Jang provides another Vision knock against City staff

Post by Mike Klassen in


Kerry Jang puts his foot in it at Tuesday's council meeting - see video

The floor of the city council chamber is a place to battle over opinions and ideas. At times the political hyperbole flies and our elected officials too often try to one-up each other in pointless arguments.

None of us, however, want council chambers to be a place for put-downs, especially when it involves a non-partisan public servant. That unfortunately is what we heard from Vision Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang at Tuesday evening's council meeting. In his attempt to toss darts at lone NPA councillor Suzanne Anton, Jang decided to mock the City's now former manager of the freedom of information office Paul Hancock.

It was not a good day for Vision Vancouver. It started with a newspaper report on a poll conducted by Justason Market Intelligence that shows Vision Vancouver's popularity seriously on the wane. Their mishandling of the Olympic Village file and their unwillingness to take responsibility for their own mistakes have frustrated Vancouverites no end.

Once undecided voters are now decidely opposed to the idea of re-electing Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver.

Then there was the TERRIBLE staff survey results presented to council at the start of Tuesday's meeting. CityCaucus.com began tweeting out that the staff survey results would be coming and the word was they would be "ugly." Penny Ballem booked a room at Robson Square UBC Campus at $1100 to discuss the results with her senior management team just prior to the council presentation.

Likely because of our tweets, a hastily prepared 2-line press release about Ballem's presentation was issued a mere 45-minutes before the council meeting would start. Haven't we seen these "late distribution" tactics by the City Manager once too often?

After a looooong and rambling intro on the positives, the slides in PowerPoint Penny's presentation showed that the trust in City Hall's leadership had plummeted. Only 27% of surveyed staff felt they had confidence in senior management.

The numbers were so low that members of the Vision council were at a loss for words. Each Vision/COPE councillor mumbled about how great it was that the City had done a survey, but none dared to mention the substance of the results. Questioned by the Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee after the presentation – see his story – Penny Ballem shrugged off any concerns about her leadership. Further, she blamed staff for not understanding her mission.

“There is no comment that this is the wrong direction. This is just that they don’t understand enough yet [where the city is going],” she said.

The survey, conducted by the Hay Group, showed a majority of employees also are generally happy and productive in their work, even if they are unclear about some of the directions in which the city is going.

Ballem said it was a head-scratcher that people would be happy in their work but still lack confidence in the leadership of their management.

It is a little bit of a disconnect. It is hard to quite get your head around it. But I think the clear message is that we need to do more work explaining what the broad strategy is of the city,” she said.

201117688.png Slides like this one from her PowerPoint don't get much more grim. The blue line zig-zagging along the bottom is the measure of satisfaction within her staff. The line above it is the average for all public sector workers. They barely come close.

Of course, Ballem only will release her PowerPoint to the public, and not the actual survey results, which of course means yet another FOI will be submitted.

So, with all this background in mind, we return to Coun. Kerry Jang and his unfavourable remarks about Paul Hancock.

Jang thought he would make light of the departure of the respected lawyer who occupied his position at the City Clerk's office for the past decade. As a psychologist, you'd think Jang would be just a little more sensitive. The Vision councillor even chuckled that Hancock left because of the stress of his job.

In just under two minutes we have the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the way Vancouver City Hall is being governed right now. Because they lack the confidence of their own vision for the city, members of Mayor Gregor Robertson's team feel the need to lash out at everyone who disagrees with them.

We've not only had the top City Hall reporters in Vancouver – Frances Bula, Jeff Lee, Mike Howell, Charlie Smith & Bob Mackin – all call them on their practice of secrecy, Vision even feels the need to attack members of the public who criticize them. Remember their cold rebuke of the West End Neighbours organizers, or their dismissive response to the Bloedel Conservatory supporters. If you get on the wrong side of Vision, they'll just put you in your place.

Then one of the best regarded members of Vancouver's civil service decides he's had enough. He leaves after a decade at this workplace, and even has the courage to make a remark to a reporter. So what is Vision Vancouver's response?

He must have been too stressed.

Just like when Gregor Robertson said last year when senior managers started leaving in droves. He said that they couldn't keep up with Vision's agenda for change. Penny Ballem said that Dave Rudberg was too grumpy and needed a break from running Olympic Operations.

I could write for an hour with more colourful examples of Vision's disrespect for the public service, and for anyone who doesn't see things their way. But I don't think I have to bother. The results of the Justason poll and the City staff survey says it all, doesn't it?

Citizens are increasingly fed up. And the people who are on the front lines building and maintaining our city are equally exasperated.

An election is now less than 12 months away, providing the prospect for positive change post-Vision. Let's hope that the City doesn't continue to lose good people at the rate it has over the past two years.

As for Kerry Jang's clumsy put-down of Paul Hancock, an apology is in order but no one should hold their breath for it. Vision's mission to change the City in their own image is far too important to fuss over a few hurt feelings.

- post by Mike


He's a character isn't he?

