Tuesday, July 22, 2008

 

Horse Race Reporting

It's been a while since I ragged on David Staples here, so I don't feel bad pointing out how irritating the opening paragraphs to his Sunday post on Edmonton's downtown arena debate are:
The big stick used by opponents of the downtown Edmonton arena project to bash the proposed project is the notion that taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill for this rich man's dream.

The anti-rink faction argues that no public money should be used to build a money-making machine for a billionaire owner and his multi-millionaire players, not to mention fancy and exclusive seating arrangements for the wealthiest fans.

It is a popular argument, and if the debate over the downtown rink gets framed mainly on those terms, it will also be a winning argument. So it will certainly be a reasonable tactic of opponents of the arena to press this message.

This is so... backwards. Perhaps Staples is overly influenced by his experience covering criminal trials, where the defense lawyer's interest in proving his client "didn't do it" -- even if legitimately innocent -- is quite secondary, or peripheral, to the imperative of getting him acquitted.

I'm confident that I'm not putting words in Andy's mouth when I say that his position does not boil down to Nay Now, Nay Tomorrow, Nay Forever (not in a box, not with a fox, etc.). He doesn't rail against tax money for millionaires because he's against a downtown arena; he's against a downtown arena because it's tax money for millionaires. He's against decommissioning and demolishing a perfectly good facility that taxpayers already paid for.

As far as I know, Andy isn't trying to get elected to local office; nor are Lord Bob, Art Vandelay, or the many many others in Staples' "anti-rink faction" who comment here. In other words, they're not staking out a politically popular position, then bolstering it with whatever "tactics" poll most favourably. They're actually against using taxpayer's money to build a downtown arena.

If Darryl Katz announced tomorrow that he was going to finance the development privately, and that the only thing he expected from the City was the same concessions & accommodations in terms of infrastructure that all commercial developments get, credible opposition would pretty much evaporate. You'd have no one left complaining but the usual gang of idiots who are annoyed when a Rich Man spends his own money on what the Rich Man wants to spend it on rather than what they want him to spend it on.

"...no public money should be used to build a money-making machine for a billionaire owner and his multi-millionaire players, not to mention fancy and exclusive seating arrangements for the wealthiest fans." -- that's not an argument to advance a position; that is the position.

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Comments:

I would add a second argument, specifically for Calgary-based Oilers fans: What Edmonton gets, Calgary gets, and vice versa. And there's even less fucking reason to replace the Saddledome than there is to replace Northlands Coliseum.

And before anyone pulls the revitalization card, I've been to about 80 hockey games at the Saddledome in the last two years, and used Victoria Park LRT for nearly every one of them: if that's "revitalization," count me out.
 


If Darryl Katz announced tomorrow that he was going to finance the development privately ... credible opposition would pretty much evaporate.

Well put. The whole post, actually.

Just for emphasis: I do not want to use any public money at all on this thing. There's more than enough research that shows cities get absolutely nothing financially from these projects (or sports teams in general): if Daryl Katz/EIG/whoever wants to build it, though, go bananas.
 


Great post. I hated that Staples article, and couldn't quite put my finger on why. You've done so expertly. I'm not against a downtown arena. I'm against me paying for it with my tax dollars. As an Oilers fan, I'll put up with a ticket levy, PPV levy, whatever, because I know that a new arena will help the team. As an Edmontonian, I have no interest in having public dollars make wealthy people wealthier. If it's a good investment, let the people who will profit from that investment spend the money.
 


Andy stop signing in with Matt's account;-)
 


Well done. Likewise the comments.

I would vehemently defend Katz' right to burn hundred-dollar bills within sight of a soup-kitchen lineup if that's what he wanted to do.

Likewise, I ask that our elected pilferers allow me to choose the fate of my money.
 


Good stuff Matt.

If the business can justify a new rink, then Katz should be able to finance it himself. It should be as simple as that.
 


I've said it before, but there's little doubt that Katz would prefer to finance this arena on his own. And also no doubt he could pull it off. Problem is, the city will almost surely insist on some level of financial involvement so that they can have some say over the development. They see this arena as a catalyst for a whole shitload of projects that are just waiting for a first mover.

Having said that, Mandel has gone on record as saying that taxpayer money won't be involved. That doesn't mean there won't be some sweet-ass concessions and tax breaks though.
 


Andy needs to write more about sports and less about how the tax dollars are dished out.
 


Andy needs to write more about sports and less about how the tax dollars are dished out.

Andy who? Andy who neither wrote nor commented on this post?

Look, the arena is Andy's cowbell, and yes, sometimes it's pretty damned annoying. But anonymous douchebags pissing on a post, contributing nothing to the discussion, is even worse.
 


"Andy who? Andy who neither wrote nor commented on this post?

Look, the arena is Andy's cowbell, and yes, sometimes it's pretty damned annoying. But anonymous douchebags pissing on a post, contributing nothing to the discussion, is even worse."

Just for the record, when did I piss on anyones post? Matt mentioned Andy, so did I.

By the way, when Andy wakes up and and spoons you, make sure you tell him I said hi.
 


Sorry for being rude, but calling someone a douche bag on a hockey board for discussing somebody mentioned in the original posters post? Really??
 


Problem is, the city will almost surely insist on some level of financial involvement so that they can have some say over the development.

The city has a say regardless through zoning bylaws and the like. There's no reason whatsoever for the city to be involved financially. Zilch.
 


Wow, zero to buttsecks in 51 minutes. You, sir, win the Internets. All of them.

And then you lose them all again for not reading the fucking comment. I said I didn't care much for the arena posts myself, but it's not my blog, and it's not yours either. Deal.

