Why is our city the way it is?
How can people choose between limited alternatives if they have not experienced anything better?
Indeed, the last question posed to a community that has been brought up in neighourhoods consumed by parking lots and rushing traffic, be it in the North, South or downtown, will have difficulty making an informed decision. Nanaimo's official community plan is the result of extensive community consultation yet its village centers are in reality vast sprawling blacktop, retail appended. What happened?
Which raises the first question, why is our city the way it is if we have an official community plan describing it as a series of villages. The only answer can be because we are the way we are. We are accustomed to sprawl, we are willing accomplices in political dissembling, we are inured. Without a better alterative, we have allowed it to happen.
Is this now the right time for change? There is at the moment an apparent desire for change if the recent flurry of reports, seminars, public meetings and good intentions on the subject are to be believed. Appearances, however, can be deceiving for in order to achieve all those aspirations a lot of work, LEADERSHIP and political risk will have to come first. Indeed, a hard-edged economic strategy, in order to provide the where with-all, must be implemented. Vested interests will feel insecure. Does this city have the jam? Only time will tell!
As of April 2004 the answer to the above question is a resounding NO! The city is prisoner to an overall civic concept that long ago expired. The recent decision to allow a barrage of hi-rises on the waterfront, and a not nearly as intrusive VICC addition to downtown, is but the least manifestation the Nanaimo's civic administration's inability to comprehend the issues. Not only is the mayor and council completely out of the loop but they are prisoners to the real-estate/developer/car-dealer triumvirate that, to a large extent, are the cause of the problems Nanaimo faces today!
They are not the only ones out of the loop. A group of concerned citizens, Friends of Plan Nanaimo have belatedly entered the debate with, according to The News Bulletin, "appalling gall." Where the hell were you guys six years ago when these issues were germinating: It's the North End stupid!
Whatever. This presentation, RENEWAL NANAIMO: 2002 describes, perhaps naively, a city that could become more livable for its citizens and more attractive to visitors. Some of the ideas are new to the city. None are new to the world. All that is contained in this document has been tried and tested in other cities to their advantage, and usually only after they have been driven to the wall with no alternative than to survive or languish as an unpleasant memory.
We hope, therefore, our ideas are received positively with an open attitude. Knowing fully well other reports are on the table we have no intentions of usurping their prerogatives. Nevertheless we bring to this table a vast knowledge and experience on the subject and would appreciate that, if for no other reason, RENEWAL NANAIMO: 2002 is taken seriously.