$34,000 a "drop in the bucket" expediture says Penny Ballem

Post by Mike Klassen in


Vancouver's City Manager shrugs off criticism of costs for private staff parties

There was a time before Vision Vancouver governed that the public would never see the City Manager nor her deputies in the public eye. When Gregor Robertson hand-picked Penny Ballem to run Vancouver's civil service, no one suspected that the former Deputy Minister of Health would spend so much time in the limelight. For the city's government Ballem's sometimes blunt remarks have had some embarrassing consequences.

The first example of how the City Manager felt about due process was when she approved a "double-dipping" public relations contract for James Hoggan & Associates. Later, council changed the bylaw that required sign-off by elected officials for expenditures over $30,000, and upped that number to $2,000,000 that the City Manager could spend without prior approval.

When asked about staff's concern over her micromanaging style, Ballem responded "tough, eh?" to columnist Allen Garr. Then there were concerns about Ballem landing work with the now defunct eHealth Ontario at $3000 per day, before cutting off the contract to begin work at Vancouver City Hall. Ballem defended receiving $34,000 for just under 2 weeks work.

Now there are the recent dismissive comments by the City Manager regarding another $34,000 of taxpayer dollars (and untold staff time) to orchestrate a private party for up to 9000 members of Vancouver's civil service. Ballem told GlobalTV reporter that the money was "just a drop in the bucket".

If anyone else in government made a statement like that, they would be eviscerated by the media and the public. If a government minister anywhere, or a city councillor or mayor, or a public official said $34,000 is "just a drop in the bucket" anywhere else, we somehow think that it would grab a little more attention.

You've got to give Penny Ballem credit – she gets away with some pretty incredible statements, and rarely gets called on it. Can we be comfortable, however, giving someone so much discretionary spending power when she appears to be so cavalier about the real cost to taxpayers?

I bet that $34,000 could be better spent in my neighbourhood, or yours, than on a big staff party. What do you think?

- post by Mike


A classic example of Orewellian thought processes.

Some pigs are just far more equal than others.

To paraphrase CD Howe.. and an insight into "Ballemian" thought processes....
$34,000 here, $34,000 there and pretty soon you'll be talking real money!

In the meantime, lets continue terrorizing Community Centres, paying off CUPE, ruining the Park Board, the reeking havoc on the peons that work for the us, lessening services

oh ya...

Let the surfs eat some chicken...

after all the little people need to eat

Before long she'll be saying "let them eat cake". Hard to believe a city manager actually said that about tax dollars. A drop in the bucket? $34,000 is the equivalent to the property taxes paid each year by about 15 homeowners in Vancouver. I wonder if Ballem asked those homeowners how they feel about spending their hard earned $34K on a party?

Perhaps when it comes to sending in your property taxes next year, you could just send a yellow sticky note with the following message "my $2,000 bucks in property tax is just a drop in the bucket, therefore, I haven't bothered to send the money in to you this year." Hmmm. I wonder what the good city manager would say then?

Dave, we're doing some coverage on the community centres issue for tomorrow. It's very concerning. Stay tuned.

$2000 in property taxes? I wish. Try over $6K in my neighbourhood.

what an arrogant statement and an arrogant government. This comment should become a central theme of the NPA's campaign brochures.

The Thought of The Day

“City Hall is at a...”Crossword”. Penny, is in the Crosswords!
ACROSS and DOWN. (Five Letters)
DEFINITION: When in heat, ESTRUS becomes HER.”

We could only assume that after last month’s Olympic Party, this spending, is for Penny just like someone’s craving for a cigarette, a shot of Brandy, or a bite of chocolate cake... after a party of sex.

“A drop in a bucket”... I think she is entitled to her opinion. Therefore, let her have her party...but only on her dollar, you know that minted one that we pay her with.

And just in.

Whoever is showing up at this pigsty celebration, on the April 15th, will be receiving a free engraved plaque with their name, in “Vision Swine” Font, followed by one renowned abbreviation.
So, it will look something like this:


We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Let me get this straight... in order for the city to "recognize" my "extraordinary efforts" and thank me for me for helping make the Olympics such a success, they are spending $3.75 per staff (based on 9,000 staff) and asking me to come to the Salt Building after work (and after missing my carpool, having to arrange public transportation home and additional childcare...)

Sorry - I can't make it. I suspect that a few other staff can't make it either. Assuming 1,000 do show up, it ends up costing $30 per person that actually shows up to get 'thanked'.

Why not just put the $3.75 on my next cheque (and every other COV employee) and thank us all directly.

On second thought, keep my share of the $3.75 and put it towards chicken feed for the first hen that needs to be rescued from someone's backyard.

The City Manager's kind words and actions over the past 13 months are all the 'thanks' I need for my efforts...


I'm nominating this for comment of the month.

kudos for telling it like it is.

Ballem's notion of a drop in the bucket for her, in reality for us taxpayers the the proverbial water torture, one drop on our restrained foreheads @ a time, day after day, after day, after day.......

When is this nightmare going to end?

From above post:

...council changed the bylaw that required sign-off by elected officials for expenditures over $30,000, and upped that number to $2,000,000 that the City Manager could spend without prior approval...

Is that where staff got the money to do the $50,000 chicken shelter report.

Council is setting up the City to become another DERA; give power to the executive-director (city manager)so she can slowly bankrupt the city by $2 million expenditures.

The City is a society and its directors (councillors) should not be giving away powers it has to an executive-director (city manager).

Does that include the 20,000 for the chicken homeless shelter?
or is that extra?

Last I heard you head for the prison in cases of embezzlement. And if she is bankrupting the city ain't she liable and responsible to the shareholders...the stupid taxpayers?

I just heard from a city insider about a cost savings plan VISION has hatched to keep this party well under $34k.
The plan goes like this -- Penny Ballem will give opening remarks, followed by Carol James and (if anyone is still left) Patty Bacchus will follow Carol to the podium. VISION is hoping this will not only drive people to the nearest door it may also help with the proposed head count reductions. Jim Green would be the fourth speaker but is not expected to perform "It's like backing up Luongo" he said.
The party is now expected to last less than 17 minutes.
Local residences who expressed fears that this combined force would suck the life out of neighboring buildings were told to close all windows and keep the TV loud.

The city is not a society, it is technically a corporation. Two very different legal entities.

Council is in essence a board of directors, elected if you will, at a shareholder meeting otherwise a civic election every three years.

The city manager in essence is the CEO and not the same as an executive director that is hired by the BoD to manage the day to day operations of the corporation of Vancouver.

It is not a society as you wrote, and further they are subject to different laws than a regular corporation which allows them to get away with decisions that would have put Enron and Worldcom executives in the clink.

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