Words Coming Back To Haunt Them
I told you that you would read about "gumption" soon.
Don't you just hate it when a person says one thing one day and then another thing another day, in fact something completely contrary.
Here are three stories that I thought made sense when I first read them. Now several years later when similar fact situations arise, the position first taken is wrong.
One explanation given to explain the change is that Windsor's finances are so much better today. If you believe that, then I have a Tunnel to sell you that goes betwen Windsor and Detroit. I sure have not seen it when our reserves are amongst the worst in the Province and dropping, when we are told we will see a tax hike or reduction of services next year and when debt in 2010 will be higher than today.
With our booming economy of thousands of jobs being lost and housing starts at very low levels, one wonders if the past should still be our present
How does one explain the inexplicable? How does one reconcile the irreconcilable?
1) David Cassivi the only one with "the gumption to stand firm against... bulldozer pressure"
- Blindsided -- again;
Gord Henderson, 02-23-2002
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. "
And now Henderson has to nerve to say when $70-80 MILLION is at risk, not just a few hundred thousand dollars, to build a complex not just for civic use but to build a building for the millionaire owners of the Spits so they will not look "foolish":
"And then there's David Cassivi. What a tragic figure. He spent his entire career fighting for a city arena and in the end, torn by conflicting loyalties and knee-capped by last Friday's shock announcement, he became its lone foe. He looked old, ashen and beaten Wednesday night. A shell of his former self. I felt waves of pity for him while recalling his 1988 promise to Windsorites that an arena would be up and running within three years."
To get that so-called Henderson pity, David was consistent in saying that
""I can't in good conscience agree," he said. "I firmly believe to the bottom of my soul that this does a disservice" to Windsor taxpayers.'
AND DAVID IS RIGHT !
2) Spitfires $400,000 Bail-out
- Spits' bailout just foreplay;
Windsor Star 02-21-2002 By: Gord Henderson
For a community that's becoming all too familiar with city hall screwups measured in tens of millions of dollars, the $400,000 bailout of the Windsor Spitfires might appear to be small potatoes.
And no doubt the one per cent of Windsor-area residents who attend Spitfires games will be mightily relieved that city taxpayers are going to subsidize the team to keep owner Steve Riolo from moving the Junior A franchise to Niagara Falls.
But my oh my, what a precedent those five council spendthrifts and Mayor Mike Hurst have set in approving a tin-cup policy to keep the Spitfires owner from making a pragmatic business decision.
Get in line, gang. 'Cuz there's plenty more where that came from. That's the message Councillors Tom Wilson, Peter Carlesimo, Brian Masse, Bill Marra and Charles Hotham have sent in approving a $150,000 subsidy for the Spits for this season, another $150,000 for the 2002-2003 season, plus a $50,000 retroactive handout, a $25,000 dressing room overhaul and $25,000 for upgraded fitness equipment at money-losing Windsor Water World.
If taxpayer bailouts are the right thing to do for the Spitfires, they're surely the right thing to do for every business in Windsor that has any significance and finds itself on the wrong side of the financial ledger. Why wouldn't we offer equal treatment to mould shops, restaurants and bowling alleys?
Some struggling business owner should test these five councillors to see if they truly believe in equity when it comes to redistributing money extracted, on pain of losing your home, from defenceless Windsor property owners, including many seniors on fixed incomes.
Yes, but this was a negotiation between a landlord and a tenant, some will respond. Yeah. Right. How many landlords in the real world offer tenants free rent retroactively, plus upgrades, to keep them from moving out of town? The last time I checked even the city's housing company didn't operate that way.
What sickens me is how this was negotiated behind closed doors, away from the jaundiced eyes of city residents who are already fit to be tied over the Canderel and MFP debacles. It was justified on the grounds that the renegotiation of a lease is a private matter.
Funny. When council told Wayne Gretzky and his Jebb partners in minute detail why they could take their $31-million arena proposal and shove it -- one year ago yesterday -- they did so in the glare of the council chambers with thousands of cable TV subscribers watching.
Dodging the spotlight
But they're camera shy now. And little wonder. The folks who run this city, the geniuses who stood by while taxpayers were saddled with 50-per-cent interest rates on leased equipment and while huge cost overruns were racked up on the ugliest structure ever to malign Riverside Drive, aren't especially interested in having the taxpayers see how they conduct business.
Instead of calling Riolo (and more power to him for being a canny negotiator) on his threat to sell the team to out-of-town owners and make a hefty profit, which would have been an eminently sensible business decision on his part, the Squandering Six blinked. And started coughing up your money and mine. And believe me, the coughing has only just begun.
Councillors were told behind closed doors that taxpayers are already on the hook for more than $1 million for architectural drawings for the proposed new $41-million hockey palace and the meter is still running at the astonishing rate of $185,000 a month. The message? If we don't keep Riolo and his franchise around, we'll look like idiots for blowing all that money on a fantasy project. As if there aren't individuals, including Gretzky and one or two current NHL players, who would leap at an opportunity to secure a Windsor OHL franchise.
The scary thing is that the Spitfires' bailout is merely foreplay. It signals what's to come. The clear intention is to shove that $41-million arena down taxpayer throats and to hell with the ramifications for a city wrestling with the fallout from the Canderel and MFP fiascos.
Hurst couldn't get elected dogcatcher now. But this frees him to do as he pleases over the next 21 months and he clearly has five councillors along for the ride. And never mind that building a new home for the Spits now would entail spending $8 million less annually on roads and sewers.
To hell with flooded basements and alignment jobs. It's full speed ahead for the Mike Hurst Civic Arena."
Now, he was right about foreplay....it is $70 million Plus love affair today with the Spitfires previously just a business now being transformed into " an entrenched community institution." The team that could pack up and leave must now be saved no matter what the cost! We have to build an arena for them.
3) Public/Private Partnership and Go It Alone
When the Mayor was running for office he said specifically:
- "We need to revive the idea of public/private partnership for a new arena. It is the only realistic strategy available that will ensure that this project will become a reality.
A multipurpose facility cannot be built by public nor the private sector interests acting alone. The synergy created by the private/public partnerships gives better service to the taxpayer, and allows a much needed multipurpose facility to be built in our city.
A public/private partnership is the key to our arena’s ongoing success and viability. Council has already allocated the required money and land for this project – we need to aggressively seek a partner."
A P3 would be essential and what was being discussed was a building in the downtown at the Western Super Anchor site where the taxpayers paid out millions, which site was going to be the focus for the Urban village .....errrrr new urbanism. Now we go it alone in the east end at some unknown location and at some unknown costs with all of the risks being ours.