GlobalTV continues its excellent reports on the troubled Olympic Village
The “summer from hell” for Gregor Robertson quickly appears to be turning into the fall from grace for his worship. The sun has barely made it passed the equator on its journey south when Robertson and his Vision gang began shooting themselves in the foot – yet again. This week their misery stems from the leak of information out of their secret meeting held on Tuesday to discuss the Olympic Village development.
When Global TV broke the story on Wednesday, there were initially half-hearted denials that went something like “in-camera meeting, what in-camera meeting about the Athlete’s Village?” When that didn't cut the mustard, they moved onto a new message track which had them saying “yes, sure we held a meeting, but it was just a backroom briefing. No decisions were made.” By late Friday they had switched gears and finally began blurting out what had heretofore only been discussed behind closed doors. Yes, Vision finally admitted there was in fact a secret meeting about the Olympic Village development, but it was only to “confirm” the City Manager’s authority.
Pardon me? Do Vision really want people to believe they added the Olympic Village to their in-camera discussion merely to validate the City Manager’s authority? There were more lawyers in the room than can be found down at the BC Supreme Court building. Penny Ballem, known for producing lengthy powerpoint presentations, crafted a doozy on Tuesday night. Despite the half-hearted denials, the meeting was long, detailed and it mapped out a future course of action for the Village.
As for simply meeting to "confirm" the City Manager's authority, just who are Mayor Robertson and his caucus colleagues trying to kid? Have you ever heard of something so silly as holding a backroom secret in-camera meeting to discuss the City’s largest development project merely to “confirm” the authority of the City Manager? Unfortunately, this was the best spin they could come up with on short notice, given that almost all the details regarding their four-part motion had now entered into the public domain.
Let me repeat again, was it not Mayor Gregor Robertson that won an election campaign with a key promise of opening up the Olympic Village development for more public scrutiny? Therefore, if this was just a simple “briefing” session, as is being portrayed by Vision, why did it need to be held behind closed doors? Why couldn’t the City Manager put this on the agenda for an open council meeting and allow taxpayers the opportunity to hear what council was hearing regarding a “briefing” on the Olympic Village?
The reason council likely didn’t hold their meeting in public was because real decisions were made about the future of the Olympic Village. This was no simple briefing as councillor Meggs would like to portray it, rather, it was a lengthy discussion of the city’s $700 million stake in the success of the Athlete’s Village.
Mayor Robertson and City Manager Penny Ballem are also insisting that Millennium is not in default of their loan. They claim that no correspondence has been sent to the developer in that regard and that everything is smooth sailing. Although it's likely that luxury condo sales will continue to remain sluggish in the coming months.
If so, then why is the Globe and Mail reporting that "so far, Millennium Developments has paid nearly all of the first $200-million that was due by the end of the summer as part of the loan agreement with the city"? If they have paid “nearly all” of the loan, does this mean there remains an outstanding balance? Or have they in fact paid in full what they owe to the City as Ballem and Robertson claim?
Needless to say, there remains a lot more questions this week than answers when it comes to the Olympic Village. Here is what Webster Award-winning columnist Gary Mason wrote in Saturday’s Globe and Mail:
Given the dimension of the financial bath the city is likely to take, Mayor Gregor Robertson needs to address this matter publicly. The time for petty recriminations and blaming this mess on a previous city council has long since passed. While the mayor may have been dealt a bad hand here, the problem is now his. He must own it and own up to the massive scope of this debacle.
...the mayor needs to come clean with Vancouver taxpayers, his shareholders. They have the right to know exactly what is happening to their money.
As the Mayor stated after taking office, "We know we've been dealt a very tough hand, but I believe we can meet our obligations." It's time for Gregor Robertson to meet his obligation of complete, unfettered openness on the Olympic Village file and take the decision-making out of the shadows.
For more background, read my colleague Mike Klassen's feature series of articles on the Olympic Village:
- Which way out of the Vancouver Olympic Village mess?
- Olympic Village decisions defined political differences
On a related note, I believe the Mayor and his council should come out very quickly and denounce the tent city being planned for the Olympic Village. Robertson needs to make a very clear public statement that he will not support this protest which only serves to further jeopardize the financial success of the Athlete's Village development. Only time will tell if he is prepared to take on the social housing protestors who have been for the most part in his camp over the last two years.
- post by Daniel