The Vision Vancouver campaign tour bus has encountered a few technical problems
"I have no problem with outlining some of the decisions made to help cushion the blow to taxpayers. But at least be honest about what the final tally is instead of trying to deceive people." - Gary Mason, Globe and Mail
As I watched the inordinate amount of fumbling over the past two weeks among the Visionistas and their hired help at city hall, I became convinced that what we were witnessing was flat out incompetence." - Allen Garr, Vancouver Courier
I have to add here that I feel personally misled by what happened at the news conference on Friday, where the city aka city manager Penny Ballem explained the “$40-50 million write-down” the city would have to take on the village..." - Frances Bula, urban affairs blogger
"Vision councillors have been playing the blame game, accusing the former Non-Partisan Association council of putting the city at risk by not doing adequate due diligence on Millennium. But the Olympic Village fiasco transcends political ideology. Councillors of every political stripe are responsible for bungling the file." - Vancouver Sun Editorial
One could easily argue the current Vision Vancouver administration has encountered few major challenges in its path toward re-election this fall. During the early part of their mandate they experienced an extended honeymoon phase whereby there were few, if any, public criticisms of their administration.
Times have certainly changed.
Over the last two weeks it seems like a wheel or two has come off the Vision Vancouver bus as it barrels down a mountain road. It all started when city manager Penny Ballem decided to send out an email at 1:17 AM on a Friday notifying city councillors that there was "likely" to be a media briefing on the Olympic Village financial fiasco later that day.
Ballem's note to councillors came about five hours after we notified our readers via Twitter of the same Olympic Village media briefing being scheduled for "take out the trash Friday." And to think that our crack CityCaucus team felt guilty sending out the notice of the Olympic briefing after regular work hours.
As you can imagine, both the COPE and NPA elected officials went ballistic when they were only notified of the actual briefing about two hours after it was complete. Amazingly, the only councillor who attended and spoke at the briefing was councillor Geoff Meggs – also known as the Mayor's "garbage man."
With a room packed with media, Meggs went on and on about how evil the NPA was for its mismanagement of the Olympic file. All the while he failed to mention the role his Vision colleagues played in approving most major decisions related to the development of Vancouver's Olympic Village.
When Anton raised the matter with the media in a Sunday evening advisory, Vision wanted us to believe Meggs' version of events. Geoff told media that he also didn't know about the briefing until he got staff's media advisory on Friday at 8am. Yeah, right.
That Meggs was given no heads up on the file is simply hard to believe when you consider how much he and the Mayor's office have politically micromaged this issue since taking office. Penny Ballem would simply never have planned this media briefing without keeping her political overlords in the loop.
If the botched Olympic briefing was not enough, Vision was fumbling their management of a new "protest bylaw." The bylaw was aimed at preventing Falun Gong from protesting in front of the Chinese consulate located in the tony Shaughnessy neighbourhood in Vancouver. It contained a ridiculous amount of red tape and a $1,200 processing fee and deposit. Once again, the opposition councillors went bonkers and so did every civil libertarian in Vancouver.
It didn't take long for Mayor Gregor to try and convince the public that he was completely unaware that this type of bylaw was coming before council. Both he and COPE councillor David Cadman quickly took the most politically expedient route and decided to throw city staff under the bus (even if a few wheels were coming off of it).
The most amusing part of watching the Mayor squirm as hundreds of nasty emails were being sent to his office regarding his protest bylaw, was the fact he started publicly criticisizing his own legislation. After he started feeling the heat from within his own ranks, he began telling reporters he thought the legislation went to far and it "had to go back to the drawing board."
Why then didn't Robertson support Coun. Anton's sensible motion at the beginning of the meeting to delay the motion until further consultation?
That's because the bylaw had already been vetted by Robertson's office and had their seal of approval. Gregor's chief of staff Mike Magee reviews all reports and makes sure they align with Vision's priorities before they ever see the light of day. So if Robertson is distancing himself from the protest bylaw, it's simply about political optics.
There are too many other media outlets to mention who feasted on a wounded and bumbling Vision Vancouver party last week. CKNW, Global TV, News 1130 and our local Chinese media all wrote stories that skewered the Mayor and his administration.
Even Vision-friendly columnist Allen Garr wrote what I consider his most stinging rebuke of Mayor Gregor and his loyal city manager Penny Ballem. He writes:
Last weekend the Olympic Village gadfly, developer and former NPA candidate Michael Geller, posted a note on his blog pointing out that the write down did not include, among other costs, the money owing on the land.
That revelation made its way to the front page of The Globe and Mail Tuesday where the total loss was rounded out to $230 million and Ballem and her political masters were accused of being purposefully misleading. Another urgent media briefing was called by Ballem to “set the record straight.”
By all accounts, Ballem was highly agitated. Unused to having her integrity questioned, the normally calm, confident commander was coming unhinged. Her cheeks were flushed, her actions erratic and as one reporter noted “her voice seemed to be shaking with emotions.”
Reports of the numbers, she said, were “damaging” and “unfair.” But regardless of your take on the numbers, and there are a couple of ways to slice this from an accounting point of view, the whole performance from start to finish displayed a level of incompetence that reached new heights for Ballem, Robertson and the Vision administration.
As they say, "a week can be an eternity in politics." When it comes to Vancouver's governing party, this is probably a couple of weeks they're glad are behind them. And while it was a huge embarrassment for the party, don't think that these guys are mortally wounded. Vision are still most definitely in control of the City and stand a good chance of winning it all in 2011.
We've been advised that Mayor Gregor's chief of staff Mike Magee has recently been off work due to an illness. Regardless of our differences of opinion on most issues, everyone here at CityCaucus.com tower wishes him a speedy recovery.
- Post by Daniel. Follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus