12 January 2017

Community Centres As Warming Centres

Tonight at a "Special Meeting" of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation we will discuss just one topic: Using Community Centres as warming centres. This special meeting was called by three of my fellow Commissioners. This a right under the Vancouver Charter. However I have no idea as to why they would call this extraordinary meeting, when this could be discussed at our next scheduled meeting.

For the past several weeks Vancouver has experienced very unusual weather. While we usually have a climate of warm summers and cool winters, our weather pattern this year has changed significantly bringing us very cold temperatures with snow and freezing rain. For most of us this has been an inconvenience. For those without shelter this has been devastating. People without shelter can become frostbitten and even die in these conditions.

As a stop-gap measure our senior management team partnered with the City of Vancouver to find warming centres for people without homes to find a little warmth and shelter. A few of our Community Centres were included in these warming centres. For the most part these have been very successful and have worked smoothly. An unfortunate incident at one centre resulted in a child finding a used needle in a washroom. This is, of course, unacceptable, and should not have happened. However, this could have happened at any centre, at any time of the day. Our washrooms are not policed and cannot be kept spotless all day long. They are all cleaned regularly. Luckily there was no harm caused by this incident.

I am proud that my City tries to help the most vulnerable and I am very proud to be part of a Park Board that believes every resident should be cared for.

Tonight I will speak to this issue. I will talk about the social contract: the voluntary agreement among individuals by which organized society is brought into being and invested with the right to secure mutual protection and welfare.

It is the social contract that dictates that, although I do not have school age children, I pay school tax as this is the best way to ensure an educated and thoughtful citizenry. It is why I am happy for BC to participate in federal transfer payments to areas of the country whose economy isn't as robust as ours here. Why I am glad my taxes go to programs like welfare to help those less fortunate than I am. Why I am happy to pay into CPP and OAP so our seniors don't live their last years in poverty. And why I am glad that my parks and Community Centres are open to all, including the most vulnerable.

Am I my brother's keeper? I certainly am. And my sister's too.

I believe warming centres are important for the safety and welfare of the most vulnerable of our society. I am very proud that the Park Board has been a partner in this initiative. I will continue to work for this important partnership.


*****Update: 13 January 2017*****


A motion brought forward last night by NPA Commissioners Sarah Kirby-Yung, John Coupar, and Casey Crawford to close current Community Centre warming centres and not open any more was defeated. I was one of 3 Commissioners, along with Michael Weibe and Erin Shum, to oppose the motion. In fact, I tried to amend the motion so it would formally approve the centres and give the General Manager the formal authority to open them as he saw the need. 

This amendment was defeated on a 3-3 vote, as indeed the original motion to close the centres was. Had our 7th Commissioner, Catherine Evans, been available (she was out of town when this 'special' meeting was called) I have no doubt that my amendment would have carried and this issue would have been laid to rest once and for all. As it stands the GM continues to have informal authority to open warming centres--as he did the very next night when he authorized the re-opening of the West End CC.

05 January 2017

City prepared for snow, stocked with salt- Residents urged to clear fresh snowfall early

City of Vancouver
News Release
January 5, 2017

  
With more snow forecast for tonight and through the weekend, public safety is the City's top priority. Snow-rain-freeze cycles over the last month have left many residential streets and sidewalks covered with ice, and with temperatures expected to remain well below seasonal levels in the coming weeks, we continue to deploy City resources at full capacity to prepare for more snow and ice.

“Our street crews, and an additional approximately 260 redeployed City staff, have been working 24/7 since the first snowfall in December to brine, salt and sand priority routes, and clear residual snow and ice, to maintain street safety,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Over the last two days, we’ve made progress with putting down a mixture of sand and salt on priority side streets to maintain access to more than 100 hospitals, schools and community centres, and that work is now about 80 per cent complete.

“I understand the difficulties and frustrations this unusual winter weather has caused Vancouver residents. It’s been challenging for us, too. I want to thank everyone for their patience and cooperation, and for doing your part in keeping our city safe,” Robertson adds.

