Newsmaker of the Year

The New Westminster News Leader recently announced their Newsmaker of the Year as Pilothouse, a New Westminster based real estate developer responsible for, among other things, the 8 West project at 21 Eighth Ave, and the project at 258 Sixth Street that sold out in a ridiculous 42 minutes.

I had a brief conversation on Twitter with Chris Bryan after their issue came out with the announcement, and he said they chose Pilothouse as a symbol of a shift of perception by outsiders.

To me, however, a “newsmaker” is someone or something that gets everyone talking, creates a degree of controversy, and is found not just in the local biweekly papers, but also is heard around water coolers and at coffee shops, read on blogs, and talked about over the fence with neighbours. A “newsmaker” is more than a symbol – they’re something tangible and impactive, and don’t go away quietly. Newsmakers are catalysts. I also like to think that the top newsmaker in a community is something or someone that brought people together, not divided them.

With that in mind, here’s my picks for Newsmaker of the Year, plus two Honourable Mentions.

Newsmaker of the Year:

United Boulevard Extension

Never have I seen an issue be more hotly discussed in coffee shops, in the letters to the editor, at residents’ association meetings, at preschool, at work… you name it. The UBE had everyone talking, and it was something to behold that as a community, we sent a resounding loud messages to Translink that NO, New West did NOT want this, thank you very much, and building it just “because the funding was there” wasn’t good enough. I am so pleased at how well council listened to the residents, talked about it, and thought about their unified and firm response. I am filled with pride at how the UBE changed the way some people see transportation issues in the community, and that, for the most part, the discourse was respectful and pleasant. The UBE wasn’t just a symbol – it called people to action. They attended meetings, wrote letters to government and the media, and they talked neighbour to neighbour about how this was going to change our community in the long run. It is because of this unifying call-to-action that the United Boulevard Extension is my pick for the Newsmaker of 2011 in New Westminster.

Honourable Mention # 1:

The Westminster Pier Park

Like the UBE, the Pier Park provided a lot of conversation. But unlike the UBE which brought most of us together, the Pier Park became (and still is) a community divider. With headlines screeching about Toxic Blobs, and a continual steady stream of letters to the editor, you either love the idea of taking an old brownfield, adding in some provincial, federal, and municipal dollars, and reclaiming it as a community park, or you think it is wasteful, pointless, and if some of the claims made this past year are to be believed, downright dangerous. The Pier Park also became an election talking point in the mayoral race, and it was dubbed (maliciously or amicably, depending upon who was doing the dubbing) “Wayne’s Wharf”. The Pier Park still hasn’t gone away, especially now as we are nearly completion of this park and I expect things will heat up once more as that day comes. A candidate for Newsmaker 2012, perhaps?

Honourable Mention # 2:

The James Crosty Election Machine

I think James Crosty is an energetic and dedicated volunteer for the issues and groups he supports. I like James and I applaud anyone who dedicates their personal time to serve in their community. But I didn’t agree with Crosty’s tactics in the recent election. I thought he was negative most of the time and evasive the rest, and I didn’t like the choices he made to market himself. But despite not liking how he ran his campaign, I think his campaign was the most spirited of any mayoral candidate, and he tried the hardest of all the candidates combined – mayoral, council, and trustee. He was the first out of the gates to seek media attention with his antics, he continuously tweeted and inserted himself into every conversation and media outlet he could, and he steadily and constantly appeared in every issue of the local papers for months. He was catalytic. When his bid to run the city was denied, he closed up the election machine (his website has been almost completely removed, and a plain message of thanks and congratulations put up in its place) and Crosty, in essence, has gone dark. Support him or reject him, the James Crosty Election Machine was an all-or-nothing newsmaker in our city in 2011.

Looking to the future

There are so many issues we face in our city, that the task of choosing a newsmaker isn’t easy. Hume Park Elementary, the inactivity on the construction of the new schools, whatever Translink is going to propose to replace the UBE, trucks on Front Street, traffic, the continued stranger danger occurences… the list can be endless.

I’d like to invite anyone interested in joining me 11.5 months from now at a local pub to weigh in and debate who Tenth to the Fraser should crown as the Newsmaker of the Year for 2012. We’ll announce details at the end of November.



10 Replies to “Newsmaker of the Year”

  1. I think there should be one more (combined) honorable mention-Brianna, Jen, Tej and all of your combined projects this year. Seriously, You've all been the catalyst for a whole new perspective on New Westminster that can be understood, appreciated and enjoyed by a range of people within our city who will help it emerge in a new way. Congratulations!

