On December 17th, over one month ago, CityCaucus.com put in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request asking the City of Vancouver to provide it with a complete record of the cost related to holding the inaugural ceremonies outside of City Hall. If you recall, the Mayor decided to hold his inaugural bash offsite, rather than doing what Mayor Watts did in Surrey, and host it at City Hall at a comparatively lower cost to taxpayers. Tough economic times you would think merit it.
As of January 20th, the City of Vancouver had not yet responded to our request for information related to the costs of the bash.
Needless to say, our CityCaucus.com research department was more than a bit surprised to learn that City staff had provided that very information to another blogger. Frances Bula states in her blog, "...the department sent me a breakdown of the straight inauguration costs a while ago, just so I could put it up on the webosphere for the record."
Hmmm. Our FOI request to the City of Vancouver went nowhere, while what Ms. Bula received is tantamount to a private briefing regarding the information we requested. So why are some provided with private briefings on sensitive issues, while others are left waiting? We'll reserve comment and leave you to sort that one out.
According to Bula (not the City), the additional cost to Vancouver taxpayers for hosting this event was about $40K. Peanuts they say.
However, Bula was told not to include the cost of a $25K banner that was used as part of the ceremony. Why you ask? Apparently the banner can be reused at other public events. Hard to imagine how many events a three-story banner will be used for, especially the part that reads "Inaugural Ceremony 2008."
If nothing else, we have a blank wall in the CityCaucus Tower foyer begging for some artwork, perhaps they'll consider loaning it to us?
We are also puzzled by the exclusion of other possible costs. There are 14 uniformed service people (VPD and Fire Dept?) in the photo above, not to mention others not shown. It's great to have Vancouver's finest in attendance, but fourteen seems a little generous.
Sunset Community Centre had at least four uniformed police circulating that day, multiple ambulance attendants, and more than a dozen City of Vancouver staff roaming the halls during the ceremony.
Earlier that morning my colleague Mike Klassen ran into a Park Board staffer who revealed that crews had been sent to Sunset all week tending to the grounds and the facility in advance of the event. Where are those costs, and what didn't get done elsewhere because of it?
At the end of the day, it's becoming clear that the first act of this council was to spend tens of thousands of taxpayers dollars on a party that if held at City Hall, would have been a fraction of the cost. No matter how much spin you put on it, Vancouver taxpayers are still left holding the bag for this extravagance.