Bill Rathie's boner & other summer politics

Post by Mike Klassen in

38 comments

lone-kayaker
The Mayor is kayaking & "off-the-grid" according to his handlers

Let it be a lesson to all future Vancouver mayors. Don't follow the advice of political staff which suggests that you can book off the whole summer break, and slip in a few unpopular decisions when you think no one is watching. That's because it never fails – people ARE watching during August.

Mayor Gregor Robertson slogged through the final week of council after his effing NPA hacks comment caught the attention of the whole city. He attended a low-key Vision BBQ in East Van then hopped on a ferry to Cortes Island for a couple of weeks, making one public appearance at the Hollyhock Lodge with New Age celeb Andrew Weil.

Robertson returned for the opening of the PNE then suddenly slipped back to Cortes when Jeff Lee's empty City Hall story hit the wires. When news reporters wanted an explanation from Hizonner as to why he needed a new private office and a new escape hatch constructed right through Committee Room 2, the media were told by Quinlan that Robertson was kayaking somewhere "off the grid" where no cell phone coverage exists. It makes Cortes Island sound positively barbaric.

Costly office renovations were the bain of a previous mayor of Vancouver. William "Bill" Rathie was an NPA mayor who was re-elected twice in the 1960s, and is credited along with his successor Mayor Tom Campbell for densifying the West End peninsula, leaving a legacy of the city's most affordable housing stock.

Being a popular thrice-elected leader of the city wasn't enough to save Rathie from the controversy stirred by his lavish update to the Mayor's office. It was Rathie who felt that the Vancouver Mayor's office should be the measure of the top job in this growing city. The Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee has a formidable account of Rathie's political problem posted on his blog. The backlash to Rathie's renovations included then Premier W.A.C. Bennett who called it a "political blunder" and the Vancouver Sun itself called Rathie's move "the 40,000 boner".

Despite his successes while governing the city – including building the Georgia Viaducts "to give citizens easier access to downtown" – Rathie was eventually knocked off in part as a result of the negative feelings surrounding his office reno. Tom "Terrific" Campbell beat Rathie as an independent, and was eventually nominated as the NPA's leader for his re-election in 1968.

So is the $260,000 office reno to expand his political operations Gregor Robertson's "boner"? Only time will tell.

What we do know is that the summer of 2010 has not been kind to Gregor. Yesterday on CKNW radio stories ran all day on the news questioning the Mayor's decision, and countering the inaccurate spin provided by Coun. Raymond Louie, who suggested that Mayor Sam Sullivan "started" the Mayor's office reno scheme. Sullivan was de-elected by his own party in June of 2008, making it hard to understand Louie's logic.

Of course, Coun. Kerry Jang complained to media that his free meals provided between council meetings were "stinking up his office" and therefore the creation of a new council dining room was justified. Well, Coun. Jang might want to take a look at the City of Toronto, who have now ordered that city councillors must brown bag it and bring their own meals instead of getting the taxpayers to pony up.

At 12:35 on Wednesday, CKNW host Jill Bennett and City Hall reporter Janet Brown discussed the office renos on-air. Bennett called Vision's spin on the renos "an outright lie," and Brown made reference to an email comment from someone who suggested whether the Victoria search and rescue team should be called out to locate our missing Mayor whose staff said he was "off-the-grid" kayaking "near a northern Gulf Island" and unreachable by phone until Friday.

To our knowledge the hippies up at Cortes Island do have electricity and cell phone service.

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Gregor may be dipping his oars off elsewhere, but back in the city he leads there are plenty of issues besides his costly office renos and expanding political staff that are heating up. We've learned that the West End Neighbours team have nearly 10,000 signatures on their anti-STIR development petition. Yikes, those are Vander Zalm-esque numbers!

Now we've learned that businesses that will be affected by the soon to be built Hornby Street separated bike lane are starting their own public consultation alongside the City's. A group led by Marian Menghi, wife of Umberto of Il Giardino Restaurant and supported by the Downtown BIA and the Canadian Federation for Independent Business have started their own consultation/petition for public feedback on this project. They've set up a website that you can connect to here:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/hornby/

If it's public consultation that has been missing in this city council, thanks to some enterprising citizens we're getting some real grassroots feedback.

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Another story catching our attention is the fate of Hastings Park race course. Earlier this week our CityFun reporter Kerri Brkich described the good time she had at the course, and the efforts they've been taking to market to a younger hip crowd (cheap beer has helped). But rumours continue that the track is losing money, and despite vehement denials by the ownership, one reporter – Surrey Leader's Jeff Nagel – is asking whether an imminent merge between Hastings Park and Fraser Downs tracks are coming soon.

