Let’s learn just what the football team wants us to do, and then, as our Mayor has said, do our homework

By Pepper Parr

Like Sgt. Friday in the old TV series “Dragnet” used to say, “Only the facts M’am. Just give me the facts.” Eric Cunningham, former member of the provincial legislature for a Hamilton constituency and a consultant for both the Paletta family as well as a consultant for the Tiger Cats – sounds like he is the guy who acts as the go between – is trying to get some facts on the table but can’t get heard with all the noise in the room

Cunningham points out that a move to Burlington for the team is not the end of the world for Tiger Cat fans – they will be given an opportunity to get their seasons tickets on a first come first served basis and the team will recognize the rights of all the existing ticket holders.  “And”, adds Cunningham, “the name of the team is not going to change.”  One commentator points out that the Ottawa Senators don’t play in Ottawa, their arena is in Kanata, a couple of miles from downtown Ottawa.  Almost the same distance between Hamilton and Burlington – a hop, skip and a jump

Cunningham has a problem with some of what he calls “really stupid remarks by people who should know better” and points to comments made earlier in the week by Marianne Meed Ward on a Hamilton television station.  Cunningham was “horribly disappointed with MA Meed Ward comments on CHCH”  She was “against a proposal that she has not seen. I know she is new but???  there is no ask yet.   He added: “She has no idea how much the tiger Cats etc could bring in.  Troubling.”   Meed Ward is the council member for Ward  in Burlington.  Remember now, Cunningham does earn an income from two of the players in this game – that doesn’t mean his comments don’t count, he is closer to one set of facts than anyone else at this point.

What our Council has to do is dig out those facts and determine if there is a real opportunity for the city.  A number of years ago the Economic Development Corporation did a feasibility study on a hockey arena – are we digging out that report, updating it and putting more facts on the table?

Were this a corporate situation – there would be a team of smart people crunching numbers and asking the hard questions.  They would be working long hours. Did anyone burn any midnight oil at city hall over the holidays?  Most of the council members have been on the telephone much of the time the last few days. 

Based on the city’s organization chart it is safe to assume that Scott Stewart, General Manager – Community Services, will lead the task of pulling together the data and writing the report the Mayor has asked for.  Stewart is a solid guy – no nonsense with him, however he doesn’t have all that much in the way of bench strength to support him and there isn’t much time to bring in outside help. But Stewart will put his shoulder to the wheel and get this done.

We are going to have to push hard to get the homework done. Stewart can do it and we will have the facts we need.
We are going to have to push hard to get the homework done. Stewart can do it and we will have the facts we need.

Just what is it we are looking at here?

What we are looking at is a situation where the PanAm Games organizers will have to determine on February 1st whether or not Hamilton is going to be able to build the stadium needed for the soccer games and if Hamilton can’t do that, they – The Games organizers – have to find another location, and they don’t have a lot of time.  We don’t know for certain if Hamilton is not going to be able to agree to actually build a stadium but the prospects don’t look all that good.

Burlington has this very narrow window of opportunity to determine if this is a good thing for the city.  It could be but we don’t know that yet.  And in the next few weeks there will be any number of people with special interests of their own trying to convince the city to do what they want.  The city has to look at just the facts.

We have two people on Council with well honed business smarts and a couple who have been around a long time and know how things work in the municipal world and the ways of developers.  We also have two new members who are learning and this is there opportunity to learn – listen, look at the data and make a reasoned, sound judgment.

This Council has an opportunity to go forward and do something right.  Let’s use the brains we have and show the world that Burlington is a “smart” community.  The Pier is a fiasco – this opportunity doesn’t need to go down the same path.

Cunningham makes a point.  Lets get the facts on the table and then debate.  Ward 5 council member Paul Sharman is choosing to be very cautious.  He wants something in the way of guarantees to ensure that the city doesn’t get stuck with costs that will force it to cut back on other projects.  Very good point but as that political wag John Boich pointed out: “This is the opportunity of a century and we need to look at it very, very closely.”

Let’s do that.

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