The Cuff Report [updated, March 18, 2009]

January 9, 2009 at 11:11 pm 9 comments

In July, 2008 I was one of dozens of people interviewed by George Cuff for a City of Victoria-sponsored investigation into improving communications within City Hall. Some background on the report can be found by following the links here.

City Manager Penny Ballantyne initiated the report in order to give various stakeholders in the community–City staff, Community Association volunteers and others–a chance to articulate the challenges involved in improving dialogue at City Hall. Called by some a dysfunctional system, the report was expected to paint a graphic picture of a system bogged down in conflict and inertia, with ground zero being the interface between City Council, the City Planning Department and Victoria’s nine volunteer Community Associations.

The release of the report was delayed by the six-month leave of absence of Ballantyne, whose husband passed away unexpectedly in 2008. The acting City Manager promised the report would be given to City Council November 25, after the Civic Election with a presentation before the public and the new Council December 9, 2008 and after Ballantyne returned to the job. Meanwhile, the deadline came and went, and in a surprise move yesterday afternoon, Ballantyne offered her resignation, citing the need to look after her family and herself at this difficult time.

There is no word yet on the reason for the delay. It may be that the report is still being tweaked by Cuff, or City Hall could be sitting on the report until the new Council is prepared for it. Last Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting had a very light agenda so a backlog of agenda items isn’t the reason.

The chorus of voices wondering what happened to the report is growing. Reporters from the local media are circling around the issue and if the report’s release is delayed much longer the City risks the chance a draft version gets leaked to the media, with City Hall in damage control mode.

UPDATE: The report and associated documents are here on the City’s website. The previously unknown “Turner Report” deals specifically with Victoria’s Community Associations and will be released sometime in April.

Entry filed under: City Hall, Election 2008.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yule Heibel  |  January 10, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    If the Cuff Report isn’t released in full soon, I’m calling BS – and more.

    This delay reminds me too much of the politicking that surrounded the “Youth Survey” compiled by the City of Victoria Youth Council (CVYC) about ~3 years ago. My kids served on that council, they were 14-15 and 11-12 years old over the period in question. The CVYC undertook to survey the youth of Victoria, with the aim of presenting a report that would tell the city (administration and council) what our youth’s concerns are, where their priorities lie, what their needs are.

    Among other things, the CVYC, including my kids, contacted high school teachers to get the survey out, visited schools themselves, and collected data (via surveys they distributed and tracked down for collection) from the various vocational academies (including several of the beauty schools in Victoria). They also reached out to many other groups in the city. Overall, it was a pretty strong and dedicated effort to get the data.

    Then what happened? Well…

    When the surveying work was done, the kids compiled the data. But the finished report – which by now had cost close to $60K when you factor in the CVYC’s “facilitator” salary – was not released to the public. Why? Because a) the facilitator (who was / is intensely pro-NDP, i.e., partisan, even though the CVYC was allegedly non-partisan) didn’t like the results, which weren’t as in-synch with what she thought “youth” should be concerned with; and b) the facilitator wanted to wait and release the report at an opportune moment when (1) it would bring maximum whuffie and attention to the social issues she deemed important and (2) it would do the most to cast certain people on city council in a less favorable light (including all the allegedly “pro-business”/ non-NDP councilors, who, according to her, didn’t share the CVYC’s values).

    IOW: the report, instead of serving to bring forth the voices and opinions of the youth of the city of Victoria was instead used as a political cudgel with which to gain a specific partisan advantage.

    I can’t tell you how deeply, deeply discouraging this was to my kids, who went from bleeding heart liberal pro-social policy tinkerers to disillusioned grownups, practically overnight. Aside from quickly becoming fed-up with the sanctimonious (but self-interested) claptrap dished out by the facilitator, they especially resented the failure of political ‘the grown-ups’ – namely the city council, some of whom they met with (including the mayor) to voice their concerns. Many of these adults agreed with them that holding back the report – and tweaking it over and over until it said what some CVYC members and in particular its facilitator wanted it to say – was underhanded politics. But when push came to shove, none of them showed any backbone and deferred to the internal politics of city staff, who apparently are as partisan as the then-facilitator of the CVYC.

    Some of the money used to produce the report came from a grant from Coast Capital Savings, but a big chunk of it came from the city budget. It was taxpayer money. And it was utterly and completely wasted because by the time the report finally came out (at least 2 years after the data was collected), it was worthless and no longer relevant.

    If what happened with the CVYC report is the template of what’s happening with the Cuff Report, we’re dealing with a level of cynical politicking by both the politicians and the administrative staff that’s beyond dysfunctional.

    The longer they continue to sit on the Cuff Report, the stronger will be the inclination to believe that it, too, was tweaked and doctored beyond recognition.

    And we wonder why people don’t bother to vote.

  • 2. robertrandall  |  January 12, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    It’s been hinted the jist of the report, or only selected portions will be made public but I haven’t confirmed this.

  • 3. robertrandall  |  January 12, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    And yes, there are dangerous parallels to the Youth Council report. Wendy Zink is quitting the Social Planning position at City Hall. If enough time passes and enough people jump ship it can be claimed that the Cuff report is no longer relevant.

  • 4. Yule Heibel  |  January 28, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Nearly three additional weeks have come and gone – still no Cuff Report. Any update on this, or …?

  • 5. robertrandall  |  January 29, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Council is still digesting it…and contemplating how and when it will be released.

  • 7. robertrandall  |  February 9, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    They’re still deciding how it will be released to the public.

  • […] 6, 2009 News on the long-awaited Cuff Report: A few minutes ago, the Mayor’s office scheduled a March 13 meeting with the Community […]

  • […] April 10, 2010 A while ago I promised an update on Victoria City Hall’s efforts to update its Governance Model in the wake of the release of the Cuff Report (previous post here). […]


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