Friday, September 13, 2013

Exclusive: PNE day-by-day attendance revealed

The Pacific National Exhibition's 2013 Fair -- its 103rd to date -- was not marred by weather, but instead power outages at Hastings Park on the middle Saturday and the last Thursday. In fact, those were two of the worst days for attendance at the Aug. 17-Sept. 2 Fair, according to statistics that are  published below for the first time.

PNE - Pacific National ExhibitionWhat you already knew: The grand total over 15 days was 712,049, a decrease from the 763,689 a year earlier (when the fair was 17 days long) and far short of the 800,000 goal set by organizers. (By comparison, the centennial fair in 2010 drew 937,485.) PNE vice-president of finance Roger Gil told me gate revenue has not been reconciled, but will be reported to the board of directors for its next meeting. (PNE board meetings are held behind closed doors, despite it being a public body.)

What you didn't know: A power outage delayed the opening of gates on Aug. 24 so the attendance for the middle Saturday of the Fair -- traditionally one of the biggest days -- was a disappointing 48,874. Another power outage happened in the evening on Aug. 29. The day's weather was mixed -- partly cloudy, sometimes rainy -- but only 26,363 came through the turnstiles. That was the worst-attended day of the entire Fair. Organizers were hoping for more because Aug. 29 was the day Vancity credit union debit and credit cardholders were admitted for $5 each.

The best-attended day was the third day -- Tues. Aug. 20 -- with 76,902 fairgoers. Why was that? Well, Port Metro Vancouver sponsored free admission to all comers from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. There was also a free two-hour promotion on Aug. 27, to make-good for the Aug. 24 power outage. That Tuesday's total  was 64,580.

Tickets and parking at the 2013 Fair were both cut from $20 to $16 each and kids under 13 were free. The touring Chinggis Khan exhibition, the only brand, new marquee attraction at the Fair, was an extra $3. There was no price break at the gates during the middle weekend of the civic fair, which was in competition with the free admission, civic-sponsored 125th anniversary of Stanley Park. The PNE drew 48,874 on Aug. 24 and 53,048 on Aug. 25. It is not known how much the free festival at Stanley Park impacted the PNE's revenues, but it certainly was not a business-wise move by the Vision Vancouver-dominated city council. The true anniversary of Stanley Park could have been observed on Sept. 27, the date it was opened in 1888.

The PNE fairgrounds were closed on Aug. 19 and 26 to cut costs.

Next year's fair runs Aug. 16-Sept. 1, 2014.

SaturdayAugust 17, 201329,976
SundayAugust 18, 201331,129
MondayAugust 19, 20130
TuesdayAugust 20, 201376,902
WednesdayAugust 21, 201336,039
ThursdayAugust 22, 201336,594
FridayAugust 23, 201345,547
SaturdayAugust 24, 201348,874
SundayAugust 25, 201353,048
MondayAugust 26, 20130
TuesdayAugust 27, 201364,580
WednesdayAugust 28, 201333,499
ThursdayAugust 29, 201326,363
FridayAugust 30, 201341,126
SaturdayAugust 31, 201366,222
SundaySeptember 1, 201367,588
MondaySeptember 2, 201354,562

                                            TOTAL   712,049

What do you love or hate about Vancouver's annual PNE Fair? Did you go to the 2013 Fair? Leave your comments below or email me here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Exclusive: Ballem bashes media, promotes city trash manager

On Sept. 11, Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem sent a memo to staff to defend acting sanitation manager Mike Zupan from reports in The Province about the hiring of a Hells Angel as a trashman. A day later, Zupan was promoted to manager of sanitation operations. That’s the way Penny rolls. 

This, despite an internal staff report that I published, which shows widespread anger among the sanitation department rank-and-file over bad management. The staff survey even includes allegations of rule-breaking and nepotism!

While Ballem mentions in her memo that civic hiring practices are “aligned with legislation,” one can reasonably wonder if they’re also aligned with the interests of the public. Specifically, are reasonable efforts undertaken by city hall to ensure that those hired by the city can be trusted to do the public’s work, on the public’s dime, regardless of their past? 

Ballem writes that the city has unspecified "safeguards and controls in place" to prevent organized crime from being affiliated with the city and that "we have no evidence of any involvement of organized crime in our organization. We are in close touch with (Vancouver Police Department) and they have not indicated any concern in this regard."

The city's corporate hiring policy states that only so-called “positions of trust” -- involving contact with vulnerable people, security and safety of people and assets, regulation and inspection or handling cash -- require police record checks, credit record checks and enhanced reliability checks. Evidently, that didn't apply to garbage collector Ronaldo Lising.
Penny Ballem
See Ballem’s full memo below, followed by the memo announcing Zupan’s promotion (and an important note to readers at bottom). 


From: City Managers Broadcast Account
Sent: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 3:02 PM
To: All Staff (COV) - DL
Subject: COV Broadcast: Message from the City Manager

Dear Colleagues across the City of Vancouver,

I am writing to all our staff today in regards to an article in today’s edition of the Province newspaper.  This article is a follow up to one that ran on August 26 regarding the employment of a particular individual in Sanitation who is allegedly affiliated with the Hells Angels. In my response to the media in August, I indicated that we would be carefully reviewing that situation.  We hire hundreds of regular and auxiliary staff every year across the City departments, Boards and Agencies.  As we have indicated previously, we take the integrity of our hiring process very seriously and we continue to work to improve this very important function in our organization. The issue of organized crime being in any way affiliated with any organization is a serious risk and we have many safeguards and controls in place to prevent that from happening and we have no evidence of any involvement of organized crime in our organization. We are in close touch with VPD and they have not indicated any concern in this regard.

