What happens when a city’s ruling party holds a fundraising event at one of the public-owned facilities that it rules? I sought to find out, after Vision Vancouver held annual parties at two community centres.
On Oct. 7, 2013, I asked for contracts, invoices, copies of payment and a list of attendees for the Vision Vancouver Back to School BBQ events on Sept. 9, 2012 at Trout Lake Community Centre and Sept. 8, 2013 at Creekside Community Recreation Centre. I also wanted correspondence between city officials and Vision Vancouver.
To my surprise, I received separate Oct. 22, 2013 responses from the city’s FOI office, with the same message:
“The City of Vancouver does not have any responsive records to this request. This was a Vision Vancouver event.”
“I am aware it was a Vision Vancouver event, however it involved use of a public facility. Therefore, records should exist — such as (but not limited to) a contract for use of the facility. Under the Act, you have a Duty to Assist. Please redouble your efforts to both find and disclose records.
“If no records actually exist and Vision Vancouver used its power to do a political fundraiser without paying rent in a public facility, then please confirm.”
I also wrote separate emails along the same lines to Vision Vancouver executive director Stepan Vdovine and Park Board General Manager Malcolm Bromley. I wanted to know whether Vision Vancouver got preferential use of the facilities and whether it paid the going rate. To his credit, Vdovine sent me copies of the contracts the next day.
Oct. 28, 2013, city hall’s FOI office sent me the contracts that it frankly should’ve sent me in the beginning. Those are below. City hall claimed these were all the records it had. It didn’t send me the proof of payment or the correspondence that I sought.
City of Vancouver wants to be the Greenest City in the world by 2020, but under Mayor Gregor Robertson, it has already become the #GreyestCity, where secrecy reigns. If it’s not the dysfunctional FOI office, then it’s the restrictive media policy that bans bureaucrats from speaking to reporters. Robertson promised better when he was sworn-in on Dec. 8, 2008: “I will not let you down on making City Hall more open and accountable.” Voters get to decide in the Nov. 15 election whether they want four more years of being let down.