DNV proposal for $7 million worth of developer funded public art failed to get rave reviews

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
June 9, 2018
817 words

Lawrence Argent’s “I See What You Mean,” the great blue bear that is part of the Colorado Convention Centre

An ambitious plan to fund a decade of Public Art in the District of North Vancouver faced heavy criticism when presented to Council during an April Council Workshop. The draft plan proposed an investment of $7 million between 2018 and 2031, funded primarily by property developers through their Community Amenity Contributions (CAC).

The plan presented by Public Art Coordinator Lori Phillips and Heather Turner, Director of Recreation & Culture, included $5 million for site specific works in each of the four new “town centres “– Lynn Valley, Lynn Creek, Lions Gate, and Maplewood Village – and $2 million for works placed in areas like Edgemont, Queensdale, and Deep Cove, as well as alongside trails and in parks. The increased funding would also ensure that existing and future works can be maintained.

Councillor Doug MacKay-Dunn was the first to object, explaining his opposition to spending CAC funds on art by saying, “Art is in the eye of the beholder, but good sidewalks are not.” MacKay-Dunn requested that Council review the practice, which had been part of the funding formula for more than a decade. “If that money isn’t going into community needs, real needs, that’s wasting money … it’s being obtained under false pretences.”

Jim Hanson expressed “sticker shock” at the $7 million price tag, and suggested that the money spent on “decorations” along the Mount Seymour Parkway would have been better spent on “people who are living under the causeway (to) bring them into a more civilized way of life.” Referring to the photo of artist Lawrence Argent’s “I See What You Mean,” the great blue bear that is part of the Colorado Convention Centre, Hanson said “(7 million dollars) is a lot of money for ceramic bears.”

Public Art in North Vancouver is funded in three ways: through direct civic spending from the regular annual budget; as a part of large District capital projects like pools or plazas; or by contributions to the Community Amenity Fund. The selection of art works and the management of the overall Public Art program is overseen the North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission, which manages over 150 works in the City and District. The District is currently home to 64 works valued at 2 million dollars, two thirds of which came from developer funded projects.

There are three kinds of Public Art projects. Civic Public Art which incorporates public art into municipal buildings, parks and infrastructure projects; Developer Public Art where developers commission site-specific works of art that are integrated into their development projects; and Community Public Art which supports small-scale public art projects proposed jointly by community groups and artists.

At present capital projects like the new Delbrook Recreation Centre designate 1% of construction costs for Public Art, to a maximum of $500,000. Major private developments like the Seylynn Village or the Lynn Valley Town Centre earmark between 5 and 10% of their CAC to fund new works. Both of these are in line with other municipalities like Burnaby and Richmond. Where the District lags behind other Lower Mainland governments is in direct “civic funding” from its annual budget. In 2017 The District spent only 57 cents per resident on Public Art compared to the City’s $2.40 or Richmond’s $1.50 per capita.

Councillor Mathew Bond, the youngest member of Council, was enthusiastic in his support for the plan. “As the District continues to grow and develop, public art is going to be much more important than it has in the past.” He believes that it is important for his children to be surrounded by art in their community, and that this is one of the ways that they build a strong connection to the place where they live. He recounted his experiences walking around cities like Toronto and Montreal, enjoying the mix of “modern art, conceptual art, or historical references to what a place was, what it is, and what it will be in the future,” describing a “vast difference to walking around the District. “

Bond believes that a more robust Public Art policy, funded through a regular, consistent tax levy, would be better in the long run.

Concerns went beyond funding, and Council had many questions about how works were chosen, and why the program relies heavily on “professional” artists. Currently an “arms length panel of experts” chooses artists and art concepts, in consultation with stakeholders like developers and architects. Several councillors challenged the accepted practice of having artists and works selected by a panel of peer experts. Councillor Robin Hicks said that he was “not sure how we select works,” and others suggested that money could be saved by hiring artists who were not “professionals who make their whole income from art,” or by finding artists who would donate works as “advertising.”

District Council will review the Community Amenity Fund in July. The Public Art Program will present their completed plan for approval at a later date.

Transportation: the lost DNV Committee

Published: The Global Canadian  (pdf)
June 9, 2018
750 words

DNVThe single biggest issue for many District of North Vancouver residents is traffic. Any discussion about local politics quickly turns to complaints about the two overcrowded bridges, the inevitable impact of increased population density, and the near legendary “gridlock” on Lynn Valley Road.