Political historians will remember that it was under the COPE/Vision council in 2005 that Hastings Park track received approval for slot machines despite neighbourhood opposition. The justification for the slots was to support the money-losing horse racing operation, and to keep hundreds of jobs alive. Will the track survive at Hastings Park? Only time will tell.

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Hope you had a great time at the Olympics, Vancouver. We certainly did. And so did the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP brought on to keep us safe. The Province newspaper is reporting today that the police overtime bill stands at a whopping $80 million!!! Yikes again. We tweeted out that there was a VERY heated conversation between Police Chief Jim Chu and City Manager Penny Ballem last week at the Chief's offices. Was it about his Olympics tab?

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Finally, in case you didn't hear about it earlier, Vancouver's NPA party are beginning their revival with a summer pub night at Main Street near 15th Avenue. Come on out and see some of the crew behind the scences who might be leading the charge for the NPA's return to government at city council, park board and school board in 2011.

The details are on Facebook if you want to share it with friends, or you can just show up anytime between 5:30 to 7:30 tonight:

The Five Point Pub
3124 Main Street
Google Map link: http://bit.ly/96ejEw

Come join the crew down there and hear all the scuttlebutt you don't read on the blogs.

- post by Mike

38 Comments

Historical Correction - While the Georgia Viaduct replacement was on the table as early as the mid-1960's, along with many of other freeway proposals, the decision to commence construction of the twin Georgia/Dunsmuir viaducts was made in late 1968/1969 (over 2 years after Rathie left office in 1966) and they were completed in 1970/72 respectively.

As a matter of fact, the preliminary engineering report for the new viaducts, prepared by Phillips, Barratt, Hillier, Jones and Partners, was not completed until 1968.

"The History of Metropolitan Vancouver" is not always the best source for info. For example, it states that "the Stormont Connector" linking Burnaby and New Westminster was officially opened on October 24, 1978." - It hasn't been built yet.

BTW, Cortes Island DOES have cell phone service - What a boner!

Martin Strong (Rock 101 Freaky News) had a pithy comment about Mayor Robertson's need for more privacy on this morning's Bro Jake Show. Stong suggested that if the Mayor needs more privacy he should set up his office in one of the city's downtown bike lanes. That way the only distraction for him will be a single cyclist rolling by every 20 minutes or so...

"off the grid"

More like just out of touch.

With voters.

With our money.

With political reality.

Gregor will never be accused of being the sharpest knife in the drawer, but now he is acting more like a dull spoon.

That image of Gregor quietly kayaking in the open ocean kind of sums it up doesn't it. He is aloof, out-of-touch and doesn't like the little people who don't have money like him.

How can a mayor be off the grid as you put it? What if there was an earthquake in Vancouver or another emergency? Will his political staff take over and step up to the podium to make the Rudolph Giuliani like speeches while the city burns? Give me a break.

Martin Strong rocks my world. That's incredibly funny. Way to go, Marty!

What if there was an earthquake in Vancouver or another emergency? Will his political staff take over and step up to the podium to make the Rudolph Giuliani like speeches while the city burns?

**************

Kind of reminiscent of the snow storm that hit Vancouver in 2008.

The Mayor was sunning himself on the beaches of Mexico - that shortly after spending roughly $80K on his victory party.


A bit of research on city caucus.com finds the office reno spending is not the only bone-headed decision Gregor Robertson has made. Take a look:

- $80K for inaugural ceremony
- $250K for Burrard Bridge spin plan
- $60K to hire a PR firm to spin out Olympic village message
- $800K to upgrade carpets and bathroom on his third floor
- $35K for new furniture for his office. He returned the furniture because it stank.
- $40K to install a light show on the outside of city hall
- $20K for a homeless shelter for chickens
- $25K for a community garden at city hall
- $240K for a new Greenest City logo

How quickly we forget.

Great story. A 60 year old building is getting renovated. Last time I was there it felt like I'd gone back to the 70's. Renovations are expensive. Ask anyone whose renovated their kitchen.

I'm into free lunches ending. Good point.

The mayor takes a vacation at the end of August and suddenly he's neglecting his job? Doesn't it make sense to do renovations during the quietest time of the year?

And for the record, there are only limited places on Cortes with reception. That's one of the great things about it. Forces you off the laptop and cell phone.

Why are you guys so against bike lanes? Sure it can be inconvenient for drivers, but doesn't encouraging non fossil fuel transportation make sense? People voted a mayor and council in to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world. Seems like a logical step to me.

Love City Caucus. A critical voice is important. But things are feeling a little shrill to me.


This is truly the b**tchiest post I've ever ready on this blog.

Oh it looks like the visionistas are waking up from their summer slumber. Or the cycling lobbyists have been asked to come help get gregor out of the glue.

I heard vision is choked that Bula/Garr took a holiday in late August. They now have nobody to come to their defence as the attacks continue unabated.

