Monday, July 16, 2012

More of the same...

As things draw closer for Edmonton City Council on the arena project, more things are becoming clearer.

The latest document provided by the City, I am presuming at the request of Kimmie, details "updated" information on the effects of the CRL zone proposed.

One thing people seem to have noticed about Kim, is she constantly saying how great of a job she does and all of the hard questions she asks. The other thing people seem to notice, is Kim seems to think that asking a person in Grade 3 "how much is one plus one?" ... is a tough question.

Putting that aside, and if you take a semi-close look at the document, it is all speculative Rah Rah at best. The majority of anything from this, is based on the promises that Katz and other developers are making about their future contributions.

But do you trust Katz? Not me... he came out swinging saying how he was going to do all of this and all of that... only to end up with little to none of what he implied as being factual. Just like he implied he was going to put $100 million of his money in, when in fact he is putting in taxpayers money... that he is borrowing from the City... and isn't really responsible to pay back. More on that in a bit..

Looking closer at the document you see "While the forecast has been updated to reflect the impact of this new development, it must be noted that development permits have not yet been secured nor are they guaranteed. The ADG Group has advised that their plans are contingent upon securing an anchor tenant for their proposed office tower, and that they will not proceed until such time as an anchor tenant is secured."

We are also hearing that it will take 10 years before any payback will be had, which means the entire value of the CRL will only have 10 more years to actually cover the costs. You see, CRL's are only for a maximum of 20 years, and any funds directed towards that must be paid immediately and in full... But what I love most about the CRL, is it magically holds levels of taxation paid for services (fire, police, infrastructure etc) to zero increases. I mean really... costs are certainly not going to increase for the next 20 years for these areas, because.. well.. they are magical... I think the tooth fairy even said so, so it must be true.

As for the "not paying it back" part, remember... the entire framework of this agreement terminates the second Katz sells the Oilers. This ride at tax payers expense, some say, is nothing more than taking the money and running. And in a normal world in a normal time with normal people, many would consider that to be criminal.

This is all about developers helping developers to make money. And clearly not one of them cares they are putting tens of thousands of seniors and fixed income and low income people at risk.

This is the type of City Council, and Administration people... that you really want to be in charge?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Whats the rush?

You would think people are dying because they don't have a hospital or medical center to get to.

You would think people are dying because the highway is too narrow and needs twinning.

So... what IS the rush to get the PROPOSED arena built in downtown? Well, the marketing folks are trying to get you to think "hey, if we wait, costs are going to skyrocket! We can't afford to wait!"


Many people have said that the real reasons are... in no particular order...

1) The current lease at Northlands runs out then, so they have no place to play.

2) The current least at Northlands runs out and Katz HATES them with a passion, he will do ANYTHING to get away from them.

3) There will be an election in 2013 for City Council, and the deal has to be completed and signed before then, so that the next group of people coming in (and I strongly speculate a lot of the current people WILL be on their way out) will be bound by a contract signed with Katz... one with severe penalties for breaking it.

Personally, I think items 2 and 3 are the more logical choices.

Most humorous in all of this, will be watching multiple council members flaunt the huge numbers from their latest website survey... you know the one... where the choice you wanted to really make was missing from the options available... the one where the questions were slanted and biased towards a positive outcome.

Close to being totally opposite of any other survey done, no matter if it was just online polls by various people or groups... or completely unbiased professional services.

Meh... Ignorance is bliss, isn't it :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Open Letter to the Government of the Province of Alberta

An Open Letter to the Government of the Province of Alberta
Attention: Honourable Premier Allison Redford
Re: Taxpayer concerns

Over the past several months, I have been talking with and listening to many citizens all over Alberta, who have been asking questions and expressing concerns over the proposed Edmonton Downtown Arena District project. The funding plans for this project will have a large impact on both the residents of Edmonton and all taxpayers in Alberta, who feel strongly that their voices are not being heard by Edmonton City Council.

With global economic conditions in their current state, taxpayer funds should be directed towards those things required to keep society stable. Alberta residents are literally funding the vast majority of this development yet will receive no profits. All profits are being diverted to a billionaire with a reported net worth of an estimated $2.8 billion dollars.[i]

I urge the Government of Alberta to deny funds from the Community Revitalization Levy program that have been requested towards this project. The CRL is nothing more than a tax shift that future generations will be required to pick up. All over North America these types of projects have been pitched to taxpayers, and in the end they almost always fail. The New York Times reported on June 26th 2012 the following:[ii]

“Surprised local taxpayers from Stockton, Calif., to Scranton, Pa., are finding themselves obligated for parking garages, hockey arenas and other enterprises that can no longer pay their debts.”

There is no reason to believe that the City of Edmonton’s proposal will have some secret miracle attached to it that none of the others have had.

Recently, Councilor Kerry Diotte initiated an informal survey with respect to this issue, with the following results:

“We found that 68% of respondents want a new arena built in Edmonton. However, a significant number tell us they either want a new financial framework than the one currently proposed, or don't want a new arena built at all. The majority of respondents also indicated the City should not consider using provincial MSI money to fund the remaining $100 million.”

Additional Issues

The MGA (Municipal Government Act) states that 10% of the population is required for requesting a petition, but only eligible voters are allowed to sign that. According to the City of Edmonton website, the last civic election only showed a turnout of 33.4% of voters. Less than 200,000 people out of almost 600,000 eligible, suggesting people feel their voices do not count.

With the population exceeding 800,000 people, the petition would require more than 80,000 signatures. Since the trend is for people to not care, how can these numbers realistically ever be achieved? The rules need to be changed in order to show citizens that their voices actually do count.

I would suggest a different formula is needed. Using Edmonton as an example, maybe something like 25% of the last election turnout would be a more workable number. (Example: 25% of 200,000 voters require 50,000 eligible voters to sign the petition.) Again, these petitions are only to request that a vote be held on the matter. Also, petitions filed by residents should supersede those filed “after the fact” by Council.

Additionally, I understand the Province is looking to make some changes prior to the 2013 civic election in Edmonton, with respect to going to a 4 year term from a 3 year term. I see this as an opportunity for the Province to prove to the residents that they do listen.

If there ever was a time to change the Elections Act to include clauses that deal with ‘election promises’, this would be it. Those running for public office must clearly understand that the things they promise must be honored. There is zero tolerance in the defense of “Oh, I really didn’t understand the ….. before I said that”. If you do not understand something then you should not be talking about it and making promises.

Politicians must understand they have a huge responsibility in managing taxpayer dollars. When our basic service requirements for safe roads and infrastructures are being put on the backburner in order for taxpayer dollars to be diverted for the “nice to have” things, something is terribly wrong with the system. It may only be a dollar here and a dollar there but if you only have 100 dollars and there are 150 projects all taking one dollar from you…

There is a reason why the global world economy is in the state it is, we do not need to be adding to the problem. Everyone has to budget, and live within their means. We are not in a time where we can afford the luxuries.

As a final note, I have heard there will be discussions with the major cities, where one of the items is dealing with allowing cities the power of taxation. I strongly object to this, especially considering the current City Council in Edmonton. It is my belief they do not understand the impact their decisions will have on the future, and just expect taxpayers to keep handing money over. Allowing the imposition of even more taxes is just wrong.

Thank you for your understanding in these matters.

Gary McCallum

Cc: Provincial parties and Edmonton City Councilors

Fax to: Premiers Office 780-427-1349
            Alberta Liberals 780-427-3697 780-414-1125
            Alberta NDP 780-415-0701
            Wild Rose 780-638-3506

Email to:;;;;;;;;;;;;


Bad words, bad!!

The Internet has come a long way since it was made "available" for general public consumption. Believe it or not, there was life and communications and a LOT of fun, long before the Internet.

Back in the BBS days (no... it doesn't mean 'bunch of bull".. it means Bulletin Board System) of dial up modems, many systems existed where you could dial in, and be a part of a live group of participants. BBS systems were expensive to maintain, because you needed a dedicated modem and phone line for each connection you wanted to make. Here in Edmonton, there were systems that had 16 or more lines, allowing for some pretty fun stuff to happen.

There were "tele-conferences", where you could enter a chat room... full of people and full of "action" commands. These commands would allow you to do simple one word actions, that would cause a full string of (often visually colorful) words to be presented to everyone, often directed with the names of the sender and (optional) intended receiver. A few examples might be "hug" or "smack", which could expand out to be words such as "Person A just gave a great big hug to Person B" or "Person A is looking to smack someone upside the head!". The text sent out was often colorized, making the atmosphere a lot more fun for the people participating.

Many "modules" existed as well, so people could do e-mail, subscribe to "lists" of information servers, even play assorted Dungeons and Dragons types of games. Take my word, the types of things you could do at the time was pretty impressive, IF the SYSOP (system operator) of the board could afford to purchase the modules.

And yes... just like the Internet of today... back then the "sexual" comments would be flying. Albeit most of the BBS systems were certainly "clean" in nature, the concept of meeting people for sex, existed back then just as much as it does today.

Most people would take the comments in stride, and often answer back with cute sayings... most people didn't take offense because all of the discussions were generally out in the open.Although I am sure some people did "hook up" (probably just as they do today), it wasn't the nature of the beast to JUST be sex. There was SO much more going on. Even to the point where people from all over the world would get together at various locations and camp outs, just to meet other people. Yes.. I said ALL over the world.

One of THE most common phrases back in the good old days was "Don't worry, I have a condom on my modem for safe modem sex". You had to be there to appreciate the fun times, and people understood back then that it wasn't a sexual comment... it was a way of saying "bring it on"... the fun.. not the sex.

Over time, as the BBS systems died out and the Internet took over... hardware routers were available that would stop assorted bad traffic from reaching your computer and the phrase changed in meaning... "having a condom on" would often mean that you have a router in place, to stop the bad traffic and viruses from infecting your system. It was never sexual back then, and the phrase is not sexual today.

Environments like "Twitter", with the limit of 140 characters, make describing these types of things much more difficult, and prissy people tend to get their noses in a snot to quickly, because they jump to conclusions.

Hurry up and slow down folks. Especially in twitter. Just because YOU took something in one manner does not mean that the person who said it, meant it in that manner.

As George Carlin was so quick to point out... they are only words.