City Caucus ceased operating its political blog this week after co-founders Mike Klassen and Daniel Fontaine couldn’t justify the personal time and effort it took to run the website.
The site launched three-and-a-half years ago and recently surpassed five million page views. Fontaine was former NPA mayor Sam Sullivan’s chief of staff. Klassen ran unsuccessfully as an NPA candidate for city council last November, placing 13th in the race for 10 seats.
Klassen said updating the blog was an immense amount of work, but it didn’t make money other than during the Olympics when it pulled in about $10,000 worth of advertising thanks to the site’s free events guide, which generated a lot of traffic.
“That was the only time where we actually made a lot of money. Google Adwords really only brings in a very nominal amount of money. There was the occasional time somebody would run an ad,” he said, citing a few hundred dollars from Sam Sullivan’s Urban Forum ads. “But it was all very modest. It was not really a financially beneficial endeavor.”
Klassen feels City Caucus changed the way municipal politics is discussed and that it used Freedom of Information requests to tell interesting stories about how municipal governments worked. The downside of that, he added, is that city hall became “even more secretive and more insular.”
“They became much more guarded. They changed all their policy around letting staff speak to the media… And what we’ve seen is a very top down, very tightly controlled type of municipal government taking the place of probably a more open city, not unlike we’re seeing in provincial and federal governments.”
Klassen brushes off criticism City Caucus was an NPA blog, saying people need labels to help them understand politics. But he maintains its approach to public policy was “incredibly progressive.”
“We were very vocal anti-sprawl people. We had very strong feelings about openness and transparency in government. We advocated very strongly for good public facilities and we also realized that in order to save the environment you need to have successful, walkable cities and there’s only a few ways you can achieve that and one is to build the city well. So I don’t know if we represented the NPA or the NPA represented some of our positions,” he said.
Klassen, a communications consultant, is now looking at “new opportunities” in a similar field.
City Caucus’s Twitter account and Facebook Fan page will remain active.
Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Sarah Blyth thanked City Caucus for its “service and participation in democracy” after its final post.
“In order to have democracy, we need everybody speaking,” she told the Courier. “I do respect the time and effort people put in to engage in democracy where all voices are heard—I do respect that.”
Was the blog too tough on Vision?
“I think they were wrong at times. I didn’t agree with it because I have a different point of view,” she said.