Contradictions abound with Olympic Village spin out of control

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

28 comments

gregor the salesman
Sorry, Mr. Mayor, the public isn't buying what you're selling – click for larger

It’s been another bizarre week at Vancouver Silly Hall. After days of denying leaked reports from a secret backroom meeting held to map out the future of the Olympic Village, Mayor Gregor Robertson emerged from the smoke to declare he’s found fire. Standing in front of four nicely pressed City of Vancouver flags and sporting his most recent Alfred Sung designer glasses, his Worship did everything possible to save what remains of his crumbling credibility as a sound fiscal manager.

As I wrote about last week, watching council bumble around after news broke regarding a story of their secret backroom meeting on the Village development was both amusing and sad. Clearly the Mayor and City Manager Penny Ballem were hoping they could keep everything regarding the deteriorating financial situation of the Village behind closed doors and under wraps. I have no doubt several more in-camera meetings were being scheduled to map out a clean, politically tidy conclusion to what is rapidly becoming a mess of Olympic proportions. Unfortunately, the revelations got in the way of the Robertson’s plans.

Despite the Mayor’s campaign promise to bring decisions regarding the Village into the public domain, it is now clear he has broken that commitment. Within a week of the first story leaking out on GlobalTV, and the subsequent denials to the media that anything was wrong, we now learn the Mayor has moved this Village project to DEFCON 4. Mr. Mayor, at what point were you going to let us all in on your little secret? I’ve been told their original plan was to let this all pan out, sole-source another purchaser, then announce everything as having been “saved” once again in early 2011.

The Mayor’s tough talk (see The Province front page today) or his blathering on about openness and transparency makes him look rather silly and out-of-touch. He may have gotten away with this if he were the one actually breaking the news to the public, but he’s not. Rather, it was the timely leak of information regarding his four-part in-camera motion which forced him to act. So please Mr. Mayor, enough already of the “I want all the money back or else” threats. Or the “I’m letting you know all this because of my government’s commitment to openness.” That time has passed and the cheesy theatrics will end up getting you nowhere politically.

It didn’t take me long to go back into the media archives of the last week to find dozens of contradictory statements emanating from City Hall. Once the secret backroom meeting information had leaked out, City Manager Penny Ballem denied anything was wrong and she even told some media the developer was not in default. Mayor Robertson chimed in and said all was okay and we needed to take things slow and not make any rash decisions. After barely acknowledging a meeting took place, Vision’s Geoff Meggs said its purpose was to simply to “confirm” the City Manager’s authority. Meanwhile, Councillor Jang told the Sun that all was happy in Olympicville. It’s amazing how a week in politics, and a bit of time to regroup can have an effect on your perspective.

Media reports now indicate the Mayor believes we need to move quickly and decisively to sell these luxury condos. City Manager Penny Ballem then provided another one of her trademark "P3" Penny PowerPoint Presentations (detailed staff reports are so yesterday) whereby she declared her outrage that the developer was in default effective August 31st. Huh? Did anyone in the mainstream media actually ask either one of them about their apparent about face? Did they ask why they can speak now, but couldn’t right after the in-camera information had been leaked to the media?

I suspect the only thing that changed was the Mayor’s dark suit and the fact they had a few days to plan a news conference and create key talking points. You see, their whole backroom plan has been derailed, and yesterday’s news conference was all about righting the ship. Nothing more, nothing less.

As for the news conference itself, I have it under good authority that the press conference goals were:

  1. Look in control.
  2. Whip the developer and make them look like the bad guys as a means of deflecting attention away from the fact council is holding backroom meetings regarding the project.
  3. Put so much information into the news conference that it becomes hard for any one issue to stick. Hence the confirmation regarding the “default” mixed in with the fact the City is going it alone regarding the empty 252 units of social housing.

Anticipate Meggs and company to be out in full force laughably arguing they have been open and transparent regarding this project, and their news conference proves it. Once again we ask, where is the Mayor and why has he gone into hiding while letting Penny Ballem and Geoff Meggs do interviews?

The Mayor may have been able to charm his way out of a single news conference yesterday, but when the dust settles, there will be a lot of tough questions being asked. The first one is why did it take the leak of in-camera information to force the Mayor and his cronies to come clean on the deteriorating state of finances for the Olympic Village? We’re all waiting for that answer.

This Village development and the politicians that touch it appear cursed. It’s already served to wipe out two civic administrations and by all accounts, a third is in its sights.

