Fourth Annual Think City Tours are here!

Think City is hosting Vancouver’s fourth annual Think City Tours on the weekend of May 7th and 8th. Over 500 people have already signed up for 27 tours.

“We have seen lots of interest and enthusiasm from participants over the last three years and that is reflected in this year’s sign-ups” said James Fletcher, a Think City Board member. “We are also pleased to bring Think City Tours to more communities in Metro Vancouver, as there are great stories to be told all across this region.”

This year Think City Tours will be hosted in Surrey, Richmond, New Westminster, Maple Ridge, UBC, and neighbourhoods throughout Vancouver.

“Think City Tours is about providing fun opportunities for residents to engage with the many rich stories in their communities. This is a great way to learn about the incredible diversity of people, nature, history, and culture that surrounds us every day,” said Fletcher.

Some notable tours to be held this year include:

  • Historian Michael Barnholden‘s ghost written tour through Downtown Vancouver.
  • Artist Alex Grunenfelder‘s air tasting tour of Gastown, the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown.
  • Bernadette Keenan‘s bicycle ride along little-known parts of the Fraser River waterfront in New Westminster and Surrey.
  • Writer and historian Ian McLeod‘s look at the past, present and future of Port Haney in Maple Ridge.
  • Steve Chitty‘s walk back in time along the Crescent Beach waterfront promenade.

The goal of Think City Tours is to raise urban literacy and build strong, connected communities by offering a pedestrian-focused event that combines insights into civic history, environment, planning, design and citizen engagement with the simple act of walking and observing.

To view a complete list of tours and register online by Friday, May 6th at 5:00 pm, visit:


NB: I sit on the board of Think City & I’m reposting Think City’s press release. If you haven’t done one of these tours before, I highly recommend them. They’re a fantastic way of learning about our city.


Announcing: Vancouver Stories 2010

Last year, Think City held the first annual “Vancouver Stories” fundraiser event at Heritage Hall here in Vancouver. This event is a fundraiser for our now third annual Jane’s Walk event, in celebration of Jane Jacobs. This year’s event is coming up very soon, March 24th, also at Heritage Hall.

Vancouver Stories is a cocktail party and silent auction featuring Vancouver products, services and experiences, along with stories past and present as told by Vancouver notables. Last year, over 130 people turned out to listen to the tales told about our city (you can watch my embarrassingly amateurish video of Kim’s introduction from last year on YouTube). My bias is clear (I’m a Think City board member), but the silent auction had some pretty awesome items last year, and it looks even better this year.

Storytellers for 2010 include First Nations government advisor and Musqueam member Michele Guerin, recording artist Veda Hille, and architect and past Jane’s Walk host Annabel Vaughan.

The cost to attend this event is $60, and you can buy a ticket at the Think City website.

When: March 24th, 2009, 7-10 PM
Where: Heritage Hall, 3102 Main St., Vancouver
How Much: $60.00

Note: If you’d like to come, but cannot afford $60, contact Think City – we have a limited number of sponsored tickets for people who cannot afford to come but would like to be there. Likewise, if either you yourself cannot come, or would like to sponsor a ticket for someone else, you can do so on the registration page.

Think City Electoral Reform Survey

I’m reprinting this from Think City’s last email message out. Please read and participate!


Vancouver and many other BC municipalities suffer from declining voter turnout, the taint of big money influence on elections, a lack of neighbourhood accountability, and a host of other democratic challenges.

But the laws governing local elections are going to change.

Last fall, Premier Gordon Campbell announced a new local government election task force to consider sweeping legislative changes to how municipal elections are conducted in this province.

Fair Voting BC and Think City are gathering citizen views on reforms to submit to the provincial government, Vancouver city council, and the Vancouver parks board. Make sure you have your say!

  • Should there be a ban on corporate and union donations?
  • Should the city move to a neighbourhood-based or wards electoral system?
  • Should landed immigrants get the vote?
  • Should citizens directly elect representatives to regional boards (e.g., TransLink)?

The province’s task force will submit its recommendations on modernizing local government election rules to the legislature on May 30 for implementation prior to the fall 2011 civic elections.

Please go here right now to complete the 2010 Civic Electoral Reform survey by March 1, 2010.

