On Wednesday, July 14 at 12:05 PM, Mike Naaburs of Talk 820 radio conducted a live interview with me on the subject of Our City, Our Future. Here is a transcript of the interview.
Mike Naaburs, Talk 820 (MN): Welcome to Hamilton At Noon. My name is Mike Naaburs, in for Robyn Foley. What is the Ticats' franchise worth to the city of Hamilton? we will talk to Marvin Ryder about that from McMaster's DeGroote School of Business coming up. Also on the show, protesters rally outside the Sears store at Lime Ridge Mall, we'll find out why. And right off the top, just as quickly as an East Mountain location for the stadium popped up, almost as quickly we are seeing some people getting together to try and fend off any kind of a move to take the stadium to the Mountain and away from the West Harbour. Joining us, some of the people involved in that is a group called Our City, Our Future, a new citizens' campaign to head off the Ticats' bid to move the stadium to the East Mountain. Ryan McGreal is the organizer and joins us now. How are you today, Ryan?
Ryan McGreal, Our City Our Future (RM): I'm very good, Mike, thanks, how are you?
MN: I am excellent. Thank you for doing this, and telling us a little bit about why you got this ball rolling and why it's important to you that you're successful.
RM: Sure. Well, basically, I think what happened was, a lot of people who are interested in seeing the downtown be successful and who are supporting the Ticats - we watched the city go through a two-year process and it looked like they were doing everything they were supposed to. They were doing their due diligence, they had a clear set of objectives that made a lot of sense, and it looked like the West Harbour was going to turn into the best location we had. And so there wasn't a lot of outcry.
But then at the last minute, suddenly there's this dramatic reversal, the East Mountain stadium gets put into this place of prominence, and I think everyone was shocked, because we were expecting, for once, you know the city looked like it was getting it right and then at the eleventh hour we turn around and get ready to throw that whole thing out. And so I started getting bombarded with calls and emails from people saying, "This is a disaster! What can we do?" And it just very quickly turned into a campaign.
MN: When the news first hit about this potential second site that nobody had even considered at all, or at least very little through that very lengthy process that you mentioned we went through, it must have caught you and other people who were looking forward to having the stadium in the West Harbour quite off-guard.
RM: Well, absolutely. I mean, it goes completely against the city's stated objectives. It also goes against the province's Places to Grow framework, which is really based on infill, it's based on creating high quality use in urban centres so that we can extract all of the benefits that come from that.
It also kind of goes against the main draw for the West Harbour, which was this great idea of access to the regional transit. You can get into Hamilton easily via the GO Train, you're downtown, it's a nice short pleasant walk to the West Harbour, you've got this great, really nice continuous system. And then all of a sudden that all gets thrown out the door at the last minute, and it was a real shocker.
MN: Can we make - we went through this two year process, the city was, everybody was sort of engaged in coming up with this site and deciding how we should move forward, we got as far as expropriating some land for it - the only ones who all along were really having a problem with it were the Ticats. And while people will point out that they are merely going to be a tenant of this stadium, ultimately they really are the only regular tenant that we do have. So is there not a point where we do need to take into account what they're concerned with?
RM: Absolutely! We certainly do. And I have no doubt that between now and 2013, we can come to understand the Ticats' business needs well enough to come up with a set of terms and a revenue model that's going to set them up for success. But it's one thing to take their concerns into consideration and to make sure that we're meeting their needs; it's another thing to take the entire process we've done and essentially abandon all of our goals to suit their - I mean, it's a private business and they have every right to seek success, we can't make sure that we're throwing the city's greater good over the side just to make sure that the Ticats have a situation that will make it easy for them to make money.
MN: With your group, we're talking with Ryan McGreal and the group is Our City, Our Future. With your group, there must be some great concern about the speed with which all of this is happening.
RM: Oh, definitely. I mean, I understand that there's been a lot of negotiation going on, I realize that the facilitator, Michael Fenn, was put into a very difficult situation of bringing two parties that were kind of diametrically opposed into some kind of agreement. And obviously we weren't sitting in on those discussions and we don't know what happened. We know the Province came in at the last minute with an offer to sell provincially-owned land where the Red Hill and the Lincoln Alexander meet, and that obviously was an opportunity that the Ticats liked, and they were willing to kick in some money, which in the short term seemed like a bit of a win for the city.
But it seems like Council very, very quickly threw away all the city's goals, and I'm concerned that there's a lot of really, really short-term thinking there about a decision that we're going to be living with for the next twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years hopefully.
MN: I know at least one storefront on James Street has done quite a job of sort of (chuckles) addressing what's happened here by suggesting that the rats are jumping off the ship quite quickly. I think a lot of people may have been a little bit concerned or at least caught off guard by how quickly a number of Councillors sort of switched where they felt the stadium should go. Is that also a concern of yours?
RM: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it's - I wouldn't wish a Council position on my worst enemy. I think it's a really, really tough job and I have a lot of respect for the people who go into it. But, I think as citizens we need to make sure that Council is getting a very, very clear message from us about what our values and what our priorities are.
I think the better a job we do of communicating and engaging with the city, the easier it is for Council to figure out what the community wants and to deliver on that. And I think that before this decision, nobody was really saying too much about the West Harbour or the location because, again, the sense was that the City was doing everything properly, the situation seemed to be playing itself out nicely, and there wasn't a need to get too actively involved. I think this decision has been a real wake-up call.
MN: And it is all going to probably come to a head very quickly. So if you do want to - say, you do want to get involved in this debate, then you have to do it now and you can't wait. Can you tell us for people listening, who want to find out more about your campaign, Our City, Our Future, how can they do that?
RM: Well, the first thing, I guess, is to go to the website, which is ourcityourfuture.ca. We have, what we've done is we've drafted a motion which we hope to get introduced into the Councillors' meeting on August 10 where they actually make a final decision, and the motion is calling on Council to to take into consideration all of the city's goals, and the purpose of the Future Fund - which by the way is to grow the city's economic base, to enhance social fabric and to develop community life - and to make sure that Council makes a decision that respects our goals, respects the purpose of the Future Fund, respects Places to Grow, respects downtown revitalization by choosing the West Harbour.
Beyond that there's an opportunity to write a letter which will get sent to Council and copied to the Province. There's going to be a rally coming up on Friday, which I believe Martinus Geleynse is organizing, and we'll find out more about that shortly as he gets the details together. So there's - another option is to write a delegation, written, that will get sent and actually entered into the minutes of the August 10 meeting, and another option for organizations is actually to send a delegation down to make a live presentation to Council so they can hear that message.
MN: Ryan McGreal of ourcityourfuture.ca, thank you for joining us and sharing your concern, Ryan.
RM: Thank you very much for the opportunity!
MN: OK, have a good day.
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