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Sam Sullivan enters the Olympic village fray

January 30th, 2009 · 21 Comments

Both and the Tyee have posted the former mayor’s thoughts on the Olympic village, which you can read here and here. And apparently he’ll also be in the Vancouver Sun tomorrow. Quite the media blitz.

Sam makes some strong arguments — I have my doubts about whether anyone’s opinion on this issue is now moveable. One that he makes (which I’ve heard others making too) and that I don’t get is the argument that since the money is coming from the Property Endowment Fund and not the operating budget, the taxpayers don’t have anything to worry about. Okay, I’m overstating but that’s essentially what some people are saying.

That kind of rationalization makes me crazy. It’s all city/taxpayer money, no matter which “account” it comes from. If the PEF takes a hit because of losses from the village, that has an impact somehow somewhere.

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  • It’s all city/taxpayer money, no matter which “account” it comes from.

    Exactly, Frances.

    Once again you burrow through the spin to get to the substance . . . .

  • jesse

    Typical Sam. Don’t look at the problem in terms of losses. Look at it in terms of less profit! Sorry, Sam. It’s the cash flow that matters, not the equity. But I’d expect little in the way understanding on this front from those responsible. They have already proven they don’t really understand fiscal issues in the first place.

  • ptak604

    The really great thing about Sam is how gone he is.

  • Tour Eiffel

    Okay the PEF is more that just another account. Its a portfolio which holds all the City’s long term investments. This is quite a different thing from the Operating budget, no question. I am going weigh in here & say, he makes some very good & reassuring points (cue angry bloggers…). Its a beautiful, sustainable development, with a very long horizon of planning. I personally feel very strongly Vancouverites will make some money on this and I also have a sneaky suspicion the Left has figured this out too, why else would they be trying to cut out the lender and let them get there money out now if there wasn’t money to be had at the end of this?

    I would also add that I couldn’t help but compare all this controversy to the history of the Eiffel Tower. I think every intellectual, prominent advice giver in France hated it and wanted it torn down. I am not sure they would have thought themselves right now?

  • gmgw

    The really sad thing about Sam is that Scum editors–and the former progressives who edit the Tyee– still believe that anything he might have to say on civic issues is still potentially newsworthy enough to print in their rags. Is there really no end to the naked contempt that the local NPA-loving media shows for Robertson and the Visionites? I expect this kind of thing from the former official Sullivan ass-kissers who have foisted upon us, but I was naive enough to hope that Vision might be granted a longer media honeymoon elsewhere.

  • Suzie

    “Scum editors”? I agree with FB’s comments re: wacky rationalizations, but you’ve got to admit – Sammy on the Olympic Village is interesting news (if not incredibly annoying news) and the only ‘uncovered’ angle on this story. Unless we’re “up with censorship,” I don’t blame any editor for running a couple of sentences about it (including our dear Frances).

  • Joseph Jones

    “Sam makes some strong arguments.” Is smell your criterion here? Check out Funny Numbers at

  • df

    Sam’s flawed analysis fails to take into account the idea that the PEF represents the taxpayer’s capital account, so by spending that capital on the project, we are depleting our reserves ( and hence their income generating capacity) which can be used for other projects including subsidizing operating expenses if we get stuck in a prolonged recession. That’s only one way that the cost overrun guarantees can impact taxpayers. Additionally, should the luxury units continue to remain unsold, the rate of return on the investment as well as its net present value decreases. It’s called the “time value of money” a concept which the NPA – despite their so-called business cred” fails to discuss.

  • tommi

    So many Vancouverites seem to hate everything that has been good for the city and then relish in tearing down the people who made those things possible (except Vision/COPE always seem to get a pass, because they knew not what they did).

    Remember Expo? The outrage, the costs, the protests, etc. However, it left the city with a fantastic new False Creek development. Then it was this, that, the convention centre, and now the Olympic Village.

    Unfortunately with Gregor and the Vision/COPE council, we’re being led down this same path of “hate everything” except homeless shelters and drug injection sites. And when they do something stupid and are called on it, their first response is to attack Sam Sullivan or the NPA and blame them.

    So while you’re all at it, why not blame Sam Sullivan and the NPA for the worldwide financial meltdown, the war in Iraq, Fortress drying up, George Bush, bed bugs, global warming, the Holocaust and September 11.

    C’mon Vancouver, we can do it! We can whine and complain our way into the future, and if that doesn’t work, it’s all someone else’s fault!

  • Robert Renger

    I am really tired of hearing overstated values for the Property Endowment Fund used to praise City managers and to defend the City’s Olympic Village real estate gamble.

    It seems clear to me that the value of the PEF has been systematically overstated for many years, by the way in which overvalued leased lands are included as PEF assets — including lands (and leasehold condominium units on them) that the City has leased out for long prepaid terms. There are details and examples in the following documents which I wrote several years ago:

    On November 11, 2008, after hearing Ken Bayne, Vancouver’s General Manager of Business Planning and Services, on the radio saying “Vancouver’s Property Endowment Fund is still worth two or two and a half billion dollars in real estate”, I sent him an email to ask the following question:

    “Can you tell me how much of the Fund’s $2.5 billion in land assets is land for which the City has sold prepaid leases, and whether or not you think that land’s value as a City asset has been overstated?”

    He hasn’t answered or even acknowledged my email.

