Once again, this time at cost to you and I of over half million dollars, Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver majority have missed the point.
Let me explain.
There is no disputing the fact that Dr. Penny Ballem is an incredibly capable city manager, perhaps one of the most competent in the city’s history. When there were problems — and there were plenty of them — it was not due to any incompetence on her part. The problems arose because she implemented Vision Vancouver policies that the public simply had no appetite for.
My point is this: The city manager, no matter who he or she is, takes direction from city council. If the policies being implemented are wrong, then responsibility lays at the feet of those who are responsible — in this case, the mayor and his Vision Vancouver majority.
Apparently one of the reasons Penny Ballem was let go was the plan to massively densify Grandview Woodlands. This is a decision of council, not the city manager or the director of planning. Another reason: the park board’s Leisure Access Pass fiasco. Once again, Mayor Robertson and his Vision team attempted to hide behind their city manager in the hope she would shoulder the blame for a decision that was not hers.
Overall, the mayor and his Vision majority directed Penny Ballem to implement numerous unpopular, unwise policies. The blowback was so fierce that they came within a whisker of losing the 2014 municipal election. All the Vision Vancouver candidates who ran for city council received fewer votes in total than the NPA city council candidates who ran. Once the election was over, Mayor Robertson and his Vision team set about looking for a scapegoat.
Terminating Dr. Ballem would be very costly so they attempted to negotiate an amicable separation in which she would voluntarily resign. When that failed, they decided to terminate her but chose not to do so in the midst of the transit referendum. Which brings us to now.
A capable and responsible city council decides what policies it wants implemented. It then delegates responsibilities for making these policies reality to the city manager. An effective city manager implements these as directed.
Vision Vancouver’s cynical decision to make Penny Ballem the “fall gal” for its unpopular decisions will cost you and I hundreds of thousands of dollars. Let’s hope it is one more bad decision on the part of Vision Vancouver that also costs them the next election.