$10,000 – not a penny more for two cycle events that won’t take place in Burlington. A teachable moment for the city ?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON – May 12, 2011 – Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward perhaps put it best when she said – “same old, same old” as she commented on the latest step in the cycling saga – the event that isn’t going to come to Burlington – that one.

Once again event promoter Craig Fagan of the Midweek Cycling Club failed to attend a Council Committee meeting to update the city on just where things are. We did learn that the Canada Day event that was going to be a feature for downtown Burlington on Canada Day is now going to take place in Toronto at the CHIN Day event at the CNE..

Council however is still having small conniptions with this event and isn’t ready yet to tell the promoter to take a hike. The Burlington Hotel Association has advised the promoter that the $20,000. they were going to contribute has been cut back to $10,000. because the signature event on Canada Day isn’t going to take place.

The Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) haven’t heard a word from Fagan since he had a letter hand delivered to Deputy Police Chief Bob Percy saying the five planned elite level cycling event had been reduced to two events in Burlington.

Halton Regional Police Inspector Ivan Lortie on the left with Inspector Joe Taylor.  Lortie was to be the lead on the cycling event.
Halton Regional Police Inspector Ivan Lortie on the left with Superintendent Joe Taylor. Lortie was to be the lead on the cycling event.

HRPS Inspector Ivan Lortie was on hand, with his pistol on his hip and a microphone strapped to his shoulder – he was the Duty Inspector Commander for the shift, and he had to be able to communicate with the police in the field. I am able to report to you that Burlington was at peace while Lortie was in the Council Chamber – unless of course his microphone was turned off – but that wouldn’t happen with Inspector Lortie. This guy is one tough cookie.

Council struggled with what to do – pull the plug and walk away from it all or hang in for another few days and let the contract fail when Mid Week doesn’t come up with the certified cheque they have to delivery to the Halton Regional Police before noon of the 18th.

Councillor Blair Lancaster wanted to pull the plug and said that Fagan’s not being at the Council meeting “spoke volumes”, while Councillor Sharman said he was not in favour of shutting down the event at this point, he did want to make sure that the city didn’t pay out the $30,000 budgeted for the event. His comment was that “all we have to do is wait till the 16th and this will just evaporate”.

Councillor Taylor said he came into the meeting feeling very pessimistic and had now realized that if Burlington wants to take part in provincial and national level events it is “going to be tougher than we thought”.

Councillor Dennison added that the city needed to be careful that it did not get a reputation as a place that doesn’t hang in when things get tough. “Our record on this event”, he said, “is not untarnished. “If we pull out we will look bad. This was a difficult thing to put on and some of our delays have made it more difficult. Let’s not be totally unsympathetic”, he said.

Mayor Goldring said he was “disappointed” but “It’s over, it’s over, let’s not drag out the pain any longer.”

Council eventually settled on paying up to $10,000. IF the two races left on the schedule for the Burlington area take place. General Manager of Community Services Scott Stewart was given clear instructions to approve payment of $5,000. for each of the two races IF they take place.

Meed Ward added that none of the two events left are actually going to take place in Burlington. Her view was the contract had not been honoured and the city should pull out.

The original agreement was for a two year contract with 2011 a sort of warm up for the 2012 events that were to be 2014 Olympic qualifying events. Where does the 2012 opportunity stand if 2011 proves to be the total disaster we are looking at right now ?

Is there an opportunity to meet with the national cycling people and see if they have an event organizer that is more competent and reliable than Midweek proved to be. ? When the idea was first brought to Burlington in 2010 Council went for it on a recorded vote with then Mayor Cam Jackson voting against the idea. Councillors Thoem and Craven both voted for it then – with Craven saying then that he “kind of liked the idea” Everyone on Council saw the potential – no one saw the headaches or the complexity of the traffic management.

One hopes that Deputy Chief Bob Percy does not miss his lunch on the 16th while waiting for Craig Fagan to show up with a certified cheque – it isn’t going to arrive.

What has Burlington learned from this sad situation? Where did we make mistakes? Did the Halton Regional Police demand too much of the organizer? It was clear from the very beginning that the organizers were not prepare to deal with what the police felt was necessary for public safety. Did the police ask for too much?

Our geography is all but perfect for competitive cycling events but to make this type of thing happen there is a ton of community managing to get a handle on. Farmers needed access to roads to get their hay off the fields during their peak season. The strawberry people weren’t able to shut down their operations for a road race. There were huge traffic concerns on both rural roads, downtown streets and heavily used provincial highways.

Tour de France winner.  The Burlington event didn’t manage to get started, lots of lessons for the city and the Regional police.
Tour de France winner. The Burlington event didn’t manage to get started, lots of lessons for the city and the Regional police.

Yet the Tour de France takes place every year and those bicycles come roaring into the Arc de Triomphe in Paris at the end of the week long race. If Paris traffic can be managed – Burlington traffic can be managed. There are lesson here for us.

Councillor Lancaster said the writing was on the wall and the city should walk away from it. The writing was on the wall when the promoter didn’t should up at the first meeting Council considered the idea in 2010.





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