Animal Advocates Watchdog

NPA bag man in mayor's face over Aquarium expansion

Vancouver Courier - 22 November 2006

NPA bag man in mayor's face

By Allen Garr

While parks board energizer bunny Allan De Genova was cutting his ties with Mayor Sam Sullivan and the NPA on Monday, there was more evidence that all is not well in our city's governing family.

Sullivan suspended De Genova from the NPA caucus for six months almost six months ago to the day. In a letter marked confidential, the mayor told De Genova he was not a team player and it was in the best interest of the caucus and "the city" that De Genova should go stand in the corner and think about his future.

De Genova says his principal sin was in publicly blowing the whistle on parks board chair Heather Holden. She is an employee of the Vancouver Aquarium and was in a clear conflict of interest on any matters dealing with the park boards' biggest tenant. (She now excuses herself from any decision dealing with that institution.)

That and a few other loose-lipped comments got up Sullivan's nose and De Genova was punished.

At a news conference Monday, De Genova was reluctant to go into specifics but basically accused Sullivan of being a failure as a decision maker. He said he didn't believe Sullivan made the decision to boot him out and didn't compose the confidential letter. Generally "he will not make a decision."

Now NPA parks board commissioner Marty Zlotnik has picked up on that theme of failed leadership. On his way out the door from the De Genova announcement, the longtime NPA power broker and bag man bluntly told me that city manager Judy Rogers "is running the city." This may not come as news to regular readers. What is new is that a member of Sullivan's caucus says it on the record.

Zlotnik has a couple of beefs. The first one has to do with the $20 million the city is carving out of its budget over the next four years for what he calls a 2010 Olympic "party."

Most councillors were surprised when the first $5-million installment showed up as a "new funding request" in the preliminary 2007 budget review. When Vision Vancouver's Tim Stevenson asked where this request came from, he was told: "This is a deliberation of the corporate management team," which is to say it was promoted by Rogers who is also the city's appointee to the VANOC Board.

Meanwhile the parks board is facing a $1.2- million budget cut. When Zlotnik turned up at a budget briefing with council and staff in his role as the parks board's finance committee chair, he went off the carefully planned script and PowerPoint presentation to take aim at this Olympic slush fund. Many city programs will be cut back as a result.

But that's not the end of it. Zlotnik also says the $800,000 Sullivan and the NPA have set aside for the EcoDensity Initiative is "a waste of money." Holding to the common view that there's not much new in Sullivan's grand vision, he said you could "put five developers in a room" and they could explain what the roadblocks were to accomplishing the long held city policy of densification.

While it is always amusing to watch Sullivan's carefully controlled caucus come unglued, I would be remiss if I didn't include a bit of history about Zlotnik.

In the NPA nomination battle for mayor, Zlotnik was not a Sullivan supporter. In fact, it is generally accepted that during lunch with Christy Clark, Zlotnik convinced the former provincial Liberal education minister to run for the job. Zlotnik was by no means a voice in the wilderness. There were many in the party not fussy about Sullivan.

Sullivan has sought revenge against other Clark supporters. Now he has Zlotnik in his face. It seems unlikely the mayor will try to discipline him as he did with De Genova. Zlotnik doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would quietly go stand in a corner. Rather than risk a rupture, Sullivan will more likely just duck.

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NPA bag man in mayor's face over Aquarium expansion