A toast and bouquet of flowers were delivered to David Cadman for his courageous stand
It’s not often staff at CityCaucus Tower take the time out of their busy schedules to raise a glass to Vancouver COPE councillor David “Carbon” Cadman. However, that’s exactly what happened over the weekend as word spread Cadman had introduced a council motion demanding his coalition of the willing partners practice some fiscal accountability. Cadman is asking Vision to reverse their previous decision to allow the City Manager to sign off on untendered contracts up to $300,000 without any political oversight.
In the past, any contract over $30,000 required political approval. It was something newly-minted City Manager Penny Ballem learned the hard way when she garnered headlines for issuing two back-to-back untendered contracts to Hoggan and Associates. Just prior to the Christmas break, she convinced council to significantly increase the amount she was permitted to arbitrarily approve. City Hall watchers argue the move was intended to prevent additional bad press and limit transparency when it comes to issuing contracts to friends and insiders.
As Charlie Smith from the Georgia Straight rightly points out, COPE have given Vision a veritable free ride when it comes to council expenditures. It was recently revealed on our site that Mayor Gregor Robertson was even given access to a $1000 a day contractor to help boost his image during the Olympic Games.
So just how did Robertson afford to hire the contractor when council provides him with only a limited budget for these type of expenditures? Well, no worries on that front. Robertson was permitted (without council being aware) to dip into the City's general operating budget to get access to this hired help. As for his $800K+ office budget, well it wasn’t hit up for a penny to pay for all this type of Olympic period promotion.
It’s likely this revelation raised the ire of Cadman and triggered his motion asking for more fiscal accountability at City Hall. That’s because until now the Mayor traditionally could only spend the money he was provided by his council colleagues. Now it would appear the City Manager also has the authority to help plump up the Mayor's office budget.
Unlike some American mayors that have unfettered access to public funds, Robertson has to go cap in hand to Cadman and his colleagues to get his budget approved. In fact, every Mayor and Council are supposed to operate this way in British Columbia. It's something our imperial Mayor likely finds frustrating as he watches communist leaders in China govern without the "hassle" of public accountability.
The fact Robertson’s hand-picked city manager is now allowing him special access to resources not provided equally to other members of Vancouver council should be of concern. Those interested in promoting the concept of open and transparent government should be advocating that these expenditures are properly approved and reflected in the Mayor’s discretionary budget.
I suspect Cadman’s motion will trigger at least three COPE/NPA councillors to ask some tough questions. Woodsworth could ask if the City Manager has provided any other contracted support to the Mayor or his caucus colleagues besides what we’re aware of from Hoggan and Associates, FD Element, and Linda Oglov? Anton could ask what the policy is with regards to providing the Mayor with special access to support services not paid for out of his budget? Cadman could well ask why Council wasn’t advised of such an expenditure until it was posted on CityCaucus.com?
I give Cadman full marks for having the guts to stand up to the Mayor and his Vision colleagues on this one. That's because you can anticipate some of the nastier Vision Vipers will try to figure out exactly how Cadman will politically pay for his open defiance to their authority.
I don't see this as signs of a split in their coalition. Rather, I see it as a politician relying on principle to hold a government's feet to the fire. If he wants any hope of getting re-elected, Cadman better get into this habit more often.
What do you think of Cadman's motion? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
- Post by Daniel