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The fallout from last night's so-called "public meeting" on the Ontario Street/Place D'Armes intersection, adjacent to the LVEC, begins with this from the WestSport blog: The Best Question of the Evening.
"After hearing comments and concerns from people at this meeting, and after the report of TSH, is anything going to change? Are you going to do what you planned to do anyway?"
Also, here's The Whig's article: Consultants grilled on arena traffic plan.
In a move apparently designed to minimize publicity, and minimize public input, the City has scheduled a public meeting on very short notice at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 30, in Memorial Hall, City Hall.
This meeting has been delayed before, presumably because the LVEC has created some tricky and embarassing traffic problems downtown generally, and around this intersection in particular.
This is interesting: this "Public Notice" was not placed on City of Kingston Press Releases page, where public meeting announcements are routinely found.
Also this "Public Notice" does not appear in the City of Kingston's RSS feed , where such notices are routinely transmitted to subscribers.
The kicker: there are no drawings, and no documents posted online, about the proposed design of this crucial intersection. There is no way for the public to gauge what's proposed other than to attend the meeting in person, and sit through it.
Does this seem like a genuine overture to the public about this vital piece of Kingston's infrastructure? What does this smell like to you?
In the October 22 2007 issue of Canadian Employment Law Today: City executive gets fired after his salary report yields unpopular results. Apparently former City of Kingston HR director Bill Bishop claims that City CEO [sic] Glen Laubenstein didn't react well to a report that didn't fit his world view.
This is old news. Curious that article refers to "CEO".
From the Limestoned blog: Got Coach?
The organization fired Cassidy while on a northern road trip where they were beaten Sunday night by the league leading Sault 'Hounds before heading to Sudbury tonight to play the bottom feeding Wolves. Not that the Fronts are much higher on the food chain, but the interm coach stands a better chance to win his first game behind the bench against the last place team rather than the first place team.
As it turns out, Kingston lost 4-0 in Sudbury.
Update : Here's related a post blog named "Out Of Left Field": FRONTS: MAVETY, SPRINGER THROW A NECKTIE PARTY FOR CASSIDY.
The Frontenacs have some nice players, but they are 12 games in and haven't won a game in regulation time. They are dead last in all of Canadian major junior hockey in goals scored and in goals allowed.
Read the whole thing; there's more, it's hilarious.
From the Westsport blog: Contravention of the Noise by-Law in Kingston.
Noisy construction on the LVEC at early hours on Sunday mornings has been happening for quite some time. EllisDon don't have a bylaw exemption from Council for this, and City staff have done squat following numerous complaints about it.
Add this to the growing list of things for which Glen Laubenstein, Cynthia Beach, Lanie Hurdle, and many others deserve to be held accountable.
A brief LVEC-related item in today's Kingston Whig Standard illustrates what we've been up against since April 2004 when the LVEC saga began.
Fundraising for the sports and entertainment centre is just over a third of the way to its $2-million goal.
The $46.5-million project requires the money as part of its business plan.
According to the city's website, as of Oct. 15 the fundraising total stood at $630,072.43.
Evidently Whig Editors don't work on LVEC-related items. $630,072.43 is not "just over a third" of $2-million.
When it comes to the LVEC, The Whig has always been about overstating the positives, minimizing or omitting the negatives, to the point of apparent misrepresentation.
There are several illegible or indistinguishable elements in the latest published schedule.
On Tuesday evening Council will receive the September 2007 LVEC Project Status Report from City Staff.
As usual, the report is in black and white, and buried with other documents in a PDF file with no table of contents. Note that this package is improperly collated: The report starts on page 39, but the report's introductory pages begin on page 89, with two unrelated documents in between.
The report includes 16 pages of detailed project schedule dated September 27th, 2007. At least Staff's submissions of six-week old project schedules seems to have improved somewhat; this one is only three weeks out of date.
In several places the report states:
Some activities are on schedule. Some construction activities behind schedule could have an impact on the critical path.
The unreadability of several critical elements of the published schedule sheds no light whatsoever on that.
Apparently on September 30th 2007, the project had received $619,672 in donations and pledges. Yet today, on October 14th 2007, two weeks later, the City's Latest Campaign Donors List shows only $618,937.50 in donations and pledges. Has the fundraising campaign gone $735 backwards over the past two weeks?
Let the record show that, four months before the LVEC's scheduled February 22 2008 opening, this City Staff report, like others before it, convey the distinct impression that everything is hunky dory with LVEC project finances. There is no expression of concern about the $2M fundraising campaign which looks to be falling absurdly short at this juncture.
Four comparable buildings to Kingston's LVEC, over a full three months. We've circled the non-OHL hockey events to get a sense of what else these buildings draw.
