Vancouver’s Civil City Commissioner Geoff Plante wants to take money from the Edgewater Casino Social Responsibility Fund – earmarked for First Nations, seniors, and vulnerable residents of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside – and give it to landlords and property managers so they can deal with "nuisance complaints" around their buildings.
"We should not be diverting funds that were specifically identified to help people negatively impacted by gambling, and other vulnerable populations in the Downtown Eastside, and funnel it into another Civil City scheme," said COPE Cllr David Cadman. "Plante and Civil City have their own budget and should use it for projects they propose."
In a report going to City Council on February 26, Plante is asking that $75,000 of the Social Responsibility Fund be used to pay part of the salary for a new Crime Free Multi-Housing Program co-ordinator. The coordinator will work with Civil City staff and police to "train apartment owners, managers and residents on what they can do now, fairly and legally, to solve illegal and nuisance activity on their rental properties."
When City Council approved the Edgewater Casino in 2004, they required casino operators to pay $200,000 into an annual Social Responsibility Fund that would pay for gambling addiction programs and grants to help local communities. The rationale for the grants was guided by findings of a provincial study that showed a significant proportion of casino patrons are of Aboriginal and Chinese ethnic backgrounds, low income and single males. The study also found that 52 percent of Edgewater’s patrons reside in postal code areas adjacent to the casino – the Downtown Eastside, Strathcona and Chinatown.
So far the Social Responsibility Fund has amassed $700,000, of which $25,000 was used for a Responsible Gaming Information Centre at Edgewater Casino. The report recommends using $125,000 for grants and $75,000 for Plante’s Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, leaving a surplus of $525,000 by the end of 2008. The Social Responsibility Fund will continue to grow at a rate of $200,000 a year until July 2013.
"We have severe homelessness and social problems in the Downtown Eastside," said Cadman. "Yet after two years of doing nothing and not using the Social Responsibility Fund as it was meant to be used, Sullivan is now sitting on $525,000 unspent dollars, some of which he and Plante want to now shuffle into their pet Civil City project to help private apartment operators.
"This is beginning to smell like another Downtown Ambassador’s giveaway under a different name."