Sunday, May 22, 2011

Arena Plebiscite Question

There are a lot of unanswered issues on the proposed downtown arena "complex" for the Oilers and others use and development. So many, that it begs for the truth to come out. I honestly have no clue if it is even needed. My main concern is how the facts have been presented, and more importantly the facts that have not had the complete truth told, and even more so, the facts that the City have hidden citing "Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy" as mentioned in the post on May 22nd on site.

The number of articles written by many who know sports and economics (those with degrees in these areas, working at Institutions and Universities all over North America) have repeatedly stated that the type of thing that the City of Edmonton is doing, has never worked in the past. The horror stories of how taxpayers have ended up on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars seems to be endless.

Unless we know the full truth, all of the good points and all of the bad points, there is no possible way we can really know for sure if this really is a good thing or not. So with that thought in mind, it seems like the only way to get at the truth is to force a plebiscite. Because the issues ARE so complex, trying to come up with the appropriate legal wording is a huge deal. I have no idea of what would be right or wrong, but I am going to propose something along this line...

I believe that the amount of relevant information has not been properly presented to me, and as a citizen of the City of Edmonton, I am formally requesting that the current arrangements for the proposed downtown complex be placed on hold. I am requesting that all information on the costs of the project, including who currently owns the land, the costs to purchase the necessary land, what the service costs would be, how the Community Revitalization Levy impacts services and education taxes, and any other information that is known or critical to finalizing this deal be made public, including how this would affect the taxpayers of Edmonton and the Province of Alberta. Once all of the information has been presented, I ask for a public vote to be held, and that the result of that vote determine if the City shall proceed with this development.

Please feel free to offer alternate suggestions... Thanks for your time.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Shell Game

This will be a simple, yet I think realistic post, on the CRL shell game the City of Edmonton is trying to sell you on for the new downtown arena. This is the basic scoop on what the CRL does. A "zone" is created, which is just an area on a map that says "this is the area we are going to deal with". The idea is that any tax increases from those who are currently IN that area, would go towards the CRL, and any NEW business's that move into the area, 100% of their taxes go towards the CRL.

Remember, city taxes include the provincial educational component, and that component as well ALSO goes towards the CRL. The Alberta Government says that education will be funded, and they will no longer get that education component from the CRL zone, which means ALL other Alberta taxpayers will get increases to cover the amount required.

Existing places in the zone, their increases from "before and after" will go the the CRL. New places, all of their taxes go to the CRL. Those taxes are supposed to pay for the services provided in that area and they no longer will, which means that ALL of the residents in Edmonton will have to pay additional tax dollars to make up for the loss of income that should have been directed towards providing those services they get.

This isn't free money folks. Everyone will have to pay more, and all of that revenue income from this new complex goes into Katz's pocket. I pity the folks and seniors on a fixed income, who barely survive now. The extra taxes will force some of those out of their homes, because they can no longer afford to pay the ever increasing amounts. People renting in the area will also be faced with higher rents because the landlord will pass the tax increases along.

Not only will the residents of the City have to pay, they have to pay "twice" to cover the loss. And the rest of the province will also have to pay more, to cover the lost revenue from the education tax. I have to wonder how any of this could be considered "good".

One other thing you should ponder on. Edmonton currently has, I believe, two existing CRL applications in effect for the Quarters and Fort Road area. A lot of that work has already been done and paid for. The province has yet to approve either of these. I can't speak about the Quarters, but I live a few blocks away from the Fort Road area. The design is a disaster, and no one has stepped up to actually build anything yet. What happens if the province says "no"? Well, that's another $125 million (at the least) that also comes from your pocket, into Katz's pocket.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Edmonton Arena

There are some things that are very practical, and there are some things that make you sit up and go HUH. It would seem that the new "agreement" on the Edmonton downtown arena (#yegarena), for many, is one of those HUH moments.

A news item posted by iNews880 has in part, the following statement:
"I'll go to the other orders of government, in particular, the province and talk to them," says Mandel. "This arena, this facility, this NHL team, is not an Edmonton private property - it is the property of northern Alberta. People come here from all across northern Alberta to go to the games, they come to Edmonton to go to concerts, people from the region use this." 
I find it a little comical that Mandel is now running to the people stating how much the people of Northern Alberta have such a huge part in this. Yet those same people were shunned from having any value when it came to the City Center Airport, where the most critical runway for medevac services was closed, and a baby from the Grande Prairie region may have died as a direct result of a medevac flight not being able to leave in time to bring this child into Edmonton for critical medical treatment.

A blog post from John MacKinnon on the Edmonton Journal's site has this statement:
"Mandel said once the framework agreement was concluded, he phoned Katz, who was sitting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at the Canucks-San Jose Sharks game in Vancouver, and shared the news with him. He said Katz was elated."

 I wonder how that phone call went (and isn't it nice to know that Mandel has Katz's private cell number), maybe it was "Hey guess what... we were able to shaft the people of Edmonton just like you wanted and now all of those suckers are going to make you even richer!"... Oh, the number of people who have suggested there is a lot of pocket padding going on... Kinda makes one think, right?

Then we have one of Edmonton's most respected bloggers, Dave Cournoyer, stating in his post:
"I am a big supporter of Edmonton’s urban core and have written a few blog posts explaining some critical questions about our City’s future that have been largely skipped or ignored in this debate:"
I can only encourage Dave to re-state those questions and pursue some answers.

With that said, the clear smell of rotten fish is in the air. As typical, most of the critical information and "words" by City Council has been done in-camera, which is the way secret things happen that the public isn't allowed to know. We aren't even being asked if we want this, it is just being shoved down our throats. If the City has any honour at all, they would see this is of major concern to a huge number of residents, and would be truthful with the facts. Not just part of the truth but the WHOLE truth. I promise you that will never happen because.. well... rotten fish... you know.

Some things to think about...

  • Traffic congestion, police and medical navigation when that traffic congestion is there, trying to get into or out of downtown when you have other things to do while an arena event is happening.
  • Taxes... your property taxes will go up to cover the shortfalls (you just KNOW there are going to be some) plus the increases needed to finance the debt you are responsible for. You pay all the money and Katz gets all the profits.
  • Education taxes, anything from the increases in the current tax base, and all future new taxes (providing the Province even approves the CRL... and it's interesting to note that the current two CRL's that are "in place" have not yet even been approved by the Province, which means all that money has been paid out but nothing has come in yet) go towards the CRL side. The Province says "education will be funded, this is the cost, it's shared equally between all Albertans". Since the province will no longer get the education portion of the taxes it would normally have collected, the dollars LOST, going into Katz's pocket, will then have to be added back into the education component, which means that all Albertans will face increases to cover the loss of "what would have been".
One other thing... "those who have"... the people with solid jobs, nice cash in the bank, affording all of the toys life brings... You may not care about paying an extra 20 or 30 bucks per person per ticket per event. You may not care that your taxes are going to go up by say another 200 bucks a year.

You... are the ones that are getting to be rare. The number of families and seniors who can not afford this is a lot more. From the concept of "hockey", the days are gone when it was a family entertainment because people just can't afford the current seat prices, let alone the increases to cover this. And concerts? Yet another family event that will be restricted to the richer crowds. A family of 4 will probably see an increase of a hundred dollars just to take the kids to a concert.

Yes indeed, the City of Edmonton is slowly turning into the city where only the rich folks get to have fun. And at the expense of the poor.

I am not convinced we need this, done this way. Do we need a new arena? Maybe... Could the old one be made more workable? Maybe... Should 80% of the costs be covered by taxpayers, while literally 100% of the profits go into a billionaire's pocket? Hell no.