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Everyone at Vancouver city hall waiting with bated breath

November 20th, 2008 · 5 Comments

So little time, so many questions to answer for the incoming Vision team. As you can imagine, people inside and outside city hall are in a tizzy of wondering what that Vision team is going to do on any number of fronts. I couldn’t possibly go into all the permutations but here’s a brief rundown of the “interesting challenges” they face:

1. Judy Rogers. Fired, encouraged to quit or not? I understand senior managers have been making black jokes about who has the biggest bullseye on their foreheads, but really, everyone knows it’s Judy. She’s the big boss, perceived by some on the left as a person who sided with the Non-Partisan Association, and the architect of whatever the heck is going on with Millennium Developments/the Olympic athletes’ village. It’s hard to imagine the incoming team would can her. That would cost a whack of money and they’d never be able to prove that it was justified. (And, no, Mike Magee is not going to be the next city manager — that’s one wild rumour making the rounds at city hall. He’s coming in as the interim chief of staff for Gregor until someone permanent is chosen.)

More likely, they’ll sit down and have a long, long, long talk about what they want to do at the city and whether Judy is on board with that. They’ll also make it clear that they’re going to be driving the boat from now on.

2. Millennium/Olympic village. Take it over or not? The city has the legal right to take over the project if it’s in “material default” according to its agreement. No one recently elected knows whether it is in material default, but a good guess is that there’s a legal case to be made that it is.

One piece of advice from one prominent development firm in town to Gregor, whether they take over or not: “Just admit right now that this is going to cost the city of Vancouver a lot of money. Just write the whole thing down. Then, whatever happens, people are prepared. And if the market actually starts to look improve, then you’ll have some good news to tell.”

3. Sue Harvey. Lots of muttering from the arts community about the head of the cultural planning department. Gregor Robertson talked at one point about how much the city needed a Vancouver Arts Council to decide on grants from cultural organizations. That, I now realize, was code for — we have to take that power away from cultural planners because the suspicion, rightly or wrongly, is that Sue Harvey controls it all. Charlie Smith’s blog has more on this, though I’m not sure I agree with some of his guesses on replacements. Duncan Low had a cultural-planner job at the city for a few months and quit because he couldn’t stand city hall, if I’m remembering correctly. Heather Redfern is quite happy running the Cultch.

4. The planning department. Gregor made references several times in debates to the fact that the planning department is not working well and that it’s taking too long for projects to get approved. Shake-up coming? Umm, yes?

5. Sheltering the homeless. Someone needs to find some likely buildings and figure out who’s going to pay for operating costs.

6. Can Project Civil City and Geoff Plant? Well, yes, to number one. But it sounds like, from many parties, that the provincial government is about to drop a load of money into Vancouver for support services to go along with all those housing projects. That’s something Plant, along with Ken Dobell and Judy Rogers, have been grinding away at for a while. And Housing Minister Rich Coleman keeps acting like Santa Claus a couple of nights before Christmas, just waiting to hand out presents. He’s likely not going to get the billion he asked for, not in this economic climate. But signs up to now are that he could get an impressive amount of money.

And many, many more questions to be answered, like: Who will get which office? Who will be Gregor’s aides in the mayor’s office? Will they start ordering better food for late council meetings?

Categories: Uncategorized

  • T W

    Instead of watching City Hall, we should be watching the stock quotes for the Fortress Investment Group.

  • Bill Lee
    $2.02 down 12 percent on the day
    Then there is NASDAQ:FIGIU as well.

  • A Dave

    Re. #3:

    Yes, there was certainly “muttering from the arts community” about Sue Harvey this week. It’s important to keep in mind, however, the City is one of the best civic supporters of the arts in North America, and, as far as I know, the City adjudicates grants with a jury of one city staffer + 3 artists/professionals, which is pretty similar to an arts council.

    A much bigger issue to me is the ill-conceived Cultural Precinct Plan (CPP), written by Dobbell and Harvey with next to no public consultation, and which left pretty much everyone in the arts out in the cold except the VAG and Cultch. I have studied this Plan extensively and all the various culture reports that have come out in the past 5 years, and came to the conclusion that virtually all the recommendations in the City reports are ignored by the CPP, as is external research from experts like Luigi Sacco, Richard Florida, UNESCO and Duncan Lowe.

    For example, the first phase of the Facilities Priority Plan is for mid-range theatre development and DTES rejuvenation through the arts, yet it was reported that Harvey was against the Pantages Theatre proposal, which addressed both those needs plus housing and heritage issues to boot. Still scratching my head about Harvey not wanting that (though I’m sure Millenium didn’t help on the budget side, doh!).

    Another example: the CPP’s decision to build a National Aboriginal Art Gallery and Chinese Centre for Culture and Trade up in the dead zone of the old bus depot, as opposed to 6 blocks east in neighbourhoods where First Nations and Chinese have deep roots. This misses a golden opportunity to use the power of the arts to help revitalize the heritage district and DTES. These facilities and the Pantages restoration would create cultural anchor tenants on Hastings that attract other businesses, create local jobs and training opportunities, promote ties to the local communities, and go a long way towards remaking the DTES into an area all Vancouverites can be proud of without a displacement of the community that exists (as all external and internal reports and examples from many other cities make clear).

    Whether or not Harvey stays or goes, here’s hoping Vision recognizes that this is one area where real, long-term change can be made on the DTES that could positively affect everyone. Public legacy projects provide real solutions for depressed times, so maybe it wouldn’t take too much convincing for Rogers, Harvey and even the Premier to get on board. Just saying…

  • Chris Budgell

    It’s not hard to imagine that the incoming team would “can” Judy Rogers. Not if one presumes their vision includes a clear understanding of what ails City Hall. So it would cost some money. This is B.C., where the money for such payouts grows on trees. And they don’t need to prove anything. She’s an employee, not a permanent fixture.

  • ptak604

    We could design a “Fire Judy Rogers” shirt as a fundraiser to help offset the cost.