The City would like to confirm that it has not run out of road salt, and regular shipments of salt continue to arrive to help crews in their efforts to melt snow and ice from streets and sidewalks. There is ample salt supply for the City to prepare for the anticipated upcoming snowfall, and additional supplies of free salt for residential use are being delivered this afternoon to select fire halls.

The clearing of sidewalks by residents and businesses is a vital part of ensuring that the city is navigable by all people. While salt helps to break up ice and snow, it is not a replacement for snow removal. The City strongly recommends that in advance of the next anticipated snowfall, residents and businesses:

  • Shovel off any remaining ice or snow that is on the sidewalks or driveways from the December 31 snowfall;
  • Lay salt down on sidewalks and driveways prior to the snowfall. This will help to melt the ice and make it easier to remove;
  • Shovel new snow as soon as possible to prevent build up and melting into an ice crust. While residents have until 10 am until after a snowfall to shovel sidewalks in front of their property, getting out early before the morning commute will help ensure snow isn’t packed down, and will make it easier to remove;
  • Provide help to neighbours who cannot clear their own sidewalks, if you are able;
  • Wear proper winter footwear to guard against slippery sidewalks. Use main roads when possible as they tend to have less snow and ice than residential and side streets;
  • If you choose to drive, ensure your car has winter tires.

If you see an area that needs attention, please report it immediately through the City’s VanConnect app (Vancouver.ca/vanconnect) or by calling 3-1-1 so our crews can respond. The City is monitoring incoming requests to identify problem areas and dispatching crews to address those issues.

The City, in partnership with the Park Board and supported by staff and volunteers, continues to provide additional warm and welcoming space for anyone who needs to get out of the cold as this unusually cold and snowy winter weather continues. Five community locations will remain open overnight as warming centres for the foreseeable future including: West End, Creekside, Britannia, and Sunset community centres, as well as The Hall at 1739 Venables. All locations open at 9 p.m.

To date, there have been close to 1,800 visits to these temporary warming centres. Community centres and other public buildings are also available during their open hours as spaces to warm up.

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City of Vancouver                                                 
Corporate Communications                                           
604.871.6336                                                                  
media@vancouver.ca            

   

03 January 2017

ICE AND SNOW PLAN – WHAT WE ARE DOING RIGHT NOW

Ice and snow conditions persist with more on the way. Here is what the Park Board is doing to ensure public safety:


  • We have closed the seawall from Lions Gate to Siwash Rock because of extremely icy and unsafe conditions.  Signage and barriers are up.   

  • Our seawall priority today is salting and sanding heavily used shady sections of seawall between Second and Third Beach.  
 
  • Warning signage in effect on all open sections of seawall. 
 
  •  Public advised to be very careful and use ice grips on footwear if possible. 
 
  • Please use extra caution in walking and avoid cycling through parks as we work on clearing paved sections.
 
  • Our maintenance priorities are Community Centre parking lots and pathways, especially areas used by seniors.  We are salting and brining these areas every day. 
 
  • Roads and paths in our heavily used destination parks like Stanley and Bloedel are also high priority for our crews.
 
  • We are bringing crews in from golf, train and other operations to assist park staff in clearing paths

15 December 2016

Keep Safe on the Roads this Winter

 10 Tips for Safe Winter Driving from The Cooperators  
(while these good folks are my insurers--this is in no way meant to be an endorsement or a solicitation for business)

If you’ve driven in even one Canadian winter, you know that it takes patience, practice and mindfulness to stay safe on slick roads.

Your safety is important to us. Keep these safe winter driving techniques top of mind – and share them with your family and friends.

1. Invest in winter tires.

Winter tires are worth the investment. Put them on before it snows, and before the temperature drops below 7°C. Also, ensure tires are inflated properly; cold weather can decrease tire pressure.

2. Plan ahead.

Plan for five extra minutes pre-trip to check road conditions and remove all snow and ice from your vehicle.

