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Last fall, when Gregor Robertson declared his intention to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world, it sounded like something from Chapter 1 of Campaigning for Dummies: tell ’em what they want to hear. This month marks the anniversary of his election (Endmark, page 98), and Robertson has already shown that his platform was more than just a slick pastiche of promises. Sure, some initiatives smack of PR: Gregor in the community garden on a former patch of City Hall lawn; Gregor zipping across the Burrard Bridge in the dedicated bike lane. But perception is everything in politics, and the Robertson team knows that a meaningfully green city starts with a city that has declared and branded itself as green.
Look past the photo ops and you’ll find real substance. As Frances Bula makes clear (“Strong Medicine,” page 35), the hiring of Dr. Penny Ballem grew out of Robertson’s need for a city manager able to interpret and implement the Vision team’s agenda with careful, confident haste. The recruiting of Sadhu Johnston as deputy city manager underscores that agenda. Johnston (Q & A, page 28) made a name for himself spearheading Mayor Richard Daley’s remarkable greening of Chicago, and the Vision team expects him to make a similar contribution here.
Deep change typically starts at the margins and, over time, works its way toward the centre. (We would not have universal Medicare in this country if not for a radical Baptist minister turned politician named Tommy Douglas who introduced it in Saskatchewan almost half a century ago.) James Glave’s profile of Tzeporah Berman (“Green Light,” page 56) shows the process at work. In 1992, as a 20-something activist, Berman led spirited protests against logging practices at Clayoquot Sound, north of Tofino. She’s now pushing a more practical green agenda that has alienated radical activists but gained such broad endorsement she’s been called “the next David Suzuki.” These days she and her family are preparing to move from Quadra Island to Vancouver, following in the footsteps of another one-time fringe thinker turned mainstream green light—Gregor Robertson.