Some City Hall employees are quietly asking if Vision did everything it could to pinch pennies
It's been a little over 48 hours since Operation Cut and Cover was unveiled to the media with great fanfare in Vancouver. As anticipated, media reports are coming out everywhere that Vancouver is in a "financial crisis" and that its new city manager is planning some tough action. Mayor Robertson even managed to get a few digs in today about his NPA predecessors blaming them for the mess he's found himself in. This despite the fact the previous NPA council actually left him with a $15 million dollar surplus which he tucked away in the bank last year.
Probably the most laughable attacks on the NPA from Vision and their merry band of Kool-Aid drinkers relates to the impact CUPE's collective agreement is having on Vancouver's so-called "financial crisis". Curiously, Vision (the party financed by civic unions) is now blaming CUPE for seeking a rich compensation package back in 2007 when they went on strike. They claim escalating labour costs due to the collective agreement signed by CUPE is putting a lot of pressure on the bottom line.
Their public attacks on the current collective agreement are nothing short of bizarre when you consider that Vision shouted at the previous government to settle the strike at all costs! If Vision had been in government in 2007, rest assured that a 17.5% wage settlement would have been the floor, not the ceiling. And let's not forget about all those additional police officers Vision wanted to hire over the last four years. It is estimated that each officer costs taxpayers around $120,000 per year. These additional hires would have made the current financial situation that much worse.
As far as this current administration goes, it's equally important to review a few of the financial decisions they've made during the last 10 months of our Global economic meltdown. What follows is an interesting list of items that Mayor Robertson and his hand-picked City Manager didn't mention during their recent media scrums:
- Their first act of government was to spend $92,000 on an off-site inaugural bash when previous administrations saved money by holding the event at City Hall
- They spent $60,000 on two untendered contracts to help draft a PR plan regarding the Olympic Village project
- They refuse to sell off the most expensive social housing in the country and build or buy it elsewhere in the city; the units at the Olympic Village are estimated to cost taxpayers over $800,000 per unit
- They spent over $250K for a communications program for the Burrard Bridge trial
- They spent $1.45 million for the Burrard Bridge trial
- They allocated over $150,000 to support a provincial-style mental health advocate
- They increased their office budgets by 4.7% – twice the rate of inflation
- We revealed that David "carbon" Cadman spent over $110,000 flying around the world on the taxpayers dime (funded by Metro Vancouver and Vancouver taxpayers)
- They undertook massive renovations to the third floor of Vancouver city hall...costs yet unknown
- They fired Judy Rogers and gave her over $570,000 in severance pay
- They set up a new $100,000 green grants program
- They spent over $30,000 in staff time and grants to build Gregor's Garden
- They hired a new CFO at a salary of $223,969 plus benefits
- They hired a new City Manager at $303,958 plus benefits
- They allocated up to $100,000 for a KPMG report on the Olympic Village that has yet to see the light of day
- The City Manager plans to move out of her newly renovated office up to the 6th floor
- They introduced a bottled water ban which could significantly impact revenues
- And the Mayor refuses new chairs because they are "toxic"
This is just a partial list of some financial decisions made over the last 10 months by this new Vision government. Employees who are about to lose their jobs may want to review it closely if they are wondering whether this council is truly serious about getting costs under control at Vancouver City Hall.