The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sam Katz: Busted. And, who is the new Civic Weasel No. 1?

It took a City Hall insider to spot Phase Two of the Selinger & Katz Stadium Scam.

Remember when they said Winnipeg was going to reap millions from the sale of the land where the old stadium sits? Well, forget it.

Brian Kelcey, former budget advisor to Mayor Sam Katz, was disgusted to the core at Katz's contemptuous disregard for the public in ramming a deal for a new stadium through city council.

And that was before he noticed the newest twist in the con job.

"... in what amounts to an invitation for delay, lowball pricing or worse, the City has chosen to use an Expression of Interest process (EOI) instead of a straight auction for the land or portions thereof," wrote Kelcey.

"... note that using an Expression of Interest allows City Hall to use maximum flexibility in who it chooses to sell the land to, because the "express your interest" step allows bidders to to present on - and City Hall officials to decide based on - various non-financial factors..."

Cut to the chase. The fix is in.

Instead of a straight-up auction to get the best price for the land, city administrators will hand it over to a city hall crony and make up some excuse why it's a great deal for the city.

Do you remember the last great deal endorsed by Katz and unelected Premier Greg Selinger, those two pillars of entrepreneurship? It was win-win.

We were going to get a brand new football stadium built at his own cost by a private investor who promised to cover all cost overruns. The land where the old stadium stands would be sold to the highest bidder and the money used to attack the city's infrastructure deficit. And redevelopment of that land would provide Winnipeg with annual property taxes, whereas the city collected no taxes on the old stadium.

And after they got through with it, what have we wound up with?

Let's see .... a 100-percent taxpayer funded stadium at almost double the projected cost, a giveaway deal to hand over the old stadium land to someone's pal at a bargain price, and no taxes from the land even after its redeveloped, at least not for a generation or two, if ever.

The cash-strapped Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team is saddled a debt of $85 million, which, according to the CBC, will cost them a total of $176 million over 44 years once interest is calculated.

And let's not forget the city of Winnipeg is committed to handing over at least $40 million to the province to cover its end of the new stadium.

The only win is for "entrepreneur" David Asper, who gets a cheque for $4 million despite failing to live up to every promise he made to his "partners" who got stuck paying for his mess.

"The fact that Councillors did not at least make an effort to correct a multi-million dollar dodge on the record represents nothing less than a total failure of the democratic system in Winnipeg."

What an appalling legacy for the newly-elected council to leave 2010 with.

A total failure of the democratic system in Winnipeg.

Only two councillors can end the year with their heads held high---Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre).

They were among six councillors who refused to pemit the suspension of the rules of council to allow Mayor Sam Katz to "walk on" stadium deal 2.0 for a rubberstamp vote. But when Katz simply sneered at the citizens of Winnipeg by calling a "special meeting" a few hours later to circumvent the will of almost half the representatives of the city, four of the dissidents rolled over.

Only Wyatt and Smith refused to succumb to the bully tactics. They demonstrated that not all politicians have no principles.

But the worst of the lot deserves mention.

John Orlikow (River Heights) has elevated himself to the position of Civic Weasel # 1.

When seated on council through a by-election in March, 2009, Orlikow purported to be a breath of fresh air to a cynical and depressed electorate. He was different. He was smart. He refused to play the same old games of City Hall.

When debating the contentious Veolia contract, Orlikow shocked the gallery by announcing he had actually read the supporting documentation. His questions were sharpened because of it. When he voted NO, it wasn't the usual kneejerk negativity the voters had grown to expect from the cabal of left leaning councillors. His was a reasoned vote, which had the respect even of Veolia supporters.

But it wasn't to last.

- He sleepwalked through the vote to spend $21 million on bike paths, even though, he would later confess, he should have insisted on more public consultation.

- When Katz called a vote on making light rail the city's preferred choice for rapid transit, Orlikow voted YES, although he admitted in a rambling, confused speech that he didn't really understand what he was voting for.

- And then this flipflop on the post-Asper stadium deal where Orlikow was against it before he was for it.

This is a special form of hypocrisy.

A fresh soul corrupted in less than two years.

From challenging the way councillors did business to becoming one of the degenerate mob in one easy term.

Trying to disguise the rot by voting for and against a motion at the same time won't work.
Congratulations, John Orlikow, you have become Civic Weasel No. 1.

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