An Open Letter To Each Windsor Councillor
It's all up to you! As you and I both knew it would be in the end.
As Gord Henderson wrote: "[Francis] said it's [the building of an arena] become the community benchmark by which all other council actions are judged" and for YOU to be re-elected.
Didn't I predict recently that the arena would be the key election issue!
All of a sudden, according to Henderson, we have huge capital sums available which we seemingly did not have with Beztak and the Raceway deals that were being worked on. We did not have it a few weeks ago either after the Capital Budget meetings. Do we need a forensic audit to find out how money was not there before and then suddenly appears when it is needed for an election gimmick?
"A city debt that was projected to reach $274 million by the end of this year will instead come in around $160 million, freeing up huge sums for capital investments."
I can count the votes for and against an arena as can you. Will it be 5-5 allowing Eddie to cast the tie-braking vote for an arena or 6-4 against?
You know I speak my mind and I will again. It is up to you to save the City. In the same way he would have done a Tunnel deal to own and operate it (and which would be bankrupted by what the Ambassador Bridge proposed with Kwame), he will cause financial hardship to taxpayers with the Arena deal.
We do not need to put in any additional capital funds into an arena that private enterprise will not touch. What we are being asked to swallow is to get Eddie re-elected since he has failed on everything. To get elected in the first place, he said he was the only one who could build an arena and unless he pays for it, his career is over! That is what this is all about.
The gratuitous attack on Bill Marra was shameful and uncalled for. For a guy who is supposedly invincible and unbeatable, Eddie's E-machine is running scared. The Henderson column ought to be encouraging Marra to announce he is running for mayor not make him hide.
It is not enough to refurbish the old Barn at a reasonable cost and to keep people downtown. It is not enough to make the changes proposed for Riverside arena. Nope we have to spend, spend, spend to build a monument for re-election.
You, Councillor, are the key and we both know it. It is up to you to save Windsor. Eddie on John Fairley's show and in Gord's column said there had to be a business case for the arena. Where is that business case without MORE City money that could be used for public works that would actually help people. As Gord said: the City "might have the means to move well beyond the $15 million already budgeted for a new arena, without increasing the load on city taxpayers."
I will remind you of what was said almost exactly 4 years ago to the day about the arena. Henderson's column is reprinted below. Is it any different today?
You and I both know why no "private" money is available for an arena. Just remember what Dave Batten said about submitting a proposal for an arena during the previous election campaign! Is it any different today?
I beg you to continue to act responsibly as I know you will! It is not up to you to save Eddie Francis' career but it is up to you to save taxpayers from his ambition.
Blindsided -- again;
Windsor Star 02-23-2002
By: Gord Henderson Star Columnist
Dave Cassivi has been the arena guy for most of his 21 years on city council. Through thick and thin he's kept alive the belief that Windsor needs a new downtown ice palace and entertainment centre.
And yet when immense heat was placed on him this week to bail out the Windsor Spitfires with what amounts to $400,000 in taxpayer money or see the team leave and possibly the $41-million arena dream snuffed out, Cassivi dug in his heels and said no damn way.
Five councillors, Fulvio Valentinis, Eddie Francis, Joyce Zuk, Al Halberstadt and Cassivi, had the gumption to stand firm against the kind of bulldozer pressure tactics and deadline fear-mongering from our civic "leadership" that have helped bring debt-ridden and grossly mismanaged Windsor to its current state.
The Spitfire subsidy went through anyway, thanks to Mayor Mike Hurst's tie-breaking vote and those of his five council lackeys. But it took bigtime intestinal fortitude on Cassivi's part to place his principles and his duty to taxpayers ahead of his burning desire to see the arena, the holy grail of his political career, become a near-term reality.
What made him do it? How could Mr. Arena, a guy who has spent thousands of hours pursuing a new home for the Spitfires, choose not to bail out the Junior A franchise to keep it from skating off to that hotbed of hockey interest (more like a Junior A graveyard if you recall the late and much lamented Flyers and Thunder) that is Niagara Falls?
There were a number of reasons. Not least among them were memories of countless kitchen-table meetings with distraught residents of flood-prone Ward 4.
Again and again Cassivi has been called out after rainstorms to view the turds floating in sewage-filled basements. Again and again he's heard heartfelt pleas from taxpayers to end the misery and make this a city where people don't have to dread a heavy rainfall.
"It's not a pretty picture. People are out there feeling helpless and hopeless. People are cancelling vacations because they fear that while they're away their belongings will be destroyed," said Cassivi.
When they beg for help, for the kind of services any civilized community should be able to take for granted, Cassivi has always assured them the problem will be dealt with as soon as money is available. But he always cautioned that money is tight. Too many pressing demands. Not enough cash.
And what does he tell them now? Sure. We would like to keep your rec room from being ankle-deep in sewage. But you have to understand. Your needs come a distant second to helping a private sector firm, the local Junior A franchise, that says it's ankle-deep in red ink.
Cassivi is an arena crusader. But he's also a firm believer that Windsor needs to sort its priorities into two categories: needs and wants. The needs, like effective sewer systems, must come first. The wants, like bailing out a hockey club and building a spiffy new arena, come later. Perhaps much later.
"Circumstances have significantly changed in the last little while and we have to pause and evaluate. We have to take a serious, dispassionate and composed look at where we are. I'm for an arena. But not at any cost."
Cassivi is acutely aware of many businesses whose frazzled owners are hanging on by their fingertips during this economic slide. People who poured their hearts and souls into fulfilling a life ambition are now cashing in RRSPs to stave off the bailiff.
These folks and there are hundreds of them who go bankrupt in the Windsor area annually, don't enjoy the luxury of meeting behind closed doors with city councillors and emerging with a bailout. "All they can do is plead with us to hold down the expenditures," said Cassivi. "They're struggling very hard and taxes are a significant part of that struggle."
But instead of tax relief, they see a city staggering under the weight of the MFP and Canderel debacles and still unable or unwilling to turn off the tap. To add insult to injury, said Cassivi, council voted to prop up the Spitfires without having all the relevant financial information.
At least they're consistent. It seems only natural that a city which was blindsided on MFP and totally in the dark about the Canderel cost over-runs should take another leap of faith with our money. No worries, mate. There's plenty more where that came from.
Needed: One more councillor with a fiscal backbone and some respect for the taxpayers. And five fewer limp noodles. '