  2. Third HM coud have gone to the Board of Education. Between the Watt vs. O'Connor antics, the conflicts of interests and funny money legal opinions, the bitter letters and angry rebuttals, the accusations and mud slinging, then two very promising rookies finish the election in first and second place, the Board did everything this year except break ground on a new school….

  3. A well-written, thoughtful analysis, Jen. And I don't quibble with your choices at all. As I mentioned on Twitter, at the NewsLeader we were searching for something that symbolized a shift that seemed to be going on. By your definition of Newsmaker your choices are better for sure, and they certainly were debated in our newsroom. In the spirit of improving our piece, we could have termed it "2011 Pioneer of the Year" or something like that, and talked about how Pilothouse may be a prime example of a business that is not only New West based, but also sees the Royal City as a great city to invest in. We could have sought other examples and looked at whether this is a trend that is likely to continue.
    I know we got a few people shaking their heads, but it generated some discussion, which is always worthwhile, IMHO.
    —Chris Bryan, NewsLeader Editor

  4. Pilothouse, are those the condos selling 2 bedroom condos at 550 square feet? I like development, but these shoe-boxes are getting ridiculous.

  5. Great analysis Jen.

    Looking to the future, I would add the issue of amalgamation. It may not be a hot topic for 2012, but will certainly be an issue for the 2014 municipal election.

    Now, I'm not suggesting that the Cities of New Westminster and Burnaby merge completely; however, it may be economically feasible for, say, their garbage/recycling departments to join together. After all, it all ends up in the same place.

    1. Interesting idea! I am on the anti-amalgamation fence with my initial learnings and knowledge, but I'd sure like to learn more. Care to write a piece on 10th?

      1. Interesting picks for Newsmaker of the Year and commentary on the UBE extension. To me, I think that Translink acceded to the wishes of the vocal people, which I suppose is a good thing from a certain perspective. But what those who opposed the UBE don't seem to understand is that saying no to any improvements at all (which is what alot of people in the McBride Sapperton corridor who are most vocal constantly are saying) is that the traffic is still going to be there and continue to build. Doing nothing only exacerbates the problem. And its not just the truck traffic either, its all traffic. I'm currently working on my own "piece" for TTTF where I will talk in more detail about this concept.

        1. No Dave. When the road is full the road is full. The only way to increase traffic is to open up more road space (ie. UBE). People make choice around how they know the road to be, and they will choose not to travel, take another route, another mode (of which there are many options) if a route is too congested.

          Kevin Falcon was predicting hockey stick grown on Hwy 1 to justify his Gateway project, but since 2003 traffic is flat or even down on that route. The traffic on Hwy 1 is at an equilibrium and only adding more lanes will make overall traffic volumes go up. Congestion is an effective cap on traffic volumes. The only thing else that is more effective is tolling… We will soon see that impact in New Westminster when the tolled Port Mann opens up… the Pattullo will be rush hour all day long…

  6. The Crosty election Machine. (aka his run for Mayor of Wikiland with his plagerizing of wikipedia in answers to questions on sustainability) Note: You know I will never, ever let that one go unnoticed now or in the future. My only comment on that one, is much like the great space junk debate, James answered the question entirely. James' campaign was like a white hot super nova. It burned hot, it burned bright and at the end of the day it burned out. It burned hot due to his at times caustic nature towards not only his opponents but also towards average people asking him difficult questions (or like I said before having to resort to plaguerizing wikipedia for his position on sustainability) it burned bright because of the bombast and excessive glowing and in your face ness of his campaign. And at the end of the day, after he as absolutely drubbed at the polls… it burned out. So much for James Crosty, Citizen Activist. I suppose its now James Crosty, Citizen Incognito.


  7. Bias alert: my wife Lorraine works for Pilothouse! 🙂

    In defence of Chris's choice, to me, the phrase "news maker" suggests a person or group of people, not an abstraction like a project, cause or product. Time Magazine went off track I think when it named "The Internet" its person of the year in 2006. That was weird. It would have been better if Time went with "The Blogger" in 2006 because they are the ones actually changing things. This year they went with "The Protester," which is also an abstraction, but at least it's about people.

    I'm sorry to say the extension of a road does not make news. It's the reaction and resistance that made the news. Activists took a non-story and made it a story. I'm not so sure how mainstream those activist are, or if they even represent more than a small minority of residents. However, maybe instead of the UBE the real news maker here is "The Protester." Someone who is against something and mobilizes to stop that thing.

    Pilothouse is a group of people who by their efforts and vision are causing news to happen in a positive way. If the recognition in the NewsLeader inspires other local businesses to achieve great things, wouldn't that be fantastic?
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