Retirements galore, but not my fault says Ballem

Post by Mike Klassen in


Ballem: don't blame me for the number of staff walking down Retirement Lane

Vancouver City Manager Penny Ballem is said to be "fighting back" against critics who suggest its her controlling style that might be causing the slew of unexpected departures in recent months. Says Gregor Robertson's hand-picked head of the civil service to CKNW's Janet Brown, most are close to retirement anyway and they've just "had enough" of their job.

In a statement reminiscent of her accusation of (former General Manager of Olympic Operations) Dave Rudberg being "too grumpy" to continue on, Ballem keeps digging herself deeper by suggesting that her managers just don't have enough jam left to keep up with city hall's new order:

You know basically all the challenges of an economy, you know, that is creating lots more challenges than we've had to deal with in this province over the last few years. People who are near retirement are, you know, always go  through that process of thinking, 'Gee, you know, do I really wanna have to, you know, engage in some of these, in solving some of these difficult problems.'

So here we are, five months out from hosting the world in the biggest party in the city's history, and the top talent are bailing out like they were Kanye West's publicists. News of Vancouver's little crisis in hanging onto key leadership appears to be traveling past Boundary Road, as Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely has taken note and shared it with his readers also.

Ballem's spin notwithstanding, we're hearing from our sources that Penny's style is one of the root causes for the current death spiral at the Hall, along with the depressing economic realities.

One "semi-retirement" not noticed by City Hall Watchers is that of the Courier's Allen Garr, who as of this week appears to have had his column cut back to one day per week. Garr is mockingly referred to by many as the 9th member of Vision Vancouver's city council caucus, and critics have wondered when he would finally ditch his column for beekeeping full time. Commenter "Evil Eye" is blunt:

Garr is just a "grump" who skewered Sam (the unwise) Sullivan, but now with is Vision/NDP pals in office, he has little to say.

We don't know why Allen is scaling back, but he must be somewhat satisfied that a political organization he supports is now governing the city. To be sure, it's a setback for the Mayor's office, who rely upon Garr's Courier column to get their message out.

Perhaps Ballem's theory about retirement also applies to columnists, and Garr's asking himself, 'Gee, you know, do I really wanna have to, you know, write about these guys still?'


Guys, guys!!!!
Give your head a shake if you want to comment on City of Vancouver politics when it comes to retiring or 'retiring' bureaucrats.
Mid and senior level municipal bureaucrats are very, very powerful in most B.C. municipalities. They have to be for several reasons. We are the only province in Canada that does not have any form of Regional Government. Our municipalities - for better or worse - are very independent. (For worse in many ways, I think). Cosequently, bureacrats hold much power. As well, the lack of a ward system has allowed certain groups to have much sway in civic affairs, especially on issues that affect their interestes. The creme de la creme, if you will. The NPA had power for many, many years. Vision - and I am not a VV member - should clean house. That's what politics is all about in a democracy. It's done all the time after federal, provincial and municipal elections, all over the world.
So when I read of a 'quel surprise?' attitude or your mostly snarky narratives about the latest 'retirements', naivete is a word that comes to mine. What politician in the world of any political party wouldn't want a bureaucracy that was compliant and obedient to their aims?

Flow, using your logic we'd be blowing out management after every change of government. In Vancouver's case that's 4 times in the past decade. Nothing would get done, no programs would follow through, there would be no continuity, no security, no culture of leadership as everyone would be looking over their shoulders.

Using your 'cutthroat' approach to running bureaucracies only the most efficient career managers would rise to the top, not necessarily the most talented. Thanks, but no thanks to this idea.

Vancouver has benefited immeasurably by the consistency in its senior ranks, and the respect given to our civil service professionals to do their jobs.

I don't think having a new government should always entail an overhaul of the civil service, but at the same time it's necessary that the civil service be able to enthusiastically orient itself toward the agenda of government. As this blog mentionned, when Ballem told senior bureaucrats that if they wanted to know the general policy direction for the next 3 years they should look in the Vision platform, you could cut the tension with a knife. Whether this attitude was the result of ideological stance or simply the fact that they were presented with a policy document that was 'political' (eeww!), either way, this is not what a public that demands change needs.

Generally, so long as the governing power changes every few years, a bureaucracy won't develop its own character and will be able to receive direction from whoever is in power. However, when you have a party in power for 19 out of the last 22 years, the bureaucracy naturally starts to reflect the power structure of management, and eventual change will mean many departures.

PS: Not that you take requests, but can you bring the 'recent posts' sidebar widget back? There's no way to quickly find or refer back to recent lousy posts :)

On your request for recent posts, I'll put it back when I get a spare moment.

Thank you!

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