Since it began in 2012, the Grandview Woodland Community Plan has been been one community engagement disaster after another. And now we have yet another one.
As part of the training/indoctrination of the appoointed members of the Citizens’ Assembly, they are being offered heritage walking tours of each of the neighbourhood’s seven sub-areas. That is a great idea; Grandview is famous for its fine heritage architecture and for still being, as Bruce Macdonald has coined it, an Edwardian village.
Moreover, Grandview has the only long-established and extremely active Heritage Group in the entire City. It is an organization that was recognized by the City last year and won Vancouver’s Heritage Advocacy Award just last year. The commendation for the award noted that GHG has “a successful community-based education and awareness program.”
The GHG has, as active members, three of the City’s finest and most recognized heritage tour guides — Michael Kluckner, Bruce Macdonald, and Maurice Guibord — who between them have conducted scores, perhaps hundreds, of popular educational tours; and all of them live in Grandview-Woodland. But did the Citizens’ Assembly staff choose any of these expert and appropriate local resources? No they did’nt. They went outside the neighbourhood to source these tours.
They completely ignored the Grandview Heritage Group (no contact or discussion was ever offered to them) and they completely ignored the local heritage tour experts. They hired another expert to handle the tours; an expert that we all recognize as one of the City’s finest historians and tour guide. The skills of John Aitken are not in question in any way. What is in question is the deliberate choice to ignore local resources and expertise.
After all the community engagement problems that have plagued the GW Plan, and just after the Assembly held a thoroughly unrepresentative housing forum followed by a less than adequate speed-dating event with local organizations, and as Assembly members begin to leave the troubled process, it would have been simple common sense for the City and its consultants to avoid yet another PR problem. Especially as the Chair, Rachel Magnusson, wrote to me that “drawing on local talent and knowledge is certainly a good thing.” Fine words not backed up by action.
I have been in correspondence with Ms. Magnusson in an attempt to change her mind on this particular issue, but she has refused, suggesting only that GHG could put on a superfluous eighth tour. Do we really want to put the already-stretched Assembly members to what could only be a repeat of material already covered.
The company being paid $150,000 of our tax dollars to manage the Citizens’ Assembly was hired for their “expertise” in community engagement. Frankly, if their expertise was that good they would have recognized the value (both political and educational) of using GHG/local resources to handle these tours. They didn’t, and we can only assume this was a deliberate slap in the face to Grandview.