The Mayor's Large Venue Entertainment Centre Task Force was given a narrowly defined mandate to identify community needs that would be supported by a large entertainment centre, and to recommend a location and the means of financing such a centre. The five individuals chosen by the mayor to sit on the task force had backgrounds in business, public administration and real estate development. One was an elected city councillor (for Pittsburgh district) and another was a hockey player agent. Their conclusions should come as no surprise.
Had the committee's mandate not been so narrow, or had the committee had stronger community representation or at least a broader socioeconomic demographic, the outcome towards which we are now heading would be different. Process is key.
The financial costs associated with building a new entertainment centre at Anglin Bay are anything but certain. The equally important social costs have been ignored.
The chosen five concluded, over the course of a mere 100 days, that selling our landmark community recreational facilities, the Memorial Centre, and its green space would be a unique way to help fund a new entertainment centre at Anglin Bay. Some people living north of the city's traditional Princess Street dividing line do not find this kind of thinking unique.
The social cost accompanying the sale of this public asset would be an inevitable deterioration of the health and vibrancy of our community. Children, teenagers and adults in the surrounding neighbourhoods would lose their recreational refuge, and the community would lose the heart and focal point of the many and varied community activities the Memorial Centre supports. This where people in the surrounding neighbourhoods play, relax, socialize and enjoy leisure activities, including cricket, baseball, walking, jogging, kite-flying, swimming, figure skating, ball hockey, minor hockey, old-timers' hockey and seniors' skating, and where community groups are able to participate in their own fundraising for various community causes.
Williamsville district, where the Memorial Centre is located, has the highest-density population in the city with the least amount of recreational space per person - something that our current councillor, Ed Smith, has yet to address. Neighbouring Kingscourt Strathcona district is second from the bottom.
The Memorial Centre is where urban children and teenagers flock to the fall fair, some to the amusement park and others to gain an appreciation of rural values and an understanding of where our food comes from. Communities like Toronto have the centrally located and expansive Riverdale Farm to provide these opportunities year round. Police horse and canine demonstrations and aboriginal pow-wows are two other examples of important educational exposure for the entire community.
I have heard the Memorial Centre referred to as decrepit and embarrassing in the context of describing the Kingston Frontenacs' home arena. Apparently the building has been neglected for years and, ironically, it came under the heaviest fire during a comedy of errors in the fall of 2003 as costly repairs were being made to the roof and ice equipment - just before the municipal election.
The neighbourhoods surrounding the Memorial Centre have also lived with the neglect the city has shown the Memorial Centre grounds over the years. We have even watched the city use our winter park as a snow dump, trucking in grey snow and street refuse at all hours of the night. To seize upon that very neglect as a reason to take away the only recreational and green space in our district north of Princess Street and one bounded by three arterial roads is ironic, to say the least.
LVEC task force member Joe de Mora admitted that the justification for using the proceeds from the sale of the Memorial Centre and its land to partially fund an entertainment centre at Anglin Bay is purely economic. Another member of the task force, Ken Wong, conceded that the social impact had not even been considered in choosing the Anglin Bay site as the recommended location for the LVEC.
Yet municipal decision-makers are duty bound to consider the social impact. A healthy community nurtures a fair and equitable sharing of common resources and equal opportunity to use recreational amenities that enhance the quality of life and well- being of its residents. Municipal
decision-makers who fail to consider the social impact of their actions don't see the many individuals in our community who will be left behind and disenfranchised.
It's trite to say that our elected representatives are accountable to their constituents. Why, some are asking, do many councillors appear to be capitulating to the will of the mayor?
Service to the community is the essence of the Memorial Centre as a living memorial to the Kingstonians who sacrificed their lives defending our country's freedom and democratic ideals through two world wars and the Korean War. Mayor Harvey Rosen has suggested that the memorial markers could be moved to the new Anglin Bay Centre - in his view, a new and worthy site. To do so would transform our living memorial into an empty symbol devoid of purpose.
Mayor Rosen's solution, with all due respect, misses the mark, largely because the new centre, managed by private interests and built for the entertainment of only those who can afford to use it, isn't being driven by the same ideals that motivated the many community-minded individuals who worked so hard to bring about the building of the Kingston Community Memorial Health and Recreation Centre, as it was then known. If any part of the Memorial Centre land is sold, the funds should be reinvested in this true community asset.
Let those who have starry-eyed visions of state-of-the-art facilities look to private enterprise to fund any facility, the benefactor of which is intended to be private enterprise. We taxpayers have a community to care for.