A story broke on CKNW today about Mayor Robertson considering whether he should remain on the Vancouver Police Board (VPB). In Vancouver, the Mayor is automatically appointed as the Chair, while the other Board members are all patronage appointments.
There are some folks that think it is a conflict to have the Mayor, a politician, sit on the VPB. The argument is that the Mayor may vote one way at the Police Board, then find himself voting in the opposite direction when it comes to council for consideration.
This is often the case when it comes to what City staff jokingly refer to as the "annual pilgrimage" from the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) asking for more tax dollars to hire more police officers.
Every year crime stats keep going down...every year the police keep asking for more resources. In fact, so successful is the VPD in getting new funding, they actually got funding from the city in order to help them ask for more funding. Go figure.
Imagine if the city's library department were given funding to determine how much more funding they need to help eliminate illiteracy in the city?
So the VP Board members (who aren't accountable to taxpayers like the Mayor is) votes for more cops...and sends this funding request to the elected council to debate as part of the overall budget. The Mayor then takes off his police board hat, and puts on his council hat. And that's when the critics say things get dicey.
The Mayor must then do what we elected him to do, balance priorities. The annual request for hundreds of more cops must be weighed against requests for more librarians, after school kids programs, skateboard parks etc... These are all initiatives that if implemented would likely have a bigger impact on crime reduction.
The Mayor hasn't asked for my opinion, but if he did, I'd tell Robertson to stick it out on the Police Board and ensure that someone is there representing the people - it's his duty. My bet is he will.
PS I'll have more to say in a future column about why the City of Winnipeg is on the money when it comes to how they handle their police budgeting process