The Arena Shell Game
Which structure will be Eddie's equivalent to Mike Hurst's Canderel monument: the $5 million overpass on Huron Church Road that the school kids do not use or the $55 million East End arena?
If ever I get too conceited about the power of my BLOG, fortunately I have Gord Henderson to bring me back to earth.
Here I am, demanding that the Mayor tell us how much we have spent on the fees of Schwartz/Estrin...no response. Here I am, demanding that the Mayor tell us about the problems at Enwin that resulted in a huge salary increase for Councillors for all the extra meetings they were forced to attend....no response. Here I am demanding that we try and recover some of the funds on MFP...no response. But when Gord Henderson was "concerned that [the $55 million East End arena] could be another half-baked dream chase, I asked Mayor Eddie Francis to walk me through the numbers Friday. He did."
See what I mean. No one listens to me. No one gives me information. Do you think it might be because I am asking for data that might be embarrassing rather than helping get someone re-elected?
This time around we did not get the Henderson leak about what the arena would be like (8,000-seat arena and three other revenue-generating ice pads, Wayne Gretzky restaurant and a Gretzky sports hall of fame utilizing the Toronto Dominion bank facade, sports medic training centre, hotel, workout centre and retail outlets. In other words, a sports/entertainment attraction ) as we did with the Raceway. Nope, this time the selling feature is that "the city will find itself with torrents of money flowing in and no major funding obligations."
Just like a child with money burning a hole in his pockets, the Mayor wants to build a monument. Who needs Beztak's money we are so rich now!
Here is my reaction to the $55 million East End arena story in no particular order:
1. Why is it that the Mayor gives Henderson such "exclusivity" and not the other media. How is it that he gets this "inside" information and explanation and not the public? How does Gord know it is true before he tries to convince us otherwise. What if Gord is wrong on the numbers. (He admitted: "I'm no accountant.") The Mayor says simply that he did not say it, Henderson did. Where is Councillor Lewenza telling us how many cents per family it will cost per year?
Why doesn't the Mayor have the guts to do his own dirty work?
2. I read the comment "The meeting to present the proposals came out of the blue and had a few councillors concerned about the lack of public notice." But they voted anyway in another slam at "open and transparent" government. Just like the secret endorsement of Schwartz that got nowhere.
When was this meeting on the arena scheduled for the public to be able to listen? How and where was it advertised? Was it in camera or a public meeting or did it start as in camera and turn itself into a public one by waiving the Procedure by-law? Where was the right to appear as a delegation? Why couldn't I and several others talk about saving millions on refurbishing the Barn and building an arena similar to the one in Leamington (Ooooops, I forgot, John Tofflemire works there now, with his office actually in the arena).
I also did not see in Gord's column or in the Star news story that Eddie had to leave the Chair because he declared a conflict. That information was conveyed to me after the meeting. What is that all about? What are the details? Why did he not declare a conflict before, only now?
Why didn't the Mayor and Council have the guts to let citizens express their opinion? Does Councillor Zuk understand my "hostility?"
Why didn't the Mayor have the guts to let the public know about his conflict?
3. Can we take up a collection to buy Eddie the book by Professor Bent Flyvbjerg “Megaprojects and Risk: An anatomy of Ambition.” "If $52 million was, in Hurst's words, "simply too expensive to go forward," how could $55.4 million be a reasonable price four years later?" And then the real kicker: "Moving those operations to a four-plex that would turn a small profit annually and turning Windsor Arena into a civic rink could generate savings of as much as $700,000 annually."
Why hasn't Eddie the guts to read that book multi-times and then learn from it?
4. Didn't Eddie read my BLOG on arenas and stadiums--"April 27, 2006
Medical School Or An Arena." Does he forget so quickly about Skydome and the Corel Centre?
Why hasn't Eddie the guts to tell us the numbers so we can have a Spanish Inquisition just like with Beztak.
5. Now let me see. I thought that Councillors Brister, Zuk and Gignac were against the arena because of costs. I thought Councillors Wilson, Jones and Postma wanted an arena downtown. I thought Councillor Cassivi said the whole process was improper since the Raceway deal was still on the table. I thought Councillor Halberstadt wanted the Barn refurbished.
