Notes on a Rally (updated)

Even with hindsight, it couldn’t have gone better.

As Karla, one of the organizers, said to me the night before, “I feel like I’ve planned a party but don’t know if anyone is going to arrive.” That’s the nervous feeling we all had the night before. A Rally of only 10 people would have hurt.

I am glad to report the crowd that showed up was larger than I expected. If we had known, we might have made a few more signs. Lucky, many people rolled their own. 

It was also great to see a lot of unfamiliar faces, not just the regular dozen or two rabble types who show up for every transportation event in New Westminster. This is an issue that brings the breadth of opinion in New Westminster together: evidenced by the Board of Education and the District Parents Advisory Council speaking with a unified voice on the issue.

When the group arrived at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, TransLink were there, ready to receive us. I am happy to report that this was a positive event – we had a clear message for TransLink, but we were not belligerent about it, didn’t block traffic or disrupt their Open House. Instead, we encouraged everyone who showed up to enter the hall, sign in, fill out the questionnaire and add their comments to the posterboards. We also received some signatures for a set of letters addressed to the TransLink Board, summarizing the message of the Rally.

I have to give the TransLink staff at the hall credit. The communications staff took it all in stride, had a sense of humour about it, but also treated the message with respect. They also were quick to offer us coffee and cookies. The feeling over the entire event was positive, consensus building, respectful. Let’s hope the process stays this way going forward, and TransLink comes back to the Cities with a more comprehensive consultation.

TransLink brought the cookies. The little guy looked nervous, but he got one.

I am also glad that the media message was well presented. We were there to say not just that a 6-lane bridge was bad for traffic in New West (it is easy to paint New West as being “nimby” about this), but was a poor way to invest $1 Billion in transportation infrastructure. Let’s build Surrey the transit it needs.

Here was some of the regional media impact (Flash required – works best on Chrome. Our segment starts at 13:50, right after the traffic report and Ford advertisement – irony not doubt unintentional):

If I was to comment on that report, I would only correct the part where The Voice suggests TransLink’s position is that 6-lanes is “the only way to provide space for transit, trucks, bikes and pedestrians”. Notice what is missing from that list? The 95% of users (according to TransLink’s own stats) that will not be transit, trucks, bike, or pedestrians. Not sure how they can talk about lane count and not mention that 95%.

OH, and I would make myself look less of a goof, but I’m asking for miracles here.

Update: more extensive video and interviews here:
Thanks to Deepak and the NewWestTV crew!

There was other video shot. Here David Maidman for community TV is trying to
make me look less idiotic, and NewwestTV was filming.
Mostly, I want this post to be about thanking the people who made this happen. I was asked to be a spokesperson for this Rally, and many people came up and thanked me before, and congratulated me after – Which is nice, but it was not my doing! The people who should be thanked and congratulated is a long list, and this is part of a grassroots community movement that started with a couple of coffee groups in Queens Park. The same people who worked to get the word out for the City’s open house last month. There are about 20 people who took some role in making this work, and if I tried to thank them all, I would miss some. They all deserve the thanks and the congratulations.

I will point out a few real standouts, though:

Karla: for putting way, way more energy into this thing that anyone should expect from one person. You seemed to get the details that most of us forgot, you kicked the occasional butt that had to be kicked, you listened to others, and made others listen who were not always as receptive (including me!), and you never stood up to take credit for your contribution. You rock.

Karla (again), Ginny, Luc, and the Andrews for each contributing your bit to putting together a few signs: Ginny had the paper and paint, Andrew had the staplegun and staples, Luc donated the wood bits all the way from Quebec, I contributed tape and work space (Tig brought the cookies!). You all provided ideas and drawing/painting skills. The ideas and energy fermented during the 4 hours in my back yard assembling and painting was the energy that carried through the event.

People who put the word out: The local and regional media (thanks Theresa for letting us stretch your deadline!), purveyors of the #newwest and #PattulloBridge hashtags, the Residents associations, School Board, DPACs, City Council, 10thtotheFraser, those who promoted the event at the Farmers Market, and everyone who just mentioned the event to a neighbour or friend. Andthanks to Marcel for most of the photos here, I was too busy flapping my jaw to take any.

To Steve and the other folks I talked to from the other side of the Fraser, I will keep reminding people over here that your voices are as important in this as New West’s, and I hope this is the start of a long, and productive collaboration.

And finally, the 100+ people who showed up, thanks for taking time from your busy lives on a Saturday morning, for keeping things cool and respectful, for providing your comments to TransLink, and for not littering up the Park and road! I’m proud to be living in a community where the people take part in events like this, and care about its future. Here are some pics of the comments you left on the posterboards, some intended for sticky comments, and some not so much (click on them to zoom in). Good work everyone. 

And you know what? Barring remarkable news, this is going to be my last Pattullo post for a while. TransLink: the ball is in your court. Have a good summer, hope we can talk in the fall.

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