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:
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:
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:
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.