A memo circulated at Vancouver City Hall has received a collective groan from overworked staff who are wondering how much harder they can be squeezed during this economic crunch. City Manager Penny Ballem, who did not take our earlier advice to leave her job, should be commended for conducting a core review of city services.
Now, we could remind Ballem that she and Vision were a bit carefree with it came to Vancouver taxpayers' wallets, such as the lavish $84,000 inauguration ceremony, the twin Hoggan PR contracts, the $250,000 for a Burrard Bridge spin plan, or avoidable spending on the too-many-to-mention severance packages. However, we want to support the effort to get Vancouver's civil service to refocus on building a sustainable city, and not solving all of its social ills.
In her memo to staff she states,
As part of our accountability to the citizens of Vancouver, we need to review the services we provide and the way we deliver them. It is our responsibility to ensure we're always responsible in how we manage our processes and finances and that we give our citizens good value for their money.
It's time to refresh ourselves! While there are many things that make us unique here at the City of Vancouver, the pressures of the economic situation will make it more and more difficult to do all the things we believe are important for our citizens. This review provides us with the opportunity to transform the way we think, behave and deliver...
It's known that Vancouver city staff are facing unprecedented pressures to cut back overtime and keep costs in line. Ballem's memo is yet another signal that Vision Vancouver underestimated the depth of the economic crisis the City would face before, during and after the 2010 Games.
We've made a number of suggestions on CityCaucus.com on how to keep costs in line. For example, use the Yellow Pages to contract out some basic services like garbage collection, or sell the waterfront social housing built on Southeast False Creek and use the profits to create more social housing throughout the city.
Given the grip labour unions have on this government, however, it is unlikely that ideas like contracting out services will ever make the City Manager's shortlist.