The following open letter was sent to Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Council today by a diverse group of political activists from COPE, the Workless Party and the Green Party, including former City Councillor Tim Louis.
An open letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver City Council
Dear Mayor Robertson and members of Council:
You and your caucus were resoundingly elected in November by the citizens of Vancouver. Many of those who supported you took you at your word that your administration would find solutions to homelessness and poverty and bring accountable, transparent government back to Vancouver. In our opinion, the place to start doing both of these tasks begins with how the City deals with the Athletes' Village debacle.
Chris Shaw, 2010 Watch
There are two ways out of the current Village crisis, both of which begin by acknowledging that the City of Vancouver is now the owner of the project. One solution is to borrow the funds to complete the project for the Olympics then try to sell the units after 2010. This appears to be the primary option your administration is considering. In a falling real estate market, this option is not only financially risky due to the high interest rates involved and an uncertain future market, but fails to address promises made about Olympic "inclusivity". The latter was a reason many Vancouverites voted for the Games in the 2003 plebiscite: The public was promised that a future Athletes' Village would include a significant level of social housing.
The time to keep that promise is now and it can be accomplished by the following alternative solution. The current financial crisis, the most serious in Vancouver's history, now offers a remarkable opportunity to address the shameful poverty long neglected by three levels of government. Your administration can take a leadership role in a way that is fiscally responsible and honours previous commitments: The City of Vancouver should now take over the entire project and use it as a model of responsible community development that features a mixed model involving sold and rental units. The latter would include true social housing as well as a range of subsidy levels designed to accommodate both the working poor as well as the homeless.
We recommend that you instruct staff to consider a variety of funding options to create this model community. Whether Vancouver's long term financial health would be better served by borrowing the funds at high interest rates or if the Property Endowment Funds could be used instead are several of the options that need to be considered. We would also recommend that you ask staff to consider if potential penalties involved with Vancouver withdrawing from hosting the 2010 Games outweigh the looming costs to the City for security and other Olympic costs. Finally, since we believe that the public needs to be consulted about major capital projects, we believe it essential that the issue of funding the Village be put to Vancouver's citizens in a referendum. Council recently sidestepped this stage of the process, but we do not believe that avoiding public participation, for whatever reasons, is healthy for democracy.
We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, call on the new Council to ensure that the City of Vancouver retains ownership and control of the False Creek Athletes' Village and to further ensure that development of the property serves the urgent need for low cost housing in Vancouver
Ivan Doumenc (Work Less Party)
Ian Gregson (WLP)
Tim Louis (COPE)
Drina Read (Green Party, BC)
Chris Shaw (WLP)
Geri Tramutola (WLP)
Thanks to Georgia Straight.