Frances Bula header image 1

Head of engineering, manager community services retire at Vancouver city hall

April 15th, 2015 · 12 Comments

This memo from city manager Penny Ballem just in from the troops. I’d heard about Peter Judd from hallway gossip this week, but the rest is news to me and I’m not totally sure what it all means.

Dear Colleagues,

Since the start of the new Council term, I have been working with various members of the Corporate Management Team to restructure a few of our portfolios to further enhance our ability to achieve the ambitious goals of Council.  I thought it would be useful to summarize these in one message – some of these will occur in the short term and others will take a few months to put in place.

As you know, Peter Judd is retiring this month and Jerry Dobrovolny has agreed to step in as Acting City Engineer and General Manager of Engineering Services.  A national search will be undertaken to replace Peter.  We will also be establishing a Deputy City Engineer/Deputy General Manager position for Engineering, given the size and complexity of that portfolio, and will be recruiting for that position over the coming months.

I have asked Sandra Singh, Chief Librarian at Vancouver Public Library, to take responsibility for the strategic leadership at CMT for the City of Vancouver Archives portfolio.  Archives will continue to report to the City Clerk and be part of the City Clerk’s Office but Sandra will be responsible at a senior level for working on the strategic opportunities and plans with senior staff at the Archives.  The alignment of Archives along with Sandra’s leadership, particularly in the context of the Digital Strategy, will allow the ongoing development of a strategic plan to enable the full opportunity of public access to our Archives, something which has been part of their vision for a significant period of time.

I have spoken with Patrice Impey, Chief Financial Officer and General Manager of Financial Services, and Paul Mochrie, General Manager of Human Resources and Digital Strategy, and we have agreed to move the Information Technology team, under the leadership of the Chief Information Officer, to Paul Mochrie’s portfolio which will now be called Human Resources, Digital Strategy and IT.  This will bring together the CIO and the IT group – key enablers of the Digital Strategy, the Chief Digital Officer and the Web Team, and 311 all under one General Manager, aligning key skills and resources as we move into the next phase of the digital strategy and through it, further transforming the City.  This change will also enable Patrice and her team to further develop our investment and work over the past few years in a City-wide Finance organization, the Risk Management portfolio, lean Process Management, Supply Chain Management and, as well, broaden the impact of Business Planning and Capital Project Management to enhance value for money and business performance across the City.  Patrice’s portfolio will now be called Finance, Risk and Business Planning to reflect this new emphasis.

Finally, over the last few months, there have been a number of organizational changes in the Community Services portfolio – Housing policy has been moved under the Chief Housing Officer and Building Inspections under the General Manager of Planning and Development Services.  Brenda Prosken will be leaving the City after six years in the Community Services portfolio, first as Deputy General Manager and then as General Manager for the last two and a half years.  Brenda has made a significant contribution to the City since coming to us from the Vancouver Public Library in 2008 and will be missed.  I have asked Teresa Hartman, Director of the Vancouver Services Review, to step in and lead this portfolio over the coming months, working with me on a review of the Community Services portfolio and related opportunities to align its many functions to support the various policy initiatives of Council, many of which are underway. Following on that,  the GM position will be posted and a search undertaken.  I know you will all join me in thanking Brenda for her service to the City and wishing her the very best.

Our organization will continue to change in response to the numerous strategic initiatives underway. I would like to thank all the members of CMT who have worked with me on these shifts and changes.  Our goal is to work hard to ensure that those impacted by these changes have appropriate information and support as we move through these changes.  Thank you for your patience.

Penny Ballem

City Manager


→ 12 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Second round starts tonight for the Yaletown-Jubilee House-Brenhill developments

April 14th, 2015 · 4 Comments

People wanting to jolt themselves out of a state of contentment may want to watch the angst-ridden proceedings tonight aka the public hearing for 508 Helmcken, the current site of Jubilee House social housing and the future site of a 36-storey tower.

I did a story in the Globe today summarizing the surge of pros and cons over the deal, with those opposing saying it’s another snake-oil deal by the city that will jam a too-tall tower into a too-small space, while those in favour will say it’s a rare chance to build some social housing that’s desperately needed.

A few hours after I filed, I also got this letter (508HelmckenUDP) from a group of prominent planners, begging the city to take this project back to the urban design panel because it is too big for its setting.



→ 4 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

The man fighting to bring a new model of mental-health services to B.C.’s young people

April 13th, 2015 · No Comments

I’ve been hearing about psychiatrist Steve Mathias for years, his efforts to bring mental-health services to street kids in the West End and the Downtown Eastside.

