Vision council caught in apparent in-camera policy about face

Post by Mike Klassen in

26 comments


GlobalTV News breaks the story of council's in-camera meeting on the Olympic Village

Today, GlobalTV reported that Vancouver city council held an in-camera meeting on Tuesday evening to deal with an apparent financial crisis related to the Olympic Village. The report states that "council approved a special rescue plan, a four-part motion authorizing the city manager to find a developer who would buy up all the unsold units as a single block. The city manager has also been authorized to kick off a new marketing strategy that could see some serious price reductions, and the conversion of some of the unsold suites into rental housing just to get them off the market."

This backroom gathering of council on the Olympic Village was held by a political party who campaigned on the promise to "make wholesale changes" with regard to in-camera meetings. This is the same Vision Vancouver party who campaigned to "provide to the public as much information about the Olympic Village finances as possible," and to open up these discussions to the public.

Not much we can add here in this post. Watch the video. Read the quotes below from Gregor Robertson. Judge for yourself.

"We're calling for transparency so that the people of Vancouver can understand what the risks are and whether there are problems with the loan as it's been approved. We've heard all sorts of rumours and new information through the media this week. We'd like to hear that in public, in council, and understand what is exactly going on in this deal."

click here for full article

"Yesterday, he hinted at this in his inaugural speech when he said that, under his leadership, 'when the city uses your money, you have a right to know where it's being spent and what it's being used for.' Mike Magee, Mr. Robertson's long-time mentor and chief of staff, said the team is aiming to make a wholesale change to the city's current practices when it comes to in-camera meetings."

click here for full article 

"As Mayor, my job is to protect the interests of Vancouver taxpayers. I’m focused on making the best business decisions possible as we move forward, and to do it openly." - statement in response to Olympic Village financing

"I campaigned on the promise that I would provide to the public as much information about the Olympic Village finances as possible."

click here for full article

"We know we've been dealt a very tough hand, but I believe we can meet our obligations."

click here for full article 

"Vision Vancouver mayoral hopeful Gregor Robertson Thursday called for an emergency council session to allow public debate on reports the city will loan $100 million to developers of the troubled Olympic Village."

click here for full article 

"Ladner's main rival for the mayor's seat, Gregor Robertson, seized on the issue and called for an emergency council meeting to reveal the details before next Saturday's civic elections, although councillors from Robertson's own party who are privy to the deal also refused to discuss details."

click here for full article 

UPDATE: In a CKNW News interview City Manager Penny Ballem is denying an "emergency meeting" took place in-camera, this despite the fact Coun. Geoff Meggs admitted on camera that there had been a behind closed doors discussion on Tuesday.

For more on the history of the Olympic Village, read our feature series articles:

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Watch Vancouver Sun Video: Is Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson in political trouble?

We highly recommend this video conversation between City Hall reporter Jeff Lee and editor Fazil Mihlar where they discuss Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson's "summer of mishaps".

- post by Mike

26 Comments

I wish the NPA hadn't agreed to taking the risk on this project in the first place.

@Naomi. You probably want to turn back the clock and have us not host the Games. Gimme a break. The NDP can't manage a popsicle stand, and now their civic cousins are managing a massive billion dollar real estate project.

Hematologist aka city manager Penny Ballem better be telling the truth when she says there was no in-camera meeting regarding the athlete's village project on Tuesday. I'm sure the minutes of this meeting will help to back up her version of events. Otherwise, in short order there will be calls for more heads to roll at 12th and Cambie. Why don't Vision reveal the minutes for the meeting so we can all see who is telling the truth?

Naomi, if you've read Mike's posts this week you'd know that the NPA didn't "agree" to taking on anything. The decision to build the neighbourhood in the first place was done in the 1990s, but it was the lavish social amenities added by COPE & Vision, coupled with the delays revising the plan that caused the cost overruns.

Remember when vision politicians refused a lie detector test regarding who leaked incamera information regarding the olympic village to Gary Mason from the globe. How sanctimonoius they all were. If this project is going south (we'll see if that pans out or not) we deserve the right to know ALL the details now!!! Open up your backroom meetings NOW city council. If you are talking about our tax dollars in camera, Robertson should live up to his campaign commitments and reveal this informatoin to the public. Why all the secrecy? One more reason to get rid of these bums.

nice "reVisionist" reconstruction of history, Naomi.

You can keep saying it but it doesn't make it true.