+++

On a side note, I had a chance to see the NPA's lone opposition councillor on GlobalTV last night in response to this fiasco. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Suzanne, you have to realize you are no longer in government any longer. It's time you hold this government to account, or someone else will decide to do it for you.

For further background on the facts of how we got into this mess, read our previous feature reports on the history of the Olympic Village:

- post by Daniel

28 Comments

What is Millennium's response to this?

Yes, they are in default, but they are also being dragged through the mud by the Mayor, city and MSM - which could backfire and result in a libelous lawsuit.

ie: the headlines in today's Province:

City scolds deadbeat developer over missed Millennium payments

@Max. This statement was issued by the developer yesterday.

We have heard the City’s concerns today about the taxpayers investment in this community, and share the City’s interest in protecting the value of the asset for the public and Millennium. We care passionately about this project and what we have accomplished here.

Not everything in an accountant’s report describes how we arrived at this place. There have been many hurdles to get over – including delivering the Olympic and Paralympic Village on time, which we did. We created the Olympic Village – now called Millennium Water – for Vancouver, for British Columbia and for Canada. That commitment has never changed.

We are in active negotiations with the City.

While we are in negotiations with the City, we understandably will not have a lot to say publicly. However, in the weeks to come, we will continue to work tirelessly with the City to develop a mutually acceptable plan that protects the value of the asset for all stakeholders.

We will make ourselves available to the media for further comment next week.

Hard to tell which one is the mascot and which one is the mayor in your photo.

Is Condo Cub the official mascot for the development? Is he related to Quatchi and where can I buy one for my kids?

Lord knows I can't afford a condo there, but a stuffie is more in my price range. Who knows, if they sell enough stuffed bears, they might be able to pay off their olympic debts???

Thank you Daniel.

I had looked at several on-line articles and was only getting the one side of the story displaying the chest thumping of the Mayor and Meggs as a response.

I would like to see them suing each other and running chaotically like the chicken in a chicken coop under coyote attack.
Mayor goes after Penny, Penny goes after Magee, Magee goes after Millenium, Millenium goes after Sadhu, Sadhu goes after Dale, Dale goes after Reimer, Reimer goes after Jasper, Jasper goes after Rennie, Rennie goes after Gregor and then it starts again. Oh, wait, then the Vancouver taxpayers goes after all of them.
And re. the picture, I get it, one is Fozzie 'Waka Waka Waka' but who's the Bear with the blue T-shirt?

First the three stooges on the Parks Board give unanimous support to Vision's agenda, now Anton is apparently on board with the Olympic Village.

"The first duty of an opposition is to oppose" - Benjamin Disraeli.

For £*&$ sake, when will these people stand up and do their job! It is truly incredible that this vital task is being left to blogs like this.

Actually Anton has said they need to scrap the social housing/market rental units, sell them and recoup as much money as they can.

Fair point, and she's right. Of course, like Daniel, I was referring to her TV comments.

"On a side note, I had a chance to see the NPA's lone opposition councillor on GlobalTV last night in response to this fiasco. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Suzanne, you have to realize you are no longer in government any longer. It's time you hold this government to account, or someone else will decide to do it for you."


Back to the bozos manning the board of the NPA to put up or get out of town.

If you can't figure out that the public wants an opposition front and center, which doesn't include Suzanne being Suzanne, time to call'er quits.

I've said it before, Suzanne should not be the spokesperson for this party and if you don't get one soon, while revoking her membership, you folks are done.

And right now, if Vision wins in 2011, the blame falls squarely on the NPA and their continued incompetence.

From the Province - today:

'Outside the mayor’s briefing, Non- Partisan Association Coun. Suzanne Anton said it’s time the city abandoned the social-housing concept and put all units on the open market.

Anton called the Olympic Village “far too pricey” for social housing.

But both Robertson and Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs disagreed, saying at least one of the social-housing bidders is a serious contender and more will be sought.

Meggs accused Coleman of “interference in the open bidding process,” after Coleman swiftly dismissed the three bids city staff had barely opened.'

***********

Now, from what I understand, the City asked the Province to cull the prospective social-housing bids.

Look who is conducting partisan politics on the taxpayers dime. None other than the Mayor's chief spin doctor Kevin Quinlan.

Anyone know if it is appropriate for him to be conducting partisan political attacks during business hours???? See his tweets below that were sent out over the last few hours.

KQ_VanCityHall

"and that NPA kept affordable housing overruns secret, until @MayorGregor made public in council in March 2009"

"454 units at OV not selling. NPA plan to recover money? dump another 252 units on market. same NPA thought Fortress investmnts was good idea"

http://twitter.com/KQ_VanCityHall/status/26105943541

http://twitter.com/KQ_VanCityHall/status/26097291049

Quinlan is just playing their favorite game of blame the NPA. kind of like some school children.

