CityCaucus.com has finally received a response to our freedom of information request for any emails between Vancouver Courier political columnist Allen Garr (whose most recent column is a recommended read) and City of Vancouver staff relating to installing beehives on the roof of City Hall. The email thread begins in early March and a note from Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson. Clearly following up on a conversation between Garr and himself, Johnson introduces the columnist/apiarist to Garrick Bradshaw, City Hall’s facilities director.
The first email we see from Garr says:
East building is a great idea because you can see it from the mayor’s office among other places.
That comment would seem to signal that Garr is fully aware that this is really about political optics. Mayor Robertson would be able to stand at his window and not only look down at his community garden, but also marvel at the beehive installed above to pollinate the flowers and Pinot Noir grapes planted below. (A note to our readers, we’ve got a forthcoming update on Gregor’s Garden coming next week.)
There is no doubting Garr’s passion for bees, and the good that comes from his work in this field. However, in spite of the fact we know he’s a supporter of Vision Vancouver, we had serious questions on how Garr could both comment on Vision’s government while playing a supporting role in one of their key campaign platforms. It would be a bit like Miro Cernetig offering to help build a bike lane on his street, or Gary Mason donating chickens for the grand opening of the homeless chicken shelter.
It’s no surprise then that Garr ultimately backed off on this idea, albeit reluctantly.
From Garr’s emails you can tell he’s practically bursting at the thought of installing hives at City Hall. In fact, he urges Sadhu Johnson to try and make it all happen in time for "The Day of the Honeybee" on May 29th.
Of course reality begins to hit home when staff, some of whom have bee sting allergies, begin to question the sense of starting a hive at the Hall. Garrick Bradshaw says:
Allen, I’m starting to receive a fair number of emails about concerns regarding the bees, primarily from those people with serious allergies. One question I received was approx. how many bees can we expect from 2 hives. Can you give me an idea?
Garr sensing that this may be a wrinkle to his plan only provides a one-line response:
Well, when they are up to strength there will be about 80,000 to 100,000. Winter numbers will be less than half of that.
Of course, no one worries about bees during winter, except possibly beekeepers. Hard to get stung wearing winter gear.
Our readers may recall a rather terse phone conversation I had with Allen Garr on Sunday, March 21st. We had already broke the news that the bees were coming to City Hall, and Allen was not happy about us letting the public know.
On the afternoon of Monday, March 22nd Garr emailed his resignation to Sadhu Johnson. For three weeks Garr geared up to give Gregor his hives. But when the public found out, and CityCaucus.com raised questions, Allen decided to move on.
The lines of Garr’s email where he says he’s quitting are blacked out – typical of this closed and opaque administration. He gives Johnson hope that someone would follow in his steps, and have the hives ready for the The Day of the Honeybee.
Allen Garr may not have had his day on top of City Hall, but those hives are now installed above the East Wing for the Mayor to admire.
– post by Mike