Appeared in the North Shore News – February 17, 2012
I’M reluctant to speak ill of the politically departed, but the gatekeeper who waved in Jimmy Pattison’s widely disliked “bus shelters” in West Vancouver was Pamela Goldsmith-Jones.
The buck stops there – on the mayor’s desk. She was mayor. She was CEO. She set the agenda. It’s a myth that a mayor is just another councillor.
The ersatz “shelters” in fact are mini-billboards – and then mayor Mark Sager lowered the boom on billboards of any size in West Vancouver in the 1990s. Mayors Pat Boname and Ron Wood evidently saw no reason to scrap the prohibition.
It would have been fascinating to be the gadfly on the wall if and when Goldsmith-Jones and Sager – who ironically now takes a make-the-best-of-it stance, proposing displays of West Vancouver art on some shelters – discussed the issue after the latter’s closed-door council session unanimously approved the Pattison pitch last May.
From the start the decision was tainted – disgracefully tainted, in my view, because Goldsmith-Jones chose not to let the mere unsuspecting public in on the issue, supposedly because it involved a private company’s confidential finances and thus merited incamera consideration.
Council-watcher and former councillor Carolanne Reynolds of West Vancouver Matters denounced council’s secrecy. She’s too courteous to call town hall’s rationale for the in-camera decision pure BS. But I will.
Some of the “shelters” impede pedestrians and wheelchairs, obscure small business signs and entrances, block vision of oncoming buses, and finally do a lousy job of sheltering more than a few people in anything but a light, windless rain. Pattison Outdoors offered town hall the sweetener of an estimated $2 million share of its West Vancouver billboard advertising revenues over the 20-year contract. None of citizens’ business? The hell it isn’t.
I phoned Jimmy offering an interview for his side of the matter, asking that the request be put directly to him. His legendary secretary, who turns aside unwelcome calls like Roberto Luongo stops pucks on his best nights, instead referred me to Rob Hunt of Pattison Outdoors. Hunt left a message saying there was nothing “more” to say. Hadn’t said anything to me.
When the Downtown Eastside gets angry, militant rent-a-crowds are marshalled. Vancouver media pour in, cameras snapping. Vandalism possible. Top of the Six O’clock News. That’s not West Vancouver’s style. We’re too “respectable.” The political and development elites know this well.
If you’ve just dropped in to West Van for a cup of tea, you may not know that The Pattison Group is second – only to giant Telus – among B.C.-based top national and global companies: Revenue $7.2 billion in latest available year, 34,000 employees. Jimmy, as everyone calls him, merits highest praise for fighting unemployment – by providing real jobs, unlike the government’s “programs” and “stimulus” – and for his community work. He casts a blind eye on ideology, hiring on merit former socialist premier Glen Clark. I think highly of Jimmy. No vendetta here.
But, in his own town, he’s erected those unpopular “shelters.” Any chance he’d reconsider? Nope, one businessman believes, then he’d have to do the same if Brantfordians or Calgarians or whoever didn’t like theirs.
That old treacly saying that “money can’t buy everything” happens to be true. Some things really can’t be bought. Like lost affection. For top businessmen or still-ambitious ex-mayors.
. . .
As Jeremy Shepherd dutifully reported in this paper Feb. 3, West Van Mayor Mike Smith hasn’t changed either his words or tune since his acclamation in November.
Diplomacy isn’t Smith’s long suit. He blistered Metro Vancouver’s board for the triviality of its meetings – no business discussed, kindergarten patty-cake emails sent to the 37 members asking such profound questions as “What three guests would you invite for dinner? (Living, dead or fictional.)” (My own list: The Three Stooges.) Metro board chairman Greg Moore denied everything. He would, wouldn’t he?
But words aren’t actions. A major test of Smith’s grit: How he stickhandles the spongy, PR-goosed AmblesideNOW project, unkindly called AmblesideNO! by the undersigned.
. . .
Personal note. Robert Plommer was the most intimidating father I ever faced in decades of dating. His lawyer’s forehead bulged with a huge, restless brain, which surely sensed that I wasn’t good enough for his meltingly attractive daughter Leslie. But was any male?
Plommer, long a West Van resident, led prosecutions in big, complex cases involving Commonwealth Trust and Dr. William Jory (which Jory won, to Plommer’s anger). But his raging passion was golf. At his memorial service two weeks ago at Capilano Golf and Country Club – superbly MCed by Leslie, retiring after a career at the Globe and Mail, and the U.K.’s Times and Guardian newspapers – lawyers, friends and of course golfers joined his wife Sybil and family recounting stories about Bob. For more than three hours! Passed like a minute.
And ending with son Evan leading the bereft in the only song Bob enjoyed: Spanish Eyes. He’d have loved it all. Splendid day for golf too.
© Trevor Lautens, 2012