Have you seen the numbers lately? Condo markets across Canada are plummeting. Buyer are sitting on the sidelines because they know it will cheaper tomorrow.
Vancouver city council doesn't have a clue how ugly this is going to become. So What's their brilliant plan?
1. Serious price reductions. How does 30% to 50% sound. Ready to go there? Who cares right. It's only taxpayers money.
2. Sell the vacant units to a developer. Sounds like a scandal in the making here. I wonder what sweetheart deal will be conjured up this time.
3. Conversion of some into rental housing. Brilliant, buy over priced condos at higher than market prices just to save some politician from the embarrassing reality that .... they wasted Taxpayers money AGAIN!
Then ..... rent them out at an annual loss. This has to be an NDP idea .... right??

I think the sales numbers that are going under reported are the numbers since the marketing was launched in May.

Sure they sold 234 in the first phase pre-olympics. Then then sold another 36 on the opening weekend in May.

Since then.....ZERO (not to mention the 13 suing to cancel the earlier purchases.

What does it say about the pricing when they haven't had a single sale in the last 4 months.

And has anyone noticed how tiny the kitchens are? 1000 sq ft of condo with 2 square feet of counter space and a view of a big parking lot. It can all be yours for $1mil (or $600k in the non-Millennium building next door).

Rent them out? Aren't almost half the existing stock of dedicated rental units still sitting vacant?

I heard that 2 of those 234 sold suites where bought by Larry Campbell....if true, I'd be interested to hear his opinion right now.

Ballem is all over the news this morning saying she only "briefed" council with an update on the Olympic Village on Tuesday night.

If that's all she did was provide council with an update, and everything else is hunky dory, then why can't she do that in an open council meeting?

Why was the public not aware of this secret briefing to council about the village before hand? Which is it? Were decisions made by council regarding the future of the village on Tuesday or weren't they?

If this was just a briefing on how condo sales were going, then open the doors and let us taxpayers into the discussion. That's what the mayor campaigned on.

“At this stage there has been no decisions made that we can report to the public..." says Geoff Meggs on the above video. Interesting how both he and Vision didn't take this noble position during the last civic election campaign. They wanted EVERYTHING reported out on the village project, even if it was in-camera.

So Geoff are you saying there have been decisions made, but you can't report those to the public? Or do you agree with Ballem that there were no decisions made, and your incamera meeting was simply an update only?

This story is getting more bizarre by the minute.

“No decisions have been taken that change fundamentally what the public already knows,” said Meggs. This quote just posted on the Province's website. What exactly does that mean? Were decisions made that we're not aware of? If so, what were they? Why were we not made aware that you were making decisions on this project?

http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Vancouver+council+battling+save+taxpayers+from+Millennium+Water+costs/3568365/story.html

check out what Bob Rennie told the CBC a few weeks ago...

The man marketing condominiums at the former Olympic Village in Vancouver's False Creek hopes to sweeten the deal for prospective buyers to spur stagnating sales.

Bob Rennie of Rennie Marketing contemplates absorbing some costs — such as the HST or a couple of years' maintenance fees — to lower the prices at Millennium, which the former Olympic Village is now called.

"We are going to announce those incentives mid-September," Rennie told CBC News on Wednesday.

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Have they already announced what those "incentives" will be? If so, what are they?

If they start selling these at below market prices, I can imagine that there will be more than 13 buyers trying to back out.

Just watched Ballem blow off the Global reporter pressing her on the 'in-camera' meeting and what was discussed.

Exit stage right.....

Boy! Have Vision dug themselves a deep, Olympic sized hole or what? I noticed Greggsy down @ the Electra checking out the smoldering embers in its hole. Can you see the next Vision solution: Vision will fill their Olympic Village hole with foam, it'll catch fire &, bingo! Problem gone.

Unfortunately this OV situation is not funny. It's very, very serious because hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars are on the line. As Mike has documented the attempts by past NPA Councils to execute this project in a responsible, fiscally prudent manner were stymied by alternating COPE & Vision Councils. Let's look @ the 3 options being floated:

1] price reductions of 20% to 30% would mean losses to Vancouver taxpayers & would gut the Property Endowment Fund.

2] in this market unloading the condos to a developer will result in an even greater loss to the City.

3] rent them till the market turns; as Dave pointed out they can't even rent the one's they've been trying to rent for the past 5 months. But also, once they're rented they're no longer 'new product' &, as such are not worth as much to future buyer's; would the potential rental income service the City's debt? Another big question.

We haven't even talked here about the additional lost revnue from the market rentals which remain 100% empty 7 months after the Olympics ended. The financial analysis required to properly understand the current situation is very complex indeed. Because of the interwoven interests, different uses, interconnected financings, etc. coming to grips with this problem & finding a solution is not a simple task.

It appears at present that taxpayers money & financial legacy has been squandered by this reckless Vision Council. They have created the problem. They had better solve it @ no loss to Vancouver taxpayers.

Oops, clicked Submit to quickly, meant to edit ---
".... market rentals which remain 100% empty...", should read: "....market rentals which remain 49% empty..." [as of 8 Sep, Vancouver Sun - 254 condos sold, 483 remaining; 61 market rentals rented, 58 available; 242 affordable housing available].

Time to suck up and make them low-rental housing as they wished earlier but let NPA kill the social component.

400 condos = how many walls for the VAG to move to and display their artwork?

Two problems solved.

A little off topic but Vision's blogger posted this gem on his blog. I wonder if the mayor's office signed off on this little diatribe?

"Before joining Vision Vancouver to run for the Mayoral nomination, parks board commissioner Allan De Genova was removed from the Non Partisan Association caucus by former Mayor Sam Sullivan because as Sullivan stated in 2006, “Allan needs some time out of the caucus to determine whether he is still committed to the NPA team.” After losing the Vision mayoral nomination and not being around the party for several years, De Genova has now come out swinging against Vision Vancouver and their lack of vision. No word yet if Allan is going to join COPE and then subsequently leave the party in short order."

If this is how Vision treats former mayoral candidates, is it any wonder they walk all over west end residents who oppose STIR.

Interesting that the blogger would post this so soon after Al gave an interview to the GS. It has been up on the site for several days now. In that interview Al wasn't very supportive of Vision.

To me, it just shows that the blogger in question Johnathon Ross, will go after anyone that doesn't agree with the Vision mantra.
The question that we are all waiting to be answered is, who pays for the blog?

As Justin Timberlake would say,

"What goes around, comes around, comes all the way back around"...

Looks good on 'em!

First they denied there was a backroom meeting to discuss the Olympic Village.

Then they said there was an in-camera meeting, but that it was nothing special. However, they wouldn't even confirm the topic of the Olympic Village was on the agenda.

Then they said, the Village was on the agenda, but it was just a simple update. NO decisions were being made.

Now this trickles out this evening from the Sun:

"VANCOUVER -- Lower prices, bulk sales and other incentives are being considered to attract buyers to the financially troubled Olympic Village.

Vancouver City council held a confidential meeting earlier this week to consider options that could encourage sales of the Southeast False Creek development, which was the site of the athletes' village for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. The council has some control over how the residential development is sold because the developer, Millennium Developments, still owes city taxpayers more than $700 million."

and this...

"Councillors said the Tuesday meeting included a four-part series of motions for options and ideas for encouraging sales."

So now we know there was an in-camera meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the future of the Athlete's Village. We know a four part motion was passed by council...of which details remain under lock and key.

As for promises made by Vision during the last election to ensure openness and transparency regarding the decision making process for the Olympic Village...well, that's no longer worth the paper it was written on.

The Thought of The Day

"POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS – the most adequate Olympic Village fence."

Only in Vancouver, ladies and gentlemen, only in Vancouver; I'm thinking, what exactly is the punishment for white collar crimes?

Now, let's munch on this question for a moment.

Feel free to stop me anytime:
The City of Vancouver it’s run like a corporation. Taxpayers are the shareholders. City management are the administrators. The politicos (10 + 1) act as Directors of the Board. They instruct the administrators; the administrators are supposed to manage the monies and turn out some profit for the shareholder's sake, if not for anything else.
Ok? Gooooooood!

In my book, in any book on corporate business as a matter of fact, both, the Directors and the Administrators are legally liable and directly responsible for all their decisions, good or bad.
The ‘Directors’ appoint a new Top Administrator. What did we get as top administrator, for 300,000+ per year, then? A 'medical doctor' with Power Point Presentation skills, aaaaand...I rest my case.

'The Incompetence LP' should not be played as an excuse in this matter. No, no, no, it should played as...Exhibit No. 1.

I noticed from the video clip, that both Geoff and Ellen are masters of saying nothing of substance in five sentences. That is their expertise, the only expertise, the Art of BS.

If their pet project, the Horrolympic Village is going to lose money, our money, I would personally advocate for supplying them with new attire, at no cost to them. Vertical stripes. Two shades. Preferred colour – orange or denim. This way, they'll have no problem fitting within the general population.

When three schools from the same neighbourhood are black listed by yet, what else, another incompetent gang, for closure in this city of ours, for lack of funds!!!!!, wasting money on vanity projects it’s not wrong and stupid, it’s criminal. And I'm not just saying that.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

The real question is does anybody read it...?

Except the Gallery only wants $350 million...

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