As for where the candidates stand on the Mosaic Stadium replacement issue, there weren’t really any surprises. In short: there’s one candidate who’s a Yes on the current plan — councillor Michael Fougere — and arrayed against him are seven shades of No.
Some quick thoughts on each of the candidates (in alphabetical order):
Liz Brass: As a long-time member of the Muncipal Heritage Advisory Committee, she says she understands that some buildings eventually reach the end of their useable life. Still, she’s not a fan of the current deal, doesn’t think we have all the information and she would explore “all” the options.
Marian Donnelly: Started off her five minutes of opening comments with a personal story about growing up in Regina and her ties to the Roughriders. Shit… it was really good speech writing. She mentioned she was a fan of city hall’s earlier plan to build a covered stadium near downtown but doesn’t like the new plan so much. She doesn’t think it will be as beneficial to the city. In closing comments, she mentioned renovations for the old stadium may be the way to go.
Jim Elliott: He’s definitely in favour of renovating the current stadium, saying there’s still many years of life left in it. Brought up some sobering stats about concrete costs in Saskatchewan and how those will constrain any grand plans we may have for a new building.
Michael Fougere: As a sitting councillor, he’s not surprisingly in favour of the current stadium plan. He says that renovating the old stadium won’t work because then we won’t get any provincial support; plus, maintaining a renovated Mosaic would cost more than maintaining a new building. He also argued that the process has been completely transparent (all the documents he’s used to make his decision are online) and that the stadium project is an important first step in the Regina Revitalization Initiative, which includes housing for the downtown.
Chad Novak: An open letter to Chad Novak: Dear Chad, You know how when you’re given a minute to ask Michael Fougere a question — a question — and then boast about how you can talk really fast and proceed to cram like four different questions into your time? Well, back at the press table, we have to try to write all that down. It isn’t fun. You don’t want the press (read: me) to stop having fun. That said. Novak, as you probably know, is opposed to the stadium plan and is one of the people behind the referendum petition. He is running neck-and-neck with Danny Berehula (running for council in Ward 7) for best facial hair in the election.
Meka Okochi: He believes that, with Regina booming, now is the best time to build a stadium. But, he doesn’t like the current plan because it involves too little private investment. If it was a good deal, he says, then the private sector would come up with the money. He argued for finding creative ways to encourage private investment instead of sitting back and waiting for it to come.
Tim Siekawitch: He wants to put the stadium deal on hold for a year and put up a website calling for proposals to build one. While that is going on, he would initiate a forensic audit of the city’s books to find out exactly how much money we actually have and see if we can afford a stadium.
Charles Wiebe: He mistrusts the current deal and argues that there are other priorities that are more important — like housing. As a candidate he wants to give “a voice to the voiceless.” Personally, I like Charles Wiebe. I chatted with him before the event and he seems kind and genuine. But when he was up to speak he was extremely nervous (and he admitted as much) and seemed under-prepared (and he admitted as much). Still, he’s the kind of underdog I tend to like.
Some other thoughts on the evening:
• There was a question period where each candidate got to ask one other candidate a question. Not surprisingly, all the questions were directed at Michael Fougere (except Michael Fougere’s). He handled himself pretty well.
• Because he was facing so many questions, Fougere ended up with a lot of extra time to explain his position. So, while it may have looked like he was in the hotseat, it probably worked to his advantage.
• Fougere’s question was directed at Meka Okochi (asking him if he supported the current deal or not. Okochi said, no). I don’t know if that was significant.
• The most mayoral seeming candidates were, best I could tell, Marian Donnelly, Michael Fougere and Meka Okochi. All three seemed comfortable in front of the crowd, knew the issue well and staked out distinct positions.
• Several snarky comments I decided to leave out.
Okay, that’s the stadium debate for now.
As for me personally… don’t ask me where I stand on a $278 million football stadium on a day where I was getting around town by bus. The Golden Mile transit stop is a fucking outrage. If the city would invest the thousands of dollars it would take to turn that stop into something other than an embarrassment then maybe I’d look more kindly on the hundreds of millions they’re willing to drop on a home for a sport I don’t even like. But as it stands, just don’t talk to me about the stadium.
* The ninth candidate, Tom Brown, attended the event but didn’t participate in the debate.
** The Gyro Club, we were told, is a men-only social club that (according to Wikipedia) dates back to 1912. In an earlier draft I had a joke here that involved genetics, Snooki and Alpha Centauri but removed it because I think it would have only been funny to me and also the Gyro Club might have taken offense.