Does Vancouver need a Park Board?

The annual 4/20 Farmers’ Market will be held at Sunset Beach again this year, despite opposition from the Parks Board who voted 4-3 against issuing a permit to the organizers.

The three NPA and one Green Party commissioners who voted against issuing a permit cited a number of reasons for their decision.

Number one was garbage, accusing the 4/20 organizers of failing to clean up after themselves after last year’s event. Of course, as was pointed out by many, issuing a permit for the celebration would help offset the costs of clean-up and law enforcement. Last year, 4/20 at Sunset Beach cost taxpayers an estimated $155,000 dollars, close to the costs of the recent protest at the Trump Tower.

Reason number two stemmed from the fact that tourists on the Seawall might stumble across the farmers’ market. Never mind that a) Vancouver is known for its cannabis culture and b) they’re going to stumble across it anyway so the board might as well issue a permit and offset some costs. But hey, like author Frank Herbert put it, “There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept?”

Reason number three was the Park Board’s adamant refusal to suspend their no-smoking bylaws for one day. NPA commissioners John Coupar was “very concerned,” that this would even be suggested, forgetting that bylaws for off-leash dogs are undergoing alteration. 

Where’s Ron Swanson when you need him?

Since Vancouver’s parks are in the “commons” and paid for by taxpayers, there is conflict over who has the right to use the property.

On one hand, the event takes place on public property that many Vancouverites pay taxes for. On the other hand, many cannabis enthusiasts are taxpayers.

But what if the 4/20 organizers (or anyone, for that matter) could rent a beach from a private beach-rental company, the same way one could rent a convention centre or a hotel room?

By privatizing (or homesteading) all municipal property, beaches could be owned by entrepreneurs serving a demand for public access.

A beach-park company would have to earn money by providing fun and safe services first. The upkeep and maintenance would be in the hands of entrepreneurs who could lose their assets to superior competitors.

The current system of paying for beaches, parks and roads through taxes, and then dealing with the unintended consequences later is a broken system.

If the 4/20 crowd occupied a private beach or park or road, then they’d be violating the rights of the private owner. If they coordinated a plan and raised funds for a convention centre or some other private meeting ground, then there would be no problem.

Without private property, there is no legitimate owner of the land, and so rational conflict resolution suffers. Since all private parties have equal standing under the legal system based on the rule of law, there is no way to solve the problem of public ownership.

Unless of course, one rejects the premise that only government bureaus can provide certain services and own certain tracts of land.

And about that pesky no-smoking bylaw? Secondary smoke does impact other parties, but it is not comparable to blowing smoke in someone’s face or punching them on the nose.

Assault and battery are already illegal, it is only the busy-body “politically correct” that seek to make smoking taboo. Second-hand smoke can be annoying, but going to the park and getting punched in the face is a universal example of physical harm.

If beaches were private, smoking rules would depend on the decisions of the owner and competition from others. Smoking rules that satisfy customers would be the most profitable.

It may be in a private-beach company’s interest to have a weekly pot-smoking beach-party while remaining family friendly for the remainder of the week.

Free enterprise is highly flexible, conforming to the desires of virtually all customers. Government “all-or-one” policies are arbitrary and do nothing to resolve the issues. The second annual dispute between 4/20 organizers and the Vancouver Park Board is a clear example.