As we speak the District and Province are spending millions of dollars to build new traffic interchanges at the the bottom of the Cut, Translink is planning to add a new B-Line bus from Phibbs Exchange to Dundarave, and traffic patterns, bike lanes, and sidewalks are being changed around each of the new “Town Centres.” But if transportation is such a critical subject, why has the District disbanded their Transportation Consultation Committee? The one committee that allowed ordinary residents to work directly with District transportation planners?

The TCC, as it is more commonly known, is still listed on the District web site, with an on-line form that you can use to apply to join it. But even though the Committee exists on paper it hasn’t actually met since April of 2017. The result is that the District has lost the one group that allowed the public to offer advice and input into transportation planning discussions.

The TCC mandate was an important one, “to provide comment to staff on regional and municipal transportation initiatives (and) assist staff in promoting, developing and improving an environmentally friendly, energy efficient, socially equitable, safe, and low impact transportation network.” The Committee included members with special interests in cycling, walking, transit, and of course driving. Over the course of its life the TCC discussed everything from the Phibbs Exchange redesign, to the choice of pavers for sidewalks in Lynn Valley, to the use of speed bumps on Sunset Drive. A special interest of several members were efforts to get local students walking and biking to school, and finding ways to make that not just a safe choice, but the preferred one too.

Even though the TCC members were ready to provide input on the big projects, their greatest value was often in identifying problems that were obvious to the people using roads, sidewalks, and bike lanes, but missed by property developers or the planners at the District. It was the TCC that identified the dangerous cycling infrastructure around Seylynn, that questioned why the District continues to place telephone poles in the middle of sidewalks, and in their last year pointed out ways that the District’s supposedly accessible transportation network often doesn’t work at all well for people with disabilities.

During 2015 and 2016 when Queens Avenue, Capilano Road, and most of Edgemont Village were all under construction, the TCC reminded staff that months of construction delays and detours weren’t just a nuisance, they had a real impact on the people who live and work here, and were hurting local businesses in ways that planners didn’t understand.

The TCC had the potential to save developers and the District significant money if the committee’s opinions had been sought before plans were finalized. Time and again TCC members travelled newly built bike lanes and sidewalks only to find significant safety hazards that no-one had anticipated, or reported the ways that things that looked good on paper actually made travel more difficult.

At the same time that the District stopped holding meetings for this citizen based advisory group, they created the North Shore Staff Transportation Committee, a super-committee that allowed transportation staff from the District, the City, and West Vancouver to meet regularly and coordinate their many projects.

This committee is only for staff. There is no mechanism for including ordinary citizens in the planning of our transportation infrastructure – a weakness pointed out at the time by West Vancouver Councillor Mary-Ann Booth, who was quoted as saying, “We also hear from our residents a lot about problems but they also come up with some pretty good solutions. Where is that link? Where is that opportunity?”

Since then the District has also joined the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project along with MLA Bowinn Ma, MP Jonathan Wilkinson, the North Shore Mayors, the Ministry of Transportation, and Translink. Once again, the public is not invited.

This week the District finally released a statement saying that their participation in high level committees “… precludes the need for the District Transportation Committee at this time.” For now it appears that decisions about transportation in the District will continue to be made by staff and politicians alone, with little or no input from the residents who will have to to live with the consequences.

Barry Rueger is past Chair of the Transportation Consultation Committee

Will the new parks bylaw prove to be a ‘gigantic hammer’?

Published: The Global Canadian
April 1, 2018
714 words

Barry Rocks OnThe District of North Vancouver is preparing to adopt a new Parks Regulation Bylaw, the first update since 1961. The new Bylaw is nearly four times the size of the old one, growing from four pages to fifteen, and promises “public safety through regulation.” During last week’s Council Workshop District staff explained that the new Bylaw is needed to give them “teeth” to enforce and regulate the use of District parks, but promised that rules would only be enforced some of the time, for some activities, by some people. Teenage partiers are a particular target for the new Bylaw’s enforcement.

Much of the new Bylaw is devoted to either prohibiting or regulating almost anything that you might want to do in a public park. It governs where and when people can play “organized sports,” cook a burger, rent a kayak, or cycle, and prohibits residents from erecting a “memorial or other object” commemorating a family pet. The Bylaw includes a list of more than dozen commercial activities that will require permits and fees. As well as film shoots and dogwalking, the Bylaw now designates bus tours, exercise classes, “providing instruction,” and even walking tours as regulated activities.

The one group who will enjoy more access to Parks under the new Bylaw is homeless people, who will be specifically allowed to camp overnight during the hours when non-homeless people are prohibited from using the parks. When Councilor Robin Hicks worried that including homeless access in the Bylaw would “encourage” people to camp out, Parks staff explained that the District was forced to add this section in response to court cases that ordered Victoria and Abbotsford to allow camping where there was a lack of low-barrier shelter space.

