Updated on December 8, 2009
Sullivan reflects on lessons learned
Sam Sullivan’s somewhat dark reflection on his three-year term, published in today’s Sun, is cast as advice to future mayors. In reality, it is an effort to spread the blame for the fate he suffered at the hands of his own party even before the election began.
Lesson 1: Don’t trust senior staff, particularly when it comes to labour relations. “I deferred to the experts on collective bargaining but asked them to inform me when the time was appropriate.” The resulting strike was not the worst in the city’s history, but the worst in recent memory. Concludes Sullivan: “I could have learned just how poisonous the relations had become between the union and some senior management.” Sullivan had already been a councillor for more than 13 years at the time.
Lesson 2: Don’t let others, including the media, lie about you. “There is a whole industry devoted to making the mayor look bad.” Case in point: the allegation he tried to trademark Ecodensity. Sullivan regrets that he had a tendency to “disregard ridiculous accusations.” Big mistake. Not explained: why the Canadian Intellectual Property Office published a notice of the application it received on Sullivan’s behalf from Boughton Law Corp., thus triggering the “accusations.”
Lesson 3: watch out for other municipalities. After Sullivan naively followed staff advice on collective bargaining and wound up in a bruising strike (see Lesson 1), Richmond settled with its unions at a level that is now triggering service cuts and tax hikes across the region. Future mayors should try to make other cities hold off their bargaining until Vancouver has settled. Question: how?
Lesson 4: Don’t trust senior staff (financial department): The Olympic Village project should have been run by the private sector, instead of in-house. Remember, “city processes can take forever and the costs remain buried.” Sullivan says his council rejected a private sector plan, leaving the project “vulnerable to politicians loading it with extras.” (Details of Sullivan’s fight to turn back the extras have never been found. He chaired the key meetings where the “extras” must have been loaded on.)
Lesson 5: schedule time for family and friends. “And remember, the job of being former mayor is much more pleasant.” There are no worries on the staff front, if nothing else.