They got caught with their pants down, again, and now are scrambling to try to deflect criticism.

If this gets relayed back to Quinlan:- the blaming everybody else including God tactic is predictable and boring.

Strap on a pair and try hitting the problem head on.

if this is the best you can do - you would should be gone.

Quinlan you have got to go. You need to wear the fact Robertson has had nothing but bad press over the last 4 months. Buuuh Bye! you are way over your head. Perhaps a job at Tim Horton's might be in your future.

Playing partisan politics at work? Come on Kev, how lame. Is this the best you can do? No wonder Robertson's poll numbers are tanking.

Are the bear and the 'Olympic Village Cheap' sign are part of the Rennie group's marketing plan? Is this the same "...best marketer in the country in Rennie Marketing Associates" that Gregor referred to on CKNW yesterday?
Personally I think he looks goofy and amateur. I don't like the bear much either.

Max,

Its bad messaging and not well thought out. Suzanne is a disgrace. Suzanne runs her mouth only thinking of Suzanne and not the NPA - and continually makes them look bad as a result.

Vision could/should be hammered on so many fronts right now, she's not just missing the bull's eye, she missing the whole FN target by focusing on the social housing component.

I've been at Bill and any other board member for months now, regarding the NPA having her as the only person in the media prior to an election campaign. ITS BAD NEWS.

Her motion last week re:FD Element was a complete sham. She had no plan other than to produce some paper, which she knew would get modified beyond recognition.

Then she sat back and did nothing afterwards, no plan, no step 2, no nothing. Zip, zero, ziltch. And her point was what?

For someone who is a lawyer, a former prosecutor, and someone with 9 years experience with civic matters, she's dialing it in, and a complate disgrace.

Max, if you want the NPA to stop Vision, stop blowing her kisses and plant your foot in her ass and push her out the door.

I agree with u Glen. Suzanne is an embarrassment and needs to go now. She has been completely unable to hold Gregor accountable and deserves some of the blame for why we have such a bad civic government.

Glen:

Do tell me where at any time I said I was an Anton fan. The difference between you and I is that I don't get all frothy about seeing her go.

I posted a response to a post that was not entirely correct. I responded simple as all that.

The one thing I do know - it that when I was volunteering at 'womens' shelter in the DTES - she was well thought of by those ladies that participated at that shelter as she spent time in the area and time speaking with them - and MANY voted for her. (I also worked at as a scrutineer at Carnegie: I asked to be posted there)

Vision has a stronghold in the East Side.

So if you want to start fighting fire with fire, the NPA needs to go a bit more grassroots and look at bringing in people that live in that area, know its struggles and spend time talking the people and are liked.

Because right now they are looked at as the 'elite', the rich and out of touch when it comes to the people and the issues surrounding the DTES.

The DTES is more political than you think and that is mainly due to groups like Carnegie, Pivot and various shelters telling people how to think and how to vote. I saw it first hand as we had teachers working at the shelter and leading up to the election they would make up check lists of who would do what in the DTES - the NPA sat at the bottom of those lists provided.


"Suzanne is an embarrassment and needs to go now. She has been completely unable to hold Gregor accountable and deserves some of the blame for why we have such a bad civic government."

Vision has a bunch of councillors and supporters on-side and on-message and y'all criticize their communications efforts.

Ms Anton has herself and some seeming allies criticizing her at every turn and you're hacking her for not having an effective messaging campaign?

With friends like that....

Have any of you actually phoned or emailed your lone ally on council to ask how you could help with research, or preparing briefing notes, or anything other than criticizing and name-calling from the blogosphere?

(This comment not directed at you Max. It seems you're a voice of reason in this regard)

Hi Max,

You are correct the DTES residents are more politically active than most people know. Perfect example, City Caucus has on their links site DowntownEastsideEnquirer..interesting tidbits..
as well voiceofgoneballisticblogspot.com is written by a woman that ran as an independent in the last election.
The NPA would be wise to pay attention, and communicate with the residents of DTES.

A good friend once told me that even folks with a mental illness know the difference between right and wrong. IMO people just don't listen to the residents, choosing to see the label rather than listen to the message.
A very interesting read...


Hi Chris,
What an excellent comment!
I actually posted and gave her credit for standing up during the last Council meeting,simply based on the fact that she stood up alone... against what I'm sure seemed like David facing Goliath.

