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Mayors defend Olympic Village

November 11th, 2008 · 15 Comments

The media circus continues;

Ex-mayors Philip Owen and Larry Campbell are going to hold a news conference at 4 p.m. to defend the current Olympic village loan.

And this news release just came out from Mayor Sam Sullivan’s office.

Open Letter from Mayor Sam Sullivan

Southeast False Creek planning a decade in the making – Mayors Owen, Campbell & Sullivan have helped see this historic project through

As most Vancouverites know, I am not seeking re-election. And while I do not have a direct political stake in the outcome of Saturday’s election for the first time in 15 years, I do feel compelled to formally address recent reports about the construction of the Athletes Village at Southeast False Creek.

As Mayor, it is my duty to reinforce a number of facts.  First, the Olympic Village will be delivered on time next year.  Second, our city staff has been acting in the best interests of taxpayers in managing this complex project through turbulent economic times.  Third, at all times over the past 14 years, City Councils have been appropriately consulted and have endorsed our staff in their planning and management of this project.

The Southeast False Creek development consists of 50 acres of city-owned land in one of the most desirable waterfront real estate locations in North America.  Half the site is designated for public parks, seawall and a state of the art community centre that is accessible to all.  A significant number of the housing units have been sold – and the ones remaining are in prime waterfront locations. Heritage buildings are being restored – as is the natural environment for marine life.  And, more than 20% of the units have been designated for social housing.

Because of the global economic downturn, capital is tight and businesses around the world are struggling. As a result, the City of Vancouver has been engaged in sensitive real estate and business discussions with project stakeholders to ensure we successfully complete this project on time.

City Councillors and staff are legally bound to keep all property transactions confidential.  That is the law.  Taxpayers are not well served by politicizing these sensitive discussions or conducting negotiations by headline.  As Mayor, you have my word that the moment our legal team and negotiators signal that this information can legally be released, it will be without any delay.

Senior City Staff working on this project include City Manager Judy Rogers, Deputy City Manager, Jody Andrews and the City of Vancouver’s Director of Business Planning, Ken Bayne.  As someone who has served the City of Vancouver as a Councillor for 12 years and Mayor for three years, I can say that I have the utmost confidence in this team. With the assistance of some of Canada’s leading legal-finance advisors Stikeman Elliott and Farris-Vaughn, staff has been managing this project in the best interests of taxpayers on behalf of successive City Councils. Southeast False Creek planning started in 1994 under Mayor Philip Owen, continued under Mayor Larry Campbell and during my term as Mayor.

One of the first actions of our Council in 2005 was to deliver more financial discipline and taxpayer protection to the project.  Councils have approved development and financial plans at every stage.  They are posted at www.vancouver.ca.

When the Olympic Village at Southeast False Creek is completed, it will set the standard for green development and urban sustainability.  In the meantime, our city staff will continue to act in the best interest of taxpayers and ensure City Council is properly consulted.

As we approach the finish line for this project, our staff has laid out a plan to ensure its orderly completion.  That plan has been supported by all Councillors representing all the major municipal parties in the current election.  I am confident that the next Mayor and Council will be well served by this approach in the months ahead. 

Around this time next year they will be proud to show off this global model of excellence in urban planning and green living to the world.

Categories: 2008 Vancouver Civic Election

  • jf

    The question here isn’t the project–we are on the hook for that. It isn’t really even the money. It is the process and how the decision was made. Was all the information given to our councillors? Was Ms. Lo muzzled? Did she have information that the councillors should have heard? Meaningful decisions can only be made with full disclosure. If all the information is disclosed and the the councillors decide that the decision is still good then all is well and fine. But without full disclosure something stinks. Why did the mayor’s office and the chair of the finance committee not think Ms. Lo’s input was relevant? What they heck do they pay her for if not to give this kind of analysis? This is why Peter Ladner is losing the battle on this. The NPA can pull out as many past mayors as they like. It is not the decision that is in question, but how it was made

  • Scott

    Larry Campbell??? The founder of Vision Vancouver who supported Al De Genova in the VV mayoral contest?

    Is Campbell now supporting Peter Ladner?

    That would certainly be an eye-opener!

  • DMJ

    Except for Sam (The unwise) Sullivan, Larry Campbell must be one of the worst mayors Vancouver has had. Nothing more than a media creation, the now Senator, who split COPE and wants to ban American football in Canada, continues to embarrass us with his silly rhetoric.

    I thought Senators were there, as a reward for something or another, and are supposed to just shut up!

  • Rob

    Sam Sullivan says:
    “City Councillors and staff are legally bound to keep all property transactions confidential. That is the law. ”
    I hope to see some lawyers commenting on that sweeping statement.

  • paul

    I wonder what Sam Sullivan’s fingerprint on the ‘missing file’ might be?

    After all, he’s no fan of Peter Ladner.

    Our civic campaigns in Vancouver look a little more like old style Chicago politics under the late Mayor Richard Daley.

  • tommi

    The fact that Vision/COPE was the original architect of the Millennium deal AND voted unanimously for the loan makes them a bunch of hypocrites. Exposing confidential city business for political gain is sleazy, reckless and incredibly irresponsible. Their claim that they voted YES without knowing all the details is a shocking statement that the media has let slide. So, they were against this loan before they voted for it?? It’s all just a strawman to distract voters from looking too closely at the Sarah Palin of Vancouver: Gregor Robertson. All flash and little substance.

    Vision’s well-funded smear campaign has worked, but, it will ultimately be to the detriment of Vancouver voters. Buyer’s Remorse, here we come.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Me thinks the Nutty One has spent some extra innings in the back of his “smoggy” van, and has emerged wearing the same pair of roseate glasses that he entered with.

    He has injected himself again, knowing full well that the NPA will be decimated on Saturday, but wanting to ensure, too, that Pistol Pete’s shooter is empty.

    Sam is wily enough to know how unpopular he is, but he still comes out on this issue, with the knowledge that it has almost sank Peter (almost entirely unfairly); ot he’s too stupid to know that reminding voters of his ( even remote) connection to Peter will send them to the ballot box not just wanting to vote for Gregor, but have his baby too (and that’s just the men)–either way, what a fool.

    Obervations:

    1) It is impossible to predict how this project will end up. Sam’s crystal ball needs a polish and somene that can actually read it properly…

    2) The notion that everything is bright and cheery, against the backdrop of a global economic crisis that threatens the United States with a second financial tsunami in as many months, is as asinine as anything I’ve ever heard from Sam. Saying it’s the case without one stitch of tangible proof is the raising of blowing smoke from a science to an art. In fact, if you graphed the events as they have unfolded from the beginning, and followed the trend, the whole thing would be in Palinesque territory: Indecipherable babble followed by harsh reality, the best intentions notwithstanding.

    3) The project should have NEVER gone to Millennium. Both Peter Wall and Terry Hui had bigger pockets and greater experience at building this type of site. So, the comment about how the very best interests of taxpayers was paramount to staff, is utter horse shit. Wall and Concord have billions in assets. Millennium has not–ever.

    4) The city had no business getting into the speculation game…when Millennium couldn’t write a cheque for the whole deal, that should have sent alarm bells ringing to the point of cracking. No money no honey, honey. A $30 million cheque on a deal that large isn’t enough. In fact, you wouldn’t take that in any kind of economy, because the current scenario should have been blueskyed as on of the potential default positions!!! Wh at the city was watching for this Sam?!

    5) What assets do Millennium have that we can fall back on? This whole thing will come down to selling the remaining condos at a market price that will not return for at least three years. Most of their more profitable projects are either cellared or stalled. Nice.

    So, who will end up holding the bag for all this…

    The same people who were screwed senseless for the last three years of fantasy initiatives, failed policy and pretense…

    YOU.

