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The text of Mayor Rosen's speech to the Rotary Club of Kingston luncheon last Thursday (Nov. 24) has been posted on the City website. It's interesting reading.
The last LVEC Steering Committee meeting was on July 5th. That's 21 weeks ago.
Moreover the most recent minutes of the Steering Committee posted to date are from May 31st, which was 26 weeks ago, or one-half year.
The mandate and terms of reference Steering Committee can be found here.
Here's the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition of "pretense".
MANDATE & TERMS OF REFERENCE
The LVEC Steering Committee is a council-appointed committee and provides overall general direction to the process. The steering committee will guide the detailed planning for, and implementation of the LVEC proposal to include but not be restricted to, receiving and considering various functional studies and appraisals from the CAO and staff and providing recommendations to City Council. The steering committee will receive and consider responses to a Request for Quotation and Request for Proposal for the Large Venue Entertainment Centre project and provide recommendations to Council. The steering committee will form a 'Stakeholder Group' in a timely fashion to provide input on the proposed project and further, the steering committee will report to Council and the community regularly regarding progress.
We've just updated our page titled The LVEC Process: Responsible? Democratic?... You Decide to reflect some of what's happened in the past months.
The Whig today published this story about Harvey Rosen's LVEC-related comments to the Kingston Rotary Club. It seems he fancies incorporating the remnants of Fort Frontenac into the design of the LVEC.
If the mayor wants to incorporate the ruins on the triangular bit of ground where currently a stone replica sits, he will have to face a planning process, as that bit of ground is zoned "park". The current LVEC plan appears to have zero slack time for frilly niceties such as "planning" so, as we're seeing, it's now down to a process of conning the Federal Government for money that should go to deserving causes in our region but instead are being proposed for attracting "culture" (like tractor pulls, WWF wrestling, and rock concerts) to Kingston and, in the process, to supposedly bring huge "benefits" to downtown land and business owners. Meanwhile, all the risks are foisted on taxpayers who, on balance, have a far nobler sense priorities.
At the bottom of the article there's this:
While speaking proudly of the projects that have begun during this term of council, Rosen acknowledged he's concerned about what is not obvious in Kingston.
"For as long as I can remember, Kingston has been a city of significant disparity in wealth and opportunity," he said.
It is not unlike many urban areas, he said.
"Perhaps here we have been more successful than other cities in camouflaging these disparities," he said. "The unparalleled beauty of our natural resources and historic monuments may mask the plight of many who are in need and who do not share equally in the richness of this community."
Rosen said he's encouraged that service clubs and charities are showing leadership, establishing new programs to try to bridge this economic gap.
Not obvious in Kingston???
Mayor Rosen, excuse us, but if your mandate is clear on one thing, it's the poor aren't a priority in this community.
CKWS-TV's Lucy Lopez reports Wednesday that the upcoming federal election, and its outcome, may stall the LVEC since its construction critically depends on a Federal handout.
Mayor Harvey Rosen says without federal funds flowing into the LVEC, it could delay the project indefinitely.
No kidding. Looking at Don Gedge's ambitious action plan, such as it is, we reckon that if that funding is not confirmed by the end of the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2006 at the latest, then the whole project structure will collapse unless the city comes up with the money on faith that Federal funds will eventually come through.
And so it goes when your pet project can't fly on its own merits. On the other hand, one would think that given the exalted hyperbole justifying the project that local businesses, and all levels of government, should be tripping over themselves to fund this sure bet to transform Kingston into El Dorado.
The same CKWS story ironically features a downtown publican beating the drum and raising money for the LVEC by selling coffee mugs for five dollars each. Based on the disproportionate clout the Downtown BIA has had on the LVEC process (see also here), we're estimating that downtown businesses would need to sell between five and ten million coffee mugs to justify their influence. The tally so far: 100 mugs.
Read the whole thing.
Note the typo in the headline of today's Whig Standard story about yesterday's press release is inexplicably replicated in the Whig's web-edition of today's front-page story. Of course, that should be "Gedge", not "Hedge".
Mr Gedge certainly doesn't appear to be hedging here.
