Monday, April 28, 2008

Transit Pandering Or Journalistic Favoritism?

This Editor has had enough of what one has to wonder is perhaps just obvious political posturing and/or misdirection being thrown around by those who are suddenly transit advocates and wannabee transit heros!

It’s bad enough that Langley Township has had a Mayor who sat on Translink’s Board until it was dissolved this year (and who was obviously there when Translink came out with its grand plan to not even look at rapid transit south of the Fraser until after 2031) and who only now is saying (now that he’s no longer on the Board) the sooner we get rapid transit to Langley the better. How opportune! Let me hazard a wild guess here – there’s a municipal election this year so someone (not mentioning any specific names) better get with the public program if they hope to get re-elected.

However, reading the Langley Advance musings and reporting of reporter Mathew Claxton in last Friday’s paper (April 25, 2008) just finally took me over the top.

How in heaven’s name is it possible that rookie Langley Township Councillor Jordan Bateman has now come to be described by Mr. Claxton as: “a light rail advocate on the council”? How is it that Cllr. Bateman is now the quoted “go to” person by this particular reporter and his paper on every transportation issue?

What about Councillor Bob Long, who first created and championed the Langley Transportation Committee? Cllr. Long’s committee recommended improved transportation, increased transit and bike lanes in Langley? Why has Cllr. Long, with his extensive committee expertise and research in this area been conveniently overlooked by the Langley Advance?

Why is a rookie Councillor’s opinion on transportation in Langley more important than that of an experienced Councillor who has served three terms? (And, by the way, the experienced Councillor is very well regarded by his Metro-Vancouver peers. Councillor Long is Chair of the Metro-Vancouver Labour Relations Committee, President of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, member of the Executive of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and past Board Member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities). Does Cllr. Bateman even bother to attend any of these?

One has to ask: Is it perhaps just because rookie Cllr. Bateman used to be a reporter at the Advance? Are there generic media releases churning out from a generic website such as ‘Get Moving BC’ which makes a local reporter’s job easier? Or is it just pure and simply strategic marketing and product positioning of the political kind (especially now that we’re in an election year)?

Look at all of the facts very closely, folks. Just look back at our previous postings in LFP that asked some tough and still unanswered questions about the real background and backing of the so-called “grass roots” Get Moving BC transportation website, which, by the way, just happens to involve a certain rookie Langley Township Councillor!

This Editor has watched with much amusement how the Langley Advance has been steadily promoting its former reporter. Open any Langley Advance edition and you can’t miss his name in at least one article, if not more. Now apparently, the Langley Advance believes that Councillor Bateman’s transportation advocate position is more important than Councillor Bob Long’s and is now consistently promoting Cllr. Bateman’s attempt to be the local transportation guru.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Well, remember Bateman’s much reported on suggestion of running LRT up 200th Street and how he would be bringing this idea to Council. He never brought it to Council to vote on. But he did get good local press coverage out of it. And just how valid is that? If you say you’re going to do something, and you get the local media to cover it, don’t you think you should at least bring the idea forward to be voted on? Or is this all just about getting media coverage?

Then there was Cllr. Bateman’s whole idea about protecting children from grow-op abuses and how this idea of his was going to go to Council. Again, to our knowledge, he never brought it to Council to vote on. However, it sure generated a lot of local and regional press coverage, especially for something that never happened.

Now, Cllr. Bateman is apparently promoting a circle transit route around Langley. Let’s place a bet – will this too never make it to the Council table because all it was ever intended to do was get media coverage in time for the next election? (Bet’s on that once Cllr. Bateman reads this, and I sure he will, will there will be a flurry of notices of motion to Council to cover gaffs in this regard? Just pay attention to the dates.)

Meanwhile well meaning real “grass roots” groups like the Valley Transportation Advisory Committee (VALTAC) are just trying to get acknowledgement and a single, reasonable and certainly not off the wall east – west route LRT rail system in.

VALTAC is a true “grass roots” transportation advocate group which was born and bred in Langley in 2006. Since then, it has grown and now serves all of the Fraser Valley communities fighting for rapid transit solutions. It is not a fictional or a fake fa├žade so-called grass roots group.

VALTAC does not hide behind a generic website. It consists of many well-informed, well-recognized and well-meaning community residents including Sonya Patterson, a local School Trustee, Roy Mufford, a local historian and realtor, Terry Lyster, former Director of Township Planning, Eric Bysouth, a community activist, and Bob Epsin, member of the Langley Water Management Resources Advisory Group, to name a few.

For the past three years, VALTAC has held public information and education sessions with expert transportation guest speakers. Their most recent education session was this past Saturday (April 26, 2008) at Township Hall, which by the way, Cllr. Bateman did not bother to attend.

VALTAC’s education sessions have been well-attended by the public. VALTAC has also gone out into the community at most local and regional community events. They have set up tents and administered questionnaires to the public. They are a hard-working and sincere volunteer presence in our community. Now, have you seen Get Moving BC do anything similar? Have you even seen Get Moving BC? (Maybe there’s a reason for this).

VALTAC’s idea of a simple east/west route people rail transit solution has been embraced and endorsed by all those they have talked to at their many public functions. People like the idea of convenient and accessible public transit that will take them throughout the South Fraser and Fraser Valley.

Why can’t this idea be accepted and embraced by politicians? Why are some rookie councilors trying to muddy the waters by going off on tangents which they talk about but don't deliver on (like 200 Street rapid transit)?

Why muddy the waters indeed?

A skeptical person could wonder whether Cllr. Bateman (who is a very active Provincial Liberal as VP of Rich Coleman’s Fort Langley-Aldergrove constituency) is helping the provincial Liberal cause by becoming the Langley transportation ‘media darling’ advocate complete with a so-called grass roots website? Doesn’t his contrary promotion of alternate rail/transit routes (i.e. 200 St. only to a Langley circle transit route) just help confuse and muddy enough the transportation priorities of Langley and the South Fraser?

Also curiously, why is it that most motions made by Councillor Richter to support VALTAC and to seek its input on transportation issues over the last 3 years were not supported by Cllr Bateman? This seems very strange especially if Cllr. Bateman was really serious about improving access to improved public transit in Langley.

You decide what’s really going on here. But in this Editor’s opinion, if we don’t rally behind VALTAC nothing will happen and your alternatives will be $2.00/litre for gas or crappy public transit south of the Fraser.

My advice to the local media: Forget about your advertising budgets and your alumni. Your job is to inform the public in a real and meaningful way about what is going on this community. You should not play political favourites.

Look at the actual history, not what has been recreated for your consumption by those who know how to play you.

Specifically, look to the real volunteer community groups, like VALTAC, who are trying to set the parameters for a better life for the next generation. Honor their work, their vision and their commitment to what’s best for this community in the long run.

They are what Langley has always been about.

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