The response to this column has been overwhelming – with the most shares on social media (over 1,500 Facebook shares), and the most emails and online comments I have received from readers at Vancouver Courier. Read the messages I received in response here.
Vancouver’s mayor leaves a city divided between us and them
It is said the mayor “put his heart” into his work. But is that good enough?
I call it like I see it. Mayor Gregor Robertson, things are not better around here for a host of reasons — these are a few.
You hired a city manager known for her aggressive style to take charge of one of Canada’s highest ranked workplaces, and looked on as staff morale collapsed.
You spent $3 million on a city website that made searching for information and historic records frustrating. Your staff tried to redefine city hall and its past accomplishments in your image.
You allowed the public service to become politicized, and would not let the city’s staff speak directly with media. You decried the actions of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, yet city hall’s communications department turned into a PMO-like fortress.
You surrounded yourself with political operatives who attacked your opponents on social media. You were caught describing credible community voices as f***ing hacks.
You let donors flood your political coffers, and spent more money on elections than anyone in the city’s history. Your party changed Vancouver political campaigns by making them expensive, American-style, year-round affairs with full-time staff.
You stood by when your Vision Vancouver team members bullied staff at school board.
As mayor, large numbers of senior city staff were either fired or quit in frustration. Top managers like these had the experience and institutional memory which could have prevented the disastrous Stanley Cup riot, sparing the city millions in property damage and policing costs, as well as worldwide humiliation.
You co-chaired a task force on affordable housing, and then proceeded to shelve their report. Your affordable housing agency department languished for years before you sacked the manager.
You fired two city managers and two directors of planning.
American-funded organizations, whose activism suppresses economic growth in Canada to the benefit of our competitors in the USA, remain closely linked to your political advisors. You sidled up to politicians stateside such as Senator John Kerry, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and invited in the Rockefeller Foundation to work inside city hall, which mostly benefited your personal brand among the eco-elite.
You typically engaged with a select circle of supporters and partisans during your time in office. Even a favorably disposed left wing commentator called you out on your unwillingness to do media interviews, labeling you as a “bubble wrapped shirt.”
You did little for the city’s coveted small business community. You poured millions into an economic development commission that courts multinational corporations, rather than finding ways to provide relief from crushing rents and property tax increases.
Your council raised Vancouverites’ cost of living by raising taxes at several times the rate of inflation, and last month you voted for the highest tax increase in a decade.
You support plans to tear down the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, yet no one has a clue on how to pay for new roads and infrastructure.
You turned your back on civic pride by letting boulevard gardens become choked with weeds and by leaving sidewalks strewn with litter. You outsourced blue box collection, and then took no responsibility when the service declined.
You went on vacation when the city needed leadership during not one, but two record-breaking snow events.
Your blaming of federal and provincial politicians for problems on your watch became tiresome. Unlike real leaders, you never took responsibility.
Finally, you are leaving us with a city divided into us and them, into political supporters and adversaries. Your bike lanes were used less as a way to diversify transportation choices and more as a political wedge.
The problems left at city hall and embedded within our city’s political culture will take future leaders years to fix.
The demands of public life cannot be underestimated, and we should be grateful for those who serve —including the mayor.
But if the past 10 years teach Vancouverites anything, is that we should never let good intentions become a substitute for competent leadership.