"Rubbish" says NPA Coun. Anton to the idea she was accidentally not notified about Friday's briefing – see video
What a mess this whole affair has become thanks to Vision's handling of the file. See our update to this post below...
The decision by Mayor's office staff to stage manage a Friday technical briefing for media without the Mayor himself in attendance, nor any members of the political opposition in attendance is having huge blowback. First, many members of the media are just flat out annoyed at Vision Vancouver for their sneaky antics. The meeting was needlessly held on a Friday, Robertson was kept out of the story, and the opposition were deliberately not notified of the briefing.
We here at CityCaucus.com knew that Friday's technical briefing was coming down. We even tweeted about it at 8pm the evening beforehand.
It's take out the trash Friday tomorrow. Probably time for another announcement re the Olympic Village #vanpoli
Our notice was considerably less vague than the bulletin to members of council sent out five hours later:
Due to the intense media interest in this and the complexity of the issues we will likely have to provide the media with a technical briefing. pb
The ire of media is not something you want building during an election year, so the best advice for the Mayor's office staff would be to finally clean up their act, and stop trying to manipulate scribes from the Sun, Province, 24, G&M, CTV & Global. I'm not sure that's going to happen anytime soon, though.
Last night's GlobalTV story by Marisa Thomas, as well as CKNW's report by Janet Brown are in a way payback for trying to dupe the media. Vision have been working media hard to suggest that it was all an accident, but thankfully they're not buying that incorrect version of events.
The fact is that the Mayor's office in cooperation with the City Manager decided to hijack the techical briefing and use it to get good ink for Vision and bad ink for the NPA. A $50 million loss in the Village project? Pffft, says Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason.
The Webster Award-winning journalist is floating the idea that the losses at the Olympic Village are more like $230 million – and rising! Mason goes further to suggest that Vision's spin machine are doing more harm than good, and that they better start being honest with the public:
I have no problem with outlining some of the decisions made to help cushion the blow to taxpayers. But at least be honest about what the final tally is instead of trying to deceive people.
When you've got one of the most respected voices in Vancouver's media in effect accusing you of trying to deceive the public, maybe it's time Vision should rethink it's "take out the trash Friday" media strategy.
In the end the taxpayers don't care about the politics, they just want their money not being poured down the drain as it has been and continues to be in the Olympic Village project. $8 million in fees for the receiver, the empty rental and social housing, the losses on the sale of the land, and on and on...
Vision will try to continue to blame someone else for their own actions. Thankfully the media are understanding there's more to the story.
UPDATE: This afternoon Penny Ballem and Vision City Hall held another technical briefing, or "an update to their update" to specifically challenge Gary Mason's article which they referred to as "misinformation" in a media advisory.
Due to misinformation published today and continued media interest on the subject, an additional media technical briefing will be held today to further clarify Olympic Village Finances.
Please note the briefing is not for attribution however spokespeople will be available afterwards to make on-the-record comments. Also please note that, in the spirit of respect for fellow journalists, publishing information to web sites or social media channels during the briefing is prohibited.
So concerned about how they control the message, the media was ordered by Ballem's team not to tweet during the briefing! Apparently QMI/24 Hours scribe @BobMackin raised a stink on this and the City backed down to allow Twitter updates during the media briefing.
The rules that the City are imposing on media control would truly make a tin pot dictator blush. Gregor apparently really wasn't kidding when he suggested Communism ain't so bad.
It's amazing to think that Mayor Gregor's pal & Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is campaigning on the matter of deceitful government communication, when Robertson and his team are literally writing the book on it back at Vancouver City Hall!
UPDATE #2: Two fascinating developments also from Tuesday. G&M scribe Gary Mason went toe to toe with Coun. Geoff Meggs today on Mike Smyth's CKNW program. A caller told Mike & his guests, "quite frankly if you put lipstick on a pig and run it against Gregor, I'm voting for the pig." That triggered a discussion about something we've raised here at CityCaucus.com on numerous occasions. Why is it that Gregor Robertson seems to have a predisposition toward blaming everybody else for his own mistakes? How many times have we asked, "where's the Mayor?" Listen to what Gary Mason says in this exchange with Meggs (mp3):
"The Mayor should have been there. He's the leader of the City. He's there for the happy announcements, he's got to be there for the tough ones too. To push you in front of the cameras every time there's bad news on the Olympic Village, he's shirking his responsibility..."
Gary's remarks go straight to the heart of the failure of this administration.
If you think the wheels haven't already completely fallen off the bus, then go read Frances Bula's remarks and the comments by "Lucy" on her latest blog post with regards the decision to remove Fortress. Regarding the Friday briefing, Bula says:
I have to add here that I feel personally misled by what happened at the news conference on Friday, where the city aka city manager Penny Ballem explained the “$40-50 million write-down” the city would have to take on the village, which everyone understood to be the loss on the total amount of money owing on the village — both the $580 construction loan and the $180-million unpaid amount owing on the land.
The final word goes to "Mary," who comments:
More sad days for democracy. We do deserve better.
- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen on Twitter.