AMS Council: July 8, 2009

Posted by: | July 9, 2009 | 4 Comments

Big party tonight! Highlights:

  • Olympics, Olympics, Olympics!
  • We support Iran… being referred to committee
  • 2009-2010 budget

    There was a very full house tonight, 90-100 people for the hour-long Olympics presentation by Michelle Aucoin, UBC 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Secretariat, Kristen Harvey, PR person for VANOC (and former AMS president!) and Manon Chouinard, PR for the Integrated Security Unit. Although those were the speakers, the delegation was much larger including two RCMP officers, three ISU members and other Olympics Secreteriat staff.

    Olympics Presentation

    Michelle Aucoin and Kristen Harvey started off with some facts about the arena and spoke about the fields that will be paved over starting next week. There were questions asked about the impacts the paving/unpaving processes will have (not really answered), the arrangement to put grass back on the fields (Athletics is doing it, VANOC’s paying). I asked why they were being handed over 5 months before the date specified in the venue agreement (because paving has to be done while the ground is dry).

    They also gave a daily schedule of when games would start/end in terms of higher traffic around the arena and gave wishy-washy answers about how they would handle the crowds.

    At this point, Kyle Warwick asked Michelle when the AMS was first contacted about these things and what input they had. Her answer was that she had extended an invitation to Blake and Tim to sit in on the sessions, provided they sign a confidentiality agreement; they refused. Kyle explained to her why they refused: they are acting on behalf of the AMS and must be able to communicate with the rest of the society. They also receive direction from council, which is impossible if council has no information. Michelle’s response: “I understand that is your perspective.” In the end, the answer (inferred but not stated) was that the AMS was not involved up to this point, nor was an offer extended for them to be. The point is that involving two execs as individuals (which is the effect of the confidentiality) is completely different than involving the AMS, or “students”.

    It should be noted at this point that Michelle Aucoin is a former executive coordinator in the VP Students office (the position Anne DeWolfe now holds). She described herself as having always been an advocate for students, while also letting us know “This is not a stakeholder process and this is not a consultation process. Tough decisions had to be made,” later adding “To expect major changes to these plans, you will be disappointed.” Disappointed only scratches the surface for this presentation.

    They discussed the road closures for the period of Feb 4-12, which includes Wesbrook Mall between Thunderbird Road and 16th, the northbound portion of East Mall for the same stretch, and Thunderbird Road from Wesbrook to East Mall. The areas will all be open to pedestrians, but not vehicles. Access to the UBC Hospital, and emergency vehicles at the RCMP and Fire Hall will remain intact.

    They described alternate parking arrangements for Fraser Hall and the Frats/Panhel will be provided at the Thunderbird parkade, saying that these stakeholders are pleased with this arrangement. Kellan Higgins, who was there on behalf of one of the fraternities, later stood up to clarify that the fraternities are actually not pleased with the arrangement.

    Colin Simkus wanted to know whether environmental assessments had been done, as required by law. Kristen answered that they had been working with Joe Stott on the permit process. Oi.

    Adrienne Smith (who, it must be noted, was “unimpressed with the mention of herself in the May 6th Meeting minutes”) is going to mentioned here anyways because she wanted to know about the impacts to Acadia Park residents. Michelle said they will always be able to get in an out of Acadia Park. They might not be able to use their normal route, but access will always be maintained.

    Jeremy Wood (who is working for the AMS on Olympics issues) wanted to know about access to Osborne. VANOC has apparently scaled back their security perimeter so that Osborne will be completely accessible.

    Andrew Carne wanted to know how soon the presentation and all the info in it would be available online. They promised it would be soon and that they wanted to get info out there as soon as possible. Kristen wanted to stress that they don’t sit on information; they get it out there fast. (I am extremely skeptical about this.) Michelle mentioned that we are one of the first groups to hear about this and provide feedback, before naming a number of other groups who they already presented to.

    They then outlined how they will be doing consultation (they called it that, but it is not real consultation) with groups throughout the summer and will be having open houses in the fall for people to find out more.

    So you might be wondering what the plan for Translink is. How are they going to reroute the buses to get around the closures of Wesbrook Mall and East Mall? That’s a good question, because Translink has not released their plans for that yet and we probably won’t know until the fall.

    At this point, Manon Chouinard got up and spoke about how the Integrated Security Unit will be doing security for the games. Police officers from across Canada will be coming to join the ISU. She spoke about how their number one priority is keeping the venue, the athletes and the fans safe. She also mentioned how they had to “make some tough decisions to lessen the impact on stakeholders,” which came across to me as defending the huge cost overruns for Olympic security (currently five times the original budget!)

    Bijan spent a bit of time putting some lips to some posteriors then Tim asked for clarification of the residence contract. Michelle deflected to Stephen Owen and housing having to answer those questions.

    Geoff Costeloe asked what the AMS can do to help UBC make things easier for students. The answer: “I wish I had an answer to that,” but that they hope to talk to students in small groups to see what they think.

