Red Alert: City’s Director Of Planning Fired, Updated

As of noon yesterday, Bob Bjerke, the director of planning and sustainability, no longer works for the City of Regina. There is no official statement from the city yet but this wasn’t a mutual parting of the ways.

Speaking to him on the phone a few minutes ago, Bjerke said this came as a total surprise to him and he has so far only been told that the city is taking the planning department in a new direction.

One has to wonder how this move makes any sense when the city is presently gearing up for a very busy construction season. Bjerke has also been a vocal champion of the Downtown Plan and has expressed an interest in taking the Official Community Plan consultation in a similarly innovative direction. One wonders what this “new direction” will mean for those two plans.

Adding Bjerke’s firing to that of David Onodera’s back in December, this is the second manifestly progressive city director to lose his job. This is chilling news for anyone who was hoping to see Regina grow into an example of forward-thinking urban planning.

UPDATE 12:25pm: I just interviewed Jason Carlston, General Manager of the Planning and Development Division. He was able to shed a little light on what’s going on. But, he says that out of concerns for employee privacy he isn’t able to give me much in the way of details as to why Bjerke was let go.

According to Carlston, this was an administration decision although he doesn’t say there was no discussion of this with council or the mayor before hand. He does insist, though, that this is an administrative decisiosn.

Admin, he says, are making this change in leadership so that they can find “the best person to lead the department through these times of great economic opportunity.”

Carlston says this decision will not affect the timelines on any of their initiatives, such as the consultation process around the Official Community Plan ro bringing the Downtown Plan forward as a bylaw.

Hope this summary answers Stephen and John’s questions. If not, after the jump, I’ll include the transcript of my conversation with Jason Carlston. And I’ll continue to provide updates as I get them.

UPDATE 12:31pm: Pat Book over at CJME has an interview with Bob Bjerke. It’s a good read. Check it out.

UPDATE 12:36pm: Joe Couture over at the L-P also interviewed Bjerke. Also a good read.

prairie dog interview with Jason Carlston, Feb 11

prairie dog: So Bob Bjerke was let go yesterday. Why?
Jason Carlston: Just a change in leadership, a change in direction.

pd: What does that mean?
JC: We’ve got a lot going on and we’re going to conduct a search to look for the best person to lead the department through these times of great economic opportunity. And other than that, we don’t really discuss any details of the matter, out of privacy for the employee.

pd: Anything general you want to say on the subject? Have any words of farewell for Bob?
JC: There’s absolutely no ill wishes. We wish Bob the best in any of his future endeavours.

pd: You mentioned a new direction for the department. What is this new direction? What are you trying to accomplish with this change in leadership?
JC: Just want to ensure that all of the activity in the community today continues and just lead us through that.

pd: How does a decision like this get made?
JC: Just a corporate decision.

pd: Was this made within staff? Was there any discussion with council or the mayor before this decision was taken?
JC: No, this is administrative.

pd: So, no discussion with the mayor or council?
JC: This is administrative, yeah.

pd: Do the mayor and council know about this or will they be hearing about it in the media?
JC: They’ve been made aware of this.

pd: This is the second manifestly progressive director let go in three months. I think this will worry some people in the city. Can you give me any indication as to why it is these two men were let go?
JC: We’re a very large organization. And change in leadership from time to time isn’t entirely unusual or uncommon in a large organization. I think it was just coincidental that the two occurred closely to each other.

pd: No overall plan then?
JC: I think it’s coincidental, two different departments.

pd: The Downtown Plan isn’t a bylaw yet. Will this affect that?
JC: No this isn’t going to affect any of our initiatives, timelines of anything.

pd: The Official Community Plan consultation is supposed to be coming up this summer, will that still be going forward?
JC: Yes. We’ll continue on. There will be no delays in any of our initiatives as a result.

pd: With the OCP consultation, my understanding is that city staff were going to direct that process. Without a director, will that still be possible?
JC: Yes. It’s still a city-run process. We have a strong management team and project team on the OCP.

pd: Is this leaving you short handed when you have a busy construction season coming up?
JC: We’ll carry on as per usual. We have a very strong management team to provide the leadership in that regard.

pd: Who’s taking the directorship in the meantime?
JC: We haven’t appointed an acting yet, so everything will be running through the management team and myself.

pd: When expect to start looking for people?
JC: We would begin that search in the near future and typically they’re a three or four month process.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

19 thoughts on “Red Alert: City’s Director Of Planning Fired, Updated”

  1. Whoa. Unbelievable. I don’t know him personally, but any time a city employee is quoted talking about the city doing good things, it’s Bob Bjerke speaking.

  2. Paul. Whose job is to fire people at this level? Is this an issue with council or is there a level of management who makes these these types of decisions?

  3. If anyone has questions they want answered, throw ’em in the comments. Paul is arranging interviews right now.

  4. What is the city’s longterm vision for the city’s with city’s planning and in regards to peak oil and an infrastructure That is becoming unsustainable? The Water système is one of these areas. On another note, What is the city doing for future finances such as with looming pension costs?

  5. I think we have lost some great opportunities to be a leader in sustainability with both Bob Bjerke and David Onadera of transit going. I would be going right to the top and ask City Manager Glen Davies or Mayor Fiacco what is this new direction? I think this answer needs more than a few sentences. Where within their corporate plan does this decision lie? What goal or outcome are they trying to achieve by these changes? Where do they think they were going that they didn’t want to be?

  6. From the LP (which really is worth a read for gems like this: “Bjerke, 40, has two masters’ degrees, one in public policy and one in planning. Born and raised in Regina, he has a “passion for the future of the city,”” Obviously not the kind of person needed for the job. WTF, FML, etc. etc.

  7. Again from the L-P story: “We definitely need to be a lot more intentional with the way the city grows and develops.”
    I can see why he had to go. Good luck, Regina.

  8. Vision and progressive ideas are critical to the success of Regina. So is the ability to follow-through and implement them. Bob Bjerke may have not been the best person to lead staff toward goals of sustainability, walkable neighbourhoods, and a vibrant downtown. Leading a planning department requires more than vision. It requires good human management skills, political astuteness, and strategic thinking. As an aside, it’s also worth noting that the Downtown Plan in Regina was instigated long before Bob moved into his former position.

  9. Ability to follow through – to develop and implement good plans – is Bob’s strength, something I learned from experience. Bob is a professional, through and through. There is no one better I can think of to lead the City towards the goal of a more sustainable and vibrant city. He has all the best of human management skills, political astuteness, and strategic thinking that one could ask for in a great leader and manager. This is more than I can say for his superiors.

  10. I just have to shake my head.

    I’m supposing city and council wants less resistance to their push to make Regina the suburban-mecca they desire.

  11. Bob is the consumate professional and one of the most intelligent people I know. This is a huge loss for the city. I guess we’ll see who they hire to replace him, but as it stands I don’t see anyone there who can even come close to replacing him. Regina is at a crossroads right now. We can move forward into the 21st century or we can continue to do things the same way we always have. This decision on the part of management at the city does not bode well for us progressing the way we will absolutely have to.

  12. What? These two directors weren’t the right ? e.g. religion (Catholic?) or other special interest group. Or did they not cow tow to these SIGs accordingly to ensure status quo re-election?

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