Wondering what Chicago is like this time of year?
Me, neither. But I started thinking about Chicago recently-not because I have two Blackhawks in my hockey pool-but because I learned Mayor Gregor Robertson flew off to Stan Mikita land last week for a conference.
His sidekick Kevin Quinlan, who responds to queries from journos like me and is Robertson's policy director, joined the mayor on the trip. The pair landed at midnight last Wednesday (March 7) and flew out on the Friday (March 9) at 8: 50 a.m. to Toronto, Ont. for a Federation of Canadian Municipalities' board meeting.
Robertson and Quinlan were back in town Saturday night.
For all you taxpayers/voters out there, I'm told the whole trip cost roughly $3,600 for airfare and accommodations to the Windy City, Kitchener and back to Vancouver.
So what did Robertson get up to in Chicago?
Well, because he's spending some time with the family on spring break, I couldn't ask him. Quinlan provided me with some details, saying Robertson made some opening remarks at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development conference and participated in panels with the likes of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Even former PM Kim Campbell was there.
Here's how a write-up advertising the conference described one of the morning sessions: "Participants will explore whether a sustainable 'green growth' model can serve as a potential exit strategy from the global economic crisis and, particularly, how investment in municipal infrastructure, innovative technology and quality of life can deliver economic, environmental and social gains."
Yep, heavy, important stuff for mayors. But stuff the public wouldn't hear about unless I asked about it. I only discovered the mayor was in Chicago after Vision Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer mentioned it last week during a ceremony at city hall.
There was a time in this city when any time a mayor left Vancouver on official city business reporters would either be given a heads-up or sent a news release. This, apparently, is not the Robertson way.
Since being elected mayor in 2008, Robertson has visited New York and San Francisco and who knows where else without any public notice. So, what do you think, Vancouver-do you really care what the mayor is up to when he goes out of town representing the city?
Or, maybe I'm just a little off my game here in thinking that Robertson hanging with two of the most highprofile mayors in the United States is newsworthy.
I wrote an online story this week about the financial troubles that caused the demise of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.
It comes the same time as there is much back-and-forth about the B.C. government quashing a naming rights deal with Telus for B.C. Place Stadium. So if Telus is still set on spending some money to advertise its name on a well-known entertainment venue in the city, then why not buck up with a deal to keep the theatre company going?
I phoned up Telus spokesman Shawn Hall about this. I'll tell you what he said after I explain that city manager Penny Ballem says it would take about $500,000 a year to keep the company viable and sustainable.
Here's Hall. "We're not in a position to be the sole supporter of the Vancouver Playhouse," he said but noted Telus donated more than $250,000 to "this very fine arts organization" since 2000.
And, apparently, something called the Telus Vancouver community board was about to make an additional donation before news broke of the theatre company's demise.
How much? "I don't know the exact amount but it was a substantial donation."