But it's this November's municipal elections that I'm already most preoccupied with. Who to vote for now that it seems Mayor Robertson and Vision Vancouver have definitively lost their way, bowing at every level, it would seem, to unseen elites rather than truly representing the citizens who elected them in the first place? I cite as evidence the following:
1. The Olympic Village Boondoggle: According to Gary Mason, in today's Globe, the $40-50 million Vancouver taxpayers are now predicted to be on the hook for re Millennium's default on its loan from the city (and which last week City Hall claimed was down sharply from the predicted $150 million plus we were potentially looking at before the complex went into receivership and a rebranding campaign was launched to sell the remaining condos) is actually more like $230 million once the additional $180 million Millennium has failed to pay back for the land is factored into the equation. I realize the previous administration got us into this mess, but I agree with Mason (of whom I am not normally a fan, and who in general has been a rabid Olympics boosterer) that being less than fiscally honest with residents is repugnant.
All of this raises the question of why Olympic host cities are required to build such facilities in the first place--most always the biggest single expense, and generally leaving a morass of debt and recrimination after the event. Can't the athletes be put up in hotels, or billeted with families? Or erect temporary structures--tents, anyone?--that can be easily removed or converted into container-type social housing after the fact. Surely there has to be a better solution than burdening cities around the world with similar problem buildings on redeveloped land that will be difficult to flog in any market, let alone one following a global recession.
2. The Right to Protest: Word in today's paper that Robertson has asked that a proposed bylaw banning the erection of temporary structures as part of civic protests be revisited and reworked does little to reassure one that this administration hasn't in fact been taking direction from the Chinese government--and specifically on the matter of the Falun Gong protesters whose daily vigil outside the Chinese consulate on Granville Street the proposed bylaw seems expressly designed to target. What a spectacular abrogation of the basic principles of civic democracy! It's enough to make one want to reconsider CSIS Director Robert Fadden's remarks last year regarding Chinese influence over Canadian municipal elected officials.
3. Casinos: I am also not sanguine about today's announcement from Paragon, the BC Place developer that wants to build a major new casino adjacent the sports complex, that it has found a partner in Marriott for the hotel that is also to be part of the project. This is just the sort of 5-star endorsement that makes this Council start seeing dollar signs. Despite the overwhelming community--and police--opposition to the development, I predict that a negative vote next Tuesday is far from assured.
Instead of bread and circuses, why not think more creatively about arts and culture? After tentatively endorsing the Vancouver Art Gallery's move to Larwill Park, Council has been deafeningly silent on Bing Thom's inspired proposal for a new recital hall and performing arts complex at the VAG's current site.
4. Fireworks: More bread and circuses. A final item that caught my attention in today's press was word that the infernal Celebration of Light, the annual fireworks competition held very summer off English Bay, has been given new financial legs, thanks in part to money and in-kind sponsorships from the City. Why? Most West End residents hate the event; it provides license to homophobic louts from the suburbs to get drunk and go looking to bash some fags; and as far as I can see it's largely an empty and pointless spectacle.
Much like the past three years at City Hall.