Mr Gedge's prior ambitious work plan (October 2004 ) didn't work out. This was because of early and obvious massive public opposition, nevermind the utter lack of common sense principles, to shoehorning an OHL arena right on our waterfront, far from the so-called synergies, creaming a working harbour to boot. Months of time, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, were wasted in a process of wishful thinking and actively ignoring what was plainly obvious.
Either Don Gedge is a yes-man, or his bumbling political masters aren't listening to him, but it can't be both. We can't really tell which is true, but today it's hard to say that Don Gedge understands the finer points of actually getting this sort of buiding constructed with proper deference to the public purse.
Just how bad is it?
Gedge also is firm about how the facility will be run. "The management model will be a private-sector operator."
Gedge expects the centre will be wholly owned by the city.
Kingston councillors haven't had a public policy debate about the propriety of hiring a private company to run a significant public asset.
The city can't do it as well as a private sector group with a proven track record, Gedge said.
"It's an event facility so you want an operator who has significant experience in events, you want somebody who has significant experience in food and beverage services and [in] the city we don't have that experience," he said.
How rushed is Gedge's current work plan?
This Friday is the deadline for firms to submit information to the city that will prequalify them to bid to design/ build and operate the entertainment centre.There's more:
In late December, the city will ask for proposals from private companies to operate the facility and a separate request for proposals will be issued for packages from firms that hope to design and build the facility.In other words, Don Gedge is suggesting that the City of Kingston appoint an operator with no ownership stakes, and that it select designers and builders long before knowing the building's detailed requirements.
Make no mistake: the pretense of building the best possible LVEC and, in the process, getting the best possible deal for taxpayers, has now completely vanished. This isn't about doing things right for Kingston, and bargaining from a position of strength in securing these deals. Now it's clearly all about getting this pig built before the voting public, unto whom Mr Gedge is piling all the risk, has a chance to frog-march its political promoters out of office.
The city just posted this press release that claims the city hopes to break ground by next summer. Therein:
We're guessing that, based on the massive traffic gridlock following this weekend's Santa Claus parade, there is little chance that the traffic and parking study will be favorable unless the report is fudged, as we believe we proved about the Anglin Bay T&P study.
In the coming months, City staff will also begin the site plan approval process - including studies such as the concept plan, parking and traffic and a storm water management plan. Other steps that require Council approval before construction of the LVEC begins include:
- Requests for Proposals issued to pre-qualified design and construction teams and operators;
- Selection of an Operator;
- Selection of Design Build Team;
- Approval of the final LVEC Design.
Even ignoring the traffic and parking aspects, this ambitious and overly rushed work schedule is unlikely to be met. This work schedule is clearly designed purely to avoid turning this proposed LVEC -- a massive gift to the Downtown BIA in general and the Springer family in particular -- into a municipal election issue. This just won't fly.
Clearly it's election time in Canada. Ann Lukits reports on a conference call with finance minister Ralph Goodale.
A sharp-eyed reader points out that the North Block site is, in fact, too small, and that the LVEC as conceived will cause an encrochment into King, Barrack, and Place D'Armes streets, meaning that these streets will need to be realigned and possibly narrowed.
This information noted in the LVEC North Block report:
KCAL would like to know why all those wonderful economic multipliers that will supposedly arise from the LVEC as described in the phantasmagorical and warped KEDCO document titled Economic Benefits of the Kingston Sports and Entertainment Centre don't factor in allocating the spending of Kingston's municipal government. Unbelievable.
The sign at Fluhrer Park continues in its state of disrepair. All of Kingston's parks have 3-slat signs. This one has been missing the top slat, which once said "Douglas Fluhrer", for quite some time, over a year, maybe two.
Also note the ratty picknic tables,
and of course the signs proclaiming the LVEC zoning fight are still in place. Updated: Those signs are now gone.
Clearly the city doesn't give much of a hoot about this park. It spends, however, big dollars for consultants whose reports are ignored, and really big dollars for entertainment centres to benefit downtown landowners in general and the Springer family in particular, but nothing for basic maintenance like these things.
Rob Tripp reportsin Saturday's Whig on the seemingly disjointed priorites of the current council's spending on recreation, namely all on new rinks, including most of it one one rink mostly for the benefit of the Springer family, and nearly nothing elsewhere.
If the city proceeds with the entertainment centre and the multiplex, it will be the biggest recreational system upgrade in the region in decades, at a time when the city lacks a critical guiding document, a culture and recreation master plan, to inform the decision making.Not to mention that the Downtown Action Plan, still warm since it was approved in principle by City Council in September 2004, doesn't even mention an LEVC.
Read the whole thing.
What's also notable is a common thread in all this. Trivia: who's the city politician who's spent years overseeing the steering of Kingston's decrepit arenas with no improvement whatsoever in their state, who also sat on the Mayor's Task Force on the LVEC with it's disastrous outcome, who was the lone vote opposing the relocation of the LVEC off the waterfront to the North Block, and who has has actively opposed the inclusion of a swimming pool in the proposed multiplex at every turn?
Answer: Pittsburgh district councillor Leonore Foster.
The organization that runs the Corel Centre in Ottawa also wants to manage the proposed $37-million civic arena and entertainment centre proposed for downtown Kingston.Comparisons between Kingston's proposed LVEC and the Bell Sensplexseem, at first glance, ridiculous. See the Sensplex facility features, for example.
It's pretty clear where this is going: if the LVEC is built as conceived, the Memorial Centre will be disused, and it will continue to decompose, except at a faster rate than our current arenas (if you can imagine that) until someday it'll be razed. The LVEC, meanwhile, will deliver approximately what all other LVECs deliver, namely no net benefits whatsoever, and a big hole where taxpayer cash gets swallowed on an annual basis.
We note the following three LVEC-related tenders on the city website.
Robert Harlow has sent this letter to The Whig about yesterday's dumb editorial.
To state that the reason City Council decided to shift the site for a proposed LVEC from Anglin Bay to the North Block was that "a loud and vocal minority of opponents, mainly the NIMBY crowd and the waterfront conservationists, who combined to shoot down" the original site, implies that the Councillors are a pack of easily-frightened ninnies.Clearly opposition to Anglin Bay had nothing to do with NIMBY. The whig's roll of letters to the editor shows that, city-wide, people were opposed to Anglin Bay in a ratio of about 3:1, and possibly much higher since a significant proportion of Whig letters from Anglin Bay LVEC supporters came from the BIA, KEDCO, and the Chamber as part of an overt push to manufacture the pretense of public support (see also here).
A final point: the editorial's author alludes to a "vocal minority" in opposition to the Anglin Bay site. Over a period of about three weeks, a handful of volunteer opponents to that location for the LVEC obtained almost 4,000 signatures (currently 4,300) on a petition against the site, certainly one of the largest, if not the largest, petitions City Hall has ever received. The petition was typically snatched from their hands, in the signers' eagerness to affirm their endorsement of that opposition. Kingston taxpayers opposed to that location were neither "surprised", nor were they a "minority": they are a majority, and they are very angry, and they are looking forward to the next election.What people don't realize is how gratifying it is to circulate a petition that seemingly everyone is eager to sign. We wish LVEC supporters had tried to circulate an actual petition, which involves personal contact with people. We have no trouble imagining that this would not have been a gratifying experience for them.
KCAL collected 4,300 actual signatures in a very short time from all over the city. By contrast, the Friends Of The Entertainment Centre with the help of a fawning media (takes a while to load), collected online only 800 or so names and published this list that is padded with the names of several dozen minor children of some of the signees. This suggests a ratio of 5:1 opposed at least.
The Whig really needs to get a clue.
Note the really glib things Doug Ritchie allegedly says about traffic and parking, and the bit about the North Block being the BIA's preferred site all along.
We should keep the KCAL website online for the next 30 years, so that every Kingston resident and their children can read all about it. What say you now, Mr Ritchie?The accountability for the LVEC is just starting and it starts Doug Ritchie and the Kingston BIA.
Councillor Foster, who has been inept in all matters concerning Kingston arenas for many years now, clearly has no clue:
"I still feel the original site could have been a signature building in the the city, one of architectural significance," a disappointed Foster said.
"Perhaps in Kingston we do not set our sights high enough. "
She was the lone dissenting vote on another piece of business last night that pulled Anglin Bay off the table as a proposed site for the centre and directed city staff "to cease all work and negotiations related to the... site. "