@dave As Penny Ballem would say, that is just a "drop in the bucket". Once you hit 10 million then you're talking a real waste of tax dollars.

Hi Naomi : Fact check : a slim majority of 30% of the eligible voters voted for a Vision council (that's why they're the so-called elected representatives of the citizens of Vancouver); the mayor campaigned on 2 issues - NPA screwed up Olympic Village (in-camera report leaked by Louie) and solving homelessness by 2015. I seem to recall a plank borrowed from the NDP which involved levying a tax on empty condos (to punish those evil corporate property speculators for not renting them out), but it turns out they were just trying to con tenants into thinking they cared. Funny when you think 7 of the 11 floors at the Hall are empty.

Nobody said anything about $25 million worth of spending on bikes, or HEAT crack motels or chickens or contempt for delegations.

Maybe Mr. Robertson should be recalled for lying during the election campaign.

On a somewhat related note, when does the current CUPE contract with the City expire?

Chad
The Mayor has been MIA for the entire summer... Jasper appeared on the news this week, closing 50 child care spaces. This crew has no good news lately...maybe Garr and Bula saw it coming and headed for the hills.`

Landlord
I didn't know it was Louie that leaked that document!!! holy cow..

Vision got in by a slim majority?

http://vancouver.ca/Electionresults2008/

Hardly. 8 to 1 is not slim. The NPA were democratically spanked.

Yes, the number of eligible voters compared to those that voted had a wide margin. Hopefully all the parties work to improve that in the next election.

Vision didn't run on 2 issues. The condo thing came up in the last week of the campaign. Here's what I received in an August 2008 e-mail from Vision:

- the need to have strong leadership to tackle the challenges of homelessness and affordable housing;
- to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world;
- to ensure that our children and seniors feel safe in neighbourhoods throughout our city;
- and to spark creativity and entrepreneurship in Vancouver.

They've stuck to those issues and are going to win a second term because of it.

Naomi,
I wouldn't be too sure, the other shoe has yet to drop....

I'm not sure, it's just a feeling I have based on talking to people around the city. The majority of people like Gregor and what he's done so far.

@Naomi "and to spark creativity and entrepreneurship in Vancouver."

How does trying to kill the businesses along Hornby Street with your stupid bike lane jive with this commitment? Naomi, I would stop while you're ahead. You're not going to get very far.

@Darryl, I don't think anyone is trying to kill businesses. Your grandkids will thank this generation for taking a stand for the environment.

Air quality does literally kill people:

http://www.soeh.ubc.ca/About_Us/Br_article.htm

Besides bike riding inspires creativity:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpunQZ4cUyI

@landlord

Vision is doing exactly what they said they would in their platform. From:
http://www.votevision.ca/sites/all/files/vision_platform_web.pdf
"– Create cycling infrastructure that safely integrates bikes into the road network, beginning with a pilot project that provides separated bike lanes on several major bike routes."

Both Dunsmuir and Hornby fit that quite well.

"Naomi" is starting to sound like a committee comprised of Jonathan Ross, Chris Keam and Kevin Quinlan and posting under a nom de plume.

Mayor Robertson is nobody's idea of a strong leader. Even his own chief-of-staff makes that clear. The real leadership on the housing file came from Minister Coleman, not Vision.
How does no Oly Village rentals to the poor and $2400/mo. units for union brothers and sisters address homelessness?

You need to be creative to find good things to say about this Council and the only entrepreneurs they've supported (outside the property-development community) are presently seeking tax-exempt charitable status to teach yoga and juggling and bad-mouth Western medicine.

The part about ensuring the safety of widows and orphans, I'm sorry I mean children and seniors, is just union-stooge code for more hires by VPD.

Ask around, "Naomi". Talk to a couple bona fide leaders who have met and worked with the Mayor. Find one who doesn't come out of the meeting thinking "Dim-witted puppet/union stooge/boy was I right about the NDP".

@landlord: Keep guessing. I think Gregor's online support is larger then the committee you suggest.

When somebody (like you) says, 'nobody' or 'everybody' when describing what people think, it usually means they're making things up..

As far as your street safety comment goes, connecting and providing services to drug addicts rather then putting more uniforms on the street is a better solution then more police officers. I'm looking forward to hearing about the crime rate changes in the DTES.

I've spoken to many leaders who have been in meetings with Gregor and love him. He's open-minded, calm, and smart.

http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Globe+2010+conference+gets+Vancouver+green+business+pitch/2721987/story.html

Landlord,
not only have Garr and Bula gone on vacation. Today Johnathon Ross posted that he too is on vacation for the week.
Telling when even the family "pit bull" runs away:)

Naomi,
You have made my evening. You really should read articles completely before posting to use as your argument.
THIS IS A MUST READ... the comments in response to the article you posted don't make your boy look so good.
Thanks for a good laugh...

