A post-Vision City Hall will require costly house cleaning

Post by Mike Klassen in

26 comments

vision-swept
If Vision loses in 2011, the heavily politicized civil service will have to go

It's the first week of December 2011, and staff in Gregor Robertson's office are cleaning out their desks, stunned at the unforeseen triumph of their centre-right competitor.

Once again, as with the elections of 2002, 2005 and 2008, Vancouver voters have decided that it's time for a new set of faces at the top. A series of gaffes by Vision Vancouver in 2011, rumblings of discontent from their park board caucus and blatent challenges to the leadership by the rank and file, coupled with a post-Olympic grumpiness across the city crush the centre-left party's popularity.

Despite the enormous advantage given to him by incumbency, Robertson falls flat against his opponent during the campaign...

Okay, I'll admit it's a fanciful idea that Vision will lose the 2011 election, but the previous three governments probably didn't think that in the first year of their mandates either. So what happens if another party wins power at City Hall next time round? Well, regrettably for Vancouver taxpayers, it's going to be an extremely expensive turnover.

The reason is simple. Vision have effectively poisoned the well by their aggressive campaign to politicize City staff. The loss this week of yet another senior manager, Melina Scholefield, and strong rumours that yet another senior manager (this time in the Supply Management department) has already tendered their resignation – just days before the Olympic frenzy – are deadly signs for the civic administration. Comments like these on Frances' website validate what we've said for months... (repeat after me):

"Good governments get rid of bad people, and bad governments get rid of good people"

Vision have made their mark in the way they've decimated the culture of having a non-partisan civil service. The next government's job will require a merciless house cleaning of anyone with direct ties to Vision Vancouver. If you've handed over a donation to Vision, like for example Lesli Boldt in the city's Olympic communications, or worked on a Vision campaign like the new Director of Communications Ryan Merkley (who by the way was late for work on his first day according to this photo), then don't count on being kept on.

Of course, Penny Ballem, if she indeed lasts until the end of 2011, would be expected to pack up. Vancouver's nanomanager has probably racked up so many EDO's the City will be lucky to pay much less than $700K in severance. Because of her direct connection to Vision Vancouver through former Mayor's office staffer Brent Humphrey, Laurie Best would receive her walking papers.

New CFO Patrice Impey would be seen as an obvious Vision appointment, and therefore would be looking for a new gig. With her 20 years of seniority built into her contract, she'd likely get a buyout in the $400K+ range.

Then there's Sadhu. He might be a nice guy, but it would be highly improbable that Sadhu Johnston would last a month as Deputy City Manager under a new administration. Removing and replacing the 2nd in charge will not be cheap.

With each of these people, and several others who can credit their loyalty to Vision for either jobs or career advancement, there will be considerable expense in not only pay packages, but hiring and re-training. But the greatest cost to the City will be the predicted months of toil that will be involved in trying to restore a semblance of worker morale.

Such are the costs Vancouver will face repairing Vision's "retooling" of the civil service that even a friendly fellow like Robin Adair – currently on an eighteen-month contract with an option to renew – would not be left standing.

It's tragic on many levels – for the taxpayer, and for the workers themselves – and it didn't need to happen like this. And just imagine if there hadn't been a hiring freeze in place – the Hall would be overrun by Visionistas by now. Just watch next year as they begin to loosen up and start hiring again, we may see dozens more direct political appointments.

It truly is a measure of how insecure Vision feel about their own leadership that they must pepper the ranks with political friends. And for the government that succeeds them, it will be a huge mess to clean up.

26 Comments

Mike, now that you've touched on this topic I feel like posting my comment here as well. Total agreement with your words. I have reached the same conclusion long time ago, too. What a con, what a racket!

There you go:

The Sustainable Thought of the Day

“I am thinking of joining the mayor’s future “Bike to Work” rewards program. So what if I am working from home? I’ll be doing laps around the house on my city bike every morning or 22 minutes of high level endurance cycling, on my stationary bike. You can do it too! Want to hear the punch line? I will sell my carbon credits to my neighbour so he, in return, may offset his carpool to work. “

Brilliant! All done through a Virgin Carbon Fighter subsidiary, coming to a neighbourhood near you, following Branson’s net-zero energy appearance in a month’s time. You read it here first!