You are looking at just 23 planned non-hockey events into a possible 368 event-days. This includes:
Not exactly the stuff of 2,500 to 5,000-ticket juicy box office receipts like we've been told to expect here in Kingston.
The LVEC Business Plan assumes 97 events per year, 41 of which (including a wildly improbable 4 home-playoff games per year) are assumed to be Kingston Frontenac events.
Of the 56 remaining expected events, 11 are assumed to come from other hockey-related events and tournaments, and the 45 remaining events are assumed to be "Concerts", "Family Shows", and "Other Events" drawing, on average, between 2,500 and 5,000 people each.
In other words: roughly 12-15 big-revenue-generating non-hockey events per non-summer quarter.
Not bloody likely. That is roughly equivalent to the current performance of Mississauga's Hershey Centre and Oshawa's General Motors Centre COMBINED in a year that Mississauga hosts BMO Skate Canada (5 days) and Oshawa's schedule is padded with a Craft Fair (3 days) and other events that, clearly, we would host in The Grand Theatre.
There are two recent LVEC-related posts over on the WestSport blog:
The city should be ashamed. There are, in fact, city employees who are ashamed and who are embarassed by what the previous council has inflicted upon the city. It is they who are charged with finding "good" solutions to something for which there ARE no "good" solutions.
The city awaits the solution to an impossible situation.
Related to this: nobody can say they weren't warned.
Last week the Whig Standard ran this ad for the LVEC fundraising campaign, part of a series in which Kingstonians who have donated briefly state why, and encourage others to do likewise.
According to Ken Wong,
It (the LVEC) enhances our ability to do so many things -- culturally, economically and socially. It can be a huge driver of our future.
Ken Wong has been a notable drum-beater for the LVEC. Here is a retrospective of Ken Wong's published views on the matter, with links to others' comments related to those views. Judge for yourself.
Background: Prior to 2004 there was, among other things, a proposal by a firm named Kingston 2000 Developments Ltd to build a $200M arena and hotel on Block D.
December 11 1999. Whig Standard Letter by Ken Wong about the proposed Kingston 2000 Developments Ltd project on Block D.
As a marketing professor and consultant whose clients include companies like Starbucks, Microsoft and 3M, I spend my professional life dedicated to understanding people in the act of buying. With that background, I found myself cringing at some of the incredible assumptions being made at council about people's shopping behaviour, in order to support the Kingston 2000 project as drafted.
First, you cannot force customers to do the unnatural. The concept that off-site parking will force consumers into acts of shopping is one such unnatural act. (I would be happy to provide examples of failed attempts to do this). Yes, you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot force the horse to drink. The reality is that people will park as close as possible to their final destination - whether that suits commercial interests or not.
One need only do what city CAO Bert Meunier suggests in order to see what that means for Kingston. Draw a circle around Block D the size of - let's be generous - the parking lot of the Corel Centre or Cataraqui Town Centre. The argument is that if people will go to malls and walk that far, then the same should apply here. Because of the location of Block D relative to downtown stores and on the waterfront, less than a third of that circle is occupied by stores. In short, most of the much-anticipated traffic will never see a store, let alone visit one.
Change "Block D" to "Anglin Bay" or "North Block" and what do you get? Read the whole thing.
February 2 2000. Whig Standard Letter by Ken Wong on "developments in the face of substantial and non-partisan public complaint".
There is something wrong when developers violate laws and escape with a slap on the wrist. There is something wrong when council violates established legal procedures to work with developers. There is something wrong when private citizens are asked to pay fees for projects they didn't ask for but that benefit developers. And there is something wrong when council pays lip service to the citizens they represent and pursues developments in the face of substantial and non-partisan public complaint. Development opponents would be more than justified if they said: "I told you so."
Background: The original LVEC plan showed it as occupying the Kingston Marina site on Kingston's Inner Harbour. This would have meant the relocation, at considerable expense, of MetalCraft Marine and its 70 employees, a locally-owned and internationally-respected builder of Fire, Rescue, Patrol and Work boats. Ken Wong was a member of the Task Force responsible for this idea.
March 21, 2004: The Mayors Large Venue Entertainment Centre Task Force Report.
The report contains 13 recommendations, six of which are never seriously implemented, or are dropped altogether after their pretense helps sway the building's political approval.
May 18 2004: Task force goes on TV to make point. Therein:
Members of the panel have long maintained that there's a large group of people who don't speak out at public meetings who support the concept and who have personally told them of their support.
De Mora said those people have to start being more vocal if the project is to work.
"It's time for the silent majority to be a little less silent," he said.
