Project Civil City: Letter from Mayor Sullivan

Dear Citizens of Vancouver,

As your Mayor, I am pleased to present you with a framework for action to address the issue of public disorder in the City of Vancouver. I am bringing forward a proposal to City Council which sets out ambitious targets, describes our most pressing challenges, and introduces a number of potential solutions.

Project Civil City document (PDF) Click to open

This initiative, entitled Project Civil City, was produced in partnership with Councillor Kim Capri, a trained criminologist with 20 years of experience and formerly Executive Director of the BC Crime Prevention Association, whom I have asked to take a lead role in Council on this major public policy issue.

Project Civil City, along with policy initiatives our Council is undertaking in the areas of economic development and the arts, is vital to the successful implementation of EcoDensity in the City of Vancouver. We want our citizens to choose to live in high-quality, ecodense neighbourhoods. This requires a commitment to minimize public nuisances and improve public order and community safety.

Based on the overwhelming response we received from our web-based survey on public disorder, several roundtable discussions with community leaders, and research from business and community organizations, it is clear that the citizens of Vancouver want decisive action from their Civic, Provincial and Federal Governments to improve order on the streets of our city.

With just over three years until the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, we have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this world-class event. The Federal and Provincial Governments are more motivated than ever to invest in developing and supporting long-term, sustainable solutions to Vancouver’s most pressing social issues. As a City Council, we are focused on leveraging the Games to create legacies for the citizens of Vancouver.

Included in this Project Civil City document (PDF) are more than 50 suggestions gathered over the course of six months of community consultations. I believe that within these suggestions lies a roadmap toward the restoration of public order and civility in our community.

The suggestions include a range of ideas — from utilizing our City employees in a different way to ensure they become our “eyes and ears” on the street, to exploring new treatment options for chronic offenders who are suffering from drug addiction.

As the leader of the City, I have decided to set aggressive targets to reduce public disorder. In addition to tackling illegal and nuisance behaviours such as open drug use, aggressive panhandling and noise infractions, we must also work as a community to find compassionate solutions to the root causes of poverty. We must look at new approaches to house our most vulnerable citizens and provide them with the support they need.

I am recommending to City Council that we establish the following targets and focus our community efforts on meeting these goals:

  1. Eliminate homelessness, with at least a 50% reduction by 2010.
  2. Eliminate the open drug market on Vancouver’s streets, with at least a 50% reduction by 2010.
  3. Eliminate the incidence of aggressive panhandling with at least a 50% reduction by 2010.
  4. Increase the level of public satisfaction with the City’s handling of public nuisance and annoyance complaints by 50% by 2010.

These are aggressive targets that will require the rapid implementation of a number of the suggestions outlined in this proposal.

It is for this reason that on December 14th I will be asking Council to support a motion from Councillor Capri to adopt these targets as the goals of our civic government and to approve the development of a comprehensive implementation plan that will be activated within 90 days.

In the interim, based on the feedback I have received from the community, I am also recommending 10 immediate actions to be undertaken by Council:

  1. Allocate at least $1 million from the proposed Olympic Legacy Fund in the 2007 Civic Budget to enhance the civic response to nuisance and annoyance complaints. This may include the hiring of new by-law officers and prosecutors.
  2. Provide $300,000 from the 2006 Contingency Reserve to immediately establish a new Project Civil City Implementation Office. This will include the hiring of a new Project Civil City Commissioner.
  3. Create a Project Civil City Leadership Council chaired by the Mayor with membership that includes key Provincial and Federal ministers who will participate in an advisory capacity. I am pleased to announced that Minister Stockwell Day, Minister David Emerson, Minister Diane Finley and MP James Moore from the Government of Canada, as well as Minister George Abbott, Solicitor General John Les, Attorney General Wally Oppal, and Minister Claude Richmond from the Provincial government have agreed to join the Project Civil City Leadership Council.
  4. Immediately strike a Project Civil City Implementation Team that will consist of key staff such as the City Manager, Chief of Police, General Manager of the Park Board, General Manager of Community Services, and the General Manager of Engineering, as well as appropriate staff with the Provincial and Federal governments. Meetings will initially be held bi-weekly and will by Chaired by the Mayor for at least the first six months.
  5. Revitalize the City’s Neighbourhood Integrated Service Teams (NIST) by realigning them toward program delivery and meeting public disorder reduction goals.
  6. Advise bar owners and patrons of a 60-day countdown toward significant improvement in public order in Vancouver’s entertainment district or Council will consider bringing Vancouver bar hours in line with other GVRD jurisdictions.
  7. In order to track the progress of Project Civil City, immediately conduct a benchmark analysis on the current level of incidents of aggressive panhandling, open drug sales and use, and homelessness in our City. In addition, conduct an immediate litter audit as well as an analysis into the number of complaints received for public nuisances such as motorcycle noise.
  8. Reconfigure the Four Pillars Coalition to ensure that public disorder becomes a main area of focus over the next 24 months.
  9. Request that the Vancouver Police Board adopt policies that will increase the street presence of our existing police force.
  10. Conduct an immediate 60-day review of ticketing, by-laws and fines with the objective of improving efficiencies and increasing their effectiveness in countering public disorder.

In my inaugural speech I asked the question “What kind of city do you want the world to find in 2010?”

Over the past 12 months, you, the citizens of Vancouver, have spoken to me and to Council about your priorities for the future of our city. You have told us what kind of city you want Vancouver to be today, in 2010, and beyond.

You want to see:

  • Streets that are clean and free from aggressive and disorderly behaviour;
  • A more concerted effort from all levels of government to find long-term and sustainable solutions to homelessness, and to put a roof over the bed of every person in our city; and,
  • Elimination of the open drug market on Vancouver streets.

There is no question that we must act swiftly and decisively to solve the public disorder problems that affect our city. I believe we have a tremendous opportunity to use the upcoming 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games as a catalyst to do just that.

Success in achieving our targets will mean rolling up our sleeves, looking beyond 2010, and implementing long-term and sustainable solutions that help to improve the lives of our most vulnerable.

If we simply host a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games, we will have failed. Instead, we must use these Games to create social and human legacies that will benefit generations to come.

I am grateful to the thousands of Vancouver citizens who participated in roundtable meetings and provided their feedback in our online public disorder survey. It is clear that you care passionately about this issue and you want to make your city an even better place to live.

I know that you share my belief that the time for talk is over. We must focus on action and work as a community to implement solutions.

There is hope for an even better Vancouver — a more civil city. Together we can make it happen.

Yours truly,

Sam Sullivan

Samuel C. Sullivan