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News Fall 2007

posted October 18, 2007

October 17 meeting with City outdoor rinks manager

Until October 12, Mayor David Miller stuck to his story that the city’s 49 outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks wouldn’t open until January 1, to save money. (Or maybe: December 31.) So rink friends from various parts of the city started “Save our rinks.”

This story has some unexpected plot twists. Although requests by Councillors to take up the rink issue were repeatedly ruled out of order at City Hall, MasterCard suddenly changed the bad news – by offering to pay the $160,000 that the City said they would save by keeping the rinks closed during the busiest month of the rink season.

posted October 12, 2007

MasterCard has said it will give the City $160,000 so the rinks can open on time in December.

Why the number $160,000?

From the transcript of the September 26 City Council meeting:

Councillor Bill Saundercook: "Ms.Librecz, in our discussion around the outdoor rinks…would it not make sense to open for December and close earlier?"

Brenda Librecz: "We were asked to bring in savings for 2007, and that’s why we brought this in…we were trying to save $160,000 or so, and that was the instructions that we were provided."

What's the time the rinks were planned to open this year?

October 4, 2007, e-mail from outdoor rinks manager Kevin Bowser:

Prior to the cost containment, our plan would of been to open most rinks on Dec 8th, with the exception of Dufferin Grove, Rennie, Mel Lastman and Albert Campbell Dec. 1st. Nathan Phillips would of opened on Nov. 24th. Closing dates would of been Mar 2 for most rinks with some being open weather permitting until the end of March break, March 16th.

E-mail from Jutta Mason to outdoor rinks manager Kevin Bowser, October 12 2007

Re Mastercard's electrifying offer to donate $160,000 to open the rinks at the scheduled time:

1. Maybe VISA will throw in a little more ($8000?) to open all the double pads at the ideal time (Nov.16), using the permanent staff who are on duty anyway?

2. As you may know, Dufferin Rink staff have been doing a live citywide outdoor rink hot line for about 4 years now, with the rink manager's blessing -- and they're ready to do it again this year. Maybe as an appreciation, it could be called the "Mastercard rink hotline"? (Although the Mastercard PR people told me they're not asking for any branding.)

This rink story is developing some unexpected plot twists -- Wednesday's meeting should be interesting.

Executive Committee Nov.26 2007

P. 10 Outdoor Artificial Ice Rinks:

Acceptance of the donation of $160,000 from MasterCard Canada has no net financial impact on the Parks, Forestry and Recreation 2007 Operating Budget. The incremental operating cost of opening the outdoor artificial ice rinks for the month of December is estimated at $160,000 and the revenue from the donation will offset these costs.

posted October 02, 2007

Executive Committee meeting Oct.1: surprise rink vote


At the September 20 budget committee meeting, quite a few councillors asked for a discussion of outdoor rinks, but were told it was out of order. Again at the City Council meeting on Sept. 26, rinks were ruled out of order, and councillors were told that any rink changes would first have to be brought up at the Executive Committee. But even on the night before the meeting, the agenda for that committee listed no opportunity to address cost containment measures.

Then on the morning of the Executive Committee meeting, the Cost Containment issue was suddenly on the agenda. Two people from "Save our rinks" had gone there anyway, just in case. Councillor Karen Stintz made a motion (she’s not on the Executive Committee, but councillors can move guest motions), to allow the rinks to open in December.

In the absence of any other rink supporters (since there had been no prior notice of this new agenda item), Jutta Mason made an impromptu deputation about how the cuts were made with too blunt a hammer, and about the configuration of the rink season. She had brought along copies of the “Save our rinks” weather graphs, showing that it’s much cheaper, with better ice, to run at least some of the neighbourhood rinