Say goodbye, Sam

Friends, colleagues and one-time adversaries raised a glass to departing Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan yesterday in a traditional “roast and toast” luncheon that quickly became a love-in.

Speakers at yesterday’s event largely left out the roasting from their speeches, instead heaping praise on the soon-to-be former mayor, who was turfed by his own political party earlier this year.

Some, like developer and Board of Trade director Lorne Segal, a longtime Sullivan supporter, focused on the mayor’s perseverance after becoming a quadriplegic.

“He could have given up, but instead he chose to dedicate his talents to the furtherance of human welfare,” Segal said.
For many, Sullivan’s time in office will be remembered most for a single moment that took place less than three months into his term, when the mayor waved the Olympic flag in Torino using a specially-built attachment latched on to his motorized wheelchair.

“You helped to keep alive, in the heart of humanity, the bright hope that the able and the disabled will work together side by side for the common good of mankind,” Segal said.

Colleague Suzanne Anton, the only Non-Partisan Association member elected to council in last month’s civic elections, said she admired Sullivan for his political courage in pushing potentially unpopular schemes like his “ecodensity” concept. It’s a piece of urban planning policy that has drawn criticism from many quarters, but one, Anton said, that will ultimately be remembered as a positive step.

“Ecodensity was tough politically for many reasons, but Mayor Sam Sullivan never flinched,” Anton said.
‘Man in motion’ Rick Hansen recalled a recent fishing trip with Sullivan. The mayor caught a sturgeon using a “sip and puff” rod.

“Our limitations are largely inside our minds, not out there in the world,” Hansen said.
For his part, Sullivan joked that he was nervous about attending his own roast.

“It was kind of like going to my funeral,” he said. “I was worried about this roast part.”

He thanked those who had carried him – physically and otherwise – from his “miserable life” on welfare in a social housing complex at Clark and Kingsway, to his rise to become elected as the city’s mayor.
“Every one of you carried me,” Sullivan said. “You had a role in making my life beautiful.”

Vancouver’s new mayor and council will be sworn in next Tuesday.