Councillor, Chair & Candlestick Maker: Louie becomes City's first ward boss

Post by Mike Klassen in

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The new PNE Board meet to decide The Fair's future

At an exclusive VIP-only gathering of media and PNE bigwigs on Wednesday (dress: casual), the PNE Board's new chair walked around ("like a peacock," according to reports) dressed in a black suit and tie. Wearing his new badge labeled "CHAIR," City Councillor Raymond Louie strutted around the room proudly thanks to his new political appointment as head of the PNE Board.

All that was missing apparently was his crown and sceptre.

Raymond Louie is now, as we here at CityCaucus.com describe his role, Vancouver's very first ward boss. For the residents of Hastings-Sunrise, you now know to kiss the ring of this guy if you want anything for your neighbourhood.

How it all happened is still a puzzle to many City Hall watchers. Why would James Ridge, the outgoing Deputy City Manager who took a pay cut to bail out of Ballemland, recommend something so kooky as making the PNE board chair a City Councillor his final act on the job? And why did Mayor Meggs and his sidekick Robertson throw this bone to Louie, who everyone notes has been on the outside looking in at this government?

It was yet another late distribution report (which some are now referring to as Vision reports for their frequency during this Council's term) where Ridge put forward the idea of making a City Councillor the Chair of the PNE Board. It is highly unusual that a major enterprise of the City is headed up by an elected official. What made the decision even more surreal was that the meeting where Louie was made the PNE Board Chair was chaired by King Louie himself (Napolean, eat your heart out). As chair of that meeting he was able to, once again, squash any objections by NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton, which he did so with relish.

Another bizarre thing happened on the May 21st meetings relating to the Vision Council's approval of the new governance model for the PNE. With a couple dozen community members in the chamber, and all speakers pushing for a deferral of any final decisions on the board until a Hastings Park master plan process was complete, Council put forward the amended motion for a vote. Councillor Woodsworth, who harped on the idea that a "green" representative exist on the new board, got her colleagues during the morning's City Services and Budgets meeting to approve a 12-member board with "three" members of the community.

In one of the oddest exchanges yet during this term of Council (meeting video here), Mayor Meggs responded to CUPE's complaint that new board has no labour representative by suggesting that the new chair Louie, a former union shop steward, would satisfy their request. CUPE weren't persuaded by Geoff, and the motion was amended so that a union rep should be on the PNE board (any future labour negotiations should be interesting for the PNE).

Then later in the afternoon, with all of these members of the public (including members of the Hastings Park conservancy, representatives of both CUPE locals who work on City staff, and Vancouver-Hastings MLA Shane Simpson - all big Vision Vancouver backers) now gone, and the Council chamber's video recording system on the fritz, the Vision Council tacked on another vote on the PNE Board motion to the afternoon's Planning & Environment meeting. The meeting's minutes show that not only was the vote conducted again, but the motion was amended to remove Woodsworth's additional "environmental" community representative (now only "two" community reps would sit on the board, with one of them a CUPE member). This is after the community reps, who had argued for additional representation, had left the building.

The Georgia Straight have covered this story with a lot of input from Hastings Park Conservancy president Rand Chatterjee, one of the City's most persistent community activists. Chatterjee takes issue with the appearance of conflict, having the fox mind the henhouse so to speak. King Louie, as City Councillor, is the boss of the managers who make up the majority on the board. What employee is going to vote against his boss?

Louie, true to form, was dismissive of any concerns. He told the Straight:

"[The complaint about Louie being PNE Board Chair] based on two false premises,” Louie said. “One, that I would, first, bully, and second, that these senior staff—educated and long tenured with the city—would allow themselves to be bullied."

Raymond Louie a bully? Perish the thought that a Larry Campbell protégé might be a bully.

What does it all mean for the PNE? Nobody knows. Of course the Beekeeper spun it Vision-style:

...regardless of the "crisis" we will still have the opportunity of seeing the Wonder Dogs and gorging on those legendary Mini Donuts.

Indeed, the Super Dogs and Those Little Donuts are probably here to stay. Just maybe not at Hastings Park during the last seventeen days of August.

Meanwhile, Vision continues to practice the very kind of high-handed style of governance they would scream at the NPA about. And King Louie gets the one ring to rule them all...up in Hastings-Sunrise.

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