New group aims to give Metrotown voice
A Metrotown resident wants to create a new residents association to advocate for people living in the neighbourhood.
Among the issues Rick McGowan aims to tackle are helping renters who are being displaced by redevelopment, fighting to mitigate or limit the loss of rental housing and pushing for space for community gardens and other public amenities.
"Most importantly, I want this grassroots group to define the issues and generate solutions," said McGowan by email from Prince George where he's visiting family.
He'd also like the group to promote a greater sense of community, by sponsoring activities like picnics and clean-ups, and to promote buying local and using alternative modes of transportation more often.
"Like any neighbourhood it deserves a collective voice on issues that impact the area directly," McGowan said. "I see decisions, good and bad, being made with little or no input from Metrotown residents. By giving people a voice, we will strengthen their connection to the neighbourhood."
While residents associations are not as common in Burnaby as in other municipalities, McGowan said he believes some neighbourhoods, such as the Heights, have benefited from such organizations in the past.
"I think the current government prefers a centralized planning approach, which may be efficient but is also often alienating."
While McGowan ran for city council with the Burnaby Greens in 2011, he said he has no plans to run for office in this November's civic election.
"I have been doing research on local government issues and publishing it through local media, or passing it on to [the Burnaby First Coalition]," he said. "My primary goal is to increase public awareness and encourage debate, both of which are lacking locally."
He said he understands the cynicism of some who may think this is a political effort on his part. But he stressed that's not the case.
"I don't want this to become partisan like some other organizations, and that is why I am making the only membership requirement be that you sleep in Metrotown. Ensuring it is non-partisan will require unprecedented openness, respect for diversity and constant vigilance."
McGowan will host the group's first meeting on Friday, Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Metrotown branch library. All Metrotown residents are invited to attend. There will be no cost for membership. Anyone wanting to get involved can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.