SULLIVAN: Don’t like density? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

Clearly, we live in interesting times. Certainly, if you’re Mary-Ann Booth, the new mayor of West Vancouver by a razor-thin margin of 21 votes, life is already too interesting. But if we’re looking for patterns of interesting, the North Shore is shaping up to be a certifiably interesting place to live and work over the next four years.

Roughly speaking, it’s looking like status quo in the City of North Vancouver and the District of West Vancouver with a major hoo-ha in the District of North Vancouver.

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Consider: If you liked the leadership of Mayor Darrell Mussatto in the City of North Vancouver, you’ll love his successor, Linda Buchanan, who voted with Mussatto on all matters and was endorsed by Mussatto as his successor. Holly Back and the venerable Don Bell were also re-elected. More interesting, perhaps, is the fact that three major critics of the past administration: Guy Heywood, Rod Clark and Kerry Morris, were all defeated by Buchanan in the race for mayor.

If the three of them had managed to sit down and draw straws to stand as the single slow-growth candidate, the city could be a different place today, but politicians gotta run for office. That’s what they do. I’m sad to see that Heywood, one of the more thoughtful and scrupulous community-minded citizens I’ve ever known, won’t get to be a part of all the fun.

Meanwhile, it looks like development as usual in the city, where they appear to be testing the boundaries of the word “density.”

Consider: In West Van, Mary-Ann Booth was a middle-of-the-road councillor who now promises to be a middle-of-the-road mayor.

Four of her fellow councillors were re-elected and two non-radical rookies joined the team. Together they have to figure out how to prevent West Vancouver from dying a slow demographic death.

Good luck with that.

The only people who can afford to live in West Van are legacy residents and those who win the lottery, both relatively exclusive populations.

But for really interesting you gotta love the District of North Vancouver. Mike Little, the only guy I know who still wears a tie even if it’s not a wedding or a funeral, has been overwhelmingly elected mayor of a team of no-to-slow growth warriors that could throw a change-up into the brave new world of highrise development spawned under former Mayor Richard Walton.

Joining slow-growth advocate Little are slow-growth advocates Lisa Muri, Jim Hanson, Betty Forbes and Megan Curren. Robin Hicks, who often voted with Walton, was defeated. That leaves Mathew Bond as the last man standing from the Walton ally group, as well as rookie Jordan Back, who may find himself wondering if he took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in the Shire.

I imagine Lisa Muri will find it hard to resist asking Bond how-it-feels-now-that-the-shoe-is-on-the-other-foot, but she will probably be too busy rejecting development proposals.

Little’s army buried the Building Bridges party headed by Ash Amlani, who came a distant second in the race for mayor. Amlani seemed to come out of nowhere, which didn’t help her during the campaign, but she came across as the voice of reason throughout the campaign, which of course, led to her defeat. Bond is the sole survivor of the slate on council, and it will be interesting to see if Building Bridges survives to another election.

Before the election, polling showed that people across the North Shore were worried about gridlock traffic, a scarcity of affordable housing, and an overall less-tangible, but troubling, deterioration in the quality of life.

It’s still early, but it looks as if this unease has been most clearly reflected in the District of North Vancouver results. You could feel it coming. At all-candidates meetings Mike Little and his cohorts often spoke to a non-stop applause track.

And it was a near thing in the city – Heywood lost to Buchanan by a mere 400 votes, and altogether, the slow growth faction received twice as many votes as Buchanan in the race for mayor. This leaves Don Bell as the foremost advocate for slowing things down in the city: “Too much density, too fast” he told the North Shore News. I have a feeling he ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

One final note re: my favourite hobbyhorse. Seventy-nine per cent of district voters said yes to spend $100,000 to study amalgamation with the City of North Vancouver. This is unrequited love, as the new city council remains unmoved by the idea, fearing that the district likes density (and the tax dollars that it brings) only when it’s in the city.

Still, at least the embers of amalgamation are glowing, which will keep the times ahead just that much more interesting.

Journalist and communications consultant Paul Sullivan has been a North Vancouver resident since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Madonna. p.sullivan@breakthroughpr.com

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