I know a lot of friends and supporters have questions about my vote yesterday. Perspective would vary in part depending on what people think we were voting on.
The actual motion was to endorse a design concept and approve a very specific updated framework to fund and lease out the arena. It is more or less the same arrangement that I voted against in 2011.
But politically, that wasn’t the way the vote was framed at all – the question it came down to was more or less, do you support downtown Edmonton?
I hope that in time the two questions can be separated, and that my support and advocacy for downtown can speak for itself. (And that support for buying the land, the zoning, and the CRL mechanism to enable a suite of Downtown catalysts including the arena, will be seen as constructive.)
My main issue, and I’ve addressed this in greater detail previously, remains with the economics of professional sports and the degree of subsidy (usually indirect, in the form of tax concessions, reduced rent, control of all other revenues, etc) they require of their host municipalities. I know we weren’t going to fix that with this deal but the phenomenon still doesn’t sit well with me, and that’s just a matter of principle.
I know I could have said “the economics of this deal still give me pause, but I’m going to support it because we need to move Edmonton ahead.” That would have been the politically astute thing to do, as I alluded to yesterday. But that would be walking away from a strongly held principle, and in the end I just couldn’t fold on it.
I might have been able to support it if the terms had shifted significantly, for example to include a larger user-pay component and, ideally, less borrowing on our books. I was really hoping we might get there after hitting the reset button in October.
I don’t begrudge my colleagues for having a different view. And I don’t begrudge the Oilers or their owner for trying to get the best deal they can.
In fact, and I said this yesterday too, it probably is about the best deal the City could get under the circumstances. It’s still the circumstances I have a problem with. Let’s all agree to disagree and move on. I will do my best to be positive and support the will of Council.
So, from here on out our specific focus should be on ensuring it delivers on all it promises to do for downtown. I can get behind that and continue to move ahead constructively.