  • TAKE ACTION: Click here to complete the survey

Sign up for Jane’s Walk 2009, May 2nd & 3rd

Don’t Miss Out on Jane’s Walk, Tours Selling Out – May 2 and 3

Think City is still accepting walk sign ups for our May 2 and 3 Jane’s Walk. And if you have not reviewed our Jane’s Walk page by now, you will wish you had visited sooner.

Already John Atkin, Gordon Price and Bruce Macdonald’s tours are booked out, with over 300 people signing up for walks in the first six days. The good news is more walks are being posted every day.

Join Annabel Vaughan on her tour of the ancient Leqleqi portage, a tour that grew out of a response to the public process around the development of the Carrall Street Greenway. Visit grocery stores, community gardens including a fruit orchard, a roof top garden and a Green Table accredited restaurant with Wendy Mendes and Spring Gillard. Or hear the history and the facts from the perspective of the residents of the Downtown Eastside, as well as poetry by some of their famous DTES poets, on Wendy Pederson’s tour.

For more information, visit the May 2 and May 3 Jane’s Walks on the Think City web site

UPDATE: We are also looking for volunteers to help with walks and more walk hosts, so please sign-up.

Third Annual Think City Citizen Budget Survey

Every year, the City of Vancouver goes through a public consultation on the annual budget. This process has left much to be desired in terms of the actual consultation process. Each year, for the past three years, Think City has run it’s own, parallel Citizen’s Budget survey, to provide an additional means of feedback to the public that would otherwise be missed. Once the Think City survey is complete, the Think City executive present the results to council on March 31st.

Please take three minutes to fill out this survey and let Mayor Gregor Robertson and the rest of City Council know what you want in this year’s budget.

Let’s make sure citizens’ voices are heard, when city council decides the priorities for this year’s budget.

Vancouver Stories – a Think City Fundraiser

I would like to invite you to join Think City and me for an evening of Vancouver stories on Thursday, March 19 at the Heritage Hall.

Hosted by CBC Radio’s Bill Richardson, Vancouver Stories is a cocktail party and silent auction featuring Vancouver memorabilia and experiences, along with stories past and present as told by Vancouver notables. Storytellers include former CBC Radio Basic Black contributor Andreas Schroeder, community advocate Shirley Chan and civic historian John Atkin.

What: Cocktail party, story-telling and silent auction
When: Thursday, March 19, 7:00-10:00 PM
Where: Heritage Hall, 3102 Main St., Vancouver
Cost: $50

Last May, Think City, along with 600-plus Vancouverites celebrated the legacy of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs with a series of free walking tours called Jane’s Walk. Over 30 Jane’s Walks were held in neighbourhoods all over the city. Help make this year’s Jane’s Walk an even greater success and buy or sponsor a ticket to Vancouver Stories.

Click here, for more information or to register.

Be a Jane’s Walk 2009 Tour Guide!


JANE’S WALK May 2 & 3 2009

Think City in partnership with The Centre for City Ecology nationally ( is celebrating the legacy of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs with a series of free walking tours that emphasize the importance of building strong, connected communities through diverse and walkable cities and neighbourhoods. We would like to invite you to lead a walking tour in your neighbourhood as part of this event.

Leading a tour is simple. It merely involves planning a route, thinking through the stories, places and people you want to talk about, then walking participants through it. Be as creative as you like, Jane’s Walks are meant to be fun, engaged and participatory.  All tours are given, and taken, for free. We handle all the publicity, logistics and website management.

Last year, Jane’s Walk was held simultaneously in 11 cities across the country and this past year was a first for Vancouver. Inspired by Jane Jacob’s grassroots vision of the city and her belief that in order to know your city “you have to get out and walk”, Jane’s Walk is a simple idea. It is free, it connects people and builds communities by promoting urban literacy and citizen engagement.

You don’t have to be familiar with Jane Jacobs’ work to lead a tour. Many of her tenets have long been incorporated into today’s urban planning. To learn more about Jane Jacobs and for details of what Jane’s Walk was like last year in other cities visit the national website.

