I stayed up Monday night to watch the council meeting on the city’s live-stream. Things started at 12:30 am Malta time, but I didn’t begin watching until just before 2 am.
As it turned out, I was in time for two items I was curious about: the Southeast Lands, the Regina Bypass project. Once they were done and I got to bed, it was past four in the morning.
The next day, I woke after two hours of sleep and tried to help with getting the kids off to school. Mostly that involved me banging at things with hands that didn’t really work properly. By 9 am, I realized I wasn’t just tired, I was actually sick. My joints ached. My guts were in knots. And I had this brutal headache.
At one point, my wife was showing me something she’d written down and I had to shield my eyes because the light reflecting off the paper was too bright.
I feel somewhat better today but I haven’t fully recovered.
So there you have it… my first encounter with Regina city council in seven months left me physically ill.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Maybe I should ask Steve to move me to a new beat? Something more fun and less illness-inducing?
Well, until I decide what that’ll be, here’s a rundown of what I caught from Monday’s meeting…
REAL MISINFORMATION: According to L-P scribe, Natascia Lypny’s Twitter feed, during discussion of REAL’s request to take on extra debt, either council or admin made some mention of “misconceptions” and “misinformation” in the media.
And it’s funny they’d use those words because my Monday blog post about the Southeast Lands told the story of when Prairie Dog was accused by former-Mayor Fiacco of spreading “misinformation and misconceptions” about how that deal was funded.
But this time, any public confusion over REAL’s debt request didn’t come from me. Assuming you read what I wrote, that is.
There was no way I wanted to run afoul of Brent Sjoberg’s Accounting Kung Fu so in my post about REAL’s request for $4 million in stadium-related debt I was VERY careful to describe exactly what was going on and how, as long as REAL can pay it off the way they say they can, that additional debt will not cost the city anything.
However, despite my best efforts, the interwebs was in such a lather on Monday over the stadium price-tag going up that council put out an afternoon press release to reassure everyone that the project is still on-budget and on-schedule and REAL’s debt request is totally ordinary and not a problem.
Now, while I was careful not to characterize the $4 million debt request as an increase in the stadium’s price tag, I think council would be very wrong to dismiss the concern people expressed upon learning about it. Brent Sjoberg may not have been surprised that we’d be co-signing loans for REAL’s beverage equipment but the rest of the city wasn’t warned that it was coming.
And of course it’s very easy for city hall to declare that the citizens of Regina have fallen prey to a misconception about the stadium’s price when city hall is the one deciding which costs are worth paying attention to and which aren’t.
Looked at from a different angle, REAL’s additional debt isn’t as easy to set aside.
It’s very much in the city’s interest to keep the public’s attention on the stadium’s sticker price: that’s the $278 million it’s costing to build the thing.
But, I think a lot of people are more concerned about the overall cost. And once you do an accounting of the project that includes every single cash outlay and debt parcel that’s asterixed as “stadium-related,” then REAL’s $4 million for concession equipment at least becomes worthy of scrutiny. We may not have to pay it off through property taxes but Rider Nation will be paying it off whenever they visit the concession counter at a game.
So, sure, REAL’s debt request may not affect the sticker price for the stadium. But it may impact the sticker price on the stadium’s beer.
MORE ON THE STADIUM STICKER PRICE: In that Monday press release, the city once again reinforced the idea that this is a $278 million stadium. To reiterate: that figure is the construction price only. It does not include to debt servicing, operations and maintenance.
As I pointed out in the footnotes to this post about REAL’s debt request, the city estimates that we will be paying over $410 million out of municipal revenue streams for the next 31 years. And that breaks down to more than $13 million a year.
That figure numbs my mind. And yet the city seems very OK with it. I cannot fathom how we’re going to be able to cover this without it having an impact on other city infrastructure and services.
And that 31-year figure is just what we’ll be paying if there are no screw ups, no calamities and no shifty business over the next three decades.
Being on the hook for over $400 million is our best case scenario.
THE SOUTHEAST LANDS – THE FANTASTIC CONCLUSION: Council voted to develop the land with a contracted land manager. And council also signalled that they’d be unwilling to put the project on hold until the city made a decision about whether or not we should set up a Municipal Land Development Corporation.
A funny story: The lone MLDC proponent was Councillor Fraser (though O’Donnell mentioned he’s a fan of the idea). And, by his own admission, Fraser accidentally made the vote for the SE Lands report unanimous when he raised his hand at the wrong time. Didn’t really make much difference. If he’d voted against, it’d be nine votes versus his one.
HOUSING WAS MENTIONED! ONCE!!! Yep. At the end of his time at the microphone, Mayor Fougere mentioned how the development of the Southeast Lands represent a significant source of revenue for the city. Then he listed off a bunch of priorities that money could fund.
And he mentioned affordable housing first! Way to go, Fouge!
Hopefully, this is a sign of council’s deep commitment to the crucial issue of affordable housing in Regina. Now I can’t wait for the report on what the SE Lands revenue will be used for! I’m confident it’ll be all housing, housing, housing!
BYPASS PASSED: So the city reaffirmed that it’ll be throwing some bucks behind the Regina Bypass project — specifically, $23 million for the Hill Ave and 9th Ave North interchanges. Councillor Bryce expressed her discomfort with the city having to kick in so much to support what is basically a provincial project.
I’m with Bryce. But maybe for different reasons.
People keep telling me that we have to build bypasses — that they’re splendid and worthwhile. But I don’t drive so I don’t see how this $23 million is going to help me.
You know, the next time I run into a Conservative in a bar who’s complaining about arts funding and science funding and being all, “Rargh! Rargh! Rargh! The government’s wasting my money on a bunch of useless shit!!” I’m going to hand him a bill for my share of the stadium and the Regina Bypass.
GRAB THE BOWL AND THINK OF COUNCIL: Okay, I’m going to have to wrap this up. My illness seems to be reasserting itself and it’s time once again for me to barf.
Thanks for reading. See you soon, Regina.