  • Richard Frizell

    I would suggest that the pundits on the Millenium file get familiar with the “Vancouver Charter”which regulates the City of Vancouver and how it governs.

    S.165.2 (1) gives council some discretion.

    S.165.2 (2) gives the council no discretion (it would appear that the Millenium discussions would very well fall into this category.

    Meetings that may or must be closed to the public

    165.2 (1) A part of a Council meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered relates to or is one or more of the following:

    (d) the security of the property of the city;

    (e) the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements, if the Council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the city;

    (k) negotiations and related discussions respecting the proposed provision of an activity, work or facility that are at their preliminary stages and that, in the view of the Council, could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the city if they were held in public;

    (2) A part of a Council meeting must be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered relates to one or more of the following:

    (b) the consideration of information received and held in confidence relating to negotiations between the city and ….a third party;

    Perhaps if people want more openness at City Hall, they really should be lobbying the provincial government to change the Vancouver Charter.

  • Wayne

    I despise Larry Campbell, always have. I was very curious to see why he would have anything to say about this and why we should care what he thinks. Keep in mind, he freely admitted that he didn’t like reading all the reports that came across his desk when he was mayor which of course made him a natural choice for the Senate.

    Lo and behold, CBC says good old Larry owns two units in the development but Larry doesn’t want to talk about that. Just unbelievable.

    I voted advanced and I know there are a couple of money questions on the ballot. Taxpayers can decide whether they want to authorize council to spend up to X dollars on various projects. If taxpayers have to authorize these projects how is it that council can enter into negotiations to the tune of $100.000.000.00 and tell us it is none of our business? And that we can just trust them. The more secretive they are the more worried I am that this will end badly for the taxpayer.

    I despise the Olympics too.

  • tommi–

    Not to go all fact-checker or anything on you, but how, exactly, did Vision act as the ‘architect of the Millenium deal’ given that the deal was first recommended to Council by City Staff in April of 2006 which occurred after the original 1:1:1 market/affordable/subsidized proposal that was designed by the previous Vision Council had already been trashed by the Sullivan/Ladner/Anton et al. NPA Council earlier that year?

    Am I missing something in that chronology?

    .

  • Dawn Steele

    Anyone who refers to the certainty of some desired future event happening a year from now as a “fact” sure gets my BS meter humming. I wouldn’t even predict the certainty of my waking up on time tomorrow as a “fact!”

    And while I’m certainly no expert, I didn’t think the fuss was about whether it’s OK to discuss sensitive issues in camera. I thought it was about whether the decision to OK a $100 million loan was properly informed, and/or about a leak that’s got people worrying that the widely predicted “Olympic hangover” could be far worse than expected.

    Sam didn’t address either question and I’m not sure how two ex mayors who were not privy to those in camera discussions could do that for him.

    The totally patronizing pre-election mantra of Canadian politicians seems to be “Don’t worry, trust us, be happy.”

    Yeah, right!

  • Ms. Steele–

    Agreed.

    Unfortunately, however, Bobby McFerrin is not in the running on Saturday.

    .

  • T W

    In the worst case scenario, is the City ahead of or second to the provider of the construction loan at the Olympic Village, should there be a real estate melt down. That may be a substantial and unanticipated consequence. Answers, please, from our elected representatives.

  • Colleen

    Whatever caused the leak its a done deal but there is no excuse especially from Larry Campbell who promised tax payers they would not be on the hook for any further costs and then goes on to defend bailout. What happended? The province was on the hook not the city. What happened to the province as Campbell promised to pick up the costs?Anyways the issue is being all distorted as yes documents should not have leaked? However since it has and the public is aware after the fact did the public not have a right to know. Especially since they were promised this would never happen.

  • Colleen

    And thats the distortion its not about being part of the negotiations but being told that the city would be going into negotations despite being promised by the city there would be no Olympic bailouts. Nice try.