A blogger feeling stung after a 3-minute call with the Courier's marquee columnist
This evening I phoned Vancouver Courier columnist Allen Garr after hearing he had concerns about my previous report about his new role as beekeeper at Vancouver City Hall. I erroneously reported that Garr was being compensated financially for his work on the hives project. When interviewed by the Vancouver Sun last Thursday, no mention was made by the writer that he was providing the services pro bono, nor did the city make this clear. Garr told me tonight that he is not going to be paid for managing the hives on the roof of the East Wing. Consider that part of our report corrected.
"I'm not getting paid for managing those hives," said Garr, "just like with Van Dusen and the Convention Centre and everywhere else for the past 15 years." I asked Garr if he was supplying his own equipment, he paused a second and responded, "that's what I'm doing with the city." I also asked Garr what his terms were with the city and he responded, "None of your f***ing business." Garr terminated the call before we could discuss much more.
Does the fact that Allen isn't getting compensated financially make any difference to the situation? In my opinion it does not. Garr is now providing his services to the city to maintain those hives – and money or not, he is now doing business with the City of Vancouver. It might also be worth knowing how this relationship came about and who initiated it, and I expect someone will clear that up.
Let's ignore for the moment that this beehive initiative was directly sold in the first communiqué to staff as yet another way to make Vancouver the "Greenest City in the World." We can also overlook that greening Vancouver is one of Vision Vancouver's key political promises, of which now Allen Garr is playing a role however small.
Consider Vancouver's volunteer advisory committees, on which I have served in the past during the NPA's term of government. Although they are not sold as such, the committees have many political appointments. Whether it be the Bicycle Advisory Committee, Vancouver Economic Development Commission, or Development Permit Board Advisory Panel, it's expected that the work you do on those committees will not threaten a sitting government. Those who do try to agitate from inside City Hall usually find their appointments ending quickly – as happened over at the Board of Variance on at least one occasion.
In essence, the City of Vancouver now has a new advisory committee – the one-member beehive committee. And if Mike Klassen was a qualified apiarist (beekeeper) and my name came forward to manage those hives, is it likely I would have been appointed to do the job? Don't bet on it.
However, when Allen Garr's name is put forward, that resistance doesn't appear to exist.
For nearly a generation Allen Garr has judged, attacked and on occasion beat up the reputations of political figures in this city and province. But now when his own actions come under scrutiny in the political realm, he is clearly uncomfortable with the attention. It is my opinion that Allen Garr, by managing beehives which will put Vancouver into the Greenest City category, has received a political appointment sanctioned by the Vancouver Mayor's office.
I think that's absolutely fine, he's entitled to it. But it will be up to his bosses at the Vancouver Courier, their readers and ours, to decide whether they agree with that assessment, and if they do whether it matters to them or not that he's writing a political column about those who brought him aboard.
- post by Mike