Hated by greens, loved by industry: Port authority to join pro-TransLink tax camp

TransLink nixed light upgrade at violent Edmonds bus loop

The Yes to Better Transit and Transportation campaign bus is about to get congested and, I predict, cranky.

I can exclusively tell you that Port Metro Vancouver will soon be announced as a member of the coalition of cheerleaders for the 0.5% TransLink sales tax. The federal Crown corporation claims 57,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Lower Mainland and its users move cargo among terminals via TransLink’s major roads network. The alliance shouldn’t be a big surprise. PMV’s CEO Robin Silvester chairs the policy committee for the Vancouver Board of Trade, whose CEO Iain Black is a co-chair of the Yes to Better Transit and Transportation campaign in the March 16-May 29 mail-in plebiscite.

Port's Yes man Dekovic
Port’s Yes man Dekovic

Another co-chair of Yes to Better Transit and Transportation is Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. Area Director for Unifor, the union that represents bus drivers. It also represents container truckers who are battling for fair treatment from PMV. Let’s just say that the truckers McGarrigle represents and PMV poobah Silvester do not get together for kum-ba-yah sing-alongs.

One of many supporters of Better Transit is Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, perhaps the most-vocal critic of PMV in recent years. VTACC locked horns with PMV over the Fraser Surrey Docks coal terminal. In September 2013, VTACC revealed PMV documents that pointed to “an inappropriate relationship” between the port authority and National Public Relations, the public relations company for the Coal Alliance.

Here’s an excerpt from a Sept. 24, 2013 VTACC news release:

“A Port Authority that is required to fully fund its operations through leases and user fees cannot be expected to make impartial regulatory decisions with respect to economic developments in the port,” said UBC professor of political science and VTACC volunteer director Kathryn Harrison. “How can the public trust the Port to protect health and the environment if they have a conflict of interest based on their reliance on revenue from those same industries?”

Tourism Richmond and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce are both Yes supporters, but their allies at the business-and-transit friendly Richmond city council under Mayor Malcolm Brodie voted unanimously against PMV’s 20-year land use plan. PMV wants 930 hectares around the region for expansion. Said Coun. Carol Day: “They’re the biggest threat to farmland, not just in Richmond, but everywhere else.”

The strange bedfellows angle only gets stranger.

While Prime Minster Stephen Harper claims to be sticking to the sidelines during the plebiscite, one of the most important arms of the federal government on the West Coast and a prominent Tory campaign veteran are wading into the fray.

PMV is seconding its in-house lobbyist Marko Dekovic to work on the Yes campaign. Dekovic is a seasoned backroom get-out-the-vote strategist for the federal Conservatives, BC Liberals and Vancouver Non-Partisan Association. He was once an aide to Federal Trade Minister David Emerson and worked on the unsuccessful BC Liberal leadership campaign for ex-B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon.

Murder by the SkyTrain: Would better lighting have saved a life?

North Vancouver’s James Enright, 27, was murdered early Feb. 15 at Edmonds SkyTrain station in Burnaby. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to help someone, when he was fatally stabbed. Police are seeking tips to find the perpetrator.

A Reddit user under the handle “Stevedores Unite” claimed in a message posted on the social media site to have been a longtime friend of Enright’s.

“He was known to police but this was not a targeted killing. He was protecting a girl from being attacked by a drunk who was involve din another altercation. He was stabbed while his back was turned by this assailants (sic) friend. He died in defense of someone else.”

Statistics compiled by Transit Police for 2009 showed Edmonds was the sixth most-violent SkyTrain station with reports of 14 assaults, four weapons possession incidents, and two robberies.

Last September, TransLink issued a request for proposals to replace the lighting at the Edmonds bus loop. Fitterer Electric Ltd. and Trans-Western Electric Ltd. were the only companies to respond, but the tender was cancelled on Oct. 17 because of “staff capacity,” according to TransLink spokeswoman Cheryl Ziola.

“They were managing multiple projects at that time and weren’t able to take on one more,” Ziola told me.

Edmonds was identified during a TransLink audit of lighting at all bus loops and exchanges “as needing some improvements in lighting quality for the comfort and safety of our passengers,” she said.

According to a study from the urban planning department of the University of Cailfornia Los Angeles, “Protecting Against Transit Crime: The Importance of the Built Environment,” station and parking lot design that eliminates places to hide and increases visibility “through design and adequate lighting can create ‘defensible space’, a station environment whose physical attributes contribute to its better security.”

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