Hey, big spender – City of Vancouver asks for input on $100,000 earmarked for West End

Emily Vance / February 4, 2019

The committee has one year to decide how to spend the $100,000 – to ensure residents don’t have to wait long to see the parking strategy’s impact on the community.
(Kareem Gouda / BCIT News)

If you’ve ever been unsatisfied with how public money is spent – you may have an opportunity to make your ideas heard.

The City of Vancouver is putting out a call for ideas on how to spend $100,000 on community initiatives in the West End – part of the city’s first pilot of participatory budgeting. If you live, work, or have a vested interest in the West End, the We Choo$e Community Assembly of volunteers wants to hear your ideas on how to put this revenue to work.

Participatory budgeting is a process in which citizens work in conjunction with local government to decide how funds are spent. The City of Vancouver says this process will increase civic involvement by creating opportunities for the community to come together to discuss local needs, and practice “empowered decision-making.”

The program takes revenue collected from permit parking fees as part of the West End Parking Strategy, which was implemented in 2017. Part of this strategy was the promise by Vancouver’s previous City Council that the money received would go directly back into the community. Thus, Vancouver’s first experiment with participatory budgeting was born.

The Community Assembly was put together in the summer of 2018, as part of the city’s community outreach on the project. Now, the program is in its idea collecting phase. The funding will be split into two or more projects, valued from $10,000 – $50,000.

Anthony Kupferschmidt is the Executive Director of the West End Seniors’ Network, and a volunteer with the We Choo$e Community Assembly. He says that they are looking for individuals who are willing to lend their time and ideas to the team.

On the minds of many residents was the fate of St Paul’s hospital, with one resident suggesting a community-led communication team to keep residents up to date with the hospital. For some, it’s a community hub. (Kareem Gouda / BCIT News)

A group shot of the We Choo$e Community Assembly, with Anthony Kupferschmidt in the middle. Anyone interested in being part of the community-led team can contact public.engagement@vancouver.ca. (Kareem Gouda / BCIT News)

“We’re working to recruit volunteers, who live or work or feel this neighborhood is very important to then, to help shape those ideas into viable projects. Volunteers and our committee will be working with various staff from the city of Vancouver … to explore what we can actually do. We’ll take the ideas and try and work them into viable projects.” – Anthony Kupferschmidt, West End Seniors’ Network

Kupferschmidt says that the group is looking for ideas that require a one-time expense, and not much upkeep. He lists things like community gardens, improved lighting, and sidewalks. Although he hopes the funding will be ongoing, it’s not for certain, so the projects they invest in must be relatively low-maintenance.

A lot of the process involves finding out what matters to residents, and coming up with concrete ways to implement change. The ideas can start out as big picture thoughts, and develop into projects that are more specific and achievable within the program’s budget.

“We’ve heard from a lot of members of the community who are concerned about homeless individuals living in the neighbourhood, and how to better support them. With $100,000 we are certainly not going to solve the issue of homeless in the community, but we may be able to fund projects that will support homeless individuals. So, that might be one example of how we want to hear the ideas, and then get creative about how we can shape them into something that will have that impact in the community.” – Anthony Kupferschmidt, West End Seniors’ Network

Theresa Marion has been a resident of the West End for 25 years. She’s full of ideas for her community. Some of them include a playground underneath the Burrard bridge, a workout circuit for adults, a stage structure for public performance, and bus shelter designs that incorporate public art. Already, it seems that the city’s initiative is off to a good start, with a strong sense of community permeating Saturday’s meeting, and inspiring residents to take ownership of their space.

“To me, the West End feels like a big small town. When I walk around the West End, I’m always meeting people that I know. It feels very warm and inviting and people are very friendly.” – Theresa Marion, West End resident

After gathering ideas from the community, the team will move towards proposal development, with the timeline for that slated in March – April. After that, they will move to vote on proposals in May – June.

For anyone looking to get involved, another community assembly will take place on this Thursday, February 7th, from 6pm – 8pm, at the Dr Peter Centre at 1110 Comox St in Vancouver.

With files from Kareem Gouda.