Open email to Cllr De Genova on bike licensing… and public engagement

I wrote this email to Cllr Melissa DeGenova just now, in response to a Twitter conversation I attempted to have with her (full conversation starts after the email).

[UPDATE: Response is also below]


I know this will fall on disinterested ears, but I’m writing to say I’m disappointed.

I’m disappointed in your motion on bike licensing, which seems to serve no purpose other than to villainize one groups of road users – to suggest that people who ride bicycles are somehow to blame for the many problems experienced on our roads.  The city’s own data shows that that’s not true.  Even if it were, riling people up against any group like this only makes our roads more dangerous. I regularly have my life threatened on the roads while I am following the law and others are not. A lot of road users (drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians) in this city have overdeveloped senses of entitlement on our streets – pinpointing any one group as being responsible for the problem only enhances the entitlement of the others, and makes our street environment even more toxic than it is now.  You know that staff will come back and tell you of the futility and uselessness of bicycle licensing, because it’s already been investigated in countless other places, and been a massive failure every time it’s been tried.  This motion waste’s staff time and city money – something I thought your party was supposed to be against.

But I’m also disappointed that, as someone who is supposed to represent people in this city, you are willfully ignoring the words put in front of you by residents.  The people at @Modacity clearly presented what they heard, from a reliable source.  While you have every right to disagree with the statement, and while I fully believe you that you were misquoted by the officer they met, pretending that somehow that is more important than your motion is disrespectful to both them and, after I joined the conversation, me.  Your responses seemed to take us all for fools who could be led into believing the real victim here was somehow you, for being misquoted once, while the very real impact of your motion in council is irrelevant.

Finally, I’m disappointed that you’re unwilling to have this discussion in public, as you were clearly avoiding tweets on the topic, and instead attempted to divert me into a private offline conversation.  Given the nature of your responses, I don’t expect a meeting with you would be any more fruitful, as it’s very clear that as much as you say you are interested in hearing from residents, you are not actually listening. It is also clear to me that, despite your role as a political representative, you have no interest in actually engaging in discussion with constituents – doubly disappointing, since that is such a large part of your role in political office.

To be honest, before this encounter I knew very little about you, other than that you were an NPA councillor.  I had very low expectations.  Somehow, your responses to me, and the motion you’ve put forward that started all this, has managed to disappoint me despite those low expectations.

So, no, I will not meet with you to discuss this matter, because I think I’ve made it very clear that I think it’s inappropriate and that the intention behind it is only to rile people up.  I think that’s a horrible way to use your office, and I sincerely hope you withdraw the motion and stop wasting staff’s time.

Neal Jennings

The original thread:

This one came *after* I emailed her:


First, the councillor continued her persecution-complex responses on Twitter. She accused me of lying about her intentions, which became increasingly clear through the discussion. She then denied it when I expressed my unhappiness with being called a liar.

And then, an email response.  She responded in-line which is hard to reproduce in text, so I’m screen-capping. Click the images for full detail.



It became clear late in the Twitter conversation that Cllr De Genova and I are operating from different paradigms. In my paradigm it is the role of councillors (like, the whole point of the job) to at least listen to constituents – even if they don’t agree.  In hers it seems her only role is to treat those who oppose her as business competitors trying to steal business from her.  So I’m done with responding directly to her, but I will take issue with three major things in her email:

First, I have no reason to believe the people at Modacity would lie about what they were told by an officer. It’s bizarre that she would assume they would make that up (to what end??).

Second, her statement of “your tweets at me are very political” as if it were somehow inappropriate is shocking to me.  She’s a politician, and is somehow offended by … politics? That paragraph goes on to accuse me of holding her to a different standard than that to which I hold other councillors, specifically Vision Vancouver councillors.  I have no connections to Vision Vancouver – I don’t even like the party, and while I voted for some of their people, I was very turned off by them in the last election – I voted for only three of their eight candidates.

Finally, her point that withdrawing her motion would be anti-democratic and impeding free speech. She’s free to withdraw or not – that’s her choice.  If she withdrew, it would not be because my voice was somehow more important than anyone else’s, but because it was the right thing to do. But she has not articulated a good reason for presenting the motion at all, and in that absence I can only assume the motion is mean-spirited. All the online commentary surrounding this topic is full of anti-cycling and anti-car rhetoric. The only reason I can see for putting forward this proposal, and for wasting staff time and taxpayer dollars on this study, is to stir up controversy and get support for her party. This comes at the cost of further worsening our city’s road culture. More angry people on the roads, blaming more people for their choice of travel mode, is the last thing this city needs.

I like one thing that she said though: “Perhaps staff will come back to council after meeting with stakeholders and advise council that this is not worth pursuing. It that is indeed the case, I will be able to relay that information to the hundreds of people who e-mail, call and approach me regarding this issue.”  Given that she has ignored the evidence that is already there, I look forward to holding her to the promise to broadcast the message widely.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by alexwarrior1 on 2015/10/27 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for the letter Neal, it reflects very well my thoughts as well.


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