NPA pushes Downtown Ambassadors funding through council

Non-Partisan Association councillors “ignored council process and staff recommendations” to force public funding for a private business program through Vancouver City Council, a Vision Vancouver media release has alleged.

On Thursday (December 13), the NPA-majority Vancouver city council voted to fund an expansion of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s Downtown Ambassadors program.

In the past, the Downtown Ambassadors program has been paid for by the DVBIA’s private-business members. The program will now be expanded with $872,000 annually from the City of Vancouver. While patrols were once limited to the downtown core, they will now move in to Yaletown, Gastown, and the West End. Patrol hours will be extended to a 24 hour a day service.

“The NPA did a run around on us and they circumvented the rules,” said Vision Vancouver councillor George Chow. He told the Straight that the council meeting proceeded as if the motion was a grant, which requires eight votes to pass. But when NPA councillors saw that Vision was “not too keen on the idea of using public money for private security”, as Chow characterized it, the motion was changed to a contract. A contract only requires a six-vote majority to pass.

Chow said that Mayor Sam Sullivan cast the sixth vote that the NPA needed.

NPA councillor Kim Capri confirmed Chow’s description of the council meeting. She told the Straight that when it became clear that Vision Vancouver councillors were not going to support the motion –which would have blocked its passing– she reclassified the program’s funding as a contract.

“I’d hoped that [Vision] would come around and realize that this is really good value, and they didn’t,” Capri said. “And so because of that, I thought, ”˜You know what, I don’t want to miss this opportunity to translate this effort into action’. And so we decided to go the route of having a contract.”

Capri said that what the reclassification of the funding as a contract, the City of Vancouver lost the ability to work with different BIA models in Vancouver, which the grant would have allowed.

She continued: “It didn’t happen the way that I would have preferred for it to happen; but nonetheless, the result is that we are going to have additional ambassadors on the streets of Vancouver.”

She noted that several BIAs spoke at the meeting in support of the motion, and denied that the plan involved the privatization of police.

Vancouver Police Department Inspector Warren Lemcke also spoke on behalf of the VPD in favour of the motion, Capri said.

However, on November 29 it was reported that the Vancouver Policeman’s Union questioned the allocation of city funds for “a private security business”, as Union president Tom Stamatakis called it.

Responding to the difference in opinion between the VPD and the VPU, Capri said that she was “more inclined to listen to management”.

According to the DVBIA’s Web site, the Ambassadors are “trained to provide hospitality assistance and crime prevention services”. Patrol persons are recognizable by their bright-red jackets.

The DVBIA has invited members of the media to attend a walkabout with the Downtown Ambassadors on Tuesday (December 18). Interested parties should meet on the plaza outside 401 West Georgia Street (in front of the BMO sign) at 11:00 a.m.

Related links:

Downtown Ambassadors seek public funding
Private police

External links:

Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association
City council report: DVBIA Ambassador Program – Funding Proposal for Expansion