Or I could let one of the co-proprietors of this here website express it in his own words. Note that second paragraph, in particular; I'm pretty sure Matt and Andy don't give a flying shit what you want. I know I don't.
 


Memo to Staples: you can also be opposed to the new arena even if you're not opposed to public financing for private development projects. What about those of us who are mostly against knocking down the old one because we believe it's a short-sighted, culturally wasteful act that's bad for both the city and the Oilers business?

Do you really think there's only one stick big enough to bash this idea with? Because I've got lots.
 


Matt and Andy, after a couple years of lame comments by anonymous posters, we decided to only let people with signed-in names post comments on our blog.

The skill-testing word verification seems to trip them up enough (incredibly) to not bother with lame comments as much.

Just a recommendation.
 


This comment has been removed by the author.
 


This is from me, David Staples. I'm having trouble logging on to your commens, so I'll just post this way.

Matt, slow down one moment . . . I wasn't referring to Andy when I said this was the biggest argument that anti-rink type people will use.

I know well that Andy's argument is that the Coliseum is perfectly good. But that's his own take, and it's not the big one I'm hearing against this plan.

The argument I hear most often is about not wanting to build a rink for rich owners and for rich players.

So I'm not saying, and I never said, it's the only big stick, I'm saying it's the biggest stick. And, in your final line there, you appear to agree with me.
 


Of course it wasn't about Andy personally... my objection is to the whole portrayal of pro- and anti-rink types as something akin to committed Democrats and Republicans, or prosecution and defense.

Who are these anti-rink types, David? Aren't most if not all, people who have objections to an element of the proposed plan, rather than a downtown arena per se?

There are people who would (variously) drop their objections if it was privately funded; if it did a decent job of acknowledging the Oilers' legacy; if it showed more promise for accommodating Rexall Place's non-Oiler tenants; etc. Very few are absolutely opposed come hell or high water, and even most of them wouldn't be that strident about it if it wasn't a public project.

I have absolutely no problem with you acknowledging that the "millionaires' playpen" thing is the biggest objection that Mandel et al will have to overcome. The problem is that you make it sound like a debating tactic chosen by people who are opposed to the arena -- possibly for their own mysterious reasons which don't market as well. Nein. The cart goes behind the horse.
 


Matt:

I think I'm getting your point.

Perhaps my wording was clumsy.

I wasn't trying to suggest anything underhanded in anti-rink folks making this argument. I am saying it's a good argument, and that if the debate is fought over this question, the pro-rink side takes a beating.

That is why it's so important on how the debate is framed. What question is asked is a crucial matter.

Is Rexall Place good enough as is?

That's one question, one way to frame it. That's what Andy has been talking about it. He says it is good enough, some say it isn't. I'm in the "it isn't" camp.

Should we build a money-making palace for rich players and owners?

That's another way to frame it, a very effective way if you want to beat down the pro-arena argument.

Should we use public money to build facilties that will greatly enhance the downtown?

That is another way to frame it. That's how I framed it in my post. It's a pro-rink way to frame it, I acknowledge, but it doesn't necessarily mean the answer is we should build a new downtown rink.

I'm not against using public money on things like the art gallery, the museum, LRT, and hockey arenas, if they do, in fact, greatly improve things for the public.

But if this downtown arena plan fails to truly bolster downtown, I don't want a penny of public money going in.
That's my question, my way of framing it, and my test, but others will frame it their own way, of course.
 


Is Rexall Place good enough as is?

Seems to me the pro-rink side has been taking an even more frightful beating on this question. This whole debate started with the premise that the Coliseum had irremediable technical flaws; that claim evaporated when the panel "report" on a new rink mentioned none, and admitted that the continuing maintenance costs for the building were likely to be modest. The list of other embarassments that the "It isn't" camp has simply shrugged off (hey, who needs the Canadian Finals Rodeo anyway?) has now grown, well, embarassingly long.

Some ways of "framing" the debate are, in fact, more legitimate than others; there is a large bundle of questions, few of which have been addressed honestly, that are logically prior to "Wouldn't it be super awesome to revitalize Edmonton's downtown?"
 


Colby, good points.

The first question, which has to be anwered in a serious way, is whether or not the Colis . . . I mean Rexall Place, is adequate.

Right now, all of the major stakeholders, and that includes Norhtlands, are convinced it is not.

For my own eduction here, I'm going to go back and take another look at what the committee said on Rexall Place, which will always be the Coliseum to me.

Of course, the people who are most convinced we need a new downtown arena, are the people who have been to Columbus and been to all the other major rinks, and (sigh) I just haven't been able to make that trip.

But that is what NHL people and well traveled folks are comparing the Coliseum to, and if we're going to make a sound choice, that overall comparison has to be part of the thinking. The question is: Given the arenas that the competition now has, is our rink competitive in terms of money-making potential, amenities for the fans and amenities for the team?

In my mind, one huge problem with the Coliseum is its location and its impact on the surrounding community. It's in a nowhere place and it's done nothing to improve that nowhere place, whereas some rinks, to use the Columbus example again, have been catalysts for downtown improvement, as Humphrey's research on Columbus real estate prices has shown.

P.S. Like your "Relic" picture. Man, that is how I feel most days, like a crabby, half-cocked old guy.
 


I mean, if there was a "report" I would read it again.

But that first question, re: Coliseum, does need a thorough review, or re-review.
 


Of course, the people who are most convinced we need a new downtown arena, are the people who have been to Columbus and been to all the other major rinks, and (sigh) I just haven't been able to make that trip.

In the great Venn Diagram of life, there is (or was) a significant overlap between the circle representing "people who have been to all the other major rinks" and "people who have a vested interest in getting a new arena in Edmonton".
 


Relic wasn't crabby, just misunderstood.
 


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