COMMENT: 9 reasons not to vote for Greg Granstrom this fall

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
October 17th, 2014

Greg Granstrom astonished me on Facebook last week, a real shocker that had nothing to do with either his decision to run for councillor instead of mayor, nor the “friend request” I received from him the next day.

(Which I accepted.)

I was intrigued—but still not astonished—when Greg jumped into a conversation on Terry Miller’s page that was defined by a mixture of concern and optimism over the coming election. Shelley Ackerman captured the mood: “I’m really hoping for a functional, effective, open-minded council.”

Michelle Laurie lamented that council had swept problems under the rug rather than address them. She wrote, “I have become apathetic based on many of the activities that I find unaccountable and unacknowledged by our current council.”

Then my jaw dropped. Greg had me slapping my forehead as he challenged Michelle to identify how council had been “unaccountable.”

Can you believe it? OMG, as they say, and even LOL! You have to ask?

Well, I was willing to supply the Cole’s Notes. I’d be happier still if Greg would reflect on this information and quietly remove himself from the ballot… much as he has since quietly deleted his comments from the Facebook conversation.

(And “de-friended” me, alas.)

Greg has been at the epicentre of this city’s lack of accountability. With Greg at the helm, the city has been unaccountable on at least the following:

1) Major arena upgrades were performed without following city contracting policies. These breaches were accompanied by…

2) Bullying by Greg and former CAO Victor Kumar to silence dissenting councillors who asked why council approvals and buying policies had been bypassed, which resulted in…

3) Massive monetary losses—several hundreds of thousands of dollars—as a corrupt building inspector, Jason Ward, gave his shadow company contracts, which were discovered and promptly…

4) unacknowledged publicly by Greg and Victor for many months, allowing Jason to resign from the city and take an even higher and more sensitive position as the lead on Rossland’s multi-million dollar renovations.

Only Kathy Moore (with help, one assumes, from some city staff) struggled in the background with freedom-of-information requests to piece together the story and uncover the misdeeds of Jason, and the failure to publicly address the scandal by Greg and Victor.

5) When called to account, a public outcry went up. Greg was interviewed on the CBC and made a farce of the position of mayor. Well worth a listen… And it’s also worth listening to Kathy’s interview on the same link.

A little earlier on the timeline…

6) Greg and Victor had hatched a hair-brained plan for a four-season covered swimming pool with zero public support, input, or precedence in the OCP, applying for a grant (with a badly written proposal) that required Greg and Victor to push away the Rossland skatepark project (and several other valid projects) despite strong public support and existing plans. Who won that grant? Not us. But Nelson got nearly half a million dollars for its skatepark.

I stopped for a breath at this point, but felt reinvigorated by my dismay at the state Greg has left this city in…

7) What about hiring an (absentee, enormously overpriced) CAO without a job competition? And handing her a jewel-encrusted contract that leaves the city zero recourse for review and gives her all the control?

8) Did the city ever come out straight about Columbia-Washington costs? Whether or not it was “on budget” is besides the point. The point is we asked, and asked, and asked, and the city never replied. You know, the $9-million project Jason was running.

9) How about some action or communication on the slough of glaring policy weaknesses highlighted in the AGLG report (Auditor General of Local Governments)? That’s the one that Kathy Moore pushed for in the face of Jason’s $185,000 transgressions. The AGLG report should have made Rossland squirm with sheer embarrassment, especially when it was recently highlighted at the Union of BC Municipalities meeting of mayors and councillors from across the province as an example of how not to run a city.

Back in the Facebook conversation, Terry referred to Greg’s “artful dodge,” the one in which Greg gave the impression of running for mayor until the final hour, when he switched to councillor instead. Greg objected, citing years of service to the city, but he has since deleted this comment as well.

Besides deleting comments on Facebook, the “artful dodge” is a euphemism and Terry was being very kind. It’s easy to come up with more direct terms to describe this kind of manoeuvre.

