Pubdate: Fri, 04 Nov 2005
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2005, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Rod Mickleburgh


Ah, Mayor Larry. The city of Vancouver is going to miss the irascible 
but fun-loving cop-turned-coroner-turned-mayor-turned-senator. Can 
anyone in Canada match his varied prospectus? This side of Paul 
Hellyer, that is.

The mark of a good mayor is not just the number of dull but important 
bylaws and zoning amendments passed under his or her watch. It's 
really whether the city feels good about itself. That does not mean a 
bevy of bread and circuses and big developments, but a sense that 
serious social issues are being tackled, too.

Citizens don't like it when festering social sores are left 
unattended, as the plight of the drug-ravaged Downtown Eastside was 
during a succession of NPA-dominated city councils. Their unhappiness 
was a major reason why Vancouver voters rose up and tossed out the 
NPA in 2002, electing rookie Larry Campbell as mayor and a host of 
other COPE candidates to council, school board and the park board.

There is little doubt, during Mr. Campbell's three-year term, that 
Vancouver began to develop a "feel good" sense of itself that had 
been missing for some time. Good mayors do that.

Mr. Campbell was not perfect on every issue, particularly police 
misconduct. His tongue sometimes got the better of him. He allowed 
himself to get bugged by things a little too easily.

But the city liked having him as mayor, and things happened. No one 
suggests any more that Vancouver is a "no fun" city, or that the 
perils of the poor are ignored.

In an interview this week, just before heading home with what seemed 
to be the same flu bug that felled his hoped-for successor Jim Green, 
Mr. Campbell looked back on his three years as mayor. As always, he 
was not shy with his views.

Those who complain that nothing has changed on the Downtown Eastside 
don't know what they're talking about, the mayor said.

"It absolutely has changed. . . . We brought in enforcement and we 
brought in a safe injection site.

"Last year, when I went down to the Carnegie Centre [at the corner of 
Main Street and Hastings Street]," Mr. Campbell said, "at least six 
women came up to me and thanked us for changing the Downtown Eastside 
so they could leave their rooms and go to the Carnegie. That's a fact."

He added: "Is it perfect? It isn't even close to perfect. But in 
comparison to where it was when I took over from the NPA, with a 
squat going on at Woodward's on one end and the Carnegie Centre 
inundated with drug dealers at the other end, it's way different."

Amid repeated lashings out at NPA mayoral candidate Sam Sullivan, the 
mayor also took a shot at acerbic COPE councillor Tim Louis.

"When you have a poisoned atmosphere with someone like that in the 
middle of your caucus, it's very difficult," he said. "Life's too 
short to hang out with Councillor Louis."

Regarding his occasional outbursts at critics and (gasp) the media, 
Mr. Campbell said: "I have no regrets. I'm not a punching bag for any 
organization. I've always considered the media as friends. But when 
they get stupid, I get stupid.

"Is it how I would like to be? No, but that's the way I am."

On why he didn't try to change his confrontational nature: "Because 
I'm 57 years old and I'm too old to change. If I was so awful, how 
come I was over 70 per cent in the polls?

"People wanted honesty, and, you know what, that's what I do."

Will we still have Larry Campbell to kick around, with his main 
platform far away in the soporific Senate chambers of Ottawa? Apparently, yes.

"You just hang on, amigo," he told this reporter. "You haven't heard 
the last of me by a long shot."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman