A lot has been written over the last few weeks regarding the beleaguered Olympic Village. We've had numerous reports of special in-camera meetings and subsequent denials that Millennium development was in default. We now have City Manager Penny Ballem flip-flopping and telling CKNW news the developer is indeed by definition in default.
Overall, when you combine this with what some describe as a "kangaroo council" meeting yesterday, this has not been Vision's best week. Then again, their current "fall from grace" is coming on the heels of a "summer from hell".
In Wednesday's Vancouver Courier, City Hall reporter Mike Howell had a hard-hitting story regarding what is being described as Mayor Gregor's "inconvenient truth" when it comes to the Olympic Village. It's the fact that five of his coalition/caucus members were at the table between 2002-2008 supporting key decisions regarding this project. This is despite the fact Robertson and his spinmeisters continue to tell the media that all the "bad" decisions were made exclusively by the NPA. A fact both the mayor and his hatchet men know to be untrue.
We hoped that this image of Bart Simpson might influence him, but so far it hasn't worked.
But a politician being a politician, Robertson couldn't stop himself from taking a partisanship shot or two in explaining the reason for the financial mess, lack of condo sales and why none of the 252 "affordable housing" rental units are occupied.
"The combination of a soft housing market, the uncertainty with the HST and a number of poor decisions from the previous council have created several challenges for the Olympic Village," said the Vision Vancouver leader, who took office in December 2008.
There you have it--"a number of poor decisions from the previous council."
That's right, the one led by then-mayor Sam Sullivan and his band of merry NPA cohorts. For the record, that previous council included Vision Vancouver councillors Heather Deal, Raymond Louie, George Chow and Tim Stevenson. David Cadman was the lone COPE councillor.
It was the same council that unanimously approved at a public meeting April 4, 2006 to go with Millennium as the developer of the Olympic Village. Concord Pacific and Wall Financial were also in the running.
The fuss over the Village erupted four months before Millennium was chosen. That's when the NPA majority decided to reduce the requirement for social housing on the site from one-third to 20 per cent.
Back then, the NPA line was the decision increased the land value so it would make the project financially viable. The Vision quartet and Cadman voted against the move, saying it needed more affordable housing in the city.
Howell then goes on to shed even more light on Robertson's inconvenient truth:
The Vision-Cadman axis then voted in a June 2007 in camera meeting against the NPA politicians' move to give Millennium a $190 million financial guarantee in a complex agreement involving Millennium, the city and New York-based lender Fortress Investment Group.
But at a later meeting, all of council approved a $100-million loan to keep the project going. Cadman told me at the time councillors had no choice but to approve the $100 million because the city agreed in the June 2007 in camera meeting to take over the project.
Believe what you will.
Earlier this week, CityCaucus.com also revealed that Mayor Gregor Robertson sent a letter to council when he was the NDP MLA for Vancouver Fairview whereby he pleaded with council not to cut costs on the project. So not only were the Vision caucus voting both privately and publicly to support almost every major decision related to this project, they were also being cheered on by their future leader.
While it may seem politically expedient to continue the blame game over the Olympic Village, as Howell's article demonstrates, sooner or later the truth begins to emerge.
For further background on the facts of how we got into this mess, read some previous feature reports regarding the Olympic Village development:
- Which way out of the Vancouver Olympic Village mess?
- Olympic Village decisions defined political differences
- Contradictions abound with Olympic spin out of control
- Geller's "reality check" on the Olympic Village
- Olmypic Village loan mess continues to confound
- Council's Olympic Village discussion must come out of the shadows
**CityCaucus Redux – See our January 2009 post "Exclusive Olympic Village multiple choice reality test" where we first used the above image in our post.
- Post by Mike