Once trouble starts on a story, Vision hand the baton to select media for some positive spin
We've been labeled as NPA attack dogs, as holders of grudges, as being paid out of a right-wing slush fund (which we've already admitted to), all in an effort to raise doubts about what you read here as being accurate or worthwhile. We depend on the good judgment of our readers to determine the validity of what you read here on CityCaucus.com. Indeed, if we were as unreliable as we're made out to be by our critics, then our readership should be tailing off.
I'm happy to report this is not so.
In fact, last week was a record-breaker for us in terms of site visits, which is why we treated several staff here at CityCaucus Tower to a spa retreat. Let me tell you, a schvitz and a 90-minute massage is about as pleasurable as life gets and still be legal.
We ended last week with many people across the city (Frances Bula dismisses it as "only about 100 or so") concerned about plans by Vision Vancouver and their City Manager to eradicate the Park Board. Certainly, with the warm bodies that Vision have sitting as Park Commissioners, as well as their hapless chair Raj Hundal, it's hard not to see that how Park Board will simply be steamrolled by the Sherman Tank that is Penny Ballem.
Off air on the Bill Good Show last Tuesday morning France Bula told my colleague Daniel, "oh no one cares about that Park Board issue," effectively getting it off the topics for discussion on the program. I guess that no one cares about this issue is why she decided write about it on her blog the very next day.
Actually, let's put Frances' own post into the de-spin cycle, shall we?
I haven’t had the time to do any independent reporting on the kerfuffle going on at park board...all I can tell is that is seems to have created quite a tizzy among a select group of people, i.e. the 100 or so who know and care about the park board...
So there's Frances again slyly suggesting that this topic is far too narrow for anyone to care about. Never mind that the Park Board employs hundreds of staff, and has an annual budget of over $100 million.
The vast majority of the public has no idea what park board does, much less what the general manager of the park board does or how he or she gets hired
So, here we go. Frances is going to explain to the ignorant masses the way things really work. How? She has a legal memo that just happened to be leaked to her by someone on City Council, or by the City Manager. Who has the most to gain from the leak? Penny Ballem most of all, then the Mayor's office second.
I continue to be baffled by the Non-Partisan Association’s ongoing efforts to campaign on the slogan of: We want to do all the same things that Vision Vancouver does, but we’re better managers.
Ah, here's a little political twist. Frances claims she's "baffled" by the NPA's approach, but her confusion doesn't seem to prevent her from ridiculing them.
To wit, the Vision group has gotten the legal department to weigh in on who has what authority at the park board. Here you go, people.
Does Bula make reference to the fact this is an internal memo? Of course not. It has been leaked to her with the clear intention to give it the widest circulation possible.
My only comment on this is from a senior city employee who said to me earlier this week, “Does anyone imagine that Ken Dobell and Judy Rogers didn’t have a hand in deciding on Susan Mundick when she was hired?”
She's "had no time" to review this file herself, but she doesn't mind sharing someone else's view (maybe Penny Ballem herself?) as her own.
For a story that was supposed to garner so little excitement in the public, you'd have to wonder why a raging debate (over three dozen comments) began on Bula's blog. Bula, so battered by criticism of her less than subtle plug for Vision Vancouver, started deleting comments she claimed were libelous. However, one comment stood out – Just Passing By rails at Frances for removing a comment just because it was critical of Penny Ballem:
Frances, Frances, Frances. I am very disappointed in you. To remove my innocent post altogether is an outrage... And what did I say? ... I said that we all know how Penny was… appointed, handpicked, anointed, etc. you name it but not HIRED!!! And that I do not consider her competent at all, YES, may I have that opinion of her? Gee, I don’t know, did I break any rules of engagement here??? Oh, stop the presses, she is good at something, lots of stamina and determination when she is reading aloud those Power Point presentations made TO GO ...I am out of here!
As CityCaucus.com has been lectured by Frances in the past about censoring comments (we only remove comments with profanity, spam or character assassinations), we relish the irony in this.
Over at the Courier, Allen Garr may be down to only one column per week, but you can bet he'll get in pro-Vision spin however he can, and his publisher CanWest seems to be just fine with it. Maybe they're too busy in Winnipeg that they haven't figured out that this kind of political hijacking persists out on the Left Coast.
Garr, a couple of days behind everyone else, uses his column to trash the critics of the Ballem/Robertson Park Board annexation. It's a funny thing about being in political opposition, it somehow makes you just a little critical of the government. I'm sure the NPA's Ian Robertson doesn't mind one bit that he must hold Vision's feet to the fire.
Garr attacks Robertson for raising questions about the Constance Barnes driving drunk and dangerous affair. Vision Vancouver are rallying behind Constance Barnes, who after getting liquored up on a public beach, drove across a bridge, veered into someone's house and caused $20,000 damage, has admitted her guilt to the court. We're extremely lucky that no one, including Barnes herself, were killed.
While the party may have made a choice that this kind of public conduct is tolerated within its ranks (and for the second time after the Tim Stevenson DUI in 2007), there is no doubt that Barnes is now damaged goods politically. She'll never get the nod to run again by Vision, and will never been given any important responsibility by her colleagues at the Park Board. Keeping Barnes has less to do with compassion than it does political expedience. Vision simply do not want to lose face over an embarrassment involving their top vote-getter on the park slate. Says a lot about Vision, doncha think?
As for Garr's justification of Ballem inserting herself into the Park Board's affairs, it's such a tired re-tread of the arguments doled out by the Mayor's office I can't be bothered to dissect it. If you need a good chuckle, read it yourself.
Where the Beekeeper and Bula think all this boosterism will lead is beyond me. I'm not sure if the Globe and Mail or Vancouver Magazine takes any comfort in that one of their writers is lining herself up with the party in power.
For the Courier, who've just revamped their paper's format in order to remain relevant with readers, there's a greater risk in allowing a columnist to spew straight-up spin. The paper will just go straight to the blue box, fliers, rubber band and all.
By singling Garr and Bula out, we'll be accused yet again that we're picking on the two of them. The fact is that the both of them are good writers, and if they didn't feel the urge to counterweight Vision's critics, they'd be a whole lot more credible. Our challenge to them both – tell Vancouver Kid and Ballem that you're on a fast: no emails, phone calls, or leaked memos for one month.
Life is so much sweeter when you're not drowning in bathwater.