The largest part of the discussion at Council’s Tuesday workshop revolved around the question of how much regulation is too much. When asked by Councilor Mathew Bond how this Bylaw would affect residents who do night time bike rides, or enter local parks before sunrise on long hikes, the District’s Parks Manager Susan Rogers explained that these are activities that aren’t allowed unless a permit has been granted.

The new Bylaw continues the practice of closing parks between “dusk and dawn.” Many parks like our local Princess Park are locked up at 6pm for much of the year, and officially “closed” at 10pm, effectively making criminals out of anyone who likes to take their dog out for a walk after dinner. Councilor Roger Bassam, exhibiting what he described as his “Libertarian streak,” argued for fewer rules, not more. When the argument was made that more rules were needed to help the RCMP shut down teenage parties in parks, Bassam told staff and Council that there were already enough rules on the books to deal with drinking parties and other problem activities, and that the new Bylaw was a “gigantic hammer” that would have prevented him and his friends from playing touch football in Princess Park during their high-school years, and would prevent late-night cyclists and walkers from using many of the newly installed network of trails that were intended to serve them.

District staff tried to reassure Council that there was nothing to fear, because the District would practice “selective enforcement,” and that the local RCMP could be relied upon to “use discretion.” As well, Council was told that “we don’t enforce unless there’s a complaint,” and besides, “we don’t have the staff to monitor every park.”

Bassam argued that if the District doesn’t apply the law equally to all citizens – to both teenagers and late-night dog walkers – the regulation shouldn’t go forward.

Much of the North Shore is undergoing a change from single-family homes to higher-density strata developments. As more families settle in North Vancouver without the luxury of having a back yard, the demand for public parks will grow. Even though in some neighborhoods like Deep Cove there is a real problem with overcrowding and overuse of local parks, most of the District will need to find ways to accommodate more park users, not less.

When the new Bylaw is put to the vote later this spring, the question that Council should ask is whether adding more rules, but promising they won’t often be enforced, is sensible way to give District residents an enjoyable outdoors experience.

A Dog With No Name

Published: Black Cat White Dog News (PDF)
March 2013
775 words

See the lovely dog riding beside me in my truck? Do you know her name? I don’t.  I had just finished loading six dogs into my truck after an hour and a half on the trails.  This happy girl became an extra passenger.

I met her as she wandered down Millstream Road in West Vancouver, following her favorite mail carrier.  He even knew where she lived, so I tried to take her home, but the house was locked, and no-one answered the door.

Finally I dropped her off at the West Vancouver SPCA.  All in all this little girl cost me an hour or more of my time, a side trip from the British Properties down to Park Royal, and her owners the time and expense of recovering her.  Plus who knows how much worry when they found that she was gone. All for the sake of a five dollar name tag.

As a commercial dog walker I’m handling dogs all of the time.  And like most other walkers, I also wind up taking care of lost dogs on a regular basis.  Whether it’s the time of day, or the truck, or just a positive doggy “vibe”, you can bet that the dog that’s been wandering your neighbourhood all afternoon will come up to me and say “Hi! I’m lost! Please take me home!” And truly, I’m delighted to do it, but first I have to know who she is and how to find her owners.

If you own a dog it needs a collar.  A collar that’s around his or her neck, and fastened securely.  And on that collar you need a name tag, with the puppy name, and the phone number to call when I find her. Yes your dog has the proper municipal license tag, and possibly a rabies tag as well. He or she is likely micro-chipped  and tattooed to boot, but none of these are much use to me, or to most people who might meet your dog on the street.  What we really want is your phone number so that we can bring Rover home.

Now, about that collar.  It has to be on the dog.  All the time.  Yes, I know that Fluffy likes to lounge about sans collar at home, but he’s just not organized enough to put it back on before leaving.

I’ll repeat: the collar has to be on the dog. All the time. Just because your dog is at home – even if he or she is inside the house, with the doors locked and the alarm set – you should still assume that a Great Escape is imminent, and leave the collar on.

Having your dog escape is not a reflection on you, or your worth as a dog owner.   Sooner or later every dog finds a reason to wander off, chase a squirrel, check out the neighbor’s garbage.  It’s a dog thing, like shedding, and drooling, and snatching that piece of toast of the kitchen table when your back is turned.