To the topic now. First I want everyone to notice and remember this abbreviation: FHFHF (Friendly Hiring Following Hostile Firing).
This one alone is going to define the short lived Vision reign. By the end of 2011 they’ll be remembered as the Vancouver Visigoths.

It turns out that my resolutions for the year 2010 are not out of line, they may show some potential after all; if they are played right, of course! I am posting them one more time, mind me, a little change in number FIVE…
ONE. Work on my American accent.
TWO. Immerse myself in medical lingo (watch ER, GREY’s Anatomy), good transferable skills for management (so I’ve heard).
THREE. Attend the Tranquility Election Seminar, package No. 08 (deep reality massage, opposition party exfoliation, common sense detoxification, impure thoughts cleansing, spin bugging…) at Hollyhock; get to know the people.
FOUR. When ONE, TWO and THREE are completed, apply and get the dream overpaid managerial job with the City of Vancouver. Make sure that FHFHF (Friendly Hiring Following Hostile Firing) ratio is also maintained.
FIVE. For a successful market capitalization and brand name recognition I will attempt to change my name to something ritzier, say… Robert Gregorson.
PS.
Oh, one more… if what you’ve suggested (a future manager of sustainability hire is no hire at all) it turns out to be true, my only observation would be that the new powers at city hall are making everyone asking themselves the question: “Why do they include jokers in a deck of cards?” Nobody knows, really, but they are good to have, just in case.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

I believe David Graham resigned to return to the Albert oilfields & a better & more exciting opportunity there. He'd only been with the City almost 2 years (?)so I'm not sure that he is leaving because of any management struggles. It seems that Management actually thinks quite highly of David...

Silly Kay, trying to put a rational spin on things. Over here if someone leaves City Hall it's because Vision drove them out.

So, just to get this straight: If a centre-right candidate wins, they should drive out City staff, but in a non-partisan fashion? Surely there's no double standard at work here...

Really? And I thought that David Graham was a smart young guy who really does have a youthful drive & great prospects outside of City Hall. Working for the COV is not the be it & end all of jobs - smart, young Managers will look for better jobs & financial rewards several times in their careers (especially if they have young families)... and if bonuses are included, all the better!

Well, the myth of the civil service operating as a last bastion against the ideology of politicians has ended I suppose. Career civil servants were supposed to keep short lived politicians in check, especially in a politically polarized province like BC. They were a voter's last hope in keeping our governments continuing in the middle of the road, with little excursions to the right and the left. As long as we had hospitals, schools, roads and community services, we could live with the occasional "folly" that rubbed against our own personal grain.

Vancouver civil servants will have to bear the change in reputation, but as voters, dont we have a responsibility to understand exactly how our city is run, and how who we vote for will effect our city's operation? You dont need a civics course, but involvement at some level, whether volunteering or simply talking at the water cooler will keep our governments wondering about our vote.

I'd be very concerned about the loss of Melina and David. They are two of only a very small number of senior managers with the clear potential to be General Managers and City Managers, including (but not limited to) Flanagan, Birch, Bradshaw, Hancock, Levitt, Johnston (Will), and Carley.

It is one thing to lose your senior leadership, it's even worse to lose your future senior leaders.

Mike, in hockey the song goes "na..na..na..na, Na..Na..Na..Na..haay haaaaay...goodbye." On behalf of most city employees, we can't say Bye Bye to Ballem and her vision cronies fast enough. Let's hope the whole lot of them are turfed out by the next administration. Whoever that is.

I think there are few things that generate more anger and cynicism among taxpayers than payoffs to political appointees and lets not pretend it is a failing restricted to the (so-called) left.