Today we know that the "silent majority" was a fabrication, and was indicative of the insularity of the Downtown Kingston echo chamber that hatched the LVEC plan in the first place.
May 27 2004: Arena task force tries to build support.
Construction association told to speak out in favour of new arena.
July 13 2004: Ken Wong letter: More Economics 101: LVEC benefits outweigh costs. Professor Wong obviously didn't understand the Memorial Centre sale issue.
August 8 2004: Letter by Howard Stone: Lift fog surrounding LVEC.
Defending the impossible is an impossible task, and defending the Large Venue Entertainment Centre proposal is equally impossible. Yet the fog surrounding this issue continues to roll ashore - witness Ken Wong's letter "More Economics 101: LVEC benefits outweigh costs" (July 13).
The main problem with the LVEC proposal is that the experts did a quick and dirty study that started out with one objective - to replace the Memorial Centre. But on the way through the project morphed into an LVEC. A downtown business organization locked on and the rest is history.
August 23 2004: Social costs of Anglin Bay LVEC would be too high by Jana Mills, defending the Memorial Centre from the LVEC plan.
September 2004: Elite Consensus? Follow the Money..... by Jamie Swift in the Pic Press.
March 3 2005: Ken Wong letter: Kingston needs a new arena, and the best location is downtown. Which prompted these retorts, among several others:
March 4 2005: Comment "the hand is quicker than the eye" illusion because buildings built on the Memorial Centre land would probably have been built elsewhere.
April 16 2005: Can a new arena really help a city's downtown? It's not a given!
August 26, 2005: Ken Wong is a founding member of the "Friends of the Entertainment Centre" (a link to KCAL's copy of their membership page. The Friends of the Entertainment Centre website is now defunct).
August 26, 2005: Spot the differences where the "Friends of the Entertainment Centre" group, which lists Ken Wong as a founding member, are caught red-handed misrepresenting the size of the Anglin Bay LVEC on all their website's pages.
Background: When swing-councillor support for the LVEC's Anglin Bay location collapsed on September 20th 2005, LVEC promoters immediately concocted a back-room deal to move the project to the North Block, as if the waterfront location was the project's only notable dodgy aspect.
Ken Wong,...., said he does not support a referendum because it limits participation to those old enough to vote.
"How much more public debate do we need?".
December 13 2005: Whig Editorial: Arena process must be open
Ken Wong, who was on the mayor's original task force looking into construction of a large venue entertainment centre, condemned Downes for taking "desperate steps." Also, Wong points to this change of location as proof that a referendum isn't necessary -- that councillors are listening to the people.
That was disingenuous! Here's how it went down: a 4,000 name petition was dropped on Council at the last moment on September 20th 2005.
Prior to that, there was NO discernable "listening" at all. The arena was a "done deal" and there was never any variation to the original plan of forcing Kingston Marina out of business to put the LVEC on the waterfront. Also the boulevarding of Wellington street leading to Anglin Bay had already begun, in an area that is well outside anything detailed in the 2003 Downtown Action Plan and prior to any firm plans for the Wellington Street extension.
November 4 2006, Whig Standard Letter by Ken Wong: Don't be swayed by arena naysayers' tired arguments.
Kevin George's call for a reassessment of the arena business plan is similarly naive. Why would he expect a finding different from what past studies have found? Two task forces said the facility was viable. A KPMG consultant said it was viable. The city's planning department said it was viable. Every credentialled expert who has studied the plan in detail has concluded it is viable. Indeed, with so many different independent sources of expertise concluding that the plan is viable, one has to wonder who Mr. George would appoint in search of the answer he wants. Is this just a veiled attempt to take the non-committal middle ground instead of being decisive? This is no small matter; it's a $2-million-plus question. And that is a very conservative estimate
It is imprudent and irresponsible for Downes and George to assume that the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement area, Kingston Accommodation Partners and provincial government contributions will still be available if the arena is moved (to my knowledge, this has not been explored); to forget the $1-million-plus public cost of building 2,500 parking spaces that will only be used 100 nights a year; and to forget that delays will mean the chance to bid for the next Ontario-hosted Memorial Cup hockey tournament will be lost.
I am weary of these mayoralty candidates' rhetoric about an undemocratic process and favouritism toward a select few with business interests. The task force invited and listened to several local groups and individuals before we wrote our proposal. Minutes were posted to the city's website, and The Whig had a reporter at all our meetings. We held public forums after we released the report, and a second committee of review was struck. (Incidentally, Mr. Downes, who was appointed to that review committee, chose to write his final opinion in a letter to the editor prior to the final public hearing; yes, that's democracy).
December 14 2006: Whig Standard: Economic guru preaches patience.
Wong said economic and political leaders need to stay focused on major upcoming public projects such as the new entertainment centre, which he said would attract increasing volumes of out-of-town investment to the city in the next year.
February 26, 2007: Calling shenanigans on KROCK's Shadoe Davis and For the record: KROCK 105FM's pro-LVEC push. Audio clips of Ken Wong on KROCK with Shadoe Davis, who's not part of the Kingston scene anymore.
Two things are also evident:
What if Mr Wong's wishful predictions don't come to pass? What if annual taxpayer subsidies in the six- or seven-figure dollar range are required to keep the LVEC afloat, like has happened in London and Guelph and elsewhere? Consider also that the LVEC does not solve the Memorial Centre problem, which along with its annual taxpayer-financed six-figure dollar costs, remains with us.
Released Friday, Oct 5th:
A public meeting about the signalization of the Ontario St./Place d'Armes intersection originally set for this Tuesday, Oct. 9 (to start at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall at City Hall) has been postponed until further notice.
"Given the sensitivity of this area, we are being exceptionally conservative and cautious moving forward," says Malcolm Morris, Director of Transportation.
Possible translation: The LVEC's traffic and accessibility story is REALLY a mess.
When do you think was the time to be "conservative and cautious moving forward"?
Early last week the Whig Standard ran this ad for the LVEC fundraising campaign.
Writing teacher Julia Kempffer is looking forward to a world-class venue for large international classical and instrumental performances.
If we look at the full list of events hosted by the 10,000-seat John Labatt Centre in London since 2003, and the thin event histories of other OHL venues much closer in size to Kingston's LVEC, this donor is likely to be very disappointed.
Evidently hockey bowls aren't places where "large international classical and instrumental performances" are typically hosted.
And she is delighted that it will also be accessible to patrons with special mobility needs.
Many people, it seems, are unaware of the the LVEC's accessibility disgrace.
What do you think of the rectitude of LVEC project management and The Whig who print and perpetuate these apparent misconceptions?
According to an article in Today's Whig, Councillor Ed Smith apparently said this at last Tuesday's Council meeting:
Councillor Ed Smith said he didn't see anything that should prevent Homestead from receiving the exemption. He added that the company has made several donations to local projects and is a supporter of the city. Approving the exemption would send a message to the company and to other developers, Smith said.
"One of the things we have a reputation for in this city is not being very business-friendly," he said.
Ed Smith must believe we're all stupid.
Great! Now we just need just 27 more like Empire Life and LVEC fundraising will reach its meagre $2M target.
Some would say that compared to $150,000 per year that naming rights are expected to fetch, Empire Life, a candidate for that level of LVEC support, disappoints greatly here.
Empire Life is one of the luxury suite holders.
Three LVEC-related articles appeared in yesterday's Whig.
A tangled federal funding trail -- Letters capture mayor's attempts to obtain money for arena from Ottawa, by Jordan Press, outlines Mayor Rosen's ongoing failure to sell the LVEC to the Federal Government for funds. Note how the LVEC is apparently being touted as a "recreation" asset, which requires the suspension of disbelief considering Kingston's real recreation infrastructure deficit, nevermind our general infrastructure backlog.
Question: If most Kingstonians believe the LVEC is a boondoggle, why wouldn't the Federal Government be aware also?
See what other communities are doing infrastructure-wise with their Federal funds from the same program. It would be a shame if Kingston didn't get more funding for real infrastructure because the Mayor and staff were apparently busy trying to save face on the LVEC's finances at the expense of other worthy projects that might benefit all Kingstonians.
Tempers flare at debate about how the LVEC came up among local provincial candidates in a public debate.
Liberal candidate John Gerretsen and New Democrat candidate Rick Downes clashed several times over a series of accusations Downes has levelled at Gerretsen throughout the campaign.
Downes, as he's done several times during the last few weeks, blamed Gerretsen for allowing Kingston city councillors to spend money earmarked for roads and bridges, like the third crossing, on the downtown arena.
An angry Gerretsen interrupted Downes, who had the floor, saying, "Not true, not true, not true. Get your facts straight." He was reprimanded by the moderator.
Downes retorted, "I can understand why the sitting member is so sensitive about the issue."
Remember this, from June 17th? Frontenacs "Season Tickets Sales UP 41% from this time last year" !
Here's how that's actually playing-out so far:
3 home games
These numbers are tickets distributed or sold. KCAL members attending these Frontenacs games report that the actual turnstile count appears to be much, much lower than the 6,017 being reported for the first three games of 2007-2008.
So, how much do you trust the people who own and run the Kingston Frontenacs?
At the urging of our stellar municipal staff, the City of Kingston signed a 30-year LVEC deal with this chronically underachieving outfit.