Excerpts from Jean Swanson’s December Newsletter
As the single COPE, Coalition of Progressive Electors, councilor inside city hall, Jean Swanson is the person low-income, marginalized, and racialized folks turn to for support.
Here is a link to 2020: A Year in Review, a list of motions passed at City Council, initiated by COPE’s Jean Swanson.
Below is an overview of what Jean and COPE accomplished from her December newsletter:
- Approved asking the province for 600 more units of modular housing
- Declared housing emergency in Vancouver
- Pushed, and still pushing for, hotel rooms for the homeless to keep them safe and alive during this pandemic
- Fought spot re-zonings for high rise towers that will gentrify neighbourhoods and that push up rents in nearby apartments without protection
- Soon after being elected, put in a motion to raise the empty homes tax to get more money to put into affordable housing. That got defeated but laid groundwork for the one that got passed for 2021 budget
- Succeeded in redirecting Empty Homes Tax dollars for more affordability in social housing
- Pushed for improved protection for people who are reno- and demo-victed
- Amendment to ask staff to investigate progressive property taxes (mansion tax) was defeated (just so you know we tried). Need more organizing and COPE councilors for this one!
- Introduced an amendment for the city to adopt — and fully fund for 6 years — a comprehensive women’s gender and inter-sectional strategy for all city departments
- In July, almost 400 people signed up to speak to my motion called, “Decriminalizing Poverty”
- The motion directed city staff to consult people with lived experience, groups representing over policed communities, and others to come up with a plan for community-led safety services, and to shift the funding from the police to those groups — much to my surprise, it passed, unanimously, showing that community pressure really does work
- Council nixed my amendment to redirect $5 million from the police budget, but they did refuse an increase to the police budget, which didn’t please the VPD — this put an end to a decade of continuous growth since the 2010 Olympics, which saw policing rapidly rise to the largest part of our city’s public spending
- Motions passed to improve access to city services for people with precarious immigration status, and to work toward free transit for youth and low-income people, but these haven’t been implemented yet
- Try to take every opportunity to ask how plans, regulations, programs, re-zonings, etc. will affect people living in poverty and people with incomes under $50K — because of that, more low-income and young people are seeing city hall as a place where they can speak and know their views will be respected
My takeaway after 2 years: getting a motion passed doesn’t mean it will happen.
We need a majority, not just one!
Councillor Jean Swanson was elected to City Council in 2018 after running with COPE (The Coalition of Progressive Electors).
Her priorities are:
Affordable housing for all
- Protecting renters by freezing rents, meaning no annual allowable rent increase for four years, and implementing vacancy control so that landlords can’t raise rents as much as they like when a tenant leaves or is forced out
- Housing every counted homeless person with modular housing, which can be fully funded by a Mansion Tax in one year
- Building more social, co-op, and city-owned rental housing for people earning under $50,000 per year, subsidized by subsequent years’ Mansion Tax revenue
Harm reduction, not criminalization
- Stopping the opioid crisis by providing clean, safe, and free drugs, and culturally appropriate treatment on demand
- Reducing the police budget and putting that money into services for low-income and criminalized people
- Building an Indigenous healing and wellness centre in the Downtown Eastside
- Creating a real Sanctuary City where no one is reported to border security and all can access city services regardless of immigration status
- Having free transit with a U-Pass for the working class, taking about 40,000 cars off the road
- Raising welfare and disability rates to $1,600 per month to end homelessness
Councillor Swanson has worked to get governments to reduce and end poverty for about 40 years, for which she was awarded the Order of Canada in 2017.
She is the author of the book Poor Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion.
For the last 12 years she volunteered at the Carnegie Community Action Project working for more and better housing, higher welfare rates, and stopping gentrification in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
In August 2018, Councillor Swanson spent four days in jail for blocking access to the Kinder Morgan pipeline.