Talking green, versus cutting green (grass) now in vogue at Vancouver City Hall
UPDATE - July 13, 6:00 am: Vision Vancouver ended up passing their 162 page green manifesto into law. Amazingly, Deputy City Manager Johnston admits they have not determined what this will all cost tax payers.
Earlier this week the City of Toronto announced they were preparing to offer buyout packages to all of their 50,000 employees. It’s an effort by Mayor Rob Ford to cut his deficit and bring Toronto’s fiscal house in order. It’s a move that is in stark contrast to what is happening on the west coast in Vancouver.
Despite a lot of huffing and puffing at 12th and Cambie about a core services review and getting back to basics, Vision Vancouver have done little to trim the size and scope of government. The reality is that Mayor Gregor and his Chicago native Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnston are about to embark on a hiring frenzy that we haven’t seen in years. If you don’t believe me, check out this 162 page manifesto that’s about the get the “green” light from City Hall.
There may not be enough money at city hall to cut the grass on publicly owned boulevards, but there will soon be plenty of cash for the Mayor’s “green” jobs. As one city staffer told me last week “if your job description has anything close to the word green or sustainability in it, rest assured you have real job security. The new hires are part of what we call the “greenestocracy" around here."
In fairness to the Mayor, he did promise to create 20,000 new green jobs in Vancouver by 2020 (a promise he has since watered down). But who would have thought they would have all been funded or subsidized by city taxpayers?
I received an email recently from an outraged citizen who couldn’t understand why the Mayor was hiring so many “green” bureaucrats. The note they received from the City’s human resources department was canvassing them for qualified candidates to apply for three enviro-friendly positions.
Those positions include a Climate Policy Analyst which pays $46.26 per hour plus health and pension benefits. The job description states:
Develop and/or implement a variety of climate protection projects to achieve targeted outcomes, including project schedules and budgets, and establishing project teams and partnerships. Develop climate protection policies, plans. Research Provincial, Federal and other international initiatives and regulations. Track progress on international GHG protocols, and establish reporting processes to ensure City compliance with those protocols. Research carbon and offset market developments. Additional duties as assigned including, responding to public or stakeholder inquires, applying for grants, coordinating and following up actions from internal City dept working groups, and acting on behalf of the Climate Programs Manager on internal and external committees to leverage stakeholder support.
A second job posting the City advertised was for a Sustainability Business Relationships Manager at a cost of $106,177 plus health and pension benefits. Although the title might sound a bit innocuous, the job description is very succinct:
The Sustainability Business Relationship Manager is the primary contact for client departments in strategic sustainability matters and is responsible for supporting General Managers and Directors/ Division Heads throughout the City of Vancouver to achieve the City's environmental sustainability goals and targets. The incumbent provides strategic advice, subject matter expertise, information about best practices, and a connection to external sustainability partners, resources and funding.
The Sustainability Business Relationship Manager leads a team of 2 to 5 advisors and as such, is responsible for people management, mentoring, coaching and career development of the team.
If that weren’t enough, later today Council is being asked to approve in principle the hiring of a new Policy Analyst/Water Conservation at a cost of over $100,000 including benefits.
This newest member of the greenestocracy is being hired to help implement the Mayor’s water metering program. It’s hard to believe that nobody within the 9000+ workforce could have been transferred into this position, thus negating the need to spend even more tax dollars.
It would appear that everything "green" at city hall these days is turning to gold. Whether you’re a lucky Greenest City grant recipient, or merely a volunteer on the Lawns to Loaves program, these are indeed good times.
Take for example what happened to Andrea Bellamy, a young woman interested in the Mayor’s program to convert Vancouver’s front lawns into mini-wheat fields. She recounts on her blog how she wanted to grow wheat in order to make pizza dough, but didn’t have any land to do it on.
In our new “green” era, the lack of available land to grow your own crops no longer appears to be a problem. Just call up City Hall and tell them you’re working on a green project and...presto, you get free access to very costly publicly-owned land.
Here is an excerpt from Bellamy’s blog explaining how easy it is to get a wink, wink, nudge, nudge from City bureaucrats (emphasis ours):
Of course, I still needed a place to plant my wheat. It just so happens that there’s a City-owned field adjacent to our community garden. Recently, West House, a demonstration sustainable laneway house was built there, but there was still a lot of field left for dandelion cultivation. So we decided to use it. It’s not really guerrilla gardening, since, when asked if we could use it, the City said, “what the heck” (or something along those lines), but we’re all aware that this is borrowed land.
While I respect all the blood, sweat and tears Bellamy is putting into her project, I can only imagine in a few years how some folks will holler blue bloody murder if the City decides to take back this property. I appreciate that she acknowledges it's "borrowed land", but that won't make giving it back to tax payers any easier.
It would appear that Bellamy's first attempt to become an urban farmer has been a success. I saw a big patch of what looks like wheat growing there yesterday as I zipped overhead on the SkyTrain. Bellamy writes:
It should be ready for harvest around the beginning of September, and, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be enjoying pizza baked with our own flour this fall!
As we head ever closer to the November election, you can expect Mayor Gregor and his greenestocracy to begin making an announcement a day. New $450 water meters. A new tax on plastic bags. More wheat fields. It’s all part of the new reality known lovingly as Vancouver City Hall.