It may be that a justification can be made for introducing unelected politically sympathetic appointees to help pursue the aims of an elected government, much as an American President appoints his cabinet. Pretending that these are normal appointments within the civil sevice is dishonest and debases the system. Doing this in the knowledge that these buddies will receive a generous chunk of tax money every time the merry go round stops is contemptible.

Is it too much to hope that, in future elections, parties could be honest about this and tell the people who pay their bills how they intend to deal with this problem without setting up another bunch of cronies with golden handshakes?

If you've handed over a donation to Vision...

I just want to make sure I understand: Any City employee who has made a contribution to a political party or worked for a political campaign would be fired in a Mike Klassen government.

Doesn't that standard effectively eliminate the possibility of Mike Klassen and his co-blogger ever working for the City again?

Or...is it just political contributions to one party? A political test for service?

Do any of the people mentioned by name in this post not do their job properly?

If yes, please expand on how they fail to perform their duties. Please be specific.

But the greatest cost to the City will be the predicted months of toil that will be involved in trying to restore a semblance of worker morale.

If you think a return to power by the party that inflicted the 2007 strike will improve morale in the workforce, you are, sir, delusional.

If Mr. Klassen harbours any political ambitions then this post was extremely ill-advised. He is explicitly stating he would launch a witch-hunt and it will, by his own admission, cost the taxpayer millions.

It's not a winning strategy, in my opinion.

I think Mike might have been referring to city employees who are financially contributing to nomination campaigns, election campaigns and calling out NPA elected officials. Don't forget this is the same Leslie Boldt was quite vocal in her attacks against NPA trustee Ken Denike. This from a loyal and trusted non-partisan public servant?

What do you expect, of course the next government is going to rid itself of partisan political hacks and go back to hiring people based on merit, not whether they happened to work in Mayor Moonbeam's campaign.

"If you think a return to power by the party that inflicted the 2007 strike will improve morale in the workforce, you are, sir, delusional."

Spoken like a true Visionista. Translation, you're stuck with us baby. Regardless of what we do to you, you have no other option. Helllllo? Have you heard of COPE? As for what things were like under the NPA, I'll take the inconvenience of a strike any day over these jokers who are planning to lay us off. As bad as the NPA might have been, they were no ware as rightwing as this merry band.

Did you ever see Jody Andrews or Judy Rogers attending NPA dinners? What about Dave Rudberg banging in lawn signs for Philip Owen. Oh yeah, Sue Mundick was the telephone canvasser for Peter Ladner. NOT. Give your head a shake fella. This would never have happened. These were professional public servants who were smart enough to understand that the politics should be left to the politicians.

You can expect the next campaign meeting at Vision headquarters will look a lot like the corporate management team meetings once Robertson is all through. What a shame.


Don't forget this is the same Leslie Boldt was quite vocal in her attacks against NPA trustee Ken Denike.

Really? She did this performing her duties with Olympic communications? I'm sorry, my memory isn't what it should be, could your provide a link to that occurance?

What do you expect, of course the next government is going to rid itself of partisan political hacks and go back to hiring people based on merit

I'll say it again: are all the people named in this post not performing their duties? Yes/no?

Details. Provide.

Did you ever see Jody Andrews or Judy Rogers attending NPA dinners? What about Dave Rudberg banging in lawn signs for Philip Owen. Oh yeah, Sue Mundick was the telephone canvasser for Peter Ladner.

With the exception of Judy Rogers, these people resigned or retired of their own volition. Right? Do you have evidence otherwise?

Is the staff turnover higher or lower than at other changes of government?

If yes, by how much?

Spoken like a true Visionista.

That explains things, and whatnot...

I think Mike might have been referring to city employees who are financially contributing to nomination campaigns, election campaigns and calling out NPA elected officials.

Just to reiterate...so was I. I just want to make sure that the stated position is that any civic employee who has contributed or worked for a civic poltical campaign will be fired if Mike Klassen ran things.

Or...if it's just civic employees who contributed or worked for civic campaigns Mr. Klassen objects to.

Simple, straightforward questions.

Boy, you Visionistas are really worried that Klassen might run for council. Are you freakin out that one of your weaker candidates...say Deal, Stevenson, Chow or Jang might get knocked off? I think Klassen should be applauded for saying he'll restore dignity and decorum back to Vancouver's public service. If that means getting rid of a few partisan flacks, then so be it. The vast majority of public service employees will applaud him. At least he's not proposing to lay off cashiers and gardeners at the Bloedel conservatory.

Are you honestly advocating for the next administration to take advice on how to build the city from Vision insiders who worked on Gregor's campaign? HaHaHaHaHaHa...you're a real comedian.

Some direct and straightforward questions have posed, sukitraps (that's "spartikus" spelled backwards, for the audience at home).

I look forward to Mike's response.

Funny I smell Jonathan Ross in this thread. Someone please open a window.

I'm a municipal employee (not at Vancouver).

In my view it is extremely unprofessional to engage in partisan political activities for groups running for council ... not to mention stupid! Not participating in party politics at the civic level is the price one pays for working in this profession. We need to be able to work with whomever the public elects.

I'd applaud a purging of partisan hacks to restore the reputation of a non-partisan civil service.

The civil service at City Hall has always been somewhat partisan. I laugh at this attempt to convice someone out there that there were not not partisan political appointments at City Hall under the NPA.
The resent purge is not quite over yet. The NPA was in power so long it was never argued or mentioned when one of their own was appointed to the trough. Why was there never a mention of this? I guess there were no bloggers out there to point it out to the public.
And Larry did not have the stones to do what was necessary, he had his eyes on other things.
Have there been political appointments made to the public service under Vision? You betcha. Will a right wing government come in and replace them with their own henchmen and bagmen, of course they will.
City Hall is not in such a bad shape as people let on. And a lot of us find it refreshing to see some accountability in our management ranks. It is long overdue.
It was imperative that Vision cut the puppet strings from Gordon Campbells inner circle for the new administration to proceed with its agenda.
If the public doesn't like it well, they can voice there opinion in two years. In the meantime, it will be a helluva ride.

"The civil service at City Hall has always been somewhat partisan. I laugh at this attempt to convice someone out there that there were not not partisan political appointments at City Hall under the NPA."

Of the 8000 employees, would you care to name ten of these so-called partisan employees that were hired under the NPA? Very curious to see who they are? I agree, Larry never fired the civil service and hired hacks as full-time public employees. Neither did Sullivan or Owen. This wholesale partisanship started under Robertson and it has now started a chain of events that will live on for years. You can expect that similar to the provincial government, there will be mass firings every time the government changes at city hall. Welcome to the Provincial Government of Vancouver.

Spartikus, chill off man!
That joke played on you by "Sukitraps" is too funny, common! As for your comment "If Mr. Klassen harbors any political ambitions then this post was extremely ill-advised. He is explicitly stating he would launch a witch-hunt and it will, by his own admission, cost the taxpayer millions." give your head a shake.
This administration wasted monies in the millions already, including during their previous campaign in which Robertson metamorphosed into a mayor from an unknown NDP back-bencher MLA. Lots of money spent then, means new money wasted now. That's a great fiscal policy!

I think Glissando's abbreviation: "FHFHF (Friendly Hiring Following Hostile Firing)" is pure genius.

And City Hall Insider "it will be a helluva ride" you may be right, but I'm asking: "Why?" I'll say "No, thank you" to that, ok?

Steve writes: In my view it is extremely unprofessional to engage in partisan political activities for groups running for council

I ask again: Which of the people named in this post have engaged "in partisan activities" in their duties?

Put up, or shut up.

Note too that Mr. Klassen would, apparently, sack every employee who has made a donation to a political party. That would be, you know, a lot of employees.

Higgins writes: That joke played on you by "Sukitraps" is too funny, common!

Comedy genius almost on par with Leno's move to prime-time.

give your head a shake.

Er, yeah. You might want to bone up on a little document popular around these parts.

Also, a certain 1991 Supreme Court ruling will be of disappointing relevance to you too.

