A call for budget for junk removal needing a big boost in Vancouver
When was the last time you walked down a street with a trash bag and picked up someone else’s trash?
The recent brouhaha about a derelict trailer that was towed and dumped in Strathcona Park before it was eventually ripped away by city staff has underscored the belief that in Vancouver it’s okay to dispose of whatever you want, wherever always you want, whenever you want you want.
In this case, if the tweeted photos hadn’t been captured by the local media and championed by Park Board Commissioner John Coupar, who knows how long this camper may have stayed in the park.
Recent attempts by the Vancouver City Council and staff to top up street cleaning budgets are far from what really needs to be done to dampen growing anger over the state of cleanliness in the city.
Whether it’s garbage spilling out of cans along Robson Street, abandoned urban warehouse structures in retail alcoves along Granville Street, chewing gum or cigarette butts being thrown on our sidewalks, mattresses and other household trash dumped in the back alleys, and yes, that ongoing crisis in our parks The city and park authorities have to be persistent and actually have a budget for clearing up garbage, abandoned vehicles and non-compliant tents in parks.
The city’s current attitude towards public space, coupled with widespread crime and clutter in every neighborhood in Vancouver, are some of the main reasons Vancouverites feel that our world-renowned quality of life is disappearing before our eyes.
In no way do I condone cruelty towards people forced to sleep in our parks and streets by the circumstances, nor do I advocate massive increases in operating budgets. This is about priorities. Taxpayers will help put the current funds into managing the chaos and doing more for the residents than any other position in the operating budget (and the money is there because the operating budget rose from $ 800 million in 2007 $ 1.6 billion today).
To be honest, it is a sad statement about the current state of affairs that most of us do not want to take responsibility for the cleanliness of our city. Most residents likely believe that it is someone else’s job to clean up the neighborhood. When was the last time you walked down a street with a trash bag and picked up someone else’s trash?
In Japan, tidying up is taught at a young age. In a recent BBC story, Maiko Awane, deputy director of the Hiroshima Prefectural Government Office in Tokyo, said, “For 12 years of school life, from elementary school to high school, cleaning time is part of the daily routine of students … Parents teach in our private lives too to us that it is bad for us not to keep our things and our space clean. “
The Vancouver city website promotes similar philosophies and offers tips on “How to Maintain Our Streets and Sidewalks”.
But let’s get real. We turn to the City and Park Administration staff to get the job done. That won’t change. The current city budget for disposing of rubbish in our city, recently increased by the current council, is a fraction of what it needs to be. We know that our parks have also been starved by the city since 2009. With more than 200 parks and only a few dozen park rangers enforcing the statutes, we have doomed the park board. The problem is literally right in front of us, but the solutions are serious and severely underfunded.
George Affleck is a former Vancouver city councilor who will step down in 2018. He is the founder of Curve Communications, co-host of the political podcast Unspun, and a regular contributor to CTV and CKNW. Twitter @george_affleck