Our poster girl? She wasn’t wearing a collar or tags, but she was wearing a electric fence “shock” collar.  Was it turned off? Were the batteries dead? Was she just happy to ignore it as she dashed off of her property?  I have no idea, but it didn’t slow her down.

Nine times out of ten when we find a lost dog it’s slipped away from home – through the back door, under the fence – you would be amazed how many ways a dog can escape.  Trust me. My own dog has been known to sneak out of the house and go play in Princess Park.

As an owner your obligation is to expect it, and be prepared.  It’s good to check your fences and fix holes.   It’s good to teach your dog recall, and encourage her to respect boundaries.  But it’s also good to plan for the worst – just the way you would with a young child. The dogs that we find are only a block or less from home,  and half the time the dog owner is at home too, but there’s no way we can know that.

The first step is always to look for a name tag, and call the owner. So do yourself, your dogs, and your local dog walkers a big favour and add a tag saying “My Name is Fang, and my phone number is 555-1212.”

Special hint: If your dog does get lost while you’re hiking the North Shore trails you can ask any commercial dog walker for help – we’ll spread the word to everyone walking that day to keep an eye out.

Community Radio in Canada

Published: Radio World International
January 2004
1700 words

Les Szabo at Co-op RadioIf the two hundred plus community radio stations in Canada have anything in common, it has to be the name “McCurdy”. It is difficult to walk into a community radio studio and not find at least one thing painted in McCurdy blue – either the “classic” light blue, or the newer dark blue.

Why McCurdy? Usually it comes down to two factors – the old McCurdy products were built like Mack trucks and were able to withstand years of volunteer use and sometimes sketchy maintenance. More importantly though, at the time that community radio in Canada was growing rapidly – throughout the eighties – a lot of large broadcasters were upgrading their studios, and McCurdy consoles, pedestals, and racks could be had for very little money.

Community radio in Canada exists in an environment that is quite different from the U.S. During the decades when the FCC made it impossible for community broadcasters to license a lower power station, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was actively encouraging new and different forms of non-commercial broadcasting. Since the time when the first community radio broadcasters were licensed in the seventies, the CRTC has consistently considered community radio to be an essential part of the broadcast system, offering a distinct alternative to both commercial radio and the government funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

More recently, at the time when the FCC was struggling with the idea of LPFM and third channel adjacencies, the CRTC was (at the urging of community broadcasters) bringing in “Developmental FM” Licenses. These licenses required a bare minimum of paperwork and equipment, and were designed to allow small communities to launch a community radio station as easily as possible. Developmental FM stations are limited to five watts, but are free of most regulation. The aim is to get new stations established easily and cheaply, and allow them to concentrate on building community support over the first few years.

Five watts does not sound like much, but it is an inexpensive way to get started and will typically cover a small town well enough to build an audience where none existed. At the end of the developmental period – typically four years – the new station is expected to apply for a full community radio license and move up to a higher power level.

Community radio in Canada actually encompasses a number of different kinds of licenses. A standalone station, not affiliated with an educational institution, will be licensed as a “Community” radio station. A station located on a University campus will typically be licensed as “Campus based Community”. “Developmental” licenses can come in either of these flavors.

Native broadcasters have yet another category of license to suit the specific needs of their communities, and there is yet another license type for “Instructional” stations attached to broadcast schools.

The differences between “Community” and “Campus based Community radio stations are less than would be imagined. The primary difference is that “Community” stations are allowed to broadcast more advertising than “Campus based Community” stations. Yes, non-commercial radio stations in Canada are allowed to sell and broadcast advertising, although the number of minutes per hour is limited. During the seventies and eighties stations faced the same sort of underwriting restrictions as American non-commercial broadcasters, but those were eventually dropped.

Unlike the U.S., where “College” radio is distinctly different from “Community” radio, all non-commercial radio stations in Canada have a similar philosophy and style. Both “Community” and Campus based Community” stations are required to open their doors to their local community. It is not considered good form to only allow students access to the airwaves, and in fact the regulations governing Campus based stations are explicit that they serve the entire listening community, not just the campus. It is also required that “Campus based” radio stations have a separate Board of Directors which includes both campus and non-campus representatives.

The other distinct feature of almost every “Community” or “Campus based Community” station is a heavy multicultural component. It is normal for established stations to broadcast in ten or twenty languages to as many cultural or ethnic groups. CKCU Radio in Ottawa for instance has weekly programs for the Jewish, Indian, Filipino, Afghani , Somali, Haitien, African, Persian, and Vietnamese communities. Many of these programs date from the early days of the station and play a critical role in their local communities.

