Marco Polo Melissa, what’s your story?
Melissa De Genova I became engaged in public service at a very young age. My father, Allan De Genova, was elected five terms (15 years) as a Vancouver Park Board Commissioner. Growing up, I watched my father tirelessly devote his time to public service, working with the community to create places like Il Giardino in Hastings Park. On weekends he would take me with him to parks and community centre events, where I experienced the difference he made in our city. Helping others and contributing to the community were important values I was raised to respect and carry forward.
I am very proud of my Italian heritage. My grandfather was from the Molise region and was born in the town of Casacalenda, near Campobasso. He was a stone mason and took part in building many iconic structures and buildings in Vancouver, including the Seawall in Stanley Park and Hotel Vancouver. His father; my great grandfather, was one of the 44 Italians in Vancouver who was taken from his family and placed in an internment camp. My grandmother, was born in Ascona, in the Lugano-Ticino region of Switzerland. My grandfather and grandmother met in Vancouver and my father lived his childhood travelling between Vancouver and Europe.
I was elected as a Park Board Commissioner in 2011, during this time I worked with Community Centres, and advocated for more park space. I helped to move forward a Seniors Centre that finally opened this year in South East Vancouver. In 2014, I ran for election to City Council, to offer a voice for young people, and to bring professional experience in land use and housing development to city government. I have worked in both private and non profit sectors of development, creating affordable housing in Vancouver.
When I met Randy Rinaldo; who I have proclaimed the Mayor of Little Italy, I was impressed by his efforts to make Little Italy official on Commercial Drive. I put forward a motion at Council that was referred by the government. In 2016, my second motion passed and 8 blocks of Commercial Drive was officially named Little Italy. In 2018 I discovered Italian Heritage Month and Italian Day was not officially recognized by the City of Vancouver. I was pleased that City Council supported my motion and the official recognition came in time for Italian Day 2018. Recently, I worked with City Staff, the Italian Cultural Centre, and Fortis BC to secure $160,000, the funding needed to paint all four cross walks the colours of the Italian Flag. The Italian community has made great contributions to our city, and it is important we recognize the culture and heritage in Little Italy.
Marco Polo Why did you choose to run for City Council with Non-Partisan Association (NPA)?
Melissa De Genova The NPA is the longest standing political party in Vancouver. The foundation for the NPA was built on fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers, delivering excellent city services, a strong economy, affordable housing, investing in arts and culture and delivering results to the people of Vancouver.
Marco Polo What are your 10 most favourite things about Vancouver?
Melissa De GenovaLittle Italy! Vancouver’s 22 unique neighbourhoods! Local shops, Stanley Park, Mountains, Beaches
Festivals & Events! (Italian Day to long table dinners), Farmer’s Markets, The Gastown Steam Clock, Architecture.
Marco Polo If you could change 1 thing about Vancouver, what would that be ?
Melissa De Genova Vancouver is facing an affordability crisis. If I could make one change, it would be that all people, especially families and seniors could live comfortably in our city.
I am running for re-election to make our city more family friendly. I hope that when my daughter grows up, she will be able to afford to live in the City of Vancouver.
Marco Polo Best aspect of being a councillor?
Melissa De Genova Helping people and seeing the difference local government can make in in the community.
Marco Polo Where do you currently see the challenges for involving citizens in Vancouver?
Melissa De Genova We are facing an affordability crisis in Vancouver. The cost of living is pushing people out of our city. We do not have enough affordable housing for families and seniors. Local business and shops are barely able to pay the rent. The result is higher prices for customers or to close their shops and leave Vancouver.
Marco Polo What are the highpoints and best achievements in your life to date?
Melissa De Genova 1. I have a one-year old daughter, she inspires me every day to continue my work as a City Councillor, and to make Vancouver a better place for her and future generations.
2. Little Italy! Also, working with the Italian Community on projects like the Italian Flag Crosswalks and the long overdue official city recognition of Italian Heritage Month and Italian Day.
3. In 2016, Business in Vancouver honoured me as a winner in the “Top Forty under 40” for my work in creating affordable and accessible housing.
Marco Polo Looking ten years into the future, where do you see the City of Vancouver?
Melissa De Genova In 10 years, I want to see Vancouver a vibrant and sustainable city, where all generations and families can afford to live. I hope for a city where our economy supports local businesses and where vibrance, culture and heritage are celebrated.
With funding secured for Italian Flag Crosswalks on Commercial Drive and 1st Avenue, I want to see more crosswalks like this in little Italy! There is plenty of work to be done, and that is the reason I am running for re-election to City Council.
Marco Polo Melissa, what’s your story?