I finally got to spend some time with him and hear about his big idea for how to get better psychiatric services to more kids in B.C. His storefront operation on Granville Street just opened. Now we’ll see if it will go further.

Here’s the story I did on him in Vancouver magazine.

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Vancouver’s Compass Card, still in tests after two years. Typical for transit smart cards or no?

April 13th, 2015 · 19 Comments

Transit smart cards are the in thing these days, I’ve discovered. Everyone wants them, in order to keep tabs on how transit is getting used and to give customers all the options they want for paying things these days.

Even systems that installed earlier versions, like Washington and Chicago, are upgrading their systems so they can expand to more modes and more ways of payment. (The hot thing these days is making sure systems have the capability to accept payments from bank and credit cards, not just a transit-only loaded-value card.)

I took a look around and called some people in the business for a story I did in the wake of the announcement about TransLink’s plan to roll out the card to another 130,000 people — university students — by September, bringing the total number of cards in use to 215,000. Still nowhere near the 1.2-million users a day but not peanuts.

It was interesting to find out that Calgary, for example, actually ended the contract with its vendor after years of not getting the system going and then had to go back because there weren’t any other options. And they’re still waiting, after about as many years as Vancouver. Other systems have rolled out their cards to everyone early, i.e. in Chicago, and then had some disastrous glitches that enraged people.

What I got from several long conversations was that it’s not always easy to tell from the outside who is the real problem: the transit agency for asking for too much? or the contractor for promising too much and then not delivering?

Sometimes it’s neither, consultants said — more a question of both sides constantly upgrading the functionality as things change in their worlds or discovering that something that worked in three other cities doesn’t work here.



→ 19 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

BulaBlog Beer Bash: Thursday, April 9, 7 p.m., Rogue Waterfront. Be there or be square

April 2nd, 2015 · 15 Comments

So Kirk and Jenables thought it was about time to get together and hash out all current issues in person, for those times when calling someone names from the privacy of your home laptop just isn’t enough.

Kidding, folks! In actual fact, the two get-togethers we’ve had so far have been remarkable for their civility and I would like to say, on a personal note, that it’s been wonderful to meet or get to know better people who have come out to these.

K and J decided the Rogue Waterfront would be perfect: on top of all major transit lines, as everyone argues about the transit plebiscite, and next to the site of the Icepick building, which has also been a topic of disagreement.

I have agreed to come along, at their request. (After all, the blog is you, not me.)

All are welcome, truly. The reservation is under BulaBlog.


→ 15 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Soliciting donations, promising stuff to donors – the Supreme Court asked to figure out if that’s conflict

April 2nd, 2015 · 6 Comments

I realize the keeners in class already know that the Supreme Court heard the case this week involving five Vancouver residents — including one of Vision Vancouver’s most persistent critics, Randy Helten — versus Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councillor Geoff Meggs. The residents are trying to get them thrown out of office for having, they claim, put themselves in a conflict of interest by making promises to a city union about jobs in exchange for campaign donations.

The stories I wrote in the two days in court are here and here. But court cases always inspire me to muse aloud, because there are so many things that happen that can’t be captured in just one or two news stories.

So two, count ’em, two lawyers from Fasken Martineau argued on behalf of residents (who have repeatedly declined to say who is helping pay their legal bills) that Meggs had gone beyond the usual kind of campaign promise when he went to CUPE 1004’s general meeting last October and talked about Vision’s policy on contracting out.

David Wotherspoon made an argument I didn’t expect, saying that it was okay for Meggs to have said that the mayor “has re-committed to not extend any contracting out.” I thought that was the statement that the NPA claimed was proof that the mayor and councillor were promising future jobs for the union in exchange for campaign contributions.

But Wotherspoon said that was the kind of general policy statement made during campaign pitches that was okay.

[

→ 6 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Is it time to start thinking about Plan B for the transit referendum?

March 27th, 2015 · 309 Comments

The guy who was the mayoral candidate for the Non-Partisan Association last November, Kirk LaPointe, thinks so.

Anyone else got a Plan B?


→ 309 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

And the debate over a new Vancouver Art Gallery heats up again

March 26th, 2015 · 10 Comments

This Vancouver Sun story today, saying the VAG is not going to meet its deadline to raise money and never planned to, and this proposal for an art gallery expansion on this existing site arrived in my mailbox this morning.

→ 10 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Uber has something to say about the Lower Mainland’s transit referendum

March 19th, 2015 · 37 Comments

→ 37 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Front porches to be the design theme for Robson Square this year

March 18th, 2015 · 4 Comments

And now, pausing for a break from the transit plebiscite wars, the winner of the Robson Square competition this year is here.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Uncategorized