Our hiring practices are aligned with legislation – Human Rights Code, Labour Relations Code, Privacy legislation and related regulations and case law – and we have a very diverse and talented work force of which we are very proud.

However I am very concerned and dismayed about the unsubstantiated and irresponsible allegations and innuendo reported in the media today which is allegedly coming from our staff (and some of our retired staff) regarding Mike Zupan, our Acting Manager of Sanitation. I want to be very clear that Mike Zupan has the full confidence of this organization and there is absolutely no evidence that he had any previous relationship with Ronaldo Lising. His work with the City of Vancouver over the last 20 years has been exemplary.

Sanitation is an area where there is much change ahead, some of which is imposed on us through legislation while other elements are part of our overall goals for zero waste. We have an excellent leadership team which is working with many other parts of the organization to move changes along in a constructive, transparent way, and in a way which meets the needs of our citizens as well as our staff.  I know I can count on all of you to keep focused on our goals and work together productively toward serving our public which is why we all work for the City. Thank you. pb

Penny Ballem, MD, FRCP
City Manager
City of Vancouver
Cell:  604.551.XXXX
Fax:  604.873.7641

From: ENG All Staff Broadcast
Sent: Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:10 AM
To: ENG All Staff (COV) - DL
Subject: Staff Announcement

I am very pleased to announce that Mike Zupan is our successful candidate in the recent competition for the Manager of Sanitation Operations.  Mike brings over 20 years of experience in progressively responsible positions with the City to his new role.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mike over the past 1 ½ years since I joined the City and continue to be impressed by his dedication and commitment to moving forward, adapting to change and making things better in the areas in which he is working. For the past 8 months Mike has been doing an excellent job as Acting Manager and has successfully implemented and number of changes in the branch to improve operations, employee engagement and overall morale within the branch.   I look forward to continuing to work with Mike in his new role as we continue to navigate the significant changes underway in Sanitation.  Please join me in congratulating Mike on his new role.

Albert Shamess
Director - Waste Management and Resource Recovery
City of Vancouver
604-873-XXXX |

IMPORTANT NOTE TO READERS: Is Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem on the ball or is she out to lunch? Is Vancouver city hall really a gleaming example of the ideal government workplace, free of corruption or has it gone "Montreal-style" and been infiltrated by organized (or disorganized) crime? If you have proof of organized crime, fraud or other corruption at Vancouver city hall, any of its departments or agencies (or, for that matter, any federal, provincial, civic or aboriginal government office), please contact me here. I also gladly accept confidential, brown paper envelopes (addressed to me) at this address and that address

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Exclusive: mutiny festering as internal survey claims city sanitation management rot

City waste collection services
Vancouver trash workers unhappy, survey shows
The year started off seemingly well for City of Vancouver’s 1,600 outside workers when the garbage, recycling, street repair and parks and facilities maintenance workers got a four-year contract with 6.75% in pay raises.

Then came word of dissent among the rank-and-file, when the executive of CUPE Local 1004 wanted to suspend the stewards’ council. There were allegations that president Mike Jackson took unauthorized leave and that under his leadership, there were financial irregularities.
It got even worse on April 18 when a worker from another union, for reasons not entirely clear, attempted self-immolation in the CUPE Local 1004 office, destroying furniture, fixtures, equipment and files. 

The Province newspaper revealed Aug. 26 that Ronaldo Lising had been hired as a part-time trashman by City of Vancouver, despite a criminal record for drugs, guns and assault offences and membership in the Hells Angels when the RCMP busted the East End clubhouse in 2005. 

While the B.C. Civil Liberties Association believes criminals who have served their sentence should not be subject to discrimination, a Sept. 10 Province story further questions City of Vancouver hiring practices: who knew what and when and why won't city manager Penny Ballem or the manager who hired Lising, Mike Zupan, explain? The Province story mentions a staff survey, but it doesn’t show you the internal Sanitation Services Department survey.

You've come to the right place, because you can read the report below. 

It's called "Employee Engagement Notes: Day Shift and Afternoon Shift" and was compiled from table discussions in January 2013 sessions. The report is dated Feb. 19, 2013 and provided to me by a source concerned that city hall's ruling Vision Vancouver party does not care for the men and women who handle the city's waste and work in the least-glorious division of the city. 

Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver are intent on making Vancouver the world's greenest city by 2020, but there are serious questions about how Robertson and co. are managing the city's operations and finances in 2013. 

According to one of the comments, it is a “toxic work environment" in the city's sanitation department. But there is more. Much more. 

The top 10 selection of comments: 

  • "Maps are 40 years out of date”
  • “Mgmt. needs to follow and enforce the rules consistently”
  • “Tell us the truth; tell us what you know and what you don't” 
  • “Be consistent; stop changing story every week”
  • “Rules are being broken conveniently and it’s ‘encouraged’ to get the work done”
  • “Stop favouritism/nepotism”
  • “Lying, no transparency, no communication, no accountability, no integrity”
  • "They build resentment they don't build people"
  • “When leaders pass the buck, you end up passing the buck”
  • “Dysfunctional environment is the norm, rumours are constant”
                    Read the entire report below: 

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