The funniest thing is, if Mike Klassen is ever part of the next Vancouver government, there is a very strong possibilty he has made the people specifically named in this post unsackable - for no matter what their job performance is or isn't they will always be able to point to this post and say "I was fired for my past political activities".

And that, my friends, will make Mike's plan very, very expensive.

Lots of good discussion here. Thanks, everyone!

Let me be clear that I firmly believe that anyone, regardless of their job, has a right to participate in the political process. In fact, I would urge everyone to become involved in our political system, which I fear we might lose as the voter turnout declines.

That said, there is a difference between someone who donates to or casts a vote for a political party, and someone who publicly expresses their politics in letters to the editor, etc. The civil service is one of many careers where one has to consider the importance of being seen to be impartial.

Past changes of government have not resulted in sweeping changes in the civil service as it has under Vision Vancouver. Give credit to Larry Campbell and Sam Sullivan that they didn't feel the need to purge staff.

Vision's goal has been clear – get the people into the jobs that will tow the party line. Remember what Penny Ballem said about what her mandate was? She said read the Vision platform.

If they can get away with it, Vision will continue to remake Vancouver's civil service in their own image.

The civil service is one of many careers where one has to consider the importance of being seen to be impartial.

This is true. But...

and someone who publicly expresses their politics in letters to the editor, etc.

...the above does not violate the established guidelines of this country (Doubly so, as I'm assuming the above refers to L. Boldt leaving a comment on a CBC story 7 months before she was employed by the City). You'd also fire Ryan Merkley, and he's only been on the job for a few days!

If you have examples by the named individuals that violate the guidelines, please provide. Otherwise, this strikes me as nothing more than a witchhunt.


Past changes of government have not resulted in sweeping changes in the civil service as it has under Vision Vancouver.

With one exception - Judy Rogers - everyone else has resigned or retired. If you are going to claim the level of turnover is unusual, then please provide the numbers to back this claim up. All the numbers I have seen suggest the current turnover is on par with the past, but I am happy to be corrected.

spartikus, you can propagate the myth that Vision had nothing to do with the senior management departures, but it doesn't hold water.

If the tables were turned, and Vision was lining up to restore a non-partisan public service after an NPA council had made big changes, I suspect you'd not only be silent on the issue, you'd be howling at the moon after each one of these folks bailed out.

Mike, that may very well be the case, but he has asked a most germane question: Is the rate of retirement/leaving/resignation greater than usual, after other changes in office? If so, I think you might have a case that yes, there is some partisan housecleaning going on. If the rate is the same as previously, then your position is untenable. I haven't seen any numbers discussed here or elsewhere.

spartikus, you can propagate the myth that Vision had nothing to do with the senior management departures, but it doesn't hold water.

If it's so apparent then providing supporting evidence should be easy. Is the turnover 200% higher than normal? 300%? 5%?

You've calculated this, right?

Disappointing that you won't provide this data.

If the tables were turned

You haven't established there is a table for turning. See above.

And just to remind (I posted it above), I've criticized decisions made by Vision on Frances Bula's blog as well as on Jonathan Ross's for his stance on freedom of speech. If warranted I will do so again.

Spartikus, do you honestly believe what you write, or are you trying to pull our leg? How on earth could the next government at city hall have any confidence that the information they are getting from a bunch of vision sympathizers in the public service isn't tainted. Look, just admit you are wrong and put an end to this thread once and for all. If these folks do get sacked after the next election, the old adage of live by the sword, die by the sword must apply. They benefited by working at the city for three years in high paying jobs with EDOs, sick pay, pension etc...they had a good run at it and its time another group comes in. Nothing in life is guaranteed, even a civil service job at the city. Hopefully every one of the employees who takes their place will be non-partisan and not card carrying members of one party or another. That is my point in all of this, they should leave the politics to the politicians and leave the administering to us staff. When you are in highly sensitive positions at the city, you have to keep your nose out of politics otherwise you can get burned. I smell something sizzling...don't you? Enough said.

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