@George you're welcome

my favorite comment is, 'There is NO global warming!!'

Naomi,
Have you ever talked to anyone in a 43% tax bracket (other than city management or visonistas who sell Amway herbal crap) or who pays more than $10,000/year in property taxes?

@Naomi.

You talk about saving the enviroment with the Mayor's bike lanes.

I'm curious what about all of the traffic congestion and idling cars caused by the loss of lanes to the bikes? While one bicyle every 20 minutes rides through these bike lanes, 400 cars are left idling and waiting to snail through traffic because of the loss of a lane.

I would agree that bike lanes are necessary and are supposed to be a good thing, but when all they do is cause more traffic congestion, do you really think it was done in the right way? Bike lanes should be built, but not at the cost of vehicle lanes. The direction this Mayor has taken only causes more polution. It does nothing to prevent polution.

It looks like the city manager Penny Ballem is moving out today. She's packing her bags and moving to the second floor. Then she moves up to her plush digs on the 6th floor. Then in November 2011 her and Sadhu pack their bags for one last time as Vision's grip on power slips away. Wow. Three moves in a little over one year. How stressful is that!

MEMO - Confidential

To: Frances Bula; Allen Garr; Johnny Boy

From: Kevin Quinlan, Director of Spin for Mayor's Office

Hey guys I hope you are all enjoying your holidays. Back home things haven't been great since you've left. Well, to put it bluntly, we've been fu$$ing up big time and both the media and blogoshpere have been killing us. I am at a complete loss as to what to do. Usually I just get Gregor to step out on stage and smile and it all goes well. Sure you guys have had to mop up a few times, but overall steady as she goes.

I know this is a lot to ask but any chance one or all of you could cut your holidays short to come back and shore up the troops? At least until I get my new office constructed in the West Wing. It will have a killer view and room to swing a cat! You guys will have to come by and see it when it's all furnished. I digress.

No matter how much I argue with your media colleagues the bad stories keep coming out. In any event I hope you're all doing well this summer and pleeeeeeeese consider my request seriously. I can't afford any more communication gaffes. If you know what I mean.

I look forward to catching up with you and looking at your vacation photos.

Luv Kev aka Vancouver Kid

ps please come home. Please, please, please. I'm in a real pickle!!!!

Taking vacation in late August = some conspiracy to avoid the media? I think people need to take a break from the blog world. It's making you crazy.

@ red.

The notion that a bike lane will increase pollution through idling over the long term has been debunked. Get with the times.

Funny stuff this thread. One person doesn't tow the bash gregor line and they get positively shiate on by everyone else. Good stuff.

So 'strong leadership' includes sunbathing during a snowstorm and kayaking during a shitstorm.

Good to know.

Maybe he kayaked to Carrington Bay for the big Cortes Rave this weekend. No cellphone coverage out there.

It looks like Quinlan's memo to Johnny Boy may well have worked. He's stopped eating his Montreal smoked meat long enough to pen a nasty attack against the mainstream media who he accuses as being "lazy". Read what veteran reporter Jeff Lee has posted on his blog as a response:

http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/civiclee/default.aspx

Johnny, me thinks you are simply attacking the messenger. The fact remains that Louie, Stevenson, Deal, Chow etc...all voted for the engineers to move into their costly new digs at crossroads. How do you get around that little detail? Hmmmm, how do you spin that one out? Not to mention the fact the current expansion of Gregor Robertson's office has absolutley NOTHING to do with anyone but Robertson himself.

Stop attacking the media, go back on your well deserved holidays, and chow down on a great smoked meat sandwich. Your blast today at the media is only making things worse for you and the mayor's staff and the party. It's demonstrating a level of despration not seen in the two years since the mayor took office.

Naomi:

Homlessness is up 12%

Chilredn's programs were shut down as the 'city' could not afford $60K - YET, they can afford $25 M for bike lanes and $260 for offices renos.

As a tax paying citizen of this city I demand that the 2010 budget be posted.

I want to know where all of OUR money is being spent.

I support you Max. But, I've also lost confidence in this Council to providing an accurate accounting of their expenses. We should start a petition asking the Province to send in an auditor to oversee their spending until the next election. As well, given their track record I suspect they may well enter into some, let's say, less than beneficial financial commitments for taxpayers between now & then.

I would sign that petition...

@boohoo

@boohoo

Please read my post again. I never said that all bike lanes cause traffic congestion. I said bike lanes are good, but they need to be applies correctly for them to be effective. I don't feel that this Mayor/Council has done this with any of the bike lanes they've added. They have randomly placed bike lanes wherever they feel like without any consultaion from the public. Why don't you go sit at one of these lanes to see if it's actually saving any polution.

Maybe you should learn to read before before jumping to any conclutions about any notions.

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