Uh, Why Did Regina Fire Its City Planning Director?

I have no doubt that the City story most discussed right now is Mayor Pat Fiacco’s comments on the prospective stadium and our lame federal MPs.

But the story that matters is the termination of Regina’s planning director, Bob Bjerke. Paul Dechene has the news on that and will update his post today as new information comes in. Here’s my two bits.

In the past few years Regina has taken a number of steps forward, with the downtown plan and what seems to be growing awareness that we can’t afford to keep building sprawl. There’s been more discussion of density, transit, walkable, sustainable neighbourhoods, etc. I’ve liked the way things were heading.

Bjerke has been a huge part of this.

There might be more to this story that we don’t know. But canned statements like “just a change in leadership, a change in direction,” by the City’s planning and development general manager Jason Carlston are very, very worrying.

In fact, they sound a lot like bullshit. Quote me on that.

What’s going on at City Hall that they’re firing their best people without cause? Your guess is as good as mine. Have special interest groups, like, say, Regina’s builders and real estate agents — who have  marched us down the road of sprawl and ugly architecture for decades — been agitating behind the scenes for a weaker director who won’t stand up to them and their easy profits? After all, there’s a lot of easy money to be made if sprawl is allowed to continue. There’s cash in them thar cheap new homes built from cookie-cutter templates.

Or did someone want a smart guy like Bjerke out of the way before the community plan was written?

Or have entrenched, set-in-their-ways civil servants declared war against new, better ideas?

Don’t know.

But it appears the City just fired a smart fucking guy who was helping move Regina in a better direction. We don’t have all the facts — we don’t really have ANY facts, other than Bjerke was fired — but the non-reasons publicly given for this termination sound like nonsensical garbage.

Coupled with the fact Regina fired a seemingly on the ball transit director a couple of months back and there’s reason to be suspicious that something’s rotten the the City-state of Regina.

I will be fascinated to see who Bjerke’s replacement is. I will be fascinated to see where our city councillors stand on Bjerke’s firing. We’ll have coverage on this on our blog, and in the paper that comes out in two weeks.

I hope City Hall likes attention. It just put itself under the microscope. Time to see what’s really squirming.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

7 thoughts on “Uh, Why Did Regina Fire Its City Planning Director?”

  1. There is of course the chance that Bjerke totally sucked and City administrators are just being polite and professional after firing an idiot.

    (I’ve met Bjerke, talked to Bjerke and seen Bjerke in action at council meetings and I’d put the math on that chance at about 0.028 per cent.)

  2. When David Onodera was let go, the first thing that came to mind for me was labour relations. There was a certain amount of discontent being informally expressed (and probably formally as well)with changes going on in city transit, and the pace of those changes. Note that the ATU has just tentatively approved a contract including a 7% salary increase over 3 years. Perhaps the price for labour peace was a new director of transit operations? As to Mr. Bjerke, I couldn’t really speculate…unless the city recycling plan (such as it was) comes under the “sustainability” section of his job, and then the speculation would be that the response of the public to a flawed and half-prepared plan is having its consequences.

  3. As far as I know, Planning and Sustainability has nothing to do with Waste Plan and Environmental Services. That’s the purview of Community and Protective Services. Completely different division.

    Community and Protective Services, by the way, is the division that handles transit. So they were the ones to let Onodera go in December.

    And yes, the response thus far to the recycling plan has been overwhelmingly negative.

  4. They fired the HR director? Who was he/her?

    HR is supposed to oversee a fair hiring and placement process. Is Regina entering an era of like-minded ‘friends hiring friends’ at city hall?

    In this job environment, firing for no reason is dirty, dirty, dirty.

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