By Mike Archer. Unbelievable. That’s all I can say about the attempt by the old white men, who killed the ACS/BC Housing proposal for a low barrier supportive housing project just six months ago, to save their political hides by re-zoning a piece of property even closer to the heart of downtown just before the election.
Is this simply an attempt by Bruce Banman to cram as much stuff in just prior to the election in order to gain redemption for how badly he has handled the homeless file? The cynic in me says, ‘So what. If we end up doing something sort of like the right thing, who cares?’
Problem is – it isn’t the right thing. This isn’t the way good public policy is made. As a matter of fact, this cockeyed, slap-it-together at the last minute approach to planning is precisely what got us in this mess. Years worth of work coming up with the best solution was thrown out for political reasons by a mayor who was desperate to find somebody to support him in his re-election bid.
There are a number of reasons the ACS/BC Housing proposal made sense and this last minute attempt to obfuscate and muddy the waters is nothing more than a desperate attempt to confuse the electorate going into the election.
The Province of BC has been burned twice by these clowns and it is doubtful they will even look at funding a third location unless the land is pre-zoned, which is probably why those who voted against the ACS proposal are scrambling to be seen as doing something in advance of the election.
Public Policy By The Seat Of His Pants
Welcome to public policy in Abbotsford – ‘It’s not a very good option, it’s far from the best option but hey – what with all the political pressure from important landowners (who don’t even have businesses on their properties), financial interests who fund political campaigns and other important people, its the best we could do under the circumstances.’
This how we ended up with the Sally Ann as far from the people who need it as possible. What does Bruce do when the crowd of people needing the Sally Ann gets large enough – covers them in chicken manure to convince the to leave. When that doesn’t work they are marched out of the area and told they aren’t welcome.
You can’t put services for the poor in and area and then tell them they can’t stay there.
ACS brought in addiction services and then, under pressure from someone, moved it to Clearbrook, leaving all of the addicts without help and forced to do without it.
There isn’t a decision our community leaders have taken with regard to the homeless and men and women who suffer from alcohol dependence, mental-illness or drug addiction which hasn’t been wrapped in politics, warped by money and influence, or rendered meaningless by ignorance.
Banman’s solution is just more of the same.
The City of Abbotsford worked for several years with BC Housing to come up with a piece of property and a situation where by necessary services could be provided with the least impact on the downtown business community and the least impact on the Abbotsford taxpayer. Much of the strength of the original proposal had to do with the fact that, since the City was broke, using the land across the street from Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) would keep annual operations costs down and have the least impact on Bruce’s beloved ‘Moms and Pops.’.
ACS and BC Housing even added a caretaker to their proposal for a 20-room supportive housing project opposite ACS on the far edge of downtown, away from the majority of the ‘Mom and Pop’ small businesses in the old downtown area, in order to make it even more palatable to the Moms and Pops who might be afraid that taking alcoholic men off the streets would hurt their businesses.
Ironically, that one accommodation was what entitled Bob Bos, Paul Macleod and Tina Stewart to object. Had ACS and BC Housing simply left the 20 homeless men upstairs with no on site supervision, Bos, MacLeod and Stewart wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on and the project would simply have gone ahead.
But object they certainly did.
What About ‘The Mom and Pops’ Now?
First Stewart circulated a petition which stated the project would include a needle exchange and other lies and offensive statements which were so far from the truth the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) was forced to pull its petition.
Then ‘No Permit Paul’ MacLeod began making the rounds with a seemingly better argument – that the C7 Zoning put in place back in the last century was an endless covenant with the downtown businesses which could not be broken lest the City’s word mean nothing.
Setting aside the fact that any business which banks on the City of Abbotsford’s assurances is walking on some pretty soft ground, the very fact that it was only the inclusion of a supervisor suite on the ground floor which brought the zoning into question, MacLeod’s splitting of hairs gave him and the ADBA the pretext they needed to pull out all the stops and force one of the most embarrassing and heart-wrenching debates in this city’s history to come down to one nail-biting vote of council.
At that historic meeting, Bob Bos, Paul MacLeod and Tina Stewart brought out the troops in order to have maximum effect on the politicians at the table. The ‘Mom and Pop’ brigade was out in full force to explain their belief, which even John Smith described as irrational, that taking alcoholic men off of the streets would harm their businesses – businesses which they (we were told) had slaved for and sacrificed to build.
When Mayor Banman stepped in to kill the proposal he waxed almost poetically about the role of ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses in supporting minor hockey and other community organizations. He spoke of his belief that small one and two person businesses were the back bone of the community (As opposed, one presumes, to the multi-million dollars bailout to the Calgary Flames he supported every year he was mayor until he was forced to pay them off).
What happened to your love of the Moms and Pops Bruce? Are you just throwing them under the bus in order to get re-elected?
Site Is Closer To ‘Moms and Pops’ Than ACS Proposal Was
After the fateful night when John Smith, Les Barkman, Bill MacGregor and Bruce Banman killed the ACS supportive housing project, it was revealed on Abbotsford Today that there had been another site, much closer to heart of downtown, where all the Moms and Pops operate their businesses, which the ADBA had been prepared to accept.
Some confusion over City Hall maps aside (some of which showed the property in the C7 zoned area, some of which showed it outside) the ADBA never provided a very convincing answer to the question about why it was prepared to allow the project to go ahead on a piece of property right near the center of its membership, but was opposed to the project where it made more sense and affected fewer of its members.
Note: A reader has pointed out that the ADBA went door-to-door in the neighbourhood of this second proposed site asking for support in having council deny ACS’ original application. Imagine how surprised they must be to see the Mayor and the ADBA pushing for the new location in their neighbourhood).
Who’s Property values Are Being Protected?
‘No Permit Paul’ MacLeod’s stated position that it was the sacrosanct nature of the C7 Zoning (which all but he understood to be a temporary measure designed to help the current downtown emerge from the barren wasteland which existed in the 1990s) sounded weaker and weaker as it was revealed that he and other prominent and wealthy Abbotsford landowners own property surrounding the ACS’ proposed site for its supportive housing project.
The Mom and Pop story appears now to have been thrown right out of the window as Mayor Banman seems perfectly prepared to plop a supportive housing project down right downtown next to all the Mom and Pop stores he so eloquently defended just six months ago.
The reason this property was not considered was because it would cost more for ACS to manage it at such a distance. That money will only come out of Abbotsford taxpayers’ pockets – you can be sure.
Now that we have an election coming and Banman and his friends Les and Bill find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. With Bruce losing the early poll his campaign paid for, in large part due to his war on the homeless, and with Les and Bill getting an earful on the hustings, are they seeking some form of redemption by appearing to suddenly care for the homeless while throwing the Mom and Pop business owners, who, you will remember, are the heart and soul of this community, to the curb?
Which is it Bruce. The Moms and the Pops … or the supportive housing project. You made the decision to assert that their interests don’t align. You couldn’t honestly be expecting us to believe you’ve suddenly found a better way. You possibly can’t think we’re that foolish.
What is needed in this City are some community leaders who can actually make principled decisions based on solid science, facts and peer-reviewed research. Or how about using some common sense instead of jumping at every little threat from propertied landowners or their representatives.
The citizens of this city deserve better.
Editor’s note: As mentioned elsewhere, we didn’t come up with the moniker ‘No Permit Paul’ for Paul MacLeod. He has proudly boasted on many occasions that this is a name city staff came up with to describe him.