Is Penny Ballem watching Gregor Robertson's back this time? photo: The Province
Gregor Robertson says "there's nothing political about this"
UPDATE #2: More gold from CKNW news reporter Charmaine de Silva. In the second part of her interview Mayor Gregor states that we shouldn't complain about the delay of the Pandora Street coroner's inquest, because by comparision the public inquiry into the DTES missing women matter took years to get underway. Robertson says:
"Well, there's been a lot of, a lot of uh horrendous tragedies that have taken many years before there was a coroner's inquest and you look at the missing women tragedy as a... that's one that's finally coming into that process."
Here's the second clip from CKNW with that interview (mp3):
UPDATE #1: CKNW reporter Charmaine de Silva continues her series of exclusive news reports on the question of the timing surrounding the Pandora Street coroner's inquest. The first of two reports led the 11am news broadcast today. In the interview Mayor Gregor says that categorically that there has been no political interference in the decision to delay the inquest until AFTER the 2011 election.
The Mayor insists that the choice was made because staff would have been too pre-occupied with the election. Asked by de Silva what numbers of staff might actually be involved in a coroner's inquest, Robertson responded:
"I don't know. It depends on how the coroner runs the process. So, it'll depend on what it is, or how long. I don't know how many City staff would be involved." Here is the full report from CKNW news (mp3):
Continuing with our original post...
On Sunday evening, CKNW news reported breaking news that the City of Vancouver, at the recommendation of City Manager Penny Ballem, has coordinated with the BC Coroner's office to hold an inquest into the Pandora Street deaths nine days AFTER the November 2011 election campaign.
Reporter Charmaine de Silva got the scoop on Sunday's newscast that you can listen to here (mp3):
The November 28th date set for the inquest was one of two provided to Ballem. The other date provided by the Coroner's office was October 28th. A statement from the City claims that Ballem and the City solicitor chose the date in order to reduce the possible stress to staff during the election period.
The Pandora Street fire and the deaths of flophouse residents Garland McKay, Dwayne Rasmussen and Stephen Yellowquill has been clouded by one controversy after another since the fatal blaze took place on December 22nd.
First, Mayor Gregor Robertson, who used the fiery death of a homeless man – Darrell Mickasko – as his stated motivation for running for mayor, tweeted bon voyage just hours after the blaze took place. Robertson didn't stick around long enough to even cobble together a statement from his office about the tragedy. Family time beckoned apparently.
Vision Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson made misleading remarks to the media that action was "imminent" on the Pandora flophouse. Vision Councillor Kerry Jang repeated those misleading remarks in a CKNW radio interview (mp3).
Penny Ballem returned from her own Christmas break and corrected the record after the confusion created by Johnson and Jang. Then Mayor Gregor slipped back into town, still refusing all media requests to discuss the Pandora Street affair.
Coun. Suzanne Anton called publicly for an independent inquiry on the sequence of events surrounding Pandora Street. Robertson and Vision relented somewhat to the pressure, and called for the Coroner's office to get involved.
Then on January 27th CityCaucus.com broke the news of Property Use Manager and 38-year employee Carlene Robbins suddenly leaving her job at the City of Vancouver. We said that she was the City's fall gal for the Pandora mess. We also reported that Robbins would be suing the City, and had that confirmed just days later.
I proposed that the City of Vancouver would try to silence Robbins with a pay out as they had with Judy Rogers' gag clause and with former Chief Electrician Ark Tsisserev. Looks like Robbins has chosen to take the City to the mat for humiliating her – see the court documents here. Then we had the sudden resignation of Mark Roozbahani, another senior manager in Licenses and Inspections, who was hired just weeks before the Pandora tragedy.
Now we have Penny Ballem appearing to interfere with the timing of the inquest into McKay, Rasmussen and Yellowquill's deaths.
The City's statement about the City Manager discussing this matter with the Solicitor strongely suggests that this civil servant made a political decision, not a compassionate or a just one. The families of those three men are already forced to wait for months, without so much as an expression of empathy from the Mayor who once used a dead person as an excuse to quit Victoria.
Penny Ballem is the hand-picked employee of Gregor Robertson and Mike Magee. If Vision Vancouver's political fortunes sag as much as the NPA's need to rise, there is one person who would have a very large target on her back the day after the election – the City Manager. You can bet that's not lost on Penny.
The Pandora Street inquiry if it had been held during the election could have revealed what having a Vision Vancouver City Hall truly means. But it looks like we won't get that chance, now will we?
Vision Vancouver appears to have already their campaign manager for the 2011 campaign – her name is Ballem.
If there is any evidence of political interference in this serious matter, we can at least take solace in the fact that with eight months to go before an election, it increases the odds that someone may find it.
- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen or @CityCaucus on Twitter.