A Vancouver councillor wants the city to get back to basics and fix bumpy sidewalks, potholes in the streets and tackle overflowing trash bins and litter.
NPA councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung is putting forward a motion Tuesday urging the city to prioritize core services such as maintaining streets and sidewalks and other public spaces, which she said has deteriorated in recent years, eroding civic pride and creating safety hazards for seniors and people with disability.
“I hear this consistently from the members of the public that they feel the city is looking a lot more rundown and it doesn’t look taken care of like it used to,” she said. “People used to be so proud of living in Vancouver — we’re known as a very clean and green city — and I don’t think people feel that anymore.”
The problem isn’t limited to the Downtown Eastside or the neighbouring areas of Chinatown or Strathcona, but throughout the city, said Kirby-Yung, adding overflowing garbage bins on the street are a common complaint.
From her previous tenure as a park board commissioner, Kirby-Yung said she is concerned about the difficulty park board staff has in accessing street medians the park board is supposed to maintain for the city, particularly along stretches of Knight Street where three-foot weeds and litter could be spotted.
The problem of uneven, dangerous sidewalks in Vancouver was also highlighted in a feature by Langara journalism students published by Postmedia in August.
While some may argue the city has more important issues than clean streets on its plate, including an affordability crisis and the homeless camp at Oppenheimer Park, Kirby-Yung said maintaining and cleaning streets and sidewalks are part of a city’s core responsibility — one residents and businesses expect it to fix, especially as property taxes have increased in recent years.
“People feel there has been a neglect of those core municipal services, and I think it goes toward the fact there are other priorities.”
It does not appear the city has shrunk its budget on these services. According to the 2019 budget, money allotted for street maintenance has increased from about $23 million in 2015 to a proposed $30 million in 2019. Street cleaning expenditures also jumped from about $7.3 million to almost $11 million over the same period.
Kirby-Yung said service levels need to be maintained along with population growth. She also noted there are new demands, such as needle pickups and dealing with illegal dumping in specific areas, that also has an impact on resources.
The motion asks council to recognize that maintaining and cleaning Vancouver streets and public spaces is part of the city’s core service delivery, and to upgrade and repair infrastructure as needed to restore civic pride and safety in neighbourhoods.
The motion also asks staff to identify, as part of the 2020 budget process, what expenditures, if any, are needed to clean up the city’s streets and sidewalks, including a proposed reallocation of funds from other budget items that would not add to any increase in property taxes and fees.