 10km and 5km races. I set no Olympic records, but as a 50s decade runner I am not doing so bad accumulating personal bests as my training and strength continues to build. I run most every day, when I don’t I either bike, walk or swim. I’ve changed my food consumption too.  But this isn’t a story about my personal accomplishments, it’s tale about the capacity to set one’s sights on goals and achieve them. 

I set out to make a change in my life, my health, and my behaviour.  I faced obstacles along the way. I encountered folks with good intentions, but a dim view of my goal.  “Don’t make a radical change,” I would be told, “you’ll just bounce back bigger and heavier.”  “Won’t running hurt your knees?” While the naysayers were distressing and even depressing, it was the support of my family, friends and colleagues who provided encouragement to keep going. 

The same can be said about our community and the need for real, effective democracy.  The health of our community is at risk if we don’t make changes.  We can’t always rely upon the good graces of those with power.  It is important to take charge of our own lives and communities.  It isn’t easy.  The temptation is to focus on the short term and if things seem okay to ignore the important long term outcomes of our choices.  There are many people who want a healthy democratic community and those are the voices we need to listen to. Like taking the path to better personal health we start with changing small things and then move on to bigger more effective changes. 

Through the UNA we have a modicum of representation.  We have an agreement with UBC that gives us access, for a fee, to amenities and certain on campus services.  That’s a good first step.  It’s time to step up to the next level of democratic change.

Today the UNA and UBC are stuck in the “lets walk 20 minutes each day and skip every other brownie” mode of democratic life change.  This period of stagnation arrives in all great transformations. We have hit a plateau. It’s hard to move to the next level of democratic activity, but it is not impossible.  

 For starters UBC could allocate 50% of the development permit board membership to the UNA for developments that occur in the UNA area.  The UNA should be able to select our representatives on the development permit board.   

We pay a large sum of money to UBC athletics.  Athletics tries hard to meet our needs.  More can be done.  The UNA should have a direct decision making role in the activities of UBC Athletics.  If we were a municipality we would be running our own athletics; lets go halfway there and bring the UNA into decision making in UBC Athletics. 

These are two, simple, easy changes that would move us to a new level of democratic action in our relationship with UBC.  But why stop here?

Within the UNA we too should be making democratic changes.  We need to expand the role and strength of elected resident directors.  We need to move more our processes into the public domain – no more closed-door meetings!  Too many things that the UNA does is locked behind closed doors and in off the book meetings. That’s like sneaking a brownie when no one is looking!

Just as I managed to take control over my life to become a marathon runner so too can we become an active democratic community.  Of course it will be hard work.  But the rewards are real, achievable, and tangible.  On my blog,, I have outlined a series of short, medium, and longterm goals to achieve real democratic governance in our community.  I invite you to add your ideas as we work together to bring real democracy to our community in the university town. 

[Originally published in the Campus Resident, March 18, 2014. Charles Menzies is a professor in the department of anthropology at UBC, a resident west of Blanca since 1996, and an elected UNA Director.  This is his opinion and does not represent the official position of the UNA in any way, shape, or form.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Calling All Cars

With all the good work UBC is doing to promote car-alternatives why does UBC's private development company, UBC Properties Trust, continue to advertise Wesbrook 'village' as a short car's drive from Richmond, Cambie Street and the Downtown?  Let's focus on biking and transit folks - put the graphic were the PR is.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

UNA Directors' Meeting - follow-up report, March 12, 2014

The UNA Board meeting had a couple of surprises last night.  Most notable of all was a need to add an in camera session to the meeting that had a collateral effect of displacing the parking pilot project motion to the end of the meeting following the in camera session.