3. Slow down.

It’s common sense that’s often overlooked: adjust your speed according to road conditions.

4. Stock up on windshield washer fluid.

When you need it most – 50 km from home in a white-out blizzard – you'll be glad to have an extra jug.

5. Leave the lights on.

To increase visibility, keep your headlights on, even during the day. Not sure if you need them? Err on the side of caution.

6. Step lightly.

Maintain steady pressure on the gas pedal and brake gently to avoid slipping and sliding.

7. Exercise patience.

When you're running 10 minutes late and find yourself stuck behind a snowplow or salt truck, take a deep breath and do not pass.

8. Look twice before reversing.

Be aware of snow banks when backing up; not only could you hit one, but they make it hard to see oncoming traffic or pedestrians.

9. Avoid using cruise control.

Cruise control in wet, icy or snowy conditions isn't worth the risk.

10. Pack an emergency kit.

Include:
  • a bag of salt or non-clumping cat litter (for digging out)
  • a blanket
  • a flashlight
  • a shovel
  • an ice scraper/snow brush
  • jumper cables
  • matches
  • non-perishable food 

Don’t forget to always drive distraction-free, especially during the winter. Learn what The Co-operators is doing to encourage distraction-free driving – plus other initiatives that will help build a better world. Take the distraction-free driving pledge today.

14 December 2016

Snow Angels: a gift that keeps on giving

City of Vancouver
Information Bulletin
December 14, 2016
 
 
Thanks to the generous help of 29 Vancouver residents, more than 45 City blocks were cleared of snow between December 5 to 11 by volunteer Snow Angels who took the time to help seniors and people with limited mobility clean their sidewalks of snow and ice.
 
Before the recent snowfall, there were 16 registered Snow Angels with the City of Vancouver and that number nearly doubled to 29 following the first snowfall on December 5. The registration process is quick and easy and can be done via the City’s app VanConnect or by visiting the City website. Once registered, volunteers receive requests from our Snow Angel coordinator to clear snow and ice from neighbours' sidewalks.
 
All Vancouver property owners and occupants (tenants) are responsible to clear snow and ice from the full width of sidewalks that surround their property by 10 am the morning following a snowfall. This responsibility is in effect seven days a week. Property owners and occupants who fail to remove snow and ice may be subject to fines. Residents can also help keep storm drains clear of leaves and snow to prevent flooding.
  
Alternatively, those requiring assistance to clear their sidewalks can phone 3-1-1 and staff will connect you with a Snow Angel in your area. With temperatures currently below freezing, Snow Angels are using salt provided by the City to help clear sidewalks for seniors and people with limited mobility who have requested assistance. Between December 5 to 11, the City received 108 requests for help to clear sidewalks.    
 
A majority of the requests to become a Snow Angel or to receive assistance from a Snow Angel come through the City’s 3-1-1 Contact Centre. During the recent snow fall, the call centre received 1,540 snow and ice removal inquires alone. During the same period December 5 to 12 in the previous year, the City received five.
 
The 3-1-1 contact centre is well equipped to handle increased calls volumes from extreme weather events such as the recent snowfall. In preparation for increased calls related to snow, the centre brought in extra Customer Support Representatives on December 5.
 
The 3-1-1 Contact Centre is available from 7am to 10pm, 365 days a year and provides information on City of Vancouver services, including 175 language services. Callers do not need to speak English: (Just call and say, “Mandarin” or “Romanian” in your language of choice and after a short wait, callers are transferred to somebody who can speak that language).
 
Callers can receive information about City services, send service requests for non-emergency services, share concerns, and provide feedback. Alternatively. citizens can also use the City’s app VanConnect to access these services. The City launched its VanConnect app at the end of May 2015 and there have been almost 35,600  app downloads to date. Approximately 600 service requests per week are submitted via the app covering all areas of the City’s operations. 
 
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Media Contact:
Corporate Communications
604.871.6336

08 December 2016

New deal announced between Vancouver park board and community centre associations