When I first met him on the steps of City Hall as he was leaving, the impression I got was that he was jovial, quick-witted, cordial, on the fastball to try and convey a sense of being onside.

That was tempered with a dash of sympathy (albeit, on a short "leash") from my awareness of him previously having been caught surfing model boat hobby sites in council while a public hearing was taking place.

Then on two following occasions where we bumped into each other and had a brief chat regarding development and affordable housing, he described himself as a socialist through and through on the second meeting, I guess after having psycho-analytically pegged me for a COPE/NDP card carrying hipster from a housing advocacy group.

On the third meeting a few weeks later, he described himself as a capitalist because he owned his own house while expressing a touch of grief over the pittance of a salary he made as a councillor.

By the way, I agree Councillors don't make nearly enough for the time some of them put into their duties, while with some others it's obvious we get exactly the kind of government the salary pays for sadly.

He obviously forgot we met previously (twice), but now thinking I must be some kind of Milton Friedman economics peon.

At which point I had to scramble to find my poker face FAST. Sincerity tends to be my first, typical intent & approach to things when meeting in person.

I wanted to appear to him to still be interested in anything he further had to say no matter how inane - while trying to think of a convenient and witty conversation stopper to end with on a chuckle promptly and leave.

Having paid no attention to civic politics before, Councillor Jang was my introduction to Vision Vancouver at about this time last year. Let's just say it was an interesting start to a trip down the social change rabbit hole.

Jang should apologize now. This video is shameful. Hard to believe these guys are in government. Attacking Anton is one thing, but mocking city staff who can't defend themselves? Vision truly have sunk to a new low.

First words that came to mind watching this were "blathering" and "windbag"

Ballem says the reason staff are so demoralized under vision and Gregor Rovertson is cuz she has done a poor job of communication with staff. If only we knew what vision was doing us staff would be so much happier. Kind of sounds like the HST debate doesn't it.. Gordon Campell said it wasn't the tax that was bad, just the way it was communicated. NOT.

I agree with Ballem that she's done a terrible job of communicating Vision's message to staff. Isn't she on her third director of communications now? But has she ever thought that staff simply aren't buying in to chicken coops and veggie gardens? How about the fact that shouting the message at staff instead of speaking to them in a respectful tone can get you a lot further.

The buck stops with Ballem and Robertson. They've had two years to improve staff morale and they've only made it worse. Is someone going to be held accountable for those survey results? I doubt it.

Jang has a way of crossing all lines of respect. The shocking part is that he works at UBC and teaches everything he knows...

I too have been the recipient of Mr. Jang's negative personal/professional opinions about my mental health. It was a gossipy moment with another candidate during the campaign.

It is interesting when someone has a different opinion than Mr. Jang and his colleagues it turns into a problem with your mental health...

Oddly we have never met, but it changed my life in the most profound way..

Mr. Jang should learn negative inappropriate gossip can be extremely damaging. It can destroy lives...and ruin reputations.

Someone with a degree in psychiatry, teaching at University level, should know better...In my opinion.

Dr Jang. As a not so regular reader and first time commenter all I can say is I'm horrified with what I saw on that video this morning. What a shameful exhibit by someone in a field that should know better. As a psychologist you know those types of bully tactics are hurtful and will drive staff morale down even further. What were you thinking? Issue an apology now before it gets worse for you.

I'll be sending this link around to all of my friends and contacts to show them exactly what is taking place at city hall these days. Shame.

Wonder if Meggs and his fellow NDPèrs who are so intent on recalling Liberals would agree to legislation allowing citizens to start recall against municipal politicans. Spin that Mr Meggs!!

Gregor should ask Jang to apologize this morning. And I'm a Vision supporter. At least for now.

....'The shocking part is that he works at UBC and teaches everything he knows...'

What is that saying?

Those that can, do - and those that can't, teach.

The first time I met Jang ws during a HEAT shelter meeting - the unit at Granville and Howe Streets.

He arrived all smiles and after surveying the room that had more than a handful of not so happy residents, and more not so happy residents were pouring in, he quickly removed his name tag and stuffed it in his pocket.

Perhaps he was feeling a little 'stressed'.

This behavior Mr. Jang, is called "Political Psychiatry"...Besmirch a man that depends on his integrity to earn a living... Shame.

Kerry Jang. That's the councillor who repeatedly swore at me – effing this and effing that – because I refused to shut up after he did nothing for Norquay. That's also the councillor who asked me what do I expect – after all, being a councillor is "only a part-time job." To me, Dr. J is Mr. Hyde.

The reason Concil is in obvious panic mode is that they have successfully destroyed their own reputations. Jang must publicly apologize for his shameful behaviour at once, before the City has another defamation suit on its hands.

November 2011: "Vote Vision, because everything I say has been cleared through legal, so it must be true. I've learned from my mistakes".