    Tahara Bhate asked about security and the security perimeter, because it was redacted in the Venue Agreement. Michelle said ther perimeter will not go around Osborne. Manon took the floor to talk about searches. The ISU will only search you if you are trying to enter a venue. They pledged not to do random searches, though they also stated that the RCMP is still on charge on campus during the games and what the RCMP does is up to them.

    A guest and UBC Alum listed a number of concerns with the lack of consultation, the limitation of free speech and the vague wording of the residence contract. She pointed out that if you wear a Pepsi shirt to an event, they might kick you out because Coca-Cola is an official games sponsor, and brought up a big incident from the APEC protests where a Tibetan flag was removed from the GSS, which prompted Dave Tompkins to ask what would happen if he were to walk into a venue in a T-Shirt with pepsi on the front and a Tibetan flag on the back. Kristen Harvey admitted that he could be kicked out for the Pepsi shirt. Manon said that from the ISU’s perspective, a T-shirt does not constitute any kind of security threat; they want to be on the lookout for actual threats.

    The guest then brought up the subject of protest pens. The answer wasn’t totally clear, but they will provide “Safe Assembly Areas” that will be visible and won’t be fenced in. Protests will not be limited to these areas as long as they aren’t disrupting others or traffic. Manon: “We will respect the Charter of Rights and Freedom of Speech, as long as you’re doing it peacefully.”

    Dave Tompkins noted that nothing in the past or present had addressed the AMS Whistler Lodge.

    Rory G
    reen asked about the overall communications strategy. They basically admitted they didn’t have a great plan on how to reach students and would like advice on that.

    I asked about the $10M donation to the arena. Earlier in the meeting, Michelle had wanted to clarify that no UBC money was going into it, that it was from a donor, that the arena would be named after someone, but wouldn’t say who (because they don’t sit on information, remember?). This super, top-secret information can be found in last month’s Board of Governor’s documents: it’s going to be named after Doug Mitchell. However, the document also implies that the money is coming from a variety of sources, not just the Mitchells. So I told everyone who it would be named after and asked exactly where the money was really coming from. Michelle “can’t disclose that.”

    There were a few more questions about how it would affect grad students, involvement in Translink’s transportation planning process and more warnings from the UBC Alum guest about the ISU using surveillance tactics on anti-Games activists.

    It must be stated that Michelle Aucoin has a tendency to be condescending in answering questions. The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Secretariat is basically a PR office. They exist solely for the purpose of communication and it isn’t done very well.

    I am particularly annoyed because the question I asked about the dates being pushed up for field usage was something I had already emailed her over the weekend, and had gotten no reply up to that point. The venue agreement was used many times as a defense about why things are the way they are, but in instances when they’ve chosen to deviate from the venue agreement, are dismissive of the concerns.

    I’m pretty sure many of the people in the room who asked questions tonight had a similar sentiment: all spin, no actual information or communication happening. While the presentation was useful in terms of having the opportunity to look at Olympics impacts, I certainly don’t feel very much more informed than I was before.

    Iran Motion

    You care about the debate? Really? It went exactly the way you imagine it would.

    Voting time. Bijan’s clicker isn’t working…

    Bijan: I can’t vote.
    Dave Tompkins: That’s because you’re Iranian.

    Funny? Lacking in taste? Everyone in the room laughed…

    Ultimately, it was referred back to External Policy Committee from whence it came.

    Blake’s Broadcast
    Executive Committee got a presentation from Pierre Ouillet and Brian Sullivan about UBC’s budget which has a $20M structural deficit; looking for solutions, Blake and Johannes will be on university working group to look at this issue; an issue with the Aquatic Centre not letting in students over the summer was resolved, students let in free over the summer; AMS involvement in orientations: presence at residence events, imagine materials, rebranding firstweek events; Gayle Stewart – former UBC olympic secretariat passed away, sent condolences on behalf of AMS to family

    Crystal’s Chat
    Sub negotiation meeting frequency increased to see better progress: want less of negotiation and more of a conversation; rejigging photocopier/IFP area in SUB basement; working on All-President’s dinner, meet the execs event, clubs days with SAC

    Johannes’s Jargon
    Vancouver Campus Plan now targets 35% student housing, question is: what kind?, want it to be more than just beds and desks; LEAD initiative working with Sage/Kotter, “change management consultants” to work on implementing things stemming from CWSEI; partnering with FoGS for career services for grad students; Internationalization issues now go through UBC’s VP Research office, may see change in strategy as a result; meetings with Kevin Kenna (RCMP) and Anne DeWolfe (VP Students office) about liquor licence issues

    Tom’s Tirade
    Spoke to other universities about how their business operations work, learned about other models and how they work; went up to Whistler lodge to look at some issues; Business Operations Committee will talk about what to do with Whistler lodge during 2010 Olympics; branding and marketing continue to be looked at

    Tim’s talk
    UPASS subsidy applications almost done processing; met with committees; dealt with press regarding the Olympics and the residence contract; the colour of the UPASS this fall: BLUE!; setting up meetings with politicians to do some lobbying; U of Calgary execs coming to visit, Tim will host; working with Tahara Bhate on transit issues; working with GSS on a childcare conference

    One thing that came out of constituency reports: in response to concerns raised during the debate over the ACF debt repayment motion, the AUS will release their budget publicly this year so people can see where the money goes and can see that they are trying to be fiscally responsible.