    Here’s a link to an article in The Straight:

  • Shepsil

    In North America it is gradually becoming apparent that homeless people are cheaper to care for when they have a permanent address. Emergency services by their very nature are more costly, especially when they have to be mobile and make house/street calls at all hours.

    Come on people, the evidence is out there, Google homelessness and read all about it!

  • Michael Phillips

    It’s funny that there are 10 comments about Sam “speaking out” on this site and only one comment on the original City Caucus page. And that one comment is my own mentioning that its funny that there are no other comments, not one. They don’t seem to (want to) understand what blogging is: If you hack and hack and spin and spin, and then censor or manipulate the posts you dont like for political reasons, to the point that people understand that the blog is simply partisan politics by other means, people won’t participate.

  • Is it safe to say that if the city could do this over — that is, in setting up the deal to develop the project — they would have done things differently? This is where I can’t follow Sam’s argument. The controversy isn’t over the design of the village, it’s the financing. I’ll hold hands with Sam and echo his enthusiasm for the sustainability stuff. But by the former mayor’s own admission, the city is exposed to a $200-million loss. This is the controversy. It’s a needless loss caused by a poorly structured deal.

  • Hybrid Revisited

    Hindsight is 20/20 – no doubt and the project is most certainly a strange hybrid of left and right thinking – ie state of the art sustainability, social infrastructure married with a high risk hedge fund lender & a really really tight completion schedule – yes its unique for sure! Regardless, I believe the $200 million loss is worst worst case scenario & no one has a crystal ball into the future.

    When Sam & the NPA came to power, the bid book was done, the City already had committed to proceeding. The Developer couldn’t get conventional financing because the land was owned by the City. Its not like everyone didn’t try, it just wouldn’t float. The project is now near completion, and the condos should “hit the market” on the upswing post recession. Not to mention, we have invited the entire world to see them and have guaranteed tenants for a few months. I for one think its going to work out and Vancouverites will fair well in the end. I truly believe that all this hype and hysteria hasn’t helped the project and only harnessed the palpable negativity of certain interest groups. Personally, Vancouver is very close to my heart and I always wish it the same success it gave my parents when they came here with about 5 bucks in their pocket. I wish SEFC the success it really deserves.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Sam Sullivan’s incandescent stupidity is on full display, once again…

    There is absolutely no way, from reading his drivel, that he either a) understands real estate; or b) understands economics.

    The admitted potential loss is indeed the key. He does not address the poorly structured, actually amateurish deal, but goes on the praise a city staffer who was mindless in support of the “partner” chosen, all under the supervision of Judy, the Ken Dobell lickspittle, who was a prolific mayor for the last three years.

    At some point, people may want to ask Sam, since he is now claiming that it’s a great deal, why he chose Millennium over Terry or Wall? It couldn’t have been just the extra money, since it is now obvious from leaked documents that there were many, Estelle Lo chief among them, who had grave concerns about the structure of this transaction.

    Finally, that Sam was allowed any space on citycockus is such a non-event, considering his chief of propaganda and chief of gaffe run the crapsite.

    (So, don’t be too surprised Mr. Phillips, they censored reasonable opinions for three years–you think they’re going to print comments openly or fairly?)

    As for the Sun taking Sam’s horse shit…well, how is this a surprise?

    Last year, they lost the best local reporter they’ve ever had because they were too busy treating her like shit, and now are left with only one reason to read their paper (Vaughn).

    Otherwise, between inane, egomanical piffle from McKnight, softballs from Miro and Barbara Daffy rewriting federal Liberal speaking notes to meet her column requirements per week…Sam is an improvement!!!

  • tommi

    The reason there are so few comments on is mostly likely because it’s a pain in the ass to do so. You have to fill out a form each time and enter a bunch of impossible-to-read letters.

    “Sam Sullivan’s incandescent stupidity is on full display, once again…”

    Looks like AG’s fluorescent bile is on full display, once again. Did Sam kill his dog?

  • Dawn Steele

    Yeah right, Frances! It’s like saying that if I raid my RRSP instead of using my debit card for a night out at the casino, I have nothing to lose!

    If Sam actually believes this nonsense, as opposed to just dutifully helping to perpetuate NPA talking points for damage control, then it’s no surprise that he & his council got us into the mess in the first place.

  • tommi

    How exactly did Sam and the NPA create this Olympics mess all by themselves with no help from Vision/COPE? That is just a strawman argument that comes directly from the Vision “talking points.”

    Dawn, where are these NPA talking points coming from? Seems you’re the one making that “fact” up.

  • Listen Close

    Pretty simple Tommi:

    – NPA voted for the completion guarantee, which locked us into a deal with Fortress, Vision/COPE opposed it

    – Vision pushed for public disclosure of the Olympic Village loan, NPA fought it every step of the way (remember those big bad “negotiations” that were supposed to be the reason to keep everything secret?)

    As for the NPA talking points, those would be the ones that Sam Sullivan, Peter Ladner, and Phillip Owen keep spouting: that no matter what happens to the Olympic Village, taxpayers will not be affected because of the PEF.

    This completely ignores the fact that having the PEF go from $2.5 billion to $2.3 billion to cover the Olympic Village is a $200 million loss of city assets. I have yet to hear any sane person try to say how that’s a good thing. Vision has made that clear. NPA keeps trying to paint it as a good deal.

  • spartikus

    Larry shouldn’t be so hard on himself – he seems to be forgetting he only took over in December of 2002 – after Vancouver Athletes Village Agreement had been signed.

    Poor fellow.

  • spartikus