Just checking into the city hall website at close to 11, and the speakers are still lined up to protest proposed budget cuts. Doesn’t sound happy. Raymond Louie is grilling yet another hapless speaker on whether it isn’t better to save community centres rather than some of the other the services. The speaker says he’s discouraged by the news that council has decided in advance on limiting any tax increase to two per cent.
Now John Cooper from Friends of the Bloedel Conservatory is up. Another unhappy camper. (By the way, the conservatory people must be experiencing a bittersweet victory. Since the news that the conservatory is going to be closed came out, the place has been packed — partly by people who know it and love it, partly by people who didn’t even know it was there and now want to see it.)
Oh, now a debate over whether to continue on to 11:30. And it’s Mike Bradley up, from the Thunderbird community centre, talking about what a hit the community-centre cuts are going to have on all kinds of programs for at-risk kids — not a frill in low-income neighbourhoods like his.
And now here comes Bob Laurie, from the Vancouver Board of Trade. It must be the late hour, but he’s using the word “crap” a lot as he refers to previous speaker Neil Monckton’s assertions that businesses are getting a break, with council’s plan to shift taxes from business to residential this year. He’s making the point, as he has for a decade, that businesses pay tax at five times the rate residents do, that residents still only pay 54 cents for every dollar in services they use, and more.
It’s a busy life for councillors and staff these days, between these hearings (I think another night on budget hearings is being scheduled, because council probably won’t get through the remaining 50 speakers tonight), the dozens of major reports that everyone is scrambling to get through council before the Olympics hit in February, and the many Christmas parties of various persuasions going on.
While that means gruelling times for some councillors and staff, at least one person seems to be thriving on the busy schedule. That’s the city’s new deputy city manager, Sadhu Johnston.
I’ve seen him at several social occasions lately, where he has invariably outlasted me and many others. He shut down the Bill Tieleman and company “lefty” party sometime well after midnight on Saturday, along with Councillor Heather Deal. At the Concord Pacific party on Monday, he was swapping tales of his dad (a construction worker who was one of the first people hired by Concord back in the 1980s) with a project manager. Very savvy networking.
His energy doesn’t extend just to after-hours partying. I hear from staff inside the building they’re impressed with his admin skills, as he makes sure to prep his teams before they do council briefings and then debrief everyone will a concise summary of where they’re going next after the briefings.
And he’s organizing his life to make sure he has lots of time to spend at city hall. He and his family will be moving into a townhouse in the complex behind City Square. That’s right across the street from the hall. That’s really one-upping everyone else. It’s a bit of a joke that the mayor, his chief of staff Mike Magee and his communications guy Kevin Quinlan all live within about 15 blocks of the hall.
I’m thinking the next staffer is going to have to set up a cot in the empty former engineering offices to improve on Johnston’s move.
Johnston says it’s all part of trying to maintain a good work-life balance — he gets to preserve family peace by running across the street for dinner in between meetings. If you say so.