Mayor Robertson gives a private thumbs up to NPA's record on tackling homelessness
Although the heat from the HEAT shelters fiasco has now cooled down, we can report new details regarding the whole controversy now that our recent FOI has come through the mail slot. Although huge swaths of the material have been heavily blacked out from a Mayor committed to more openness and transparency, we have discovered some interesting nuggets.
What you first observe from the correspondence is how the Mayor's political staff appear to have become intertwined with the non-partisan public service. On numerous occasions, emails are flying back and forth from the public service to the political staff asking them what their next move should be on the HEAT shelters.
Take for example an email sent July 24th, 2009 by Jill Davidson who works in the City's Housing Centre. She writes to a number of staff about the Howe Street Consultation Report and states:
I had a talk with Mike [Magee] and have made some changes to the last section.
Earlier that day Davidson wrote to Magee and copied City Manager Penny Ballem:
Our messages crossed in delivery and yes we are in a position to get this [Howe Shelter Consultation Report] completed this afternoon or early Monday. The main report is the draft Howe Street Consultation Report which I attached and is awaiting review/comments.
One has to wonder whether NPA Councillor Suzanne Anton or COPE Councillors Ellen Woodsworth/David Cadman are being asked for their feedback on draft staff reports?
We're still wading through all the documents the City provided us regarding the HEAT shelters, and we will post more information over the coming week or so. However, one letter from Mayor Robertson to Minister Rich Coleman jumped out at us.
That's because despite Vision slamming the previous NPA administration for not doing enough to fight homelessness, Mayor Robertson wrote some flattering remarks about his political foes. In his letter dated June 25th to Coleman, the Mayor states:
There is no question, through working together over the past three years, the City and the Province have moved a long way forward in developing a robust plan to improve this critical situation. I also recognize and appreciate the work you are doing in other parts of the province on the homelessness file...
Over the last 3 years alone, the value of our commitment to the housing and homelessness issue has been approximately $110 million. Given that our entire budget is approximately 2.5% of the Provincial Budget, we feel we are more than pulling our weight as a partner.
Now wouldn't it have been refreshing if Mayor Robertson and his Vision colleagues had made these types of statements during, not after the last civic election.
One more item relating to the Olympic Games also caught our eye. If anyone believes that Robertson doesn't have 2010 on the brain when he's talking to Coleman, you simply need to read the following excerpts from one of his letters to the Minister:
Minister, you have been a clear and successful leader in your Government on this file. I very much wish to work with you to position your Government and our City as responsible stewards for our citizens, particularly in the context of the lead up to the 2010 Games.
In a separate letter dated June 25th, Robertson also stated:
As we prepare to welcome the world in 8 months, it is critical that we can demonstrate the actions we are taking - and will take - to meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations.
Stay tuned over the coming days as we post more materials from our latest FOI request.