Jane’s Walk is an exceptional opportunity for people to discover their city; both places they think they know well, and places they want to explore.  We hope you’ll join us in offering an insider take on our city’s vibrant and fascinating neighborhoods. To learn more about this exciting event or to apply to be a tour guide visit our website or send an email to

I look forward to hearing from you,

Kim Fleming
Jane’s Walk Vancouver

The Think City/Dream Vancouver debate

Last night, I attended the Think City / Dream Vancouver city councillors debate at the Alice McKay room in Library Square (Full disclosure: I am a Dream Vancouver volunteer, and asked a pre-scripted question at last night’s debate. I was also an unsuccessful Vision Vancouver Park Board nominee).

The debate was, to me, surprisingly well attended – probably near 200 people, and a fantastic mixture of youth and …umm… older adults were present. The debate was moderated by Kera McArthur (of Dream Vancouver) and Charlie Smith (of the Georgia Straight). The participating candidates were Ellen Woodsworth of COPE, Michael Gellar of the NPA and Geoff Meggs of Vision Vancouver). The questions were divided into 3 sections: housing, civic engagement and transportation.

The housing section produced by far the most energetic debate between the 3, as there are some clear differences, mostly in approach as opposed to goals, between the 3 parties. Of note: The NPA (or at least Michael Gellar, as he seemed to contradict the NPA party line numerous times throughout the night, and indeed, took the time to distance himself from the current NPA to what he was calling the new NPA) oppose building shelter beds as, if I understood correctly, actually not being helpful in the long run. Vision supports building emergency shelter beds as a short term solution, but maybe not in Storyeum. COPE likewise wants to build emergency shelter beds, and wants to see if Little Mountain can be used while its waiting for redevelopment.

When it came to civic engagement, they all more or less agreed: there needs to be a change in how accessible councillors are and how the consultation process is handled. They all did not want an arm’s-length office of consultation, as it would add a layer between the public and council. I personally feel that they were missing the point of what this office’s role would be, but it seems there will not be one. The debate aboute finance and electoral reform was more interesting: COPE supports a wards system. Vision wants to investigate, and strike a comittee, but not until the next election, and if I recall correctly, the NPA are also willing to investigate, but note that reform has already been defeated in a referendum. All three spoke well of the Berger report, but were essentially non-committal.

Transportation was the least interesting, although notable in that Michael Gellar seems quite removed from the stated platform of the NPA on the issue of the Burrard Bridge. COPE & Vision oppose Gateway, NPA supports it. All support improved cycling infrastructure, and pilots on physically seperating cyclists and motor vehicles. Vision would support a rental-based city-wide bicycle program, COPE would like a free one.

Overall, here’s my feeling on how the individual councillors did:

  • Ellen Woodsworth seemed somewhat out of her league here. She was hesitant, and to be honest, seemed a little pie-in-the-sky to my tastes. However, she earns major brownie points (and probably my vote) for clearly and explicitly placing gender issues as a part of every single discussion, and it seems clear to me that she would be an eloquent champion for womens’ issues in council.
  • Michael Gellar is highly entertaining, and would be a good, hard-working councillor I believe. However, he comes across as a pompous, privileged white male who has no idea that he is indeed, that. His casual references to travel locals, meetings with various other players all reinforced this. He also took an inexcusable, unecessary dig at Vancouver’s city workers, which, were there any justice, would cost him any chance at being elected, despite his attempts to later back-pedal. I do believe, in his defence, that it sounded much worse than he meant given his expression just after speaking (he immediately blushed, looked down and was still – the only time of the night he was not highly animated).
  • Geoff Meggs is a policy wonk. He knows his stuff, he’s cautious about speaking to things he’s unsure of. He toes the Vision party line very well. I believe he’s passionate about what he believes in. That being said, he is a very dry speaker, and doesn’t communicate his excitement very well. He also, and this is the most important, I believe, clearly has a lot of experience in how the city works, how to interact with the media, and community consultation. He would make a highly effective, if possibly somewhat hidden-behind-the-scenes city councillor.

I’m hopeful that Think City will post either an audio or video of the debate up online sometime soon, so that you may all see it. As a last note, I think that the councillors are probably far more important to the running of the city than the mayor, given that, in reality, the mayor is just one more vote on council – so be sure to read  up on the council candidates, and if you can, attend other debates featuring them.

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