Kudos to Penny Ballem for foregoing pay increase

Post by Mike Klassen in


Real leadership is about personal sacrifice. In Penny's case, that amounts to about $12,000

On Thursday, we made the difficult decision to run a story based upon information provided to us by valued sources within Vancouver City Hall. What we learned we could hardly believe, but we had never been let down by these sources in the past. Dr. Penny Ballem, City Manager and head of Vancouver's civil service was approved for a pay increase in line with other civil servants, or about four percent. At an annual salary of just over $303,000 that would be an increase of just over $12,000.

What made the timing of this increase unfortunate was that it was coming after Ballem had surveyed her management team for not taking the 4% increase, and that she was overseeing major cuts to staff and services at City Hall.

Our sources had never been wrong before, which goes to show you there's always a first time for everything. Our story about Dr. Ballem getting the increase after her annual review with the Mayor ran for most of Thursday. First thing on Friday morning we received a communication that assured us that Ballem was not receiving her increase after all. In fact, the Mayor's office were mischaracterizing the facts by telling anyone who would listen that CityCaucus.com had made the story up.

While it is possible that a revelation of Ballem receiving a pay increase posted on CityCaucus.com may have influenced the day's events, this is certainly not about us. This is about Penny Ballem's leadership. Twelve thousand dollars is not chump change. Ballem could have paid for a gorgeous vacation in the sun over the Christmas break, or whirlwinded through some European cities next summer with that money.

Instead, Penny chose to forego the increase in the face of tough times at Vancouver City Hall. For this sacrifice, we must give her credit.

Dr. Ballem was mixed up in controversy earlier in the year, when it was revealed by the Globe and Mail that she had received over $30,000 from Ontario taxpayers for roughly 2 weeks worth of work, which records show amounted to a single PowerPoint presentation and one email for eHealth Ontario. Clearly, Ballem has learned from her experience and is now setting the bar for her fellow managers at Vancouver City Hall.

It has been suggested by some – for example Vision Vancouver supporter Jim Green – that Dr. Ballem "took a pay cut" when she took over the top job at City Hall. While we're not sure how much of a "pay cut" that actually was for someone who is now receiving over $300K + benefits, but we do know that she has now refused (permanently for 2010) a pay increase to the tune of twelve grand.

Ballem is to be commended for her sacrifice – that $12,000 may go some way toward saving coveted facilities like the Stanley Park Children's Farmyard – and the modesty she has shown by not notifying fellow staff about it. Surprisingly, that duty has been left to CityCaucus.com, the only place so far where you can read about Dr. Ballem's salary freeze.

- post by Mike


WOW! Kudos? Please a bit of dignity on your part.
If you would have checked more closely you would have seen the tears in her eyes. She also lost some fur behind the ears, from nervous scratching.
I appreciate that you guys jumped at her,inside the holiday season,like mice under influence, trying to bite Cheshire ass, but this is simply a matter of a cat too fat and lazy to wait in line at the City Christmas Bureau! She knows there are plenty of mice after the Holidays, when nobody's looking guys! Oh, and she wanted also to send a message, like, she is one of you! Cat tricks.

Kudos to Dr. Ballem!

(Watch that itchy trigger finger, boys.)

Oh for heavens sake - you got wrong information, you printed it without double checking your sources, now you want to continue to make a mountain out of a molehill. Why don't you just be professional, accept responsibility for your error & just print a retraction?

Thanks for your comment, Caroline. Read the posts again. Never once have we stated that we got it wrong. And it's not because we're too proud to admit it. We do on occasion get it wrong, and when we do, we let our readers know.

Given that it's awards season, and all, there oughta be some recognition of Dr. Ballem's achievements over her "first year in office".

For instance ...

Best Imitation of a Grinch: For recommending and working towards the devastation of public amenities such as our libraries, community centres, the children's zoo and Bloedel conservatory, while attempting to save -- what is it (?) $61 million, and gosh, galldarnit gee, the figure keeps changing from day to day, it's just darned hard to keep track when you're constantly being misdirected and lied to by our topic civic official.

Best Imitation of the Incredible Hulk: Yes, the folks who work at City Hall sure are an unhappy lot. Prior to Dr. Ballem's arrival, our civil service felt valued, and worked hard on behalf of all of us. This past year, though, 'Ballem the Bull' has smashed her way through one City department after another using the tried and true techniques of bullying and intimidation to get her way ... whatever the cost to the citizens of Vancouver. Special note should be made of how Ballem prematurely ended Susan Mundick's career at Park Board.

Best Imitation of a Police State: For Ballem's work to abrogate civil rights in the period leading up to, and through, the 2010 Olympics. Ballem's gonna have final say on our civil rights this next three months? Whaddya think the chances are she'll shut down CityCaucus for the duration?

There's just no end to the joy Ballem has brought to Vancouver citizenry.

Dr. Ballem's salary: $303,000. Cuts to City Budget: $61 million. Creating the conditions for a devastated City Hall workforce, and a dispirited, and made-to-feel-powerless citizenry. Priceless.

I must be missing something - your response is that "you never once stated you got it wrong..." sure seems like somebody did... Hhmmm - interesting...

Kudos??? A $12K non-raise will hardly impact her lifestyle. REMEBER!!! She's making $303,000/year. You even said, it would probably pay for a nice summer vacation for her.

While $12K would mean a lot to the average Vancouverite, I harding think that this is a sacrifice on her part. I'm pretty sure she can still afford a nice summer vacation based on her $303,000 salary.

I'm not saying whether or not she's worth the $303,000, I'm only saying that the foregoing of the $12k increase is hardly worth giving kudos. Give kudos when they are deserved. Giving kudos when they aren't deserved just devalues the work "kudos".

Red, ease up on the caffeine. "Kudos" is just a word, not a religion.

a statement of praise or approval; accolade; compliment: one kudo after another.

Going the other way, which word would you have chosen had she decided to take the raise?

Maybe I did have a few too many cups of caffine that day.

Very fair question. Going the other way, I probably wouldn't have said anything. If she negotiated a raise for the end of the year, then she deserved it.

But that's not the point. She should have waited for the end of the poll which she had her staff take. She should have participated in the poll along with her staff, and in the end accepted a raise or not along with the rest of the staff. Voicing her opinion as one vote just like the rest of her staff. After all she is an employee of the City of Vancouver just like the rest of the Managers.

For her to step out individually and accept or volunteer a reduction of pay only serves to promote her self image. Was 12K really a sacrifice on her part? Well for some of her staff who make signifacntly less a reduction of even 1k a year is significant. Will they get Kudos if they accept the non-raise? I don't know because it's not finalized yet. This is why I'm saying she should have waited for the poll to be completed instead of making a decision now which only serves to highlight herself.

Saying that she will have to forego a 12k summer vacation is also pointless since other employees who lose 1k a year will be foregoing much more than a vacation.

Now I'm not saying whether or not all staff should turn down the raise. All I'm saying is, as the leader of all City staff, she should have respected her own process of the poll and waited for a result before volunteering/accepting (I'm not sure if she accepted or volunteered this?) a raise.

If the poll came back and the results were that staff would still get a raise.... and then, she volunteered to not accept a raise herself, then I would be the first one in line to cheer "Kudos" to her. But her making a decision now, before the completion of her own poll is only self serving.

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