Seduced by the prospect of effecting real change, many Vancouver area social activists are heeding the call to civic duty. Newcomers David Eby, Meena Wong, Imtiaz Popat, Chris Shaw and Grand Dame of the Protest Line Betty Krawczyk join former City Hall veterans Ellen Woodsworth and Tim Louis in their quest to win their parties’ nominations heading into the November 15, 2008 election.

Leading the charge is uber-lawyer Eby of the Pivot Legal Society team , predominantly known as a legal advocate for housing, the homeless, and as a dogged Downtown Eastside (DTES) slum lord hunter. There are already some from this community crying opportunism and sell-out, but Eby is the real deal.

On the face of it, his past ties with the militant Anti-Poverty Committee (APC) and the often-controversial Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association (DERA) could serve to brand him a radical in the eyes of those centre/right of centre types likely to vote NPA (Non-Partisan Association), but the fact is, Eby’s status as a moderating influence and his ability to mediate everything from a rooming house eviction to a police standoff makes him a perfect choice for City Council. Lawyers make good politicians – they understand process, policy and, obviously, the law. Eby’s championing of the underdog, his understated approach and his sense of humour should be a refreshing change in a Chamber known for anything but levity.

Co-op Radio host Imtiaz Popat brings a long history of queer activism and social justice work to his campaign for Parks Board Commissioner, but he’ll be hard-pressed to fill the void left by the very popular departing Commissioner Spencer Herbert , who has announced his intention to run Provincially in the riding of Vancouver West End.

A fixture at local anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-globalization and anti-Israeli protests, Popat’s contacts should bring him a few votes and the street cred for walking the walk other candidates may be lacking.

Chinese community activist and outreach worker Meena Wong will try to run under the COPE banner under a platform that includes promoting diversity at City Hall, and improving pubic transit, but her political campaign could be off to a rocky start when she’s asked to explain what “developing affordable housing for people who have the right to decent housing” means.

Does Meena really believe there are human beings on the planet who don’t have the right to decent housing? Even serial killers have decent, albeit freedom-restricted, housing.

2010 watchdog Chris Shaw has far better things to do than run for City Hall.

The UBC professor of Opthamology, published author and part-time military reservist isn’t doing this for the money or the power, he wants to manage the City’s – your – money so idiots like Sam Sullivan and Kim Capri don’t spend it all on canapes and chardonnay while you camp on your buddy’s couch eating Kraft Dinner during the 2010 Olympics.

Environmentalist, Clayoquot legend and local activism icon Betty Krawczyk’s campaign may be more of a symbolic and protest move than substantial political tactic, but who cares? People love Betty, she’s articulate, passionate and the only person in town with the stones to take on Peter Kewitt and Sons, Kevin Falcon and Gord Campbell in court.

Her supporters are legion and not the types you’d want to piss off, by, say, plowing through a forest to build a highway. They might decide to light your trucks on fire.

Into every party, someone has to throw a pooper, and that guy is Tim Louis.

Many of us thought we’d seen the last of the whiney Louis and his ragged Che Guevara t-shirt. Let’s hope the voters send him back to work, his best before effectiveness date at City Hall has long expired and the new City Hall shaping up won’t have room for his old school ways.

Ellen Woodsworth may be old school, but she’s still more than relevant.

Her experience as a Councillor from 2002 to 2005 will steady the new kids and give her back her purpose, something she seems to have been lacking these past years as the City suffered under Sullivan and she hung in the background.

Stay tuned for those who win COPE or Vision nominations – or maybe the backing of both if this fractured party can get it’s act together. The infusion of some people willing to give their time and energy to social justice should inject some humanity into Sam’s Soulless House of MumboSpeak.

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