Saturday, November 8, 2008

Villagegate will not go away

Yesterday, the Globe's Gary Mason, followed up his Villagegate story with this:

Vancouver council owes misled taxpayers answers

The piece is well worth your reading.

As is this letter to the editor in today's Sun:

The alleged approval of a $100-million loan to Millennium Development Corp. by Vancouver city council at an in camera meeting, if true, requires an immediate inquiry by the province. It has the effect of transforming the city into a commercial bank, and this lies outside the limits of council's powers over the disbursement of public funds. Vancouver taxpayers should be outraged by this cavalier use of property endowment funds to finance what is effectively a two-week event.

John Robertson, North Vancouver

Both Mason's column and the letter are in sharp contract to the sunny, rose-colored glasses adorable little modest take by the perennially jolly Pete McMartin.

Pete is a good fellow and a helluva good writer, but some day he have to take the propeller cap off his head, get out of short pants and notice that not all stories end happily ever after.

This Olympic Village bit of poison is one such story.

As I said yesterday, Gregor Robertson and the Vision strategists will keep this issue front and centre for the next week, and that's politics.

But the story deserves long legs.

One regular contributor to this site threw in this yesterday:

Left West Vancouver in the lurch on the development at Evelyn Drive - after three or four hearings and hundreds of expensive staff hours to prepare...
Left Nanaimo in the lurch on a multi-complex downtown development after hearings and hundreds of expensive staff.....

and this:

And, David...
Suzanne Anton said this about why Vancouver Council not giving taxpayers any details, "It is not in taxpayers' best interests to know all the details."

I hope that isn't true. I hope Anton did not say that. She is also someone who got my early vote.

Think about this:

Men and women, many of whom have never run a company or earned very much money and now earn $50,000 a year are making momentous decisions about the expenditure of hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars.

I am to believe that Sam Sullivan, Raymond Louie, Kim Capri et al can safely swim in the shark-infested waters of Big Deal Real Estate?

And I am to swallow whole this fantasy on faith because I am too sensitive or stupid or unschooled to share in all the secrets?

I don't think so, kids.

Today, Robert Matas, writing in the Globe, quotes my blog posting of yesterday, under this headline:

Loan for athletes village set to alter mayoral race

Speculation builds about how voters will react to controversy

His quote is accurate:

"Peter Ladner's bid for the Mayor's chair is finished," commentator David Berner said yesterday in an online posting on his website. "It is Over. Buried irrevocably by the Olympic Village story," added Mr. Berner, who identified himself as a disillusioned supporter of Mr. Ladner.

But, in speaking with Robert on the phone last night, I did not and do not characterize myself as a disillusioned supporter of Ladner.


I still hope he wins.

There are 15 people running for the Mayor's chair. Thirteen will get a few votes each. That leaves Peter and Gregor. They may not either be the best possible person on earth to be the Mayor of Vancouver in a perfect world. But they are the only two serious contenders.

And, of the two, in my opinion, Peter Ladner will make a better mayor.

If he can get past this infuriating dirty piece of business.


Doubtful said...

Its no use crying, your money is gone! It disappeared in a utopian wet dream.

Oh the condos will be built and they will have some value, but not as much as the cost to build, the difference is Vancouver's LOSS.

The olympic village started as a good idea, then the city got hold of it and inserted all their utopian demands, social this, sustainable that, LEED gold not good enough, an island here, a daycare there, "cant have the chimney there isn't there a more expensive way to locate it"? and on-and-on until eventually you end up with a studio apartment at $450,000!

Oh, and the athletes will use it and no doubt take jolly good care of it for two weeks, no parties or high jinks allowed. Then we will allow you to live there. Hmmmmm.

In an expanding real-estate market this project was not even marginal, today it is unsustainable. Those studio suites are worth $250,000 MAYBE. While everybody loves the new groovy environmental talk they are not prepared to pay a substantial premium for it.

Studio apartment in an unexceptional neighbourhood in Vancouver in 2010 when a five year fixed mortgage might be 12%, any takers? $150,000 you say sir.

FLUSHHHHH... thats your tax money flowing into False Creek, but it was the only way to go, you got trapped by the default penalty. Its a shame when you allow gullible socialist populists to play with YOUR money.

Think carefully when you vote this time. Perhaps if you vote for someone who is promising not to spend much at all you could avoid future disasters.

No just kidding, nobody does that.

Anonymous said...

I, would never pretend to be an expert on a major undertaking such as this, however, my career *was* in accounting - and the following, to me, is highly suspect. Why and more importantly WHO and for what reason would a decision such as the following be made? Greed on the part of the city as stated in the article - or more to do with the "players" involved?:

"I've been told there was a bid for $170-million that was an all-cash offer. Instead, the city got greedy and went with a developer that offered more money, the bulk of which the city would get when the project was completed and the residential units sold."

And this:
"Millennium had to put down only a $27-million deposit.

Now look at what the city has on the line. It had to sign a $193-million guarantee to satisfy the lender, Fortress, and it has already advanced the lender nearly $30-million on behalf of the developer. (So that effectively negates the deposit that Millennium put down).

So what does the city have in hand? Nothing. Meantime, it appears to be into the project for $295-million - so far. Meantime, the real estate market has gone into a nosedive, which means the cost projections that Millennium based its bid on are pretty much useless now."

And from the writer who thinks this is a "The sky is falling" scenario:

"Contacted in Ottawa, (Larry)Campbell pointed out that while it was his council that okayed the concept of the deal, it was the next council under Mayor Sam Sullivan that signed up Millennium. Still, Campbell said, and I quote:

"I think it's a helluva deal for the city, quite frankly. . . . And I don't think they [the city] cut a bad deal. I'm not critical of it at all. I believe -- AND I SAY THIS WITH THE PROVISO THAT I DON'T KNOW ALL OF THE DETAILS (caps mine)-- there'll be a good return on this." "

Which in my opinion means Larry Campbell knows little and his opinion means squat.

I'm betting there is a whole lot that the public does not know - including all the players involved. Hopefully someone will bring it to the light.


Anonymous said...

WoW! First time the NPA has been called socialists. Will wonders nevvvver cease?

Anonymous said...

David, Ladner is arrogant, self-serving, and supported by all those
unconscionable developers who have created this artifical, unsustainable boom in the real estate market.
Remember, it was Jack Poole in 2002 who told a roomful of developers and real estate salesmen that for the Olympics these bidders would get federal and provincial money and the long-suffering taxpayers would help pay for this. (See Georgia Straight, May 31, 2007) Everyone is being hosed by this farce.