NPA City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung calls on City to get back to basics and prioritize sidewalks, streets, and public realm maintenance and cleanliness

“Residents and businesses in Vancouver are dismayed that while the taxes and fees levied by the City of Vancouver constantly go up, core services seem to be diminishing and the city appears dirty and neglected in terms of basic maintenance and commonly accepted standards of cleanliness.”

– Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung


September 30, 2019, Vancouver, B.C. – NPA City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung is calling on the City of Vancouver to get back to basics and elevate the priority given to maintenance and cleanliness of sidewalks, streets, and the public realm. In a motion coming before Council this week, Councillor Kirby-Yung points to the frequent comments she hears from people who live and work in the city, as well as visitors, regarding the significant decline in the physical state and cleanliness of the city seen in recent years. 

Examples cited by Councillor Kirby-Yung in her motion include streets with potholes, overgrown street medians, and neglected sidewalks that represent a variety of safety hazards for everyone, particularly seniors and people with disabilities, as well as the increased amount of litter on sidewalks, overflowing garbage cans, and discarded food items that attract insects and other pests. All of these, she says, have resulted in a “diminishment of basic civic pride and confidence” in the day-to-day management of core City services.

“Residents and businesses in Vancouver are dismayed that while the taxes and fees levied by the City of Vancouver constantly go up, core services seem to be diminishing and the city appears dirty and neglected in terms of basic maintenance and commonly accepted standards of cleanliness,” said Councillor Kirby-Yung. “That’s why I’m calling on Vancouver City Council to direct staff to elevate the priority given to the maintenance of the city’s roads, street medians, and sidewalks, and that a key principle in the preparation of the City’s 2020 Budget should be an emphasis on getting back to basics.” 

Councillor Kirby-Yung is also asking for staff to bring forward information, as part of the 2020 Budget process, regarding the expenditures that would be required to achieve the standard of maintenance and cleanliness set out in her motion. Specifically, she is asking staff to present proposals for reallocating funds from other budget items of lesser public impact, which need not be restricted to reallocations from within the streets and sanitation portion of the City’s budget. Her expectation is that a “back to basics” approach that re-emphasizes and elevates public realm maintenance and cleanliness in the City’s Budget should look at every opportunity within the Budget, and the City’s spending, and not come at the expense of adding to the existing tax load imposed on taxpayers.

As a former Park Board Commissioner and Board Chair, Councillor Kirby-Yung says she is also concerned about the increasing difficulty the Park Board has had in physically accessing the street medians the Park Board maintains for the City under a contract service arrangement. One prominent example is Knight Street where she says the City has been reluctant to shut down a traffic lane to allow for safe access to the median so that Park Board staff can do proper maintenance. Accordingly, her motion directs staff to report back prior to the presentation of the 2020 Proposed Budget with an update on “any and all impediments that may exist for the Park Board as it relates to its ability to fulfill the contracted maintenance of the city’s street medians, including recommendations for how these impediments can be overcome in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

The City of Vancouver website prominently lists “Improved street cleaning, including more litter and recycling receptacles” as being among the many benefits derived from the City’s annual budget – stating that the benefits from taxes and fees paid to the City accrue “in your home, on your street, in your community, and throughout your city.”

A complete copy of Councillor Kirby-Yung’s motion is available on the City’s website at the following link: https://council.vancouver.ca/20191001/documents/motionb5.pdf

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