Sunday, September 5, 2010

Clr. Sam and Pan Am

Clr. Sam Merulla has never been one to be afraid to go against the grain or otherwise state his opinion.  We emailed the Clr. and posed the following questions:

With all that has gone on with the Pan Am matter, and understanding that the situation continues to evolve, can you answer the following two questions for the Hamiltonian, for publication:

1. How do you think it will actually end?
2. How should it end?

His answer:

From my perspective the foundation of the problem is that the Toronto Pan Am games bid has been fueled by emotion and based on wants rather than needs of our community. The original purpose was to create a legacy for amateur sport and provide a new stadium for the Ti Cats. My contention has always been that if the Ti- Cats cannot afford the old stadium how would they afford a new stadium? Well the answer was provided by the Ti Cats with the East Mountain proposal which changed the original purpose to simply creating a legacy for the Ti- Cats and a potential professional soccer team in partnership with a private developer. This relationship with the developer is what in essence allows the Ti- Cats to become sustainable but only leveraging public dollars and with a capital deficit of approx 120 million which benefits the Ti- Cats and developer but not the local taxpayer. 

Therefore the issue of sustainability is only realistically addressed at Ivor Wynne and the business challenge of the Ti-Cats is to fill the nearly 30 thousand seats available to them at a publicly subsidized Ivor Wynne. The issue of a new stadium is not the answer to the Ti- Cats sustainability. The issue of sustainability is addressed in providing a product on the field that creates a demand for tickets and the necessary revenue to become and remain sustainable. Therefore a renovated Ivor Wynne and a sold out stadium for all Ti- Cat home games is the answer and the most prudent initiative for all to pursue which is not what some people want but I believe that is what they need. 

I believe we need to focus on priorities that matter e.g. Manufacturing Jobs, 2 billion dollar infrastructure deficit , 146 million dollar provincial downloading crisis and 20 percent poverty rate. My position has always been the same and that is the fact the Pan Am games and stadium is the mother of all unfocused priorities. I've attached the proceeding comments for your perusal surrounding this fiasco:

Bottom line is a vote for West Harbour is a vote for Ivor Wynne due to the criterion that money will only be allocated to a site with a long term tenant. Keep in mind West Harbour has a capital deficit of approximate 50 million dollars and millions more in operating thereby creating an environment of an ultimatum from the Province and the Feds due to the preceding criterion.

A vote for the urban sprawl option on the East Mountain is a vote for a stadium that is underfunded by approximately 120 million dollars deeming it unaffordable to the taxpayer but with a tenant.

Therefore the only viable option left is the renovation of Ivor Wynne which can accommodate soccer and a sustainable tenant that has played at Ivor Wynne since 1930. Anything but Ivor Wynn is a pie in the ski option and a travesty to the hard working people of the City of Hamilton.
This unmitigated disaster could have been prevented had my request for due diligence been pursued back in February of 2009. Although I didn't support such a unmitigated ill prepared initiative at least we would have known then what we've confirmed now that this unfocused priority will victimize the taxpayers of this city. 

Furthermore the proceeding was my statement issued last month. 

Merulla: No Stadium Support Just trying to make the best of the Pan Am Fiasco

I have clearly and consistently stated I am not supporting  a stadium. 

To date I have only supported a study to compare the two sites and not to endorse either location.

Moreover, as you should know, I did not support the expenditure for the stadium nor do I plan on supporting the forthcoming recommendation from the Future Fund Committee. Having said this it was incumbent of me to attempt to make the best of a very bad decision to build stadium. Furthermore the East Mountain site was the best case scenario for the taxpayer due to the fact the Ti-Cats absorb the present subsidy and operating costs. They were also putting 15 million dollars toward capital. The private sector was expected to provide the additional 35 million dollars as promised.

West Harbour development and LRT are still moving ahead and were actually planned prior to the Pan Am fiasco through the Setting Sail Plan. I've always argued that we need to govern based on needs and not wants and I was ridiculed for my position on the stadium when I didn't support the financing in February, 2009. Instead I was focused on what Hamilton needs sewers, roads and bridges. I did need to attempt to protect the taxpayers and the East Mountain site would have mitigated the financial hit on residents. Moreover, the private sector is apparently not contributing the additional 35 million dollars necessary at the East Mountain site and to date we have no private sector money for West Harbour as well as no tenant . I would hope council would support my position to upgrade Ivor Wynne as per the 2007 plan of twenty million dollars over twenty years for generations to come which in essence is a third option which I have always supported.

Lastly its important to understand that the provincial and federal monies are conditional based on sustainability of a long term tenant. Therefore, the monies are being channeled through the Ti-Cats rather than the City which compounds the absurdity of this unfocused priority. 

Furthermore the Longwood site is a non starter as well for the reasons outlined for the WH and EM sites. The stadium is still unaffordable, unsustainable and the mother of all unfocused priorities. 

Comments welcome.

A special thank-you to Clr. Merulla for always being courteous and responsive to The Hamiltonian. 

The Hamiltonian does not endorse or counter any candidate running in the municiple election. We are nuetral. We operate in a democratic context where free speech is valued. Our focus is to engage Hamiltonians in dialogue with one another on matters concerning our great city. We encourage all Hamiltonians to vote. To get to know other candidates who have registered, click here. For more information or to be a guest here, please email adminhamiltonian@cogeco.ca.


  1. Tom RobertsonSeptember 06, 2010

    Sam...I can see some value to what you say but renovating Ivor Wynne is just a band aid. It will only buy time and leave us in a position where Federal and Provincial monies will not be available to the Hamilton taxpayer.

  2. Enormous kudos to Mr. Merulla for his candour, and the Hamiltonian for having provided the forum for it on this occasion.

  3. well spoken .... WANTS versus NEEDS.

    Hamilton needs: infrastructure improvements, jobs, lower taxes

  4. Here is Sam's only fault. It is like a home inspector who shows up and says, the fiundations is cracked, the roof will cave and the windows will leaked- so let's duct tape it and move in.

  5. He does make alot of sense, unfortunately the cats have clearly stated that staying at Ivor Wynne is just as out of the question as WH, so in that regard he's tilting at windmills same as the mayor.

  6. High five to Sam for keeping on the message to renovate. Another high five to The Hamiltonian for bringing this to us!

    Considering how this entire issue has divided this City, perhaps there should have been more credibility given to Sam's stand on this.

    I have seen Sam ridiculed and belittled, cut off verbally and bullied by Fred Eisenberger. I've heard the cat calls from other councillors when Sam raised these issues. All Sam cares about are his constituents and what will benefit the City at large.

    Thank you Sam for listening to your constituents (wish I was one of them although it looks like we have a champion of our causes in Liban Abdi!).

  7. I wonder what would have happened if we spent as much time and energy on helping the poor in Hamilton, as we have on this silly game?

    Just thinking

  8. Still way too many anonymouse comments for my liking. I wonder how many homeowners who simply need a new roof would opt to tear down the whole house and build a new one at today's inflated prices.

    You know, nearly 30,000 fans got to Ivor Wynne today with no problem and not a single section of the 80 yr. old stands failed beneath the sheer force of foot stomping Labour Day celebration. The Cats won their fourth straight (28-13), something they haven't done since 1998 and they deserve a standing ovation. They also now lead the league in quarterback sacks (25) and I think that's great defensive intimidation.

    I knew that when Mr. Young returned to the table the bad kitty karma would go away and I believe the team confirmed that today. Way to go Cats, Hip, Hip Hooray!


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