The fact is, Greg was thoroughly unelectable as mayor because of his chronic mismanagement these past years, and he must have finally seen that. With so few candidates for so many council seats, however, he’s got 75% odds to get a seat as a councillor.

I wish people could have seen what I saw in the three years I spent at the meetings Greg ran. People would know the last thing we need is his culture of belligerence and bullying to infect the next four years.

John Clark was curious, “Andrew, please comment regarding ‘bullying’ vs. ‘strong leadership'”

I obliged: Leadership is patient, guiding, and reasoned. Leadership listens carefully and accepts alternative views. Leadership finds common ground to work towards consensus and, if necessary, compromise.

By “guiding” I mean that the leader keeps the discussion on point. By patient I mean the leader does not make people feel badly because they have a different point of view.

Bullying is impatient, forceful, and emotional. When Greg faces points of view that are different than his own, and he just wants to get the debate over and done with, when he doesn’t want to listen to what is being said, and when he isn’t willing to change his point of view…

Well, and I’ve seen this a lot, Greg goes beet-red in the face as his blood pressure builds.

Then he starts barking. Blustering. He will bellow, for sure. Even before he is yelling his hands shake more than usual with the emotion of it. He gets mad at people to cow them into submission.

Sadly, it often works, coming as it does from this imposing man with a booming voice. He will rush votes “to get it over with,” but also to force people’s hands before they change to the other side.

Greg picks a scapegoat and berates them, classic schoolyard stuff to get a mob mentality to exclude or ostracize the dissenting point of view. It’s unhealthy and very difficult to watch in silence, as I did for three years, trying to expose it as I could in the Telegraph.

At first, back in 2010, I thought the problem was former councillor Laurie Charlton. But it turns out that Laurie and Greg just use very similar, aggressive tactics! They bit at each other like rabid dogs as Laurie nitpicked at policy and management errors, some of them large and important, some of them insignificant and better ignored.

As a newbie to town and a rookie reporter, I took it to be mostly Laurie’s fault. Sure, Laurie could have picked his battles better, and picked how to fight them better—Kathy Moore has been a shining example in that regard—but he was often on the right track. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.

With Laurie off council, I thought peace would reign. No such luck. Kathy, doing her due diligence, looked closely at the books and policies and city decisions and found plenty of problems that she felt it was her civic duty to raise.

And it was her civic duty! Moreover, it was the rest of council’s civic duty to patiently assess her evidence, recognize the problems, and do something about them. But what happened?

Greg took all his shaking anger and red-faced belligerence that he used to turn on Laurie, and turned it on Kathy instead.

I was dismayed at how quickly the rest of council fell into line and ganged up on Kathy. Yes, even Jill Spearn. To Jill’s credit, however, she was usually the first to come around and see many of the problems Kathy was raising, and Jill has always been willing to change her mind and then argue for a new point of view. These are great strengths in the complex world of municipal governance.

But mostly it was too little, too late. Kathy tried to get council to see reason on the arena. She tried on the CAO’s terrible contract, and other whoppers handed out to city staff. She tried on downtown costs. She tried on many things in the public sphere, and how many more in the private in camera meetings? Who is to know?

The treatment she received was despicable in the public realm, so I wonder how much yelling and foul disrespect Kathy had to weather behind closed doors? I can only imagine. The rumour mill was full of stories that make you want to give Greg (and certain others on council) a dunce cap for being naughty and thick-headed. Sober leadership indeed.

Greg is no leader, but worse than that, he is mean. His presence around the council table will be toxic to the progress this city sorely needs. He will continue to work to undermine true accountability in this city, I am certain of that.

I understand Greg still has a day or two to take himself out of the running. I for one would be very pleased if he would do us all the favour. Please, Greg, for the love of Rossland, retire.

And to all Rosslanders, please come out to vote on Nov. 15, and encourage all your friends and neighbours to do the same.

Categories: GeneralOp/EdPolitics

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