Get your 24 Hours "Pretty Penny" collectors edition today

Post by Mike Klassen in


No word yet on whether 24 Hours will do t-shirts or posters of today's cover

The popularity of 24 Hours Vancouver has surprised many media observers in recent years. It is now the third largest publication in Metro Vancouver after the Sun & Province newspapers. There is speculation that it may rise to the number two spot someday, with plans to expand into mobile editions and other media. Certainly you can't ride public transit today without seeing several people reading the paper, and almost no one reading the major dailies.

Today's cover story by crack reporter Bob Mackin about the number of people making six-figure salaries features a classic "collector's edition" cover. It's City Manager Penny Ballem atop a stack of pennies. We know that Penny makes a helluva lot of pennies. Recall her abbreviated work with the controversial E-Health Ontario, where she made $32,000 for just under 2 weeks work. Ballem's $3000/day rate made headlines in the Globe and Mail from coast to coast to coast.

Clearly Ms. Ballem thinks that as a medical doctor-cum-civil servant that she deserves to be paid very, very well. Funnily enough, when we asked whether Ballem was getting a scheduled 4% pay increase approved by Gregor Robertson, a Mayor's office staffer lied to the media saying she wasn't getting the raise. But as Jim Green argues, we're lucky to have Ballem who "took a pay cut" to work for the City of Vancouver.

The pay levels of top civil servants like Penny Ballem is a good story, and it's because of the prominent play 24 Hours gives to good reporting like this that the audience for their publication keeps growing.


I have my 'keepsake' on my desk.

Hats off to Bob Mackin - he is one of the few that do write unbiased articles on all that is city hall.

(Perhaps Bob could give Miro a tip or two and help him over his obvious 'man crush' for the Mayor)

The real scandal: in late 2008, Vision Vancouver negotiated a $1 million severance package for Dr. Ballem, in the event her services be terminated by a future Vancouver Council!

One would hope that should the NPA win a majority following the 2011 municipal election and the new government deem Dr. Ballem to be too partisan and as a consequence dismiss her as City Manager, that she would be forced into Court for a ruling as to whether her unconscionably high severance package should be upheld.

There is talk in the halls of 12th and cambie that Madame Ballem won't last past summer. She's done the heavy lifting and vision are now looking for an exit strategy from this mess before the next civic election. Like Adair, this former BC Liberal deputy minister has now passed her best before date. I'm told some visionistas are already seriously looking at who might take her place.

Could City Manager Geoff Meggs become a reality? It's happened before with Fritz Bowers, and it could happen again. They've so politicized the public service, why not have a politician run the whole show. It would make good sense.

PS Kudos to Mackin and 24 Hrs for having the guts to write something perceived as "anti-vision". There ain't a lot of journalists in town prepared to do so.

I don't know enough about the laws here but in the UK elected local government members can be held personally liable for losses to the taxpayer consequent upon their actions. The most famous case is probably that of Shirley Porter, former mayor of the City of Westminster, who was hit for a surcharge of £42,000,000. She fled to Israel but eventually coughed up about £12,000,000.

If they risked having to pay it themselves councillors might be a little less prone to throw our money away on such politicized abuses as Ms Ballem's indefensible severance agreement.

One item of interest was the 2009/2008 yoy increase in "wages,salaries and benefits" as reported by the COV financial report. On page 27 of the report, note the $69.6 million or 12.4% increase "wages salaries and benefits". As well, note the increase in pension funding. In 2007 COV employer contributions were $40.4 million and for 2009 have risen to $49.1 million. This 22% increase is despite a $436 million dollar surplus in the Municipal Employees Pension Plan.Unfortunately, due to the lack of transparency, there is no explanatory note as to why the increases in these items which is detail provided in annual/quarterly reports for publicly traded companies. Curiously, no headcount data provided, which again is common in financial reports for publicly traded companies.

The Thought Of The Day

"When caught pickpocketing try your best 'in great pain;runaway from an abusive foster home;five days without food' look. It works. Even the victim, might give you some change before the officer carefully lowers your head while you're climbing into her Police cruiser."

It never stops to amaze me how all these overpaid goons are trying their best to put the 'living with...Payne in Civil Service is my life' look when they are talking to the media, about themselves or about the decisions they are making.

Every time I see or hear Penny talk, it feels like some gigantic leech is stepping over her blistered feet, it's like she's on Preparation H medication, it's like she is supposed to go for a date with a big juicy zit on her forehead.

Jeeses, is like she's paid in coins or something. As a matter of fact that should be the way to go with all these greedy punks. Pay them in pennies every month and let them take home as much as they can carry on their backs.

Picturing Ballem carrying her duffel out the City Hall's main entrance would make everyone's day. As her handpicked Deputy would put it, while carrying his own duffel out the back door, "What Aufochs going on?"... Some say, it's called Karma!

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Check out!

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