We had a presentation from the Norma Rose Point School PAC playground-fundraising committee regarding their planned fully accessible three unit playground at the new school site.  The new school, on the site of the old U Hill Highschool, is a K-8 school. The school will be one of the most modern and progressive facilities operated by the Vancouver School Board when it is opened this coming fall.  However, under the provincial regulations there is no funding for the playground!  Hard to believe, but that is true.  Just the same, the VSB has come up with a $50,000 contributions, the 150 parents currently attached to the school have raised $20,000, a few corporate sponsors have given modest donations.  Last night the UNA made a contribution of $12,500.  The overall play ground budget for the three required school playgrounds is, however about $300,000.  The play ground committee had asked for a contribution of $100,000. This is what the UNA contributed to the skateboard park that graces the ground new the arena and parkade on Thunderbird Blvd. I am not certain why our contribution was capped at $12,500.  It would seem that we can do better given the importance of an accessible playground, our past history supporting playgrounds not in our UNA area, and the fact that many of our children make up the population of Norma Rose Point School.  I intend to bring this forward to the Board again with the intent to increase our funding contribution to this important and worthy project.

The other outcomes of the meeting include:
  1. Passing the animal control bylaw committee's recommendation not to ban specific aggressive breeds of dogs, but to rely upon a generic definition of an aggressive dog.  The committee will be asked to consider the idea of listing specific breeds, but their sentiment seems to be that it is better to define an aggressive dog rather than banning specific breeds.  Having owned dogs in the past I can appreciate the committee's sentiment.  Yet, there are dogs that are bred specifically for violence and aggression and I wonder why we should not error on the side of precaution and both define a generically aggressive dog AND ban breeds with documented histories of violence and that are bred for violence.
  2. Approving the appointment of new standing committee memberships and welcoming Andrew Parr and Carole Jolley to the Board as UBC's new appointees who replace Ian Burges and Lisa Colby.
  3. The board also approved setting up a community survey working group to be headed up by Prod Laquin.  The working group will consist of a group of well know UBC researchers with specific expertise in community planning and development. The working group is to report by to the Board by June of this year.
  4. Hampton Place resident and former journalist, Kathy Griffith, has been appointed to the newly formed Campus Resident Editorial Review Board. 
  5. Following the in camera session of the board the "hardship" parking pilot project around the Old Barn Community Centre was approved unanimously by the Board.

The response to this question was deferred due to a matter that is not currently in the public domain.

  • With respect to UNA on-street Parking: At the January 14, 2014 meeting of the UNA Board of Directors the following motion was passed: “Moved by Tanner Bokor, THAT the Board of Directors supports the recommendation of the Operations and Sustainability Standing Committee to extend the current restricted parking regulations in Hawthorn Place East from Monday-to-Saturday to Monday-to-Sunday with the same operating hours of 8 am to 6 pm.” I note that as of March 10, 2014 (two months later) the signage within Hawthorn Place along Logan Lane and Eagles Drive has not yet been changed to reflect the Board Decision of two months ago.  When will the decision of the board will be implemented?


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

UNA Directors' Meeting, March 11, 2014. Pre-meeting report

The UNA Board meeting package is online and available for viewing.   Prior to each meeting I review the package and jot down a series of questions that I have about the materials in the package.  Starting with this meeting I will place my questions online for public viewing.

Each meeting there are a series of reports from external agencies  (Electoral Area A Director, the AMS, Campus & Community Planning), our UNA standing committees, the UNA Executive Administrator, and then staff reports related to specific agenda action items.

Executive Director Report:

  • With respect to UNA on-street Parking: At the January 14, 2014 meeting of the UNA Board of Directors the following motion was passed: “Moved by Tanner Bokor, THAT the Board of Directors supports the recommendation of the Operations and Sustainability Standing Committee to extend the current restricted parking regulations in Hawthorn Place East from Monday-to-Saturday to Monday-to-Sunday with the same operating hours of 8 am to 6 pm.” I note that as of March 10, 2014 (two months later) the signage within Hawthorn Place along Logan Lane and Eagles Drive has not yet been changed to reflect the Board Decision of two months ago.  When the decision of the board will be implemented?
  • In this report the ongoing problems the UNA is facing in finding a childcare operator to run two UNA spaces is discussed.  One concern is that any UNA childcare operator would find them selves in direct competition with UBC.  The senior administrator for UBC Housing is quoted as saying any UNA operator would not be in competition with UBC. But is that really correct?  Wouldn’t in fact  a childcare provider operating a UNA facility actually be in competition with the UBC Housing daycare?  How else could that be understood?  Given that and our problems getting a response, perhaps it would be useful to either (1) invite UBC Housing to operate the daycare spaces under question or (2) drop the idea of providing daycare at this point in time.
  • Can you provide a list of “stakeholders” who are members of the Outdoor Events Committee that will be charged with oversight of outdoor concerts and other major events that might have a negative impact upon UNA residents? 
Campus Planning Report

  • Can you provide more details on the public hearings on UBC’s updated regional context statement? The hearings ended mid-February,  what were the inputs and how did the context statement change following the public hearing period?
  • Can you report out on the traffic flow surveys that were being undertaken along 16th? There remain persistent community concerns related to the four-lane highway and problematic round-abouts.
Animal Bylaw Report

  • Could you explain (1) why the committee felt that a definition of "aggressive dogs" is preferable to naming specific breeds, and (2) would it not strengthen public confidence to both define aggressive dogs and prohibit specific breeds with a documented aggressive and violent record?
Parking around the Old Barn Community Centre

  • This item proposes a several month pilot project to offer 1 day parking passage to residents using the Old Barn Community Centre and how face some form of mobility hardship. 
  • The report notes that the restricted 2 hour parking stalls for community centre use are filled to 95%+ occupancy during most weekdays.  Has there been any consideration of how to deal with the asserted misuse of these parking stalls?  If so, could you elaborate?
  • Can you provide a factual summary of the number of residents who have complained about a lack of parking when they are attending an Old Barn event?  
  • What is the duration of a typical program attended by  a mobility impaired parent with an infant or a mobility impaired senior who might wish/need to drive a car rather than bike or walk to the centre?  
  • Can you provide a set of criteria that will clarify the definition of “hardship” that allows a resident access to a day parking permit?  
  • Is there a detailed pilot project implementation plan available for review that includes the specific criteria for determining 'hardship', the methodology for evaluating whether or not the pilot project was successful or not, and the extent to which this pilot project will solve the identified problem: lack of short term parking for car drivers attending the Old Barn programs

  • Could you remind us what security service we are paying for under item 20.
  • What does the UBCPT other expenses estimate include

Friday, March 7, 2014

Is it Time for Spending Limts on UNA Board of Directors Elections?

 Many democratic systems place spending limits and candidates and have a requirement for candidates to publicly report  their campaign spending.  Is it time for the UNA to do the same? I think so.  Last year we tried to introduce a campaign spending limit on candidates but because we waited to long to begin the process we had to withdraw the proposal and revert to a status quo model.  There was no election (all candidates won their seats by acclimation) so ultimately there was no issue. 
I would like to suggest that the UN consider the follow sort of campaign spending limits:
Using the guiding principles of equity in accessing members, the UNA will apply the following campaign spending limits:
Campaigning spending is limited to $500 per candidate. 
Candidates may pool their campaign funds if they choose. However, the intention to pool funds must be declared in advance of a candidate’s first campaign expenditure irrespective of whether the candidate has submitted nomination papers. 
Gifts of professional services and products (including, but not limited to, art and design, legal advice, printing, paper, webpage design, etc.) must be included in the campaign limit at full market value.
Volunteer canvassers and campaign support time are not considered an election expense.
A full financial report of all campaign expenditures, including itemized expenses and a list of campaign contributors stating whether they contributed cash, goods or professional services must be submitted within 45 days of the AGM. There will be full public disclosure of these financial documents. 

What do you think?  Does it make sense to publicly disclose campaign spending and to place reasonable limits upon how much money candidates spend?