Tuesday’s council meeting started with such promise.
Vision Coun. Heather Deal began with a welcoming, or a prayer or whatever they’re calling it these days.
Deal gushed about how great the city can be when the sun makes that rare appearance in these parts. She mentioned picnics on the beach, people “grinning ear to ear as they bike around the city,” block parties and car free days.
“Let’s bring that spirit of love for the city and the spirit of companionship amongst each other to the chamber today,” Deal told her fellow councillors.
Mr. Sunshine himself, Mayor Gregor Robertson, was on holidays. So the duty of running the meeting fell on NPA Coun. Elizabeth Ball, the city’s deputy mayor this month.
Now think about that for a moment… a member of the minority NPA chairing a meeting in a chamber dominated by Vision pols.
Then consider some button-pushing comments by NPA Coun. George Affleck directed at the Vision crew—and Ball’s inability to effectively operate the councillors’ microphone system and control the outbursts.
In a word, chaos.
As the city hall cognoscenti knows, the person chairing a council meeting is tasked with operating a computer screen that gives them the ability to turn on a mic and shut it off. Former mayor Larry Campbell was a pro at the latter, as then-NPA councillor Sam Sullivan will attest.
So there was Ball, who is not actually new to this technology since she served for three years under Sullivan when he was mayor from 2005 to 2008, doing her best to operate the system.
It didn’t go so well.
Remember the last time you went through a drive-thru and you got the trainee, and you really needed that burger and fries like right now and you were waiting and waiting, well it was kind of like that.
At other times, Ball was like a kindergarten teacher trying to quiet the children. At one point, over the din of councillors yelling across the chamber, she went all firm tone and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s stop this now.”
Well, she can kind of blame her pal Affleck for the brouhaha.
It was Affleck who set off the Visionistas after introducing his motion to get city staff to look at the feasibility of building a seawall that would link Kitsilano Beach to Jericho Park.
As every journo working this summer has reported over the past two weeks, some philanthropist with “tens of millions of dollars” approached the mayor about paying for the seawall project.
The mayor isn’t saying who it is and Affleck claims he doesn’t know. But when he suggested the donor might be connected to Vision, that’s when chaos ensued.
“It’s not so much the private donor that we have to worry about, it’s the political party that potentially are using their connections to get those private donors that I worry about, and I think the public worries about,” he baited the Vision crew.
Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs shot back and accused Affleck of “casting aspersions” on a political party. Affleck ignored the comment and continued to prattle on to shouts from the Visionistas of “point of order!, point of order!”
“This is quite shocking,” Vision Coun. Tim Stevenson chimed in. “Those comments have no place in this chamber and I ask you to rule on this Madame deputy mayor, as this is a very important point for democracy in this city.”
Affleck then retracted his statement, saying it wasn’t aimed at anyone personally in the chamber. Then Vision Coun. Kerry Jang had a turn.
“I was disturbed to hear Coun. Affleck almost refer to [anonymous donors] as possibly corrupt on the CBC radio,” said Jang, who was interrupted by Affleck. “It’s a very negative attitude.”
Then they got into it over Affleck’s concern that bike rental businesses would suffer under a Vision-led public bike share program.
On and on it went for the rest of the morning until a clearly flummoxed Ball blurted out: “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re making my first day of doing this very difficult.”
Ah, the spirit of companionship.