Homelessness top priority for COPE-Vision Council

Vancouver’s new COPE-Vision city council is making homelessness a top priority. Mayor Gregor Robertson announced a 13-member Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT) to find shelter for thousands of people living on Vancouver streets.

HEAT includes Police Chief Jim Chu, BC Housing’s Shayne Ramsay, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly and senior city staff.

Meanwhile, housing activists are urging the province to reopen more than 200 suites of social housing at Little Mountain. Redevelopment of the 15-acre site was a major issue in November’s civic election when BC Housing started to board over windows and doors, even with people still living in adjacent units. BC Housing Minister Rich Coleman is pushing a deal with Holbern Developments to demolish the existing homes as part of a 2,000-condominium project. Critics, however, say the deal is dead as Holbern is mired in financial troubles.

COPE Cllr Ellen Woodsworth wants to re-open all of the empty but habitable units at Little Mountain.

"We’ve got a serious housing crisis in Vancouver, as well as a homelessness crisis, so why leave perfectly good units empty for at least two years, or possibly longer, when we could use them to house people?" said Woodsworth.

The City and Province have been discussing a variety of housing issues, including the future of Little Mountain.

Cadman urges action at UN climate summit

Vancouver COPE Cllr David Cadman wants cities to take a bigger role in dealing with the impacts of climate change.

During the week of December 8, speaking at the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, Cadman urged the more than 4000 international delegates to form closer partnerships between senior governments and cities on climate protection.

“Cities are home to half of the world population, and with rapid urbanization, two thirds of humanity will live in urban centres by 2030,” said Cadman. “Cities consume up to 80 percent of all energy and account for up to 80 percent of humanity’s production of
greenhouse gases.

“At the same time, cities and local governments have a long record of voluntary local climate action. If we are genuinely empowered and resourced, we have the potential to lead on climate action and can help to ensure that ambitious reduction targets are met.”

Cadman is the international president of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, an international association of local governments and regional local government organizations.

Founded in 1990 in New York when more than 200 local governments from 43 countries convened at the UN World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future, ICLEI now includes over 1027 cities, towns, counties, and their associations, and represents over 400 million people worldwide. In Canada, 22 cities are members of ICLEI, including Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary.

To listen to an excerpt of ICLEI President David Cadman’s speech telling national governments to recognize the role of local governments, go to:

Vancouver Board calls for resolution to FSA issues

Vancouver’s Board of Education is calling on BC Minister of Education Shirley Bond and the President of the BC Teachers’ Federation Irene Lantzinger to take urgent action in finding a mutually agreeable solution to the outstanding issues related to the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA).

COPE and Vision Trustees voted unanimously on December 15 to write Bond and Lantzinger, urging them to resolve issues surrounding the annually-administered assessments.

The BCTF has several concerns about the standardized tests known as the Foundation Skills Assessment that will be used in all schools early next year. Teachers voted last week in favour of a union plan to boycott the FSA unless Bond agrees to test only a random sample of students. They decided that they will not prepare for, administer or mark the tests as now prescribed.

Teachers say FSA tests are used by the Fraser Institute to rank schools, a statement with significant support from trustees, superintendents and principals.

Vancouver trustees also approved a motion to convene a special public meeting of board standing committees I and III on January 7, starting at 5:30 p.m. The FSA will be the only agenda item for the combined meeting of the board’s Management and Coordinating, and Educational and Student Services committees.

Trustees plan to invite various stakeholder groups to attend and create a forum for an exchange of perspectives concerning the FSA. A special board meeting may be called immediately after the combined committee meeting if trustees believe further action is needed on their part.

COPE announces two new executive members, External Chairperson and Executive Director

COPE is pleased to announce exciting changes to the executive board and staff.

With the election of Councilor Ellen Woodsworth and School Trustee Jane Bouey, the COPE executive had the opportunity to appoint two new members to fill the executive vacancies until the next AGM. Alvin Singh and Bill Bargeman joined the executive at the November 11 meeting.

Bill Bargeman, a former candidate, teacher and president of the Vancouver Secondary Teacher’s Association, comes on to the executive as a Member-At-Large. Alvin Singh, another former candidate, seismic advocate and youth activist, will take Jane Bouey’s role as Recording Secretary.

Outgoing External Chairperson, Ellen Woodsworth, nominated Lucas Schuller to the position of External Chairperson. Schuller assumes that role after a year on the executive as the treasurer (2006-2007) and the past year as a Member-At-Large. Woodsworth describes Schuller as “articulate and principled.” She continues,  “I have no doubt he will represent COPE exceedingly well until our AGM this year.”

The COPE executive also promoted Rachel Marcuse to the staff position of Executive Director. Marcuse co-managed the 2008 campaign, and at 24, was the youngest person to manage a major municipal election campaign in Canada. She was elected to the executive in 2006 and has been on staff since February, 2007. Rachel came to COPE with management experience in the non-profit and public sector in Vancouver and Montreal.

According to new external chairperson, Lucas Schuller, “Rachel will continue to build the momentum of the new COPE. The executive is pleased to continue working with her.”

Happy Holidays from COPE!

The COPE executive, staff and electeds would like to wish you seasons greetings and very happy holidays. The COPE office will be closed between Dec 20 and January 6. See you in the New Year!

Dec 18, 2008: Homelessness top priority; Cadman urges action; Resolution wanted to FSA issues; New faces; Happy Holidays

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