Symbolic Sadhu

Is Penny Ballem preparing to create Sadhu Johnston in her own image?

Last week many puzzled over the decision to recruit the 30-something wunderkind Sadhu Aufochs Johnston to the job of Deputy City Manager, importing an American rather than someone with roots in the city or from within Vancouver’s own civil service for this leadership position. It certainly makes sense to California-raised Gregor Robertson, whose wife and closest political supporters are all Americans.

Speaking on Talk1410 with host Nikki Renshaw last Thursday afternoon, I described Johnston as the perfect political choice for a City Manager seeking loyalty. Penny Ballem, a famous micromanager, is reputedly doing the work of several in order to make up for the diminishing ranks under her watch. Several of the civil service’s most important leaders, including two Deputy City Managers, have either bailed or have been pushed out under the new Vision regime.

What Ballem needs is someone she can mold in her own image. And judging by the photos above, once Johnston gets a touch of grey, he’ll fit the bill.

Most are hedging their bets about whether Sadhu Aufochs is the right person to move the city forward. Is he a substantial hire, or only some environmental window-dressing from a mayor who thinks being green means adding more lettuce and holding back on the croutons. The Beekeeper weighs in finally, a full week since the news on Johnston broke, only to tell us that he’s not sure if Sadhu Aufochs is our guy, but he loves the fact that hives were installed on the roof of Chicago City Hall.

But who cares what locals have to say on this subject – we prefer to read what Americans think, right? Commentary about Johnston’s move from Chicago to the Great White North back in his native Midwest is decidedly flip.

The blog titled Mountain of Evidence asks,

prominent Rogers Parker Sadhu Johnston has been released from fealty to King Richard and will soon serve the needs of the citizens of Vancouver, which I’m told is located in the marijuana region of Canada… I’m wondering if their condo comes with thousands of worms included, or if they will be bringing those pets up north.

Good question, but we’ll leave Canadian Border Services to make that call. The real question for Vancouverites is, will we eventually follow Sadhu Aufochs’ example, and share our toothbrushes?

[Sadhu Aufochs and his wife Mandy Aufochs] are plastic-bag vigilantes. They bring their own (reusable) canvas bags to the grocery store. They reuse plastic storage bags. Dry-cleaning bags become kitchen trash bags. And any stray bags that enter their lives are used for dog-walking.

They likewise shun the use-and-toss habit of paper towels — of which, they indulge themselves in two/maybe three rolls (unbleached, recycled paper) a year. In its place: a kitchen cleanup system that consists of sponges and rags. There’s a system for Zella’s diapering, as well, and it includes cloth diapers and hybrid diapers (called gDiapers), which are part reusable/part disposable.

Okay, hybrid diapers aside, we get the fact that Sadhu Aufochs has got really creative with a lot of the crap we all have in our homes. But don’t a whole bunch of us already do this stuff? The Chicago Tribune reporter is easily impressed:

And as for major appliances, they get used judiciously too. They run the dishwasher only when it’s full and on the lightest options, forgoing an extra rinse and any heat drying. They do their laundry in cold water. And they don’t fire up the dryer for small loads. There’s a clothesline in one of the bathrooms. In their closets: organization that’s a marvel.

Clotheslines? Washing in cold water? Filling the dryer or dishwasher before running it? Pretty radical stuff. How can Vancouverites possibly become so green as the Aufochsians?

What we do know is this. Richard M. Daley has been mayor of Chicago for 20 years. Sadhu Aufochs Johnston has been at his right hand for six years, and the city still doesn’t even have a working recycling program, its beaches are regularly closed due to pollution, and smog from nearby power plants regularly chokes the skies of the Windy City.

Sadhu Aufochs Johnston may well be the latest bit of green-washing – or symbolic environmentalism –  by Vancouver’s farmboy mayor. Cleveland blogger Norm Roulet remembers Sadhu when he lived in his town, and he’s skeptical about Johnston’s progress:

on St. Patrick’s Day the streets flow with green beer, but Chicagoland ain’t remotely green. Neither is Cleveland… I hope Sadhu moving from Chicago to Vancouver is not a sign Canada is green-washing their economy but rather a sign that, while Sadhu did not have the impact needed while leading environmental planning for Chicago, it was not his fault, and he is positioned to do better.

Brother, we’re all hoping the same thing up here.

** Take the Poll! Will new Deputy Manager Sadhu Aufochs Johnston bring a green revolution to Vancouver?

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  • Thanks for the link – your description of Chicago’s state of environmental consciousness made me laugh, because it’s so dead on, especially with the recycling and the beach closures due to sewage releases when the rain is heavy. Absolutely true on both counts, horribly common. The air quality stats here, I’m told, are questionable because they put the sensors on top of skyscrapers, far from the vehicle exhaust that people on the ground experience.
    I’m not entirely convinced that Johnston is the problem. It may be that he did the best one could under Daley, who would have canned him instantaneously at the first word spoken out of turn. So I wish him, and Vancouver, the best of luck.
    And lastly, a wonderful photo you have up at the top of this post. A little disturbing, but fun.

  • Fred

    Oh boy, maybe he’ll share with us where he buys his hair shirts so we can all stock up on couple.
    Gotta keep up with the latest religious beliefs. Wouldn’t want to disparage someones religion now.