Where there's a political smokescreen, there's usually fire
It’s a Las Vegas style casino in the heart of downtown Vancouver and it’s causing the governing Vision party major headaches. After first scheduling a public hearing earlier this month, it has now been postponed again to March 7th. According to city staffers, there are well over 125 speakers lined up to rip into the Mayor and his caucus colleagues for “turning Vancouver into Vegas”.
Word is also leaking (ever so slowly) out of the Vision caucus that not all is well in Hollyhockland. The issue of supporting a Vegas-style casino is by no means unanimous. Several sources close to Vision claim the Mayor may not even have the votes necessary to ram this through. If you assume the NPA and COPE will vote against it, it will only take 3 Vision councillors to say nay for this puppy to go down in flames. Heading into an election, it would be a major rebuke of the Mayor and his Chief of Staff if this happened.
The three most likely people to vote against are councillors Andrea Reimer, Kerry Jang and Tim Stevenson. Whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, each have a good excuse to be uncomfortable with the Mayor’s plan to expand gambling in Vancouver.
What I find most offensive in this whole debate is the terrible spin coming out of the Mayor’s office that the delays in the public hearing process relate to how many speakers are lined up to attend. Who are they kidding? I’ve worked in the Mayor’s office and know full well the City Clerk’s office is (or at least they were in the past) very capable of handling large crowds.
The reality is these delays have less to do with how many speakers are lined up and more to do with the Mayor’s micromanaging of a very sensitive issue causing small cracks in his coalition. It’s simply a joke for the Mayor’s apparatchiks to try and convince the media (many of whom have been around city hall long enough to see through this bafflegab) the delays are related to how many speakers want to address the issue.
When large numbers of people want to speak to council at a public hearing, normally it goes ahead as planned then is carried over to another night. This process continues until all the speakers have voiced their concerns to the politicians. It’s not unheard of for public hearings to go on for at least several nights. Therefore, spinning out that the public hearing had to be postponed twice due to the volume of speakers is simply not believable. No wonder fellow blogger and G & M contributor Frances Bula referred to all of this as a “mess”.
Based on the volume of calls/emails I’ve been receiving lately, there clearly is a lot of tension both within the Vision caucus and amongst senior staff at the Hall. Reports are trickling out that some major blowups within the senior management ranks of late may result in even more staff calling it quits. If these senior staffers do abandon ship, there is no way City Manager Penny Ballem can claim this is all about staff wanting to spend more time with their grandkids. Not that anyone bought that story in the first place.
As we head toward the November civic election, it’s very likely that stress and tension at Vancouver City Hall will continue to mount. After all, so many of the senior managers are now perceived as Vision operatives that they need the governing party to win this fall in order to help secure long-term employment. The stakes are high as any new administration would likely want to clean house of all senior public servants with clear political links to the current Vision Vancouver party.
Unfortunately, this is what it's come down to now that Mayor Gregor has so politicized the upper ranks of Vancouver City Hall. Needless to say, many of those managers will do whatever it takes to ensure Mayor Gregor and his gang hold on to the reins of power.
Will a new mega casino be the one issue to shake Vision Vancouver to its roots? Given the voting record of this caucus, I’d say it’s unlikely. However, nobody will really know until all the votes are counted and we see who is left standing – or sitting on their hands.
As the saying goes...where there’s a political smokescreen, there’s usually fire. What do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
- Post by Daniel