Nice of Council to wait until "Coun. David Cassivi, the longest serving councillor, left the meeting before the vote." This way they can say everyone agreed so they all share the blame equally!
Amazing. How did eight Councillors being in opposition turn into unanimity in favour?
Why didn't the Mayor and Council have the guts to appear in public session on Cogeco to show people how they were voting and say why?
Why didn't they have the guts to stick with their earlier position or were they afraid of a negative story in the Saturday Star column as the election time is fast approaching?
6. Beztak wanted to build and run an arena at no cost to taxpayers and were run out of town. The Mayor and Council want to spend $55 million of taxpayer money and so what should we do with them? Isn't the answer obvious?
Why don't the Mayor and Council have the guts to build the 25,000 CFL stadium too while they are at it since we have money to burn?
It's a game...under which of the three shells is the arena now:
- Downtown where the city already bought land which was to be the focus of an urban village.
- The Raceway which was to make Mr. Toldo happy. I wonder if he is in that state of mind now. But no worries: "Mayor Eddie Francis said he will be meeting with Tony Toldo Sr. soon to discuss the city's role in helping the raceway succeed.
- In the East End where we have to buy the land, possibly from a developer who just bought Lear and would like to make a few dollars if asked to sell now.
It's all phony anyway. The two amigos, Henderson and Halberstadt, and the Mayor himself told us what the reality was. It is no deal. It is merely pretending. It's all for Eddie's Monday Night State of the City speech and for his re-election.
The Mayor "cautioned that this is still early in the process and the numbers are preliminary. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done. And unless there's a solid business case that can be justified, nothing will happen."
The story is not the arena but rather Eddie's fiscal responsibility that could ALLOW an arena to be built! As the Councillor said:
- "But council's vote doesn't mean there will be a shovel in the ground anytime soon. "We voted for more information, is basically what we voted for," Coun. Alan Halberstadt said."
The columnist was doing nothing more than telling us what a financial genius the Mayor was (never mind those silly Councillor comments about an election year budget that will leave problems for the next Council!). Moreover, he told us what this was all about:
- "You never know. The price might mushroom out of sight by the time the experts finish crunching the numbers. If so, the project will end up on the shelf and planning for the Barn's centennial bash will move into high gear."
But I have a feeling that this time it might be for real. A city council that's facing re-election in November would like nothing better, especially given the buzz around the new Spitfires ownership, than to be able to boast that it got the arena monkey off Windsor's back and managed to do it without bashing the taxpayers."
I just cannot believe this.
- $160 million liability for retiree benefits but money for an arena
- $65 million extra MFP payments but money for an arena
- Millions more for the Canderel sub-lease but money for an arena
- No money for sidewalks but money for an arena
- No money to help out with the medical school but money for an arena
- No money to fix all of roads and sewers but money for an arena
- No $1,000 for the Seniors to buy medication but money for an arena
- OMERS hits but money for an arena
- We cry about lack of grants but money for an arena
- .....oh I have had enough.
This is nothing but a stall for the Casino as well for heaven's sake. They still need time to finish their project so the Mayor and Council is preventing anything coming in to compete.
Before it was done negatively: interim control by-law, restrictions on where activities can take place, chasing Beztak out of town, 6 month exclusivity to the Raceway, no Cleary competiton.
Now the stall is a positive dream which also helps during a re-election campaign.
Windsor is a town of 200,000 people. Can we support a 5,000 seat arena at the Casino and then one of 7,200 seats in the East end. Why we are even told that developers may want to build hotels there so that Windsor becomes a sports-entertainment destination. Geez, they even use the same language as the Raceway dream!
In other words having the "City" arena and the Casino arena competing for the dollars of tourists and getting the Downtown Business owners and the Casino furious. After all, the Casino is sinking in around $400 million for their expansion and now the Mayor is going to compete against them. Having the City run the arena operation? Making running an arena a "core" City function, say like operating a Tunnel to Detroit.
Yea, right. The Mayor would not dare.