Remember the first thing Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson did after he was sworn in after he won re-election? He talked about raising salaries for city council and the mayor – which just so happened to be him.
Well, he got his review to look into raising their salaries. It didn’t matter that not one of them ran on a platform of more money for politicians. After the election, it was one of their top priorities.
Well, it turns out that while Robertson was distracting us all with talk of higher salaries, he was feathering his own nest in another way as well.
On Tuesday, the City of Vancouver passed its 2015 budget – which included an overall spending increase of 3.7%.
Some line items in that budget got smaller and some got bigger, a lot bigger.
For instance, spending on housing services is up over 30% and certain small grants nearly doubled in size.
But one spending increase stood out for me – the mayor’s budget grew by an astonishing 23.6%. That works out to $233,000 more than in 2014.
Significantly, it’s one of the biggest increases of any line item in the entire city budget.
So why does Robertson need more money for his office? Well, the budget explains it is to support his roles as the chair of four organizations: The TransLink Mayor’s Council, the Big City Mayors’ Caucus, the Vancouver Police Boards and the Vancouver Economic Commission.
But that doesn’t make a lot of sense. By definition, the mayor is the chair of the police board and economic commission, and has been for years. These are not new responsibilities that require more staff – they are part of the job that never needed special funding before.
The two other jobs may need some extra effort from his scheduler and a bit more prep work on the mayor’s behalf, but they hardly justify nearly a quarter-million more in office spending. In particular, the Big City Mayors’ Caucus only meets two or three times a year – it’s hardly onerous on office resources.
Buried even deeper in the budget documents is the fact that this level of spending is projected to be maintained for the next four years. We’ve seen the TransLink job change hands fast – so it seems premature at best to assume Robertson will still be running the show in four years. But the money is there.
Robertson’s office budget has ballooned by 23.6%, and it really isn’t at all clear why. A giant leap in spending like that should be scrutinized, justified and explained in more detail than a vague paragraph buried deep in a budget document.