Meggs flounders in defence of Olympic Village decision

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

10 comments

infuriated
Coun. Geoff Meggs (not shown) blew a gasket on CKNW this morning

Normally I have a lot of time for Vision Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs. By a country mile, he's the brightest member of his caucus. He also usually demonstrates a good sense of political acumen when it comes to handling various files. Unfortunately for Meggs (and his caucus), his recent handling of the Olympic Village social housing units has been an unmitigated disaster.

Last Friday morning he went head-to-head against popular political columnist Michael Smyth, who is currently guest hosting the Bill Good Show on CKNW. His appearance with Smyth was – to put it kindly – dreadful. Smyth had Meggs on the ropes regarding his caucus' decision to provide preferential access to Olympic Village rental units for public sector workers including teachers and police officers. As Smyth rightfully points out, if this council is so concerned about the bottom line, what on Earth are they doing spending over $120M to secure 126 units of social housing on the waterfront? It was a question to which Meggs never really provided an answer.

This morning Meggs thought he'd go for Round Two of this mixed martial arts match-up. Unfortunately for the good councillor, he was left battered on the floor yet again. Smyth hammered away at Meggs, asking him why he introduced a motion that only provides special access to the Olympic Village units for public sector teachers and not those working in private sector schools. In response, Meggs said he "regrets" ever putting forward the public sector teacher amendment as it has only served to provide fodder for political commentators and his opponents.

After days of bad press, the normally cool, calm and collected Meggs seemed to blow a gasket on the air this morning. Which leads me to believe there is pressure mounting from within his own caucus on this very divisive issue. What else could explain why Meggs could be heard shouting into the radio while he compared Smyth to right wing American talk show host Glenn Beck. I guess he thought a good offense is a good defence? Attack the show's host and that should surely score you some points with the public – right?

Meggs was also provided a half page in The Province newspaper today to help explain why council plans to sink millions more into the Olympic Village social housing units. In summary, Meggs' defense of his decision is that former mayor Sam Sullivan made him do it. Yup...he had no option but to pour more money into the project and this was the "best deal under the circumstances."

What is both laughable and misleading about Meggs' opinion piece is that it is nothing more than reVisionist history. Meggs states:

But the possibility that the 252 affordable housing units could really seem "affordable" to taxpayers, as opposed to their residents, died on Dec. 13, 2007, in a closed-door council meeting chaired by then-mayor Sam Sullivan.

Upon review of the minutes of that meeting, we can confirm that council agreed to invest up to $95 million dollars to build the 252 social housing units. We can also confirm that Sullivan did indeed chair the meeting (the mayor always does). We can confirm that councillors Raymond Louie and Tim Stevenson didn't bother to show up for the vote (allowing Louie to crow about having a "clear conscience" regarding Village decisions at last Thursday's council meeting; Stevenson wasn't even at last Thursday's meeting at all).

Interestingly, we can also confirm that Meggs' Vision colleague Heather Deal actually moved the motion to approve the additional expenditure. The vote to invest the $95 million bucks was also a unanimous decision of council. That's right, despite Meggs' desperate spin that this was all the NPA's fault, the record will show it was actually a Vision Vancouver politician that moved and supported the motion. Funny how Meggs forgot to include that bit of information in his opinion piece.

He also failed to mention that BC Housing was apparently intimately involved and aware of the escalating costs of the Olympic Village social housing units.

The interim financing recommended does not change the expectation that BC Housing will agree to finance the costs above the City’s current equity contribution ($45 million for land and $32 million for construction). However, in order for construction to continue, the City must provide interim financing. This does present some risk in that the City is proceeding without a final commitment from BC Housing, however, BC Housing has been involved in all of the design and costing discussions to date and has not indicated concerns with proceeding in this fashion. Should that arrangement not be completed as contemplated, the City will have a number of options for City Council to consider, from providing additional equity to converting some or all of the units to market units.

When confronted by Smyth about the fact his Vision team had supported this project all along, Meggs sheepishly said they were fighting it from behind the scenes. But you don't get any more "behind the scenes" than an in-camera meeting. However, the record shows Vision supported the additional expenditure when it came time for a vote.

The Vision Vancouver blame game is wearing very thin with voters who are looking for leadership at City Hall, not more partisan politics. To somehow claim the current decision to invest tens of millions of new tax dollars is the best option council had is simply untrue, and Meggs knows it. I would encourage everyone to read a good piece by Michael Geller to see what other options could have been considered if this council were truly interested in exploring them.

Both his radio appearances and opinion piece are starting to demonstrate Meggs' desperation when it comes to resolving the issues around Southeast False Creek. As I stated last week, Vision may soon find that the Olympic Village helped to propel them into office, and it may well be the same issue that ends the career of a whole other set of councillors on election night.

- post by Daniel

10 Comments

When defending the indefensible attack the question to divert attention. Meggs has been taking lessons from Fox News.

The Thought of The Evening

"Apparently, you would have to hit your head on the pavement quite hard in order to completely incapacitate the nervous centre responsible for lying.”

Daniel, good read.
You don't have to try too hard to sell it to me. I wrote the book on phonies - "I am a phony. Why me, mom?" - AESOP Books, 2008, and for Meggs, Robertson, Ballem, and all their American friends I've dedicated an entire chapter. Chapter 11!

And that was for when Meggs was 100%; before the bike accident! Now, at 50-60% let's cut the man some slack. Right now he is probably doing the bagel exercise. It's an up, in and around his arse fitness routine. I'm sure he has no problem in executing it.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Geoff Meggs 'Opinion" column on the Olympic Village 'affordable housing' reminded me of a company I used to work with. Whenever something went wrong, management would search for someone to blame. Then they would try and fix the problem.

City Council should not have spent $64 million ($30M from VANOC, $2M in Development cost levies, and $$32M additional equity infusion) to keep these units as 'affordable housing'. Instead it could have sold them and received up to $68.8 million according to numbers set out in the staff report.

I agree that it is important not to allow the sale of these units to compromise the success of Millennium's sales program. To avoid 'competition' with the Millennium units, the social housing units could have been sold as leasehold, rather than freehold, with other conditions if necessary.

Meggs claims to have been worried about the risks associated with rezoning. Hello? Isn't the rezoning decision in Council's hands? As for honouring our commitment to the International Olympic Committee, I think they would have understood if we asked to build less expensive units on the city owned lands immediately next door. I think we have more than delivered on our other promises to the IOC.

Meggs concludes that there is nowhere to spend the $68.8 million the city might have received from the sale of these units. This is nonsense. There are numerous 'social housing' sites around the city lying fallow since the city doesn't have the money to do something with them. There are vacant rental units and condominium units for sale around the city. And aren't we supposed to 'end homelessness' by 2015. This takes money too, money we now don't have since we are raiding the bank to find the additional $32M.

Councillor Meggs and his colleagues have been giving us excuses for not selling the units, rather than reasons. What an unfortunate decision.

Meggs appearances on NW are starting to remind me of Richard Simmons on the Letterman show.

Is this the same Geoff Meggs that lives on city-owned land in South West False Creek? Weren't these the same leaseholders that were crying the blues that because the city wanted to raise their rents? Some of them were paying $100 per month to live on waterfront properties. Are all the leaseholders in South West False Creek currently paying true market rentals for their units??? It would be good to know.

If you read a 2006 staff report (link below) it stated:

"Those who chose not to prepay continue to pay rents that have been for many years well below market: their rent today is roughly 13 percent of appraised market value."

Staff then said:

"The average rent increases for those homeowners affected range from $700 to $900 per month. For example, a monthly
[South West False Creek] leaseholder who currently pays $100 - $200 per month will pay between $800 - $900 per month. Many of the non-prepaid leaseholders are expressing an inability to remain in the community if the updated ground rents reflect these increases."

These guys were paying $100-200 per month to live on the waterfront!!! Nice gig if you can get it.

We live in Vancouver and we're all busy working for others.

http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20070712/documents/csb4complete.pdf

The rents for front line workers should not be market rent; it should be the same as for the poor: 1/3 of their gross income. Even with 1/3 the front line workers would still have an incredible amount of disposable income compared to those on disability. Think about it a professional couple making a combined income of over $100,000 - $200,000 and the money that could be diverted into social housing. If none of the front line workers want to pay 1/3 rent then rent it to those that do.

The Residential Tenancy Act has a fact sheet on "Discrimination in Residential Tenancy". Giving preferential treatment to teachers, police, etc would be in violation of the Act.

The Residential Tenancy Act has a fact sheet on "Discrimination in Residential Tenancy". Giving preferential treatment to teachers, police, etc would be in violation of the Act.

http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/Fact%20Sheets/RTB-118.pdf

The City of Vancouver yesterday held an event called Canucks Day.
Attended by the Mayor, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini, Canucks mascot Fin and the Green Men, the event had Coach V dumbfounded (Vancouver Sun, Elliott Pap, April 28, 2010)
What a ridiculous event, seeing as how the Canucks have won nothing, and at this stage, as Coach V says, have little to celebrate.
The truth of the motivation for the event is starting to emerge however. It will soon be announced, that a deal was reached between the Mayor, KFC and the Aquilinis, a deal that will set aside two luxury suites, which will be paid for by KFC. The suite will be set aside for, you guessed it......, homeless chickens. Negotiated into the deal was two guest appearances at the Canucks games by the San Diego chicken.
Also negotiated was the opportunity to display on the jumbotron, against the backdrop of a barn, some Cortez Island Juiceboy life principles. These principles will be subject to revision, as circumstances dictate.
While these principles are being displayed, the following song will be played:
There ain't nobody here but us chickens
There ain't nobody here at all
So calm yourself,
And stop your fuss
There ain't nobody here but us
We chickens tryin' to sleep,
And you butt in
And hobble, hobble hobble hobble
With your chin

There ain't nobody here but us chickens
There ain't nobody here at all
You're stompin' around
And shakin' the ground,
You're kickin' up an awful dust
We chicken's tryin' to sleep
And you butt in
And hobble, hobble hobble hobble
It's a sin.

GO CANUCKS GO!!!!

The report quoted above says the land used for the "affordable" housing was worth $45 million. So why does the recent report (http://www.citycaucus.com/pdf/penv%206.pdf) put the land value at only $28 million??

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