Was it right or wrong for Vision's political pals to get Olympic tickets?
With my colleague Daniel Fontaine off on business this morning, CKNW's civic affairs panel stood to be about as fun as a two-wheeled tricycle with everyone trying to pedal in the same direction. However, with guest host Mike Smyth weighing in like the D.A. in some '70s cop show, a rather fun exchange broke out around Olympic tickets bought by the City of Vancouver.
Frances Bula, who is spite of being under the weather and holed up in eastern Canada, also struck out with some pretty good de-spinning on Vision Vancouver's purported "under budget" ticket purchase. Bula noted that the city was trying to make it look like $105,000 worth of Olympic tickets were paid for by the Vancouver Economic Development Commission, when in fact their budget is set and approved by city council. So the real numbers were closer to $300,000, as originally forecast. Sadly, local media reported the original spin from City Hall.
On the hot seat for a good ten minutes Tuesday morning was former city councillor and now development consultant working on the Little Mountain housing re-development, Jim Green. Green was confronted about a $75 woman's hockey ticket he received for accompanying a Vision Vancouver park commissioner. Before this morning, I didn't realize that Jim Green was such a great tap dancer.
As you can hear from the edited clips that follow, Green sounded like he wanted to talk about anything but the fact he'd received this Olympic perk. He even goes on to make irrelevant points about why the stadiums had empty seats, or why the Feds didn't kick in for the tickets instead. However, like any good D.A., Mike Smyth continues to press the man sitting in the witness box, as you can hear in this first clip.
Asked why he got a ticket from his pals in the government, Green says that among the reasons he got the ticket was that he was "a former councillor and founder of Vision Vancouver." And it only gets more fun from there.
The City released its list of ticket giveaways right before a long weekend (of course), more or less guaranteeing that the MSM wouldn't take much notice. The weekend newscasts as we pointed out mentioned something about the ticket expense being under budget, when it fact the numbers remain sky high. Remember, Vancouver was the only city in Metro Vancouver that actually spent significant dollars on Olympic tickets – Richmond bought 2 tickets, Surrey got none.
By far some of the biggest recipients of the free tickets were given to members of the volunteer advisory boards appointed by city council. Our understanding is that the tickets were offered, but in many cases not accepted from the City Clerk. This might explain why, for example, three times as many tickets were used by the Food Policy Committee than say the city's Planning Commission.
But it was tickets given to political friends and insiders that caught the attention of Mike Smyth this morning as he grilled Jim Green. In this second clip, it begins to get pretty Perry Mason-like, and you can almost see the beads of sweat forming on Green's temple as District Attorney Smyth asks the tough questions.
Note that Frances throws Green a parachute by letting listeners know the price of the ticket. In this third clip, Jim Green practically reads off his whole resumé as a way of explaining why he would be a good person to have sitting in the stands during a hockey game and how it might benefit the city. And even more so if those sitting around him also spoke English.
In this fourth and final clip from Tuesday morning's exchange on CKNW, D.A. Smyth finally gets Green to confess. When asking Jim pointedly, "why should I pay for your Olympic ticket??" Green responds, "I don't know." It took nearly 10 minutes, and the hankerchiefs were probably wrung with sweat, but audiences finally got a straight answer.
Bula to her credit didn't seem satisfied with the excuses City Hall were giving for the nature of the ticket allocations. She even goes on at the end of the clip to mention the "morale problem" facing City Hall under Vision/Ballem's vice grip, and calls for more transparency in the handing out of perks. That request is just a few months too late, however.