From Bruce Haden, Architect and Urban Designer
- Remember California’s “ Proposition 13”?
The 1978 Howard Jarvis led referendum that capped California’s property taxes was a watershed moment that introduced two profoundly damaging results. The first was the revenue loss that gutted the ability of local governments in California to provide crucial services for the public good such as libraries. I firmly believe this was not simply a terrible result for those that used those services, but cost California dearly in terms of its social cohesion, economic growth and sense of civitas.
The second result of Proposition 13 was to create a broader referendum based ongoing political guerrilla war against virtually any progressive initiatives – although some progressive initiatives benefitted from referenda wins, the overall cost in effective governance was brutal. Proposition 13 started a process that fundamentally changed the basic rules of representative government and resulted in a string of very bad but “voter friendly” initiatives.
I believe the transit referendum could send B.C. down this same terrible path. This is not to say that referendums should never be used, but it was a destructive and anti – urban move by the provincial Liberals to have used this strategy in this case, and it is up to thoughtful citizens to help contain the damage that would be caused to governance in British Columbia by a “No” vote.
Governments are never perfect. Governments handicapped by the simplistic dictates of plebiscite are awful.
- Quality transit is a basic component of equity
Most of us worried about the cost of income equality to all of us have also been concerned about the extremely high housing costs in Metro Vancouver that are a huge burden on those without very high incomes. This reduces the quality of life for all of us by limiting the ability of non-wealthy creatives and the providers of basic services to live here. Quality transit helps reduce the overall cost of living for transit users and is a basic component of equity and economic fairness.
A city without a middle class is a city worse for all to live in.
- Translink is not perfect – but no organization with such a complex mandate is perfect
I have worked with Translink on several projects. It is full of passionate people who rightly believe the provision of quality transit is a central aspect of the quality of life in Metro Vancouver. Are they perfect? No. Any organization that is so large and has so many responsibilities will ALWAYS have instances of wasted funds that could be used as simplistic one-line targets for opponents. If you work in any business, non-profit or government agency, imagine your organization being under attack for fiscal irresponsibility by opponents seeking to score points. Don’t you think there would be ammunition they could use against your workplace? And the alternative to any visibly wasted dollars is to put in ridiculously restrictive control mechanisms that remove judgement or nuance from decision-making.
This process does not save money, it leads to ponderous internal processes that reduce the quality of decisions and waste way more money – it just wastes that money less visibly.
- You have been paying for major transit already – ask yourself if you would want to undo those past decisions?
Your tax dollars have paid for transit for many years. If you could unwind the past would you really want to get rid of the Expo line, or the Millenium line, or the Seabus in order to have a few bucks back in your pocket while you were living in a region that was poorer and less equitable, harder to get around, and more polluted? If you vote “No” you will be making a choice for the future that you probably would never make for the past.