Just to bee clear on the matter

Post by Mike Klassen in


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


I'm also worried about Allen conspiring with the bees, or maybe against the bees.

Did the bees even get a say in who rules them? We must march for bee elections, someone call Harsha Walia.

Mike you have really stirred up the hornet's nest. Garr is now on the receiving end of the scrutiny he puts politicians under every week. I bet there are hundreds of current and former politicians and their political staff that are quietly cheering you on.

Why didn't Garr just answer your questions? He wants everyone to answer his questions when he calls them. Talk about a double standard. Perhaps it's time for him to retire and simply tend to his bees at city hall while his pal Gregor works the garden on the front lawn.

Mr Garr and the mayor have left many unanswered questions on the table. Why was the Portland Housing group or Raincity Housing not offered a chance to bid on housing these bees? Will Insight bee providing safe honeycomb? There are several bees in the park on Commercial near my home - will these bees be asked to relocate to the City Hall hives? And what of the bees who do not want to be hived - will Pivot Legal step in to uphold their rights?
What else do we need to do as a City to uphold our reputation as the laughing stock of municipalities? What else is happening while our mayor searches for an original thought?
And why do I get this feeling that while we are all 'watching the birdie' (or bee or backyard chicken) wolves have entered the barn and are raiding the pens?

I wonder if Miro Cernetig from the Sun were appointed to the Vancouver Planning Commission? Or Gary Mason were appointed to the bicycle advisory committee. Or Frances Bula to the Green City Task force. What would Mr Garr say then. Having the mayor or city manager appoint him as beekeeper as part of their "green" agenda then expecting him to be impartial about it in his column is a complete joke. First he announces he's running on the NDP slate at Vancity. Now this?

Allan you are agood man and have had a good run at it. But perhaps it's time you step down. You have lost your sense of what makes for an objective columnist. Are you planning on harvesting and selling all the honey produced on the roof? If so, who nets the proceeds? Your readers deserve to know.

Exactly my thoughts when I read about it. I can not imagine why Mr. Garr would object to answering your questions. Perhaps he is preparing to retire from his writing vocation and give full time to his avocation.

The civic affairs columnist for the Courier saying its none of our business what his contract is with the city? Not good enough. Who gets proceeds from the honey theese bees will be producing?

Based on the revelations that Allen IS NOT being PAID, then my previous comment that this will finally be his undoing, was wrong.

I'm still not entirely comfortable with his involvement on the same slate as Clr. Geoff Meggs' wife, notwithstanding the fact that Allen would make a good VanCity board member.

But since you guys have revealed that you erred in reporting he is being paid, I withdraw my comments on the bee issue.

From what I understand, he is the President and Vice-President of all sorts of bee-keeping associations with chapters in Vancouver, Richmond and throughout the Lower Mainland.

This significantly changes your story. Frankly, with all due respect, I think you should pull the original and fully apologize. I've made mistakes, we all do, and the right thing to do is admit it, apologize and move on.

There is clearly much more to this than meets the eye. I believe that the bees will be trained to attack none Vision supporters on election day and possibly even vote in their place.

Who runs the beehives is a vital question that once again the MSM are ignoring.

"None of your f***ing business."

Ouch, what a stinging rebuke!

Alex I can see why you backtracked from you original comment, but it is amusing to see that you think Allen is only a few hundreds bucks away from his own undoing.

As Klassen rightly points out, whether Garr is getting paid or not is somewhat irrelevant. He is now the official beekeeper for the city of vancouver. Not to mention he is running for office on the NDP slate at vancity with Geoff Meggs' wife.

All too cozy for me and likely the readers over at the courier. I know if you were in the same position writing for the Courier (which I'd love by the way - perhaps when Garr retires??)you would know better than to form these formal relationships with the people you are writing about.

Alex, I'm not above eating crow when necessary. However, can we let this one play out? I'd like all the information available on the public record as far as who gets what, and the costs incurred.

My original post was not about Garr, rather it was about the amusing idea of hosting beehives as a symbol of making the city "green", all this while budgets are being slashed at the Hall. Garr's part in it was a footnote. His protests only make me want to dig a little deeper.

And dig deeper you should.

It's obvious that there is something that Allen is hiding. It is true that Allen is doing the bee keeping for free, but the deal is that he will get to sell all of the honey he can produce back to the City. I don't know what City Hall will be doing with the honey. Maybe open a give shop like at VanDusen to sell the honey? Maybe ship them to Hollyhock as tithing? Either way, the City will be obligated to purchase all of the honey produced regardless of price despite the fact that the City is giving the space to Allan for free. Hmmm I wonder if I can get a business deal like that with Vancouver. Let me take over some space that the City owns. Let the City pay for everything. I show my face there once a week and build widgets. Then sell them all back to the City at 100% profit for me. Where do I sign to get a deal like that?

I'll bet the honey goes to the DTES. It will be the new sensation...HONEY FOR THE HOMELESS!

Hi Mike:

I think Allen was outraged because you claimed to have confirmed his contract...when in fact....there is no contract.

On the other matter of his coziness with VV, yes, I have discussed this with Allen many times and he claims otherwise. I do not agree with him in the least, but attack him on that if you will.

At the end of the proverbial day, I think people should recognize that bee keeping on the roof of City Hall will not bring Allen Garr a profit (you'd have to produce a significant amt for him to actually make some money) And the risk is all his. That it fits into the Mayor's vision of a greener Vancouver isn't really that appetizing a story.

The angle here is that while Allen is too cozy with the people he's writing about, the actual act of the beekeeping is a non-starter: He shouldn't have done it as the appearance of conflict is thick and weepy, but the fact remains: He's taking on a relatively large bill, with a large risk attached, to, in all likelihood, break even at best.

I'm not against bees on the roof, I just think in light of Vision wanting to completely politicize the staff and demolish the Georgia viaduct (to appease the cycling fascists) among other insanity, this is hardly that big a deal.

But by all means keep digging. Just don't state that you've confirmed something that isn't there.

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