I agree with some comments that Anton is trying her best under difficult circumstances. She has no money, no staff and a useless board to support her. She is up against a mighty Vision juggernaut that is well funded, vicious and wanting to hold onto power at all costs. I agree that rather than complaining from the sidelines, why don't people like Glen get off their behind and help her out. A bit more productive use of his time I think. Can we get back to discussing the actual topic of this post?

"Can we get back to discussing the actual topic of this post?"

Jason,

Suzanne was actually part of this post, perhaps you need to open your eyes and pay a bit more attention.

As for suggesting:

"I agree that rather than complaining from the sidelines, why don't people like Glen get off their behind and help her out."

First off, I will not help someone I believe is a detriment to another party, including the NPA, from beating Vision in the next election.

Secondly, you have no idea who I am and what I may be doing to help get rid of these bastards.

Lastly, since you're going to suggest I get off my ass and help, then its fair game to ask what exactly are you doing other posting on a blog and running your mouth?

Had Daniel not put in his side note, I would have left Suzanne out of it. If you have a problem with someone commenting on the actual contents of a post, on a web site that isn't run by you, then perhaps you need to start your own blog and see if anyone bothers to pay attention.

"With friends like that....

Have any of you actually phoned or emailed your lone ally on council to ask how you could help with research, or preparing briefing notes, or anything other than criticizing and name-calling from the blogosphere?

(This comment not directed at you Max. It seems you're a voice of reason in this regard)"


Chris,

See my comment to Jason and follow along.

Because I post here you assume I'm a friend of Suzanne....in addition to your usual over the top sactimoniousness, are you completely delusional as well?

The sooner the NPA is rid of Suzanne, the better off they'll be. If Suzanne actually listened to people trying to help the party, there wouldn't be a growing choir of people singing her off into the sunset.

Isn't there a negative post on a bike lane you need to refute somewhere?

Better put on your cape and get over there pronto.

"I posted a response to a post that was not entirely correct. I responded simple as all that."


Max,

What exactly was not entirely correct?

After reading back your comments, in relation to Daniel's post, you both are referring to 2 different aspects of Suzanne's response and disagreeing on whether or not it was effective.
That doesn't make it "not entirely correct", it means you disagree with his assessment.

If I'm understanding your comment, with your quote from the Province, you're implying that Suzanne is questioning the decision making process, therefore she is doing her job.

You seem to be questioning Daniel's statement that Suzanne is not in government anymore and need's to hold this government to account.

Please correct me if I misunderstood.

Clearly people interpret things in different ways. Anyone with experience in politics will tell you that Suzanne's approach and messaging will get her and the NPA no where. That was my take on Daniel's comment regarding her.

Perhaps it was effective to you, but how many people do you think it gave a favourable impression of the NPA to, that didn't vote for them in 2008. There were many other angles of attack that would have been more suitable. This doesn't take a crack research team, she has more than enough experience to know how to punch in her weight class.

There are those in the NPA who recognize this, others may recognize it, but let their personal relationship with her get in the way. It appears Daniel has decided to stop letting his relationship with Suzanne get in the way of fair commentary. This wasn't the case for a very long time.

I'm aware of numerous efforts to get through to Suzanne and they continue to fail. Research help, volunteers, etc.. are of no use to someone who lets everything go in one ear and out the other.

George,

Great, she made a motion, and stood up to Vision all by her lonesome!!

There isn't a soul out there who expected that to pass, or for her protestations to get anywhere, Suzanne included.

Her motion was barely mentioned on the news, or even covered by any blogs, and neither was what happened with it.

Whether she is alone or not, there is something to be said about follow-through.

There was none and that was disappointing.

Talk - action = 0

Not a bad point Chris.

But, the flip-side does illustrate the fact that the 'NPA' is not an idealogically cohesive political party but, those who comment &, indeed, criticize both spectrums here are individuals expressing their own opinions. Using naval jargon, they would @ best be called a 'gaggle' = 'a disorganized body of individuals',

Glen,
Clearly people look at things in different ways, and I don"t have much political experience....but watching her that afternoon I did give her credit after Cadman bailed...
Could she have gone further, absolutely...but that wasn't what I chose to comment on...

Someone called "Jessie" called me a fool for suggesting exactly that. But seriously, half-million a pop per social housing unit?!?!? Give me a break. A MSM editorial said the same thing too. Vancouver's not going to be a very pleasant place to live when the tax base is shrinking, salaries keep going up, and we need to find an extra two or three hundred million to cover the OV shortfall. But wasn't that a doozer of a party?

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