A certain "ghost town" loomed large on the political landscape in 2010
Here’s my holiday shopping list of the Top Five stories that defined politics in Metro Vancouver during 2010 in ascending order. This column ran in 24 Hours newspaper last Thursday.
Number Five: Dianne Watts gets T-boned in Surrey after a reception.
Until her car accident, the political trajectory of Surrey’s mayor was all up. Last spring she gave a rousing presentation on her city’s downtown to the Chamber of Commerce, and scored big on the Celebration Site during the 2010 Games. After totaling her Escalade SUV in May, Watts spent weeks recovering and then rejected requests to run for Premier.
Number Four: “Done deals” coming to Vancouver city council.
Recall last August when Mayor Gregor skipped off on summer vacation and “consultations” began on the Hornby Street bike lane trial? Then council approved the project, and work crews began digging up streets mere hours after the vote. Coun. Suzanne Anton withdrew her support for a “kangaroo council” decision.
Number Three: The public turns the 2010 Games into a huge success.
While VANOC and the City of Vancouver did their level best to frighten everyone from venturing downtown, when word got out that there was plenty to do for “free” Vancouver 2010 became “The People’s Games.” Hundreds of thousands poured onto the streets, and with the exception of the anti-Games thugs on day one, everyone had a grand time.
Number Two: Mayor Gregor Robertson’s “F****** NPA Hacks” comment caught on tape.
In the span of two sentences, the arrogance of Vision Vancouver’s style of governance was exposed. The media and the general public realized that Robertson’s boy next-door shtick masked a very antagonistic view toward those who disagree with Vision’s agenda for social change. It effectively ended Gregor’s media honeymoon. (As commenter City Observer states, this remark by Gregor was as a result of his frustration with West End residents who weren't appreciating his brilliant STIR plan to create rental on the backs of local residents seeking new amenities.)
And now, drum roll please for Number One...
Number One: The “ghost town” at the Olympic Village.
No one topic has resulted in more finger-pointing than the Olympic Village. Vision Vancouver swept into office promising openness and transparency when it came to all transactions around the project.
Then Robertson hired a PR firm to help sell his message around the new financing of the Village, and labeled the whole project a “train wreck”. International media reported his comments, and interest in condo sales went ice cold. Observers estimate that the Mayor’s remark might have cost Vancouver taxpayers up to $200 million!
What should have been the city’s hottest property post-Olympics sat empty because Vision refused to occupy the waterfront subsidized housing units unless they could figure out how to get unionized teachers, firefighters and cops in there first.
The end result is Robertson’s poll numbers have plummeted from nearly 80% approval last winter, to a recent poll showing only 32% of Vancouver voters saying he deserves another term in office.
What a year! But 2011 is when “silly season” begins.
These are my "top five," but what are yours? Post a comment with what are the topics that stuck with you in 2010.
Runners up for 2010 might be...
- The Vision "paid blogger" controversy, where preferred Mayor Robertson publicists FD Element were caught red-handed with invoices which showed that they were paying both the blogger and the bills for the blog while taking healthy contracts for a $27,500 "About" page for Mayor Gregor.
- Vancouver staff morale goes into the dumper. Our breaking news story on the staff survey which showed a high level of unhappiness within the exempt staff working for the City of Vancouver. A subsequent city-wide staff survey also showed deep dissatisfaction among workers.
- Questions about Vision Vancouver's political campaign funding. Researcher Vivian Krause focuses on the "mother ship" of all left wing activist cash in B.C. Tides Canada, then looks at how consultants working for the charity are in turn rolling large donations into Vision Vancouver. All questions by Krause to Joel Solomon, Gregor Robertson and Martha Burton are rebuffed, and Tides lawyers start threatening legal action. Vivian goes to Ottawa to tell the story to a Parliamentary Committee and the story about this money trail goes coast to coast in a National Post cover story.
- Vancouver's new "gag law" strangles transparency at Vancouver City Hall. Respected lawyer in charge of Freedom of Information Paul Hancock quits, and all requests for information are now channeled through PR flacks.
- Plummeting budgets for Parks and more flip flops from Vision's Park Board. The dollars kept going down, with even bathrooms looking to be shut over winter in our parks. In a last minute play Aaron "flip flop" Jasper convinces city council to keep the toilets running all winter long.
- Vancouver school board sham closure process scares the bejeezuz out of eastside parents. The Vision/COPE school board never, ever planned to close a single school under their watch, but they were prepared to work with the NDP to cause fear and rally anger among parents and children. In the end they killed any idea on dealing with the issue of their surplus of student seats until after the 2012 election, when a majority NPA board will have to make the decision instead.
- Gregor Robertson's collapsing poll numbers. Last spring former Vancouver Sun columnist cum lobbyist Miro Cernetig released numbers from Strategic Communications, a "partner" of Renewal Partners, the Mayor's biggest campaign donor, which showed that Gregor was tracking at 78% support in the city. Then a pair of follow-up polls showed Robertson dropping to 49% (August) and 43% (November), with only 32% of respondents in the most recent poll saying that Robertson's team deserved a second term in office. When put up against a theoretical opponent – NPA's Coun. Anton – Vision & the NPA were in a statistical dead heat.
- Vision Vancouver's reputed media "hit list." It was all a good laugh and it caused no end of panic in newsrooms as to its veracity, but in the end a real "printed" list was probably bullsh*t. As to whether disliked me (#1) or several other media was not in question though.
- HST protests come to City Hall. In a slap against the Provincial government, Vision unanimously supported a COPE motion to install a political anti-HST petition station in City Hall.
- The "costs" of being green. Gregor Robertson's $10,000 trip to New York was supposedly going to benefit Vancouver with prospects for "green" business, but instead Mayor Gregor met with a bunch of his money connections at the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Committee, as well as a taxpayer funded dinner where his chief of staff refused to say who dined with them. Then we found out through FOI that a website and ad campaign geared toward Gregor's "greenest city" campaign cost $60,000, with much more money spent on the campaign since. Being green don't come cheap.
Well, there certainly is a lot to discuss. Which issues stick out for you?
- post by Mike