    2009-2010 AMS Budget: Tom Dvorak

    You can look at the materials here. Audiences, used to the mediocrity of Powerpoint, never fail to be impressed by the use of Keynote and its style and panache. The most impressive moment was when Tom made the Alma Mater Society go up in flames. But onto the content.

    The AMS has a structural deficit in their budget. The money allocated in the budget is greater than the expected revenues. However, that’s only a problem if all of the money allocated is actually spent. In practice, not all the money allocated to things gets spent in a given year.

    This year the structural deficit is estimated at ~$250,000. According to Tom, the AMS currently has about $7M in reserves. So in the short term, this is not a problem to lose sleep over. However, it’s irresponsible and potentially unsustainable to be constructing budgets with structural deficits built in. The budget committee has proposed some ways in which this issue can be looked at.

    This includes a structural audit and a fee referendum to index the AMS fee to CPI, something the SUS just did recently. They also want to promote more volunteerism, rather than having so many staff that are paid. New business opportunities are also something to look at. (Tom’s suggestion: JAPADOG!)

    Due to an error in the wording of the NEW SUB referendum question last year, the AMS is also looking at deficit problems in the long term.

    Council launched into a quite detailed examination of the budget and asked about why certain line items were changed, about the structural deficit and questions about how the various funds and funding sources work. It went on quite a while and showed that people really read through it. I also think it helped that the document that was prepared (linked above) was constructed and presented very clearly.

    Budget passed.

    Council was $1,337 under budget for Food and Refreshments last year. Next meeting we should definitely have ice cream.

    Structural Audit

    Motion #1: Council passed a code change allowing council to direct the budget committee to do things.

    Motion #2: Council then used its newfound power to direct the budget committee (in conjunction with the oversight committee) to perform a structural audit of the AMS. This is connected to the AMS’s structural deficit and provides an opportunity to have an even deeper look at where the AMS spends money and why.

    Olympic Report Update aka Tahara’s Motion

    The AMS made an Olympic report in the past. Since that time, a lot more information has come to light (and more continues to come out). This report will be updated to reflect the new information available. This is useful because there is a lot of documents to sort through -we want to try and make it more accessible.

    Video Surveillance

    The AMS wants video surveillance in the SUB, primarily for security purposes. Their policy lays out why the cameras are there, what the cameras do, who gets to see what, and when, etc. People monitoring the cameras also have to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

    Interesting tidbit: By provincial law, if you have been recorded, you can go and request to see the image that was recorded of you. Finally, someone is thinking of self-centred commerce students!

    Code and Policy

    Motion #1: Currently the deadline for circulating the agenda and materials for council meetings is 48 hours in advance of the meeting (ie. Monday at 6 pm). The code change proposed making it 3 business days in advance (ie. the Friday before). The background for this is laid out in the May 6 council recap: Blake ceasing and desisting. This now formalizes in code something that Blake was trying to encourage to happen informally.

    Motion #2: Some language in code was simplified to define who does and doesn’t have to pay AMS fees. The end result is that some more people now have to pay AMS fees who previously didn’t.

    McInnes Field Motion

    The EUS tried to book McInnes Field in order to hold a charity concert this school year. They were told that they could not book it. Instead, they were offered the football practice field, which is not Thunderbird Stadium, but rather beside it, at an exorbitant cost of $12,000.

    The reasons for this aren’t totally clear, but it has to do with field shortages. It is also related to the fact that the person within UBC Athletics handling concert bookings was recently let go and bookings now go through their finance director who is focused solely on maximizing profit with little regard to how it affects students.

    Blake will be meeting with athletics and the VP Students office to try to bring dialogue over how this is completely unacceptable that students cannot reasonably secure any space to hold large events and wanted a council resolution to make his point.

    Next meeting: July 29. Check out this Facebook event!

    A special congratulations goes out Rory Green, who was pleased that the external office was not the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons this meeting.


    4 Comments so far

    1. Green Machine on July 14, 2009 12:26 am


    2. Green Machine on July 14, 2009 12:26 am


    3. Cynthia on July 14, 2009 9:44 am

      Hi Neal,

      My name is Cynthia and I'm a writer for the Ubyssey. I'd like to talk to you for an article I'm working on; could you please let me know what email address I can reach you at? Mine is cyn.khoo[at]gmail[dot]com.

      Thanks very much,
      Cynthia Khoo

    4. Cynthia on July 14, 2009 9:44 am

      Hi Neal,

      My name is Cynthia and I'm a writer for the Ubyssey. I'd like to talk to you for an article I'm working on; could you please let me know what email address I can reach you at? Mine is cyn.khoo[at]gmail[dot]com.

      Thanks very much,
      Cynthia Khoo

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