CityCaucus Redux: $850,000 for new carpets, upholstery & a loo at City Hall

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


GlobalTV's coverage (see video) has Coun. Raymond Louie denying he approved the spending, but City staff say otherwise

It may not get much attention during the upcoming civic election campaign, but this old story from October 2009 definitely generated a lot of interest. But will voters remember...or care? I guess we'll find out on November 19th!


It’s not been a great day for Vancouver’s Mayor. It all started when he slumbered downstairs to grab his morning coffee and pick up the Vancouver Sun off the front porch. Staring the Mayor in the face on page A15 was a somewhat hard to miss editorial from regarding the upcoming 2010 city budget.

That's why he quickly put the paper down and decided to review his daily agenda instead. “Hmmm” the Mayor said. “Look honey, Kevin has organized another lovely photo op for me with a bunch of foreign dignitaries at the Olympic Village. This should be a great day, I suspect there will be lots of media cameras there. I wonder if we'll get to use our mayoral flags behind me as props?”

On the way to the White House City Hall, all hell broke loose. CBC and CKNW starting running stories that the Mayor and his Vision crew approved over $800,000 in expenditures to spruce up City Hall to impress foreign dignitaries coming to town for the Olympics. The reports all stemmed from an FOI that CityCaucus (and apparently a few other media) filed about a month ago with the City Clerk’s office. A few disgruntled City employees encouraged us to dig into how much all those Olympic renovations on the third floor of City Hall were costing taxpayers. The FOI package arrived in the mail last night.

Once the news broke, the Mayor ducked out of site of the media and refused to answer questions about why Council spent $147,000 on regal carpeting, while at the same time maintaining they are in a budget crisis. So much for the great day Kevin had planned for him.

The Mayor may have ducked clear of the media, but his budget chair Councillor Raymond Louie was clearly  thrown under the bus. The boss leaned over to him and said "Hey Louie, handle this one will ya.”

Raymond's first response to the reno fiasco was to immediately shift into his auto pilot message box and blame the previous NPA government. Incredibly, moments later, he then told the media he had nothing to do with the expenditure. Here is what he told CKNW news:

I never voted for this to be clear. This never came before us for us to vote on as part of let's renovate the third floor of city hall. No. Never.

There you have it. Despite a staff report coming to council on March 3, 2009 requesting the Vision council approve funding to purchase new carpets and upgrade the bathrooms, Louie says he didn’t have anything to do with it.

Hmmm...a quick review of the minutes of the meeting indicate that Louie was not only in the chamber during the debate, he actually voted in favour of this expenditure. Also worth noting, there actually wasn't even a single minute of debate questioning the $850,000 Olympic reno fund. Nada.

The Vancouver Sun also reports the following expenditures were approved:

  • $2,900 to oil the wood walls of the mayor’s office.
  • $4,000 for new picture frames for past mayors’ photos.
  • $2,700 to improve the gold gilding on the ceiling.

Was Councillor Louie really asleep at the switch in his role as budget chair? It would appear so as the staff report was pretty clear about the scope of work to be undertaken:

Improvements to floors 1,2, and 3 include the installation of new Energy Smart light fixtures to improve the level of illumination and to reduce energy costs, the cleaning and painting of existing surfaces, the upgrading of washrooms, new public seating to replace the existing worn furniture, new carpeting, and upgrades to the existing mechanical and ventilation system.

The Protocol Office has requested that these improvements be completed by the summer of 2009 in order not to interfere with the visiting Heads of State and Dignitaries that are expected commencing the fall of 2009. Funding for this work is therefore requested in advance of the 2009 Basic Capital Budget in order to proceed with tenders and contracts to achieve this timeline.

Perhaps Councillor Louie should have taken a page out of his Vision colleague Kerry Jang’s message box. At least Jang seems to recall supporting the expenditure and was quite prepared to defend it when asked about it by GlobalTV’s intrepid reporter Ted Field earlier this year:

There is no public space large enough to host, to do regular city business. And on top of this we have the Olympics coming and we're going to have crown heads of state and all this kind of stuff coming as well. The place, quite frankly, is falling apart.

In his zeal to demonize the NPA for all that is bad in the city, Mayor Robertson is creating for himself a nightmare scenario whereby every tax dollar he wastes becomes fodder for his opponents. Today’s PR disaster (when will Gregor realize he needs new media handlers) about costly rugs and martini chairs will only continue as we head closer to him hosting the biggest party Vancouver has ever seen.


Significant implications for transit/development in the region as gas tax is increased today and you publish two old storeys are carpets report cards?


Well, as we are having an election next month, perhaps considering Gregor and Vision's record over the last three years might be useful when assessing their promises for the next. There is some logic in that, surely, which can penetrate even your relentless determination to find fault.

Boohoo, I can certainly see why Vision would like everyone to forget this story.

There is logic in it if the intention is political bs. I guess that's what this is about. You guys seem to think the next group is going to be different somehow or that the current group is different somehow. I don't get it. Perhaps I don't have a relentless determination to politicize.

Am I wrong though? Is this a bigger deal than the gas tax increase? If you think so, ok.

Boohoo,you're against the gas tax increase?

I don't think the redecorating issue is as important, but if the opposition is trying to build a narrative of tax and tax on Vision's part, it fits into the pattern.

Of course, opposition means the NPA, as COPE has once again backed themselves into a corner this election. What exactly are they going to campaign on? They can't really criticize anything their Vision compatriots have done.

No I'm not. I frankly think we should tax gas more. I drive, it would cost me more--but it's for the greater good and I'm good with that.

if we all stop driving, where is the gas tax going to come from?

If we all stop driving, there will be enough ridership revenue to pay for transit plus there will be no congestion on the roads so buses can move around quicker providing better service at a lower cost.

Richard. I think you have been drinking far too much of Moonbeams Happy Planet Juice. Better go lighter on it. You don't know for sure what's in it.

We're not going to all stop driving anytime soon, that's not the goal. A more equitable, efficient transportation network is the goal.

Absolutely correct David!
Past Actions Are Always Templates For The Future!
Bad Eating Habits? Bad Posture?... Fat and hunchbacked for LOL!
Naah, Wicked Behavior... talking about Vision of course!
Can't trust that,sorry.

"more equitable""for the greater good"

Richard's not the only one who has been sipping the Happy Planet juice.


I suggest yo give your head a shake - people are not going to stop driving regardless of how hard you and yours try to push your agenda.

Today I am out walking along both Broadway and West 4th. Red light. Cars stop, pedestrians stop, bikes barrel right through.

So when I read the stats showing bike accident increases I understand why.


Do you think transportation equity is a bad idea?

No, just meaningless and does nothing to advance the discussion about how to move forward in transportation alternatives and how they should be funded. Much like the "occupy Wall Street" - sounds really Progressive and when you strip it all down, means nothing.

if you don't identify a goal how will you ever get anywhere? figuring out the funding is secondary.

"figuring out the funding is secondary."

Funny, that is exactly the Greek philosophy except they went ahead and achieved their goals without ever getting around to how they were going to pay for it.

Assuming that "transportation equity" (whatever that means) is a goal, without a clear roadmap - including funding - means it is likely to stay just that - a goal.

It's sure easy to shoot down ideas, ideas that you admit you don't even understand eh bill?

Check out!

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