It's tragic, really. Erstwhile idealists, filled with hope and confidence, young and vital, out to save the freaking world two wheels at a time, now they insult and hide from a disillusioned electorate and hostile work force.

They are being taught a painful lesson about how bureaucracies really work. Councils, Mayors, even City Managers and their crazy schemes come and go, but a corporate culture lives on. A manager's first duty is to his employees, not to the whims of some temp on the third floor. Screw with my staff and you'll be sorry.

Councillor Jang needs a sabbatical from at least one of his jobs. He sounds and acts like a part-timer, hasn't done his research and expects his council allies to provide background to him during his polemic, which they do with out of order cross talk. What a way to run a railroad!

Thus, the impossible: He makes Andrea Reimer look like a rocket scientist.

If this is the true state of being for this educator in our post secondary system, I think the kids in his courses should ask for their money back. Oh, sorry--he's too busy to teach or govern properly. At council: Ill prepared, winging it, trying to be clever and funny (when it rally comes off as inane and sophomoric---taking lessons from the Mayor, shurely?)..I would say Dr. Jang is vastly overpaid for his services to our fair city.

Really, PLEASE, can't someone start collecting his ill thought-out and intemperate remarks?

Call it "The Jang Clang" as everything he says has the dissonant ring of a broken gong.

To Bob Dylan, cc to George, Carol and others:
Political Psychiatry is an excellent diagnosis. Don' t like the message? Blame it on the alleged mental health of the messenger. This is a powerful a weapon when wielded by a member of the mental health industry.

Although I do not agree with all that Dr. Thomas Szasz writes, I recommend anyone interested in learning the subordination of language by the mental health industry for social control purposes look him up to acquaint themselves with this tactic. He wrote about it largely in the 1960's and 1970's but so little has changed, and we see it now creeping into the language of council. Such tactics should stop immediately.

If Mr. Hancock did not reveal why he left council. It appears no exit interview was conducted, and no public statement by Mr. Hancock has been given. It is none of council's business to gossip or speculate. He worked there for a while. He doesn't anymore. In a free society, that is called 'workplace mobility'.

I correct myself on one point:
Mr. Hancock did make a brief statement - that he could no longer perform his functions. Unless and until he expands on it, we can draw whatever inferences we like from it, including the inference that it reflects poorly on his bosses.

Just in from CKNW " Kwan says under James' leadership, there has been a steady erosion of the party's democratic principles....she says debate has been stifled, decision-making centralized, and individual MLA's marginalized....she says James has failed to capture the imagination of british columbians."

Kind of sounds like the way certain mayor runs Vancouver doesn't it.

Didn't citycaucus report not long ago that senior managers had no confidence in city manager Penny Ballem? Now we learn that all staff have no confidence in senior managers. Does the buck not stop with Ballem.

In the private sector a report like this would result in the board of directors hauling in their CEO (Ballem) to have a frank discussion. Anybody want to bet that city manager won't be around in a couple of months? Bye bye Penny. Hello Sadwho!

This quote from Dr. Ballem got my attention:

"There is no comment that this is the wrong direction." (also included in Jeff Lee's column)

When CC gets the information from their FOI request on this survey you will see that it does not contain a question anywhere close to "Is the City going in the wrong (or right) direction".

Her quote is the same as saying "There is no comment that the moon is not made out of cheese". That question was not asked either. And it does not mean that the moon IS made out of cheese.

Is it considered spin when you draw positive conclusions based on an absence of negative responses to a question that was not asked?

the internal email sent out in advance of council briefing painted a nice rosey picture. we are all happy not paying attention to what the corporate vision is.
staff were delighted to read the honest outcome of the survey in the following days media. the overall survey does not look good and now echos what many now consider defacto. yes we like what we do, but what is the deal with the volume of the management team:
does anyone know how many managers they are for each full and part time equivalent(sorry auxiliary are not included, as they are managed by rft or rpt)? why are they leaving and not being replaced by suitable internal candidates that regularly perform "acting" duties? this entire effect stalls career progression and creates a very large band of very experienced non-management staff who stay in the system longer and intern keep their subordinates pegged in the up-and-coming band with nowhere to go due to stagnation.
it is going to be a long bumpy road to 2012 when the current labour contract is up for a shakedown. public opinion will not view favourably towards exempt and regular staff.

wow, I thought it was bad when I left 2 years ago...can't imagine how it would be on the front lines now, much less what it would be like at City Hall. Just imagine how long the next civic strike will be...any bets on if it will be longer than the '81 strike?

Mr. Hancock, you did the right thing. These clowns do not deserve to have you in their employ. You are principled, ethical, professional, and talented, like most of the dozens of other senior managers and professionals who have left City Hall in the past 2 years. The damage at City Hall won't be repaired in your lifetime, so don't look back. The talented and dedicated people who remain are counting the days to the election, and updating their CV's in case they're next before this circus is shut down. Good luck in your new career Mr. Hancock. You may not be missed by these clowns, but you will be missed by the taxpayers of Vancouver.

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