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Full text quotes: Gregor Robertson, Suzanne Anton, James Ridge

April 28th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Because this topic seems to be generating a lot of controversy, I will do a bit of notebook dumping here to give everyone all the evidence available before they come to a verdict.  And then we can move on to other things.

First off, Gregor’s comments in full to me and other media.

In the scrum early Tuesday morning, he said this: “He’s provided good leadership at the city for the past few years, and he’ll be missed for sure. I don’t think it’s unusual to see a turnover with a change in government; we have a really ambitious agenda and people will decide a time to move on when it makes sense in their careers. James has got a great opportunity at UBC and he’ll be around through the end of May for a smooth transition and we’ve certainly appreciated his work for the city. He’s been a big asset and he’ll be missed.”

I’m told by the mayor’s office that the comments to Jeff Lee about why staff were leaving (pressures of the Olympics and the new demanding agenda) were made in response to Jeff’s questions about why there seemed to be a general exodus, not why James Ridge was leaving.

My interview later, where I was asking him at once about both the departure of James Ridge and the exodus of many other senior staffers. (He didn’t say this all in one go, I had intervening questions.)

“We have an ambitious agenda, we’re dealing with unprecedented challenges. It’s meant that people who are considering a change have all the more reason to leave. It’s not uncommon for there to be a turnover of a management team when there’s a big change and a new political direction I think it’s not uncommon. I have no doubt our city can still attract top-notch talent. It’s Penny’s decision on what we do now. She knows full well how much we want to get done. There’s certainly a new culture of high productivity and big expectations at city all. There’s great people filling the gaps. The talent at city hall is deep. Peter Judd stepping up to fill in for Dave Rudberg, it’s good to see him get that. I’m hopeful this is creating opportunities for good people to step up.”

And are you politicizing city hall? “If it was that, James wouldn’t be waiting over a month to go. He’s respectful of the situation. There’s no doubt the culture is shifting here.”

Are you concerned more people will be leaving? “I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s beyond the normal rate of attrition.”

A few more points from Suzanne that didn’t make it into print: “I’m very disappointed but I can’t say I’m surprised. When we stole [James] from North Vancouver, I’d been gloating about what a great theft it was. He’s masterful, pragmatic, even-tempered. I’m very very sorry he’s left the city. This is a failure of leadership from the mayor, a failure to keep his top people there.”

And finally, a very tactful (and funny) note from James himself in response to all the uproar:

I’m trying to keep a relatively low profile today. In fact I like to keep a low profile every day.
I’m a bit dismayed by some of the speculation about why I am leaving. I’ve worked for six mayors in the last six years, in three different municipalities, so I am very accustomed to change and transition. The reason I’m moving on is very simple: I have been offered an extremely challenging new job in a great university. I’ve spent roughly equal thirds of my career in the three levels of government, and was both surprised and very interested when I was first approached about the UBC position. I became more intrigued and attracted as the process unfolded. I also met some wonderful people during the process who were very positive about my candidacy, in spite of my weird resume and total lack of experience in a university setting.  I’m more than a little surprised that I was successful.
I have committed to Penny to do everything I can in the next five weeks to ensure a smooth transition that keeps the business of the City unfolding smoothly.

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  • “We have an ambitious agenda . . .” and “. . . new job in a great university . . .”

    OMG is this all we can come up with.

    “Ambitious agenda” You bet, Mr Canny Scot, you’ve an unhandleable debt to handle.

    As for “great U.” When a university interprets academic freedom as ridding the corridors of Coke machines the word “great’ be comes errrrr . . . ummmm.

    When a chief planner is foolish enought to appended his name to a doggie run, and doesn’t understand the concept “conflict of interest” to say nothing of professional integrity, again errrr ummmm.

    But those are trivialities. A city that is solely dependent on Howe Street machinations and “world class/views/livable” without a wealth creating working agenda . . . then . . . huh!

    How does it go? “Repeating the same mistake over and over expecting better results is a sign of insanity” then welcome to the loonie bin Vancouver!

    The town has been deteriorating before ever since TEAM’s “executive city.”

    Thanqxz, I’m oudda here . . .

  • SV

    tempest in a teacup?

  • glissando remmy

    It’s getting better and better! And we all have to thank for this to…Larry!
    Let’s not forget that the entire marionette show started when our local Da Vinci had a “Vision” and surrounded by all his “Friends” formed a new Vancouver Party, adding to the political lingo words like “COPE Classic” and “COPE Light”.
    Yes, yes, Stevenson and Louie left their fingerprints on the dagger but hey, that’s another post.
    Larry, managed to conspire, back stab and deliver the corpse of COPE (speak no evil for the departed) in such a good shape that nobody bothered to do an autopsy, him being a former coroner, ironic, eh! Basically, Larry cost Jim Green a well deserved framed picture on the third floor next to the Council chambers. Instead we got stuck with Sammy for three gruelling years. Then we had a chance to have another good choice in office but like in a Shakespearian chain of events Sam proved to be for Peter what Larry proved to be for Jim.
    And that is why, now we have Mr. Gregor “goes to town” Robertson.

