Sunday, October 16, 2011

Arena Open Letter

The following is my open letter to the Edmonton City council, concerning the proposed downtown arena plan. The email addresses this was sent to (feel free to copy and paste these in to your email, should you also choose to send one) are as follows:

linda.sloan@edmonton.ca; kim.krushell@edmonton.ca; dave.loken@edmonton.ca; ed.gibbons@edmonton.ca; karen.leibovici@edmonton.ca; jane.batty@edmonton.ca; tony.caterina@edmonton.ca; ben.henderson@edmonton.ca; bryan.anderson@edmonton.ca; don.iveson@edmonton.ca; kerry.diotte@edmonton.ca; amarjeet.sohi@edmonton.ca; Stephen.Mandel@edmonton.ca
With All Due Respect

I am curious on what to make of this arena deal. It seems there were several past statements by council members implying there would be no tax dollars involved with this, and since this is such a big deal the citizens should have a plebiscite on it. The following is a minor sample of some things said:

2007-Feb-22 HOK Report says Rexall renovation to current NHL standard would cost $225-250M. Mayor Mandel tells the Journal’s Bill Mah, “"I think there's many ways to look at how we can do this. I've several ideas but I don't want to talk about them yet until we get a little further down the road, but we're not going to burden our taxpayers with a $400-million or $300-million debt to have a new facility. That just won't happen."
2007-Dec-14: Counilor Kim Krushell tells the Edmonton Journal’s Susan Ruttan that she’ll call for a plebiscite if arena involves large amount of tax money.
2008-Feb-7: Mayor advises reporters that the Arena Task Force report, originally expected in early January, would be delayed until about a week after the provincial election. Edmonton Journal’s Susan Ruttan writes, “Mandel again emphasized that no property tax dollars or grant money will go toward a new arena...Premier Ed Stelmach has also declined to fund a new Edmonton arena.”
 2008-Mar-26: The Premier reiterates he has no intention of funding an arena. "We haven't seen any facts or figures .... but the premier has maintained and continues to maintain that this is an inappropriate use of tax money, that provincial taxpayer dollars will not go towards a professional sporting arena," Premier’s Office spokesperson Tom Olsen told Jason Markusoff of the Edmonton Journal.
 2008-Aug-20: Ipsos Reid poll conducted for Global Edmonton asks, “The City should provide taxpayer's money for a new Hockey Arena.” Result: Three quarters (76%) of Edmontonians 'disagree' (46% strongly/31% somewhat).
 2009-Sep-2: Edmonton Journal Straw Poll: “How much taxpayers' money should go toward the Oilers' downtown arena?”  Not one red cent. (58%) A decent portion. (8%) Whatever it takes on top of Katz's $100M. (10%) Hard to say without more details. (21%) I'll pay anything not to hear about it anymore. (3%)  There were 1,431 votes.
 I am also curious how a $100 million dollar contribution went from leading people to believe it would be up front, only to find out it's something we have to borrow that will be paid back over time. Rather sweet it also just happened to turn into a tax break for Katz.

Curiosity is still on my mind when I think of the New York City meeting. It seems like the framework got changed without permission? Little slight of hand I think, and quite possibly the MGA might need to be reviewed to see just how legal that deal was. Now who is that Minister with the Alberta Government... :)

How is it that the originally defined "ticket tax" has mysteriously changed into a 'levy'... one that Katz now insists is his money, but the Mayor has turned red in the face saying it is not. I kinda think it is... and that sucks a lot. Not only that, but to add insult to injury... in the premise of being "fair", you now want to impose a ticket TAX on Rexall to make the playing field level. Really? Level? See, in this deal the City gets that tax, and applies it to the downtown arena. Forcing Rexall clients to subsidize the new place. You know.. the one where Katz gets to keep the 'levy' for ever and ever?

I could go on for a good hour with things that make THIS deal just so wrong. Clearly every penny will be borrowed, Katz will end up paying nothing (thanks to the generous advertising allowance granted) and collecting all of the income. Yeah, he pays costs. Big deal. It's a new place, under warranty... and the killer of the framework is it is only good "for as long as Katz owns the team". Which I just bet he will sell in 5 or 7 years, taking the profits, and leaving us holding the bag.

And if I may... getting back to this "no tax increase" thing. Would you please explain how the CRL can take the educational component of tax dollars normally directed to the province... and this will not result in tax increases for all Albertans to make up for the loss? And those new folks that are in or will move into that CRL zone... how is it that you can provide full services to them, when their tax dollars (or increase in tax dollars) does not go towards paying for those services like everyone else does? This can only mean every Edmonton tax payer will have to face an increase to cover this loss. So... how is any of this NOT a tax increase?

Isn't it time you folks got over the hype, and created a deal that works... instead of one that gives away the house. And if you can't make a deal, then "oh well". It is what it is. I doubt we would lose the Oilers over it, there ARE other solutions. The problem is Katz just doesn't want any of them because he won't make as much money. And I am again curious... why is that a taxpayer problem?

Gary

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