The Georgia Straight
by Glen Chernen on October 10th, 2014 at 4:01 PM
I am running for Vancouver city council to provide principled leadership to our local government. I have been compelled to act, as I and many others have questioned the authority and the legitimacy of our current administration. The more I looked into various issues, the more it seemed that something was broken with our city hall. I have found that the same set of rules do not apply to all of our residents. It is time to ask what kind of basic expectations should we have of our local government.
We have a limited amount of options as citizens to disagree with city hall. Until recently we had the option to vote the government out every three years which has now been extended to four-year terms without public consultation. The average resident expects to have a small degree of influence on our politicians by communicating with them by petition, speech in council, letters or peaceful protest, etc. In the past three years all of these methods have failed for citizens regardless of how disproportionate their objection has been against city policy.
The concept of a fairly run public hearing in Vancouver is now widely understood to be impossible. It seems like most projects have been approved before the hearing and vote take place. Many that follow Vancouver rezoning now understand that if you want to get the highest density and highest profit possible, then holding a fundraiser for an influential politician might be your best bet. I can not accept to live in a city which changes the rules daily and is rewriting or ignoring contracts when they suddenly become too inconvenient. A government like this cannot have the “legitimate” support of the people.
I want to live in a Vancouver that protects some basic ground rules of “legitimacy” as argued many decades ago by celebrated American philosopher John Rawls and recently retold by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, David and Goliath. They both described a government in which most people could live without having to protest when confronted with disagreeable decisions because the government was operating with these three basic ground rules of legitimacy:
1. The people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice—if they speak up, they will be heard;
2. The law has to be predictable;
3. The authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.
I believe that it is up to our leaders to act in best faith without playing any favourites. We must all have the hope that our government can treat us all equally and that when we speak we will be heard. Our laws cannot randomly change daily behind closed doors and without disclosure. These are some of the basics that I am standing up for to help bring a principled and legitimate government to the residents of Vancouver.