    Goofy: “Yeah, it’s been great. You know, it’s funny, but none of your techniques worked for me. The harder I tried the worse it got. Once I eased up, things just clicked.” A Goofy movie, 1995

    Let’s look at few similarities between Larry and Gregor.
    Larry – former Mayor of Vancouver; Gregor – former MLA Vancouver Fairview.
    (I may add that both of them still do not know, to this day, what hit them when they entered politics)
    Both of them started attracting “barnacle friends” faster than the bamboo growth habit and both of them sell short their respective constituents before the end of their terms in order to try for greener pastures. And I may add, costing the taxpayers handsomely in the due process.
    In the end, we, the public, discovered that one wanted to be called Senator the other one His Worship. Regretfully, they duped us all and got away with it. People! Understand one thing; your ignorant, orgasmic voting gave those two, jobs! Well paid, great jobs.
    When asked a few weeks ago on the 1410 AM’s Jen & Joe morning show, if he would like to give it a shot for the Premier’s job as with the coming Provincial election and all… Gregor said “Hyuk, hyuk, no, I only wanted to be the Mayor”.

    Goofy: “Why do you always think I’m going to lead you into some kind of calamity?” A Goofy movie, 1995

    I have to say that his answer disappointed me a bit because I was kind of expecting him to jump ship after under performing yet again and move up on the food chain based solely on happy juice.
    Now that the great American Travelling Puppet theatre made its debut in Vancouver, Larry puts the long sad face. He pretends to care. And I am referring to an older post of him that I did not bother to respond to at the time. Oh please!
    THIS CITY is becoming more and more the city of Oz with some profoundly deranged individuals elbowing each other for the Wizard position.

    Goofy: [singing]” Do you need a break from modern living? Do you long to shed your weary load? If your nerves are raw and your brain is fried, just grab a friend and take a ride, together upon the open road.”
    A Goofy movie, 1995

    Something is very wrong. There’s no smoke without fire. But for some strange reason the Mayor thinks he can put it out in no time if that occurs. Well I don’t doubt that, Gregor can put it out with his big shoes, the shoes of Goofy.

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

    Speaking of “Academia”…
    I wonder what the due process for hiring one at UBC is. By his own admission James said that he was offered the position “in spite of my weird resume and total lack of experience in a university setting. I’m more than a little surprised that I was successful”
    I simply cannot believe this comments are coming from a high level, well seasoned bureaucrat.
    He should know better. As much as I do appreciate his honesty, this says a lot about how jobs are handed over in yet another public funded enterprise.
    O tempora o mores!

  • For what it is worth, Robertson’s comments to me about productivity and the rash of people leaving were not in direct response to Ridge’s departure.
    I asked the mayor about why so many key people seemed to be leaving and whether he was worried about the drain of so much senior knowledge.
    Here are some of his quotes to me:
    “There’s undoubtedly been big change at the city with the new mayor and council, but we’re driving an ambitious agenda.”

    “I think we are focussed on a big agenda and that’s not the right fit for everyone. ”

    (About whether he’s expecting more resignations?) “I am not anticipating, but we’re still in the midst of gearing up this year. It certainly could happen.”

    “I have total confidence in Penny Ballem and she’s focussed on building a good strong team.”

    “At this point we are getting fantastic productivity from staff. We’re doing more in these last several months than I think city hall has achieved in several years’ time.”

    (I asked him if his demand for productivity had triggered some of the resignations.)
    “Yeah, I do think that has something to do with it. Some of it is my agenda and my desire to get a lot more done at city hall, and some is the pressure of 2010 and the variety of forces that have come at us this year.
    “It’s a change in how we are doing things here with a real focus on productivity, so there is undoubtedly more pressure this year, and that doesn’t work for everyone.”

    Clear as mud?

  • fbula

    Hey thanks Jeff. Certainly has stirred up a hornets’ nest.

  • glissando remy, above, asked:

    “I wonder what the due process for hiring one at UBC is. By his own admission James said that he was offered the position “in spite of my weird resume and total lack of experience in a university setting. I’m more than a little surprised that I was successful”

    To my understanding the process began late last year with the striking of a full search committee….what I can’t say for sure is how far along the process was on March 8th of this year when Mr. Ridge was, according to FABula’s G&M piece, named the CoV’s chief information officer…