Poverty activists satirize Condo King, Vancouver mayor
Published Sunday, May 15, 2011 8:08PM PDT
Poverty activists took a new satirical approach to demanding more social housing in Vancouver's Olympic Village, using costumes and masks of city officials to hold a faux-press conference.
A man bearing minor resemblance to Mayor Gregor Robertson, though donning a similar bike helmet to the former NDP MLA, spoke to a sparse crowd at the village on Sunday for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The "mayor" announced the city had decided to reverse its decision last April to scale back the number of social housing units at the site from 252 to 126.
"Friends, I have to apologize for my beard and this disheveled appearance," he said. "I have been working overtime to uphold council's original promise to maintain one third of the units at the Athlete's Village for social housing."
Standing next to a woman in a puppet-like mask of city manager Penny Ballem and a man similarly dressed to look like "Condo King" Bob Rennie, he cut a line of red tape that read "broken promises."
As the tape fell, the crowd chanted "Eat the rich, homes for all!"
The event was organized by Vancouver Action, a homeless advocacy group that was also responsible for a tent city set up at the village site on the one-year anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The same group organized a mass protest a year ago Sunday on the day Rennie Marketing Systems began taking bids on the project's high-end condos.
Removing her Ballem mask, organizer Lauren Gill said the satirical event was designed to draw attention to their criticism of Robertson's ruling civic party.
"As activists, as community members, as low-income residents, it's important for us to remind the people of Vancouver that Vision has lied… and has not lived up to its promises," Gill said.
"We need to remember that next time we vote in the election."
Robertson has said that ballooning construction costs made maintaining the planned number of social housing units at the village economically untenable.
Even with the scale-back, the city expects to incur a roughly $48 million dollar loss from the $1-billion project.