Re: City hall moves forward with plan, The Record, July 13.
The city's notice of alternative approval requiring citizens to cast 4,528 votes to force a formal referendum to borrow $59 million is unquestionably a great switcheroo designed to cover up the impropriety of the city risking taxpayers' money in a potential white elephant. Kudos to The Record's reporter Theresa McManus for detailing the situation and to James Crosty for efforts to protect the taxpayers' rights to oppose the switcheroo.
The nub of this matter is council's obsession with the construction of the office building atop the civic center. No developer would dare attempt to get such a project financed by a bank. The only certainty in this project is that taxpayers are subject to extreme risk. The original partnership with Uptown Property Group was acceptable for funding because of its experience and ability to control the project. A basic principle of business is "who else thinks this is a good idea?" - a principle seldom followed by governments as they use other people's money.
The withdrawal of Uptown by letter dated Oct. 31, 2011 was not made known to the public before the elections in November. Was it not council's fiduciary responsibility to make this major change known immediately? Council is still hiding the reason Uptown "took a pause."
The speculative construction of a commercial venture to be rented out to private businesses requires a proper referendum morally, if not legally. Such a referendum would reveal the entire matter to taxpayers. Is city hall afraid we may not agree with this? Council certainly wants this project so they developed the great switcheroo using additional segregated casino funds for the civic center then taking from city reserves for the office tower.
They then hold a referendum to borrow funds for projects we need and would support. This switcheroo means taxpayers do not get a vote on the office tower project. They are not able to examine the impact on taxes in this precarious economic climate.
At this stage, no cost-benefit details have been made public on which taxpayers can make an informed decision.
The key and only reason for the current bylaw is to juggle the financing to enable the construction of the office project without an open referendum.
The plan could leave taxpayers with ownership of a partially empty office building, continuing maintenance, no taxes and interest costs, while bottom feeders with money and experience circle around waiting for the next council to cut the city's losses and give it away at a serious loss.
Better that council recognize the longtime vacancy rate in Royal Centre Mall and the RBC building in uptown New Westminster and stay out of risky development projects. Leave taxpayers' money in their pockets.
All taxpayers are urged to show their opposition to this loan authorization bylaw, which means you are voting "in favour" of a referendum. Pick up or down-load the form from the city website and return a signed copy of the required form before Aug. 7. Urge your neighbours to do so as well. Agree or oppose, it's time for the entire city to vote.
Ed Linstead, via email