Multicultural programs also play a critical role in the funding of community radio in Canada. Because community radio often offers the only media source in their mother tongue, multicultural communities are often major financial supporters of their local station. Unlike the U.S., where many community broadcasters can access funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) or the PTFP program, there is virtually no funding available to community broadcasters in Canada. The only broadcaster funded by the Canadian government is the CBC.

As a result community broadcasters rely most heavily on two income sources – student levies (for Campus based stations) and listener donations. Despite being allowed to sell advertising, the reality is that ad sales seldom bring in enough income to cover the costs associated with selling and producing spots.

The annual levy that students pay to support Campus based stations ranges from low of 40 cents to a high that approaches thirty dollars. Even though these are a fraction of the amounts that students pay for athletic fees or other “services”, there is always a fear that an incoming student government may choose to turn off the tap.

Although stations like CKCU or Vancouver Co-op Radio have been conducting annual funding drives for a couple of decades, station fund raising is still relatively unsophisticated. There is no equivalent to the Development Exchange Inc. (DEI) in Canada, and there is very little use of direct mail by community broadcasters. Consequently the most successful funding drives in Canada seldom exceed $100,000 annually, even in large cities.

Budgets at Canadian community radio stations are quite a bit smaller than in the U.S., with most stations operating on less than $200,000 a year, and only a couple of stations exceeding $300,000. Capital budgets tend to be very tight, and maintenance of equipment can be less rigorous than anyone would prefer. Equipment is invariably used until it is well past its prime. CD players for instance will typically spend two years in On-Air, then move to the Production studios, then to the music library.

The small budgets also are reflected in the low staffing levels. Many stations have only one or two full time staff, and it is unusual to see stations with the four or five FTE staffing that CPB would require in order to qualify for a Community Service Grant. This, coupled with traditionally low salaries, tends to lead to burnout and a high turnover. The tendency is for community radio staff to be young and inexperienced. Once employees gain skills and knowledge they almost always leave the sector for “real” jobs.

From an engineering standpoint community radio in Canada presents some interesting challenges. The people starting new stations are invariably beginners who are more concerned with serving their community than learning the ins and outs of frequency searches and HAAT. A good deal of our time (and a good deal of the content on our website http://www.community-media.com) is spent explaining basic concepts to community groups and individuals, helping them to understand what equipment they need (as opposed to what the salesman wants to sell them), and helping them to learn enough of the jargon to understand what is happening around them.

We consider ourselves lucky to have a few suppliers who understand that volunteer programmed community radio is not the same as commercial radio, and who will try to suggest equipment and products that are suitable. That means no automation system, no fancy “studio furniture”, and a focus on ease of use and durability.

We also keep close track of consulting Engineers who will work with community broadcasters on ten and fifty watt engineering briefs, and who understand the meager budgets of these stations.

As part of our work we also produce and distribute radio series to these community broadcasters. Once again the lack of a CPB or PTFP means that station facilities are quite limited. Outside of the francophone sector there are no satellite down links, so programming is almost universally distributed on compact disc. Thankfully the use of cassette tape from program distribution is almost dead.

Internet distribution is starting to become more common, but many stations are hampered by old computer equipment, poor Internet connections, or simply the skills and organizational support to take programming from the ‘Net to the Control Room. Again, most of these problems a refection of low budgets.

Some will argue that the low budgets help to keep community radio stations focused exclusively on community service. Big egos are discouraged, as are the opportunists who only want to make a buck. The result is an ever growing network of stations that without exception place community service before profit.

Even the major commercial broadcasters seem to understand the role of community radio in Canada. Instead of considering them a threat, companies like Rogers and Standard Broadcasting seem to understand that community broadcasters serve a lot of marginal communities (in dollar terms) that the bigs guys would rather not deal with.

Instead of fighting the community radio sector, the major – and many not so major – broadcasters actively support community radio. Standard Broadcasting for instance has for many years financed the annual Standard Radio Awards of Excellence in community radio broadcasting, and CORUS Entertainment, owner of more than fifty radio stations, as well as cable television properties, has underwritten the Dig Your Roots project, which discovers new bands in Canada and presents live concerts broadcast via the ‘Net. Both of these projects are coordinated by the National Campus and Community Radio Association. (NCRA).

Even though stations may struggle with poor funding and aging equipment, it’s still fair to say that community radio in Canada plays a vital role, and will continue to see steady growth for many years to come.r

Bio: Barry Rueger has been working in community radio for more than twenty years. His company Community-Media.com offers training and consultation to broadcasters in Canada, the U.S., and abroad.


Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

National Campus and Community Radio Association