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City manager to lead Vancouver during Olympics

VANCOUVER - City manager Penny Ballem was given special powers today to make Vancouver law during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“There is an element of trust obviously that has to be placed in my person to act in the best interest of the Games and not to take any action that would be interfering with citizen’s rights,” Ballem told council.

Councillors voted this afternoon to approve an omnibus package of bylaws that address everything from noise and street traffic to restrictions on printed advertisements. The temporary changes will last from Jan. 1 to March 31, though some scheduling still needs to be worked out.

One section of the package bars visitors from bringing items such as megaphones or weapons into the city-run LiveCity sites, which are Games-time public parties.

“The City Manager would also be empowered to make other rules if warranted,” reads the administrative report.

During February 2010, city council won’t hold regular meetings, Ballem said. Councillors will likely be too busy schmoozing with visiting dignitaries, a plan laid out in a $1.8 million welcoming strategy approved last March.

Council meetings could be called to deal with important issues at any time, Ballem added. But to keep the city “nimble” during Games-time, the city manager could make binding decisions in consultation with staff and Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor Ellen Woodsworth worries the wording of Ballem’s new powers is too vague.

“I’m very concerned that this is a wide open carte blanche she’s been given, when in fact we’re elected to make the laws and direct the city,” she said.

Ballem is an unelected official who serves as one of two city appointees on VANOC’s board of directors.

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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