Read Metro Vancouver's third largest daily – 24 Hours
This is my column from 24 Hours this week...
"I reached a turning point a few weeks back on hearing news about a tragedy...Our mayor is failing us, and I can no longer stand by in good conscience."
These are the words of NDP MLA Gregor Robertson as he announced on February 24, 2008 that he would be seeking the leadership of the Vision Vancouver party and would be running for the mayor's job.
According to his statement, Robertson's "turning point" arrived after the death of a homeless man named Darrell Mickasko, who had set himself alight trying to keep warm on a cold Vancouver night. Gregor even mentioned Mickasko in his inaugural speech.
In the early morning hours of December 22, 2010 three men sleeping on the back deck of an Eastside flop house on Pandora Street burned to death after a faulty electrical cord reportedly set some Christmas decorations ablaze.
Hours later on the evening of Dec. 22, Gregor Robertson posted the following message to his Twitter account:
"going offline till january. family time beckons. thanks for your 2010 tweets+comments. happy holidays all!"
Despite subsequent attempts by reporters to get the Mayor to make a public statement about what happened on Pandora Street, Gregor has remained silent.
There hasn't been even so much as a message of condolence to the families of the victims Garland McKay, Dwayne Rasmussen and Stephen Yellowquill.
You'd expect that someone who used the fiery death of a homeless man as his stated motivation for running for office might put off his vacation for a few hours when a similar tragedy happens under his watch.
But as we've seen continually, when the going gets tough, Robertson runs for cover.
After an outcry from critics and friends of the victims, a coroner's inquest was requested by city council. It would be a chance to clear the air of successive controversies surrounding the Pandora Street fire, such as the apparent dismissal of a senior property use inspector Carlene Robbins. Robbins is now suing the City of Vancouver.
However, when would the coroner's inquest take place? This is an election year, and rest assured no politician wants any controversy in the headlines during a campaign.
It turns out that decision was left to city manager Penny Ballem, the person Robertson handpicked for her job. It was Ballem's recommendation that got the inquest date moved to nine days after the 2011 election is over.
Some have asked whether the City's goal of keeping the "street homeless" count low trumped life safety concerns on Pandora Street. A coroner's inquest could have helped Vancouverites to answer this before heading to the polls.
As for Gregor Robertson's conscience; funny we don't hear so much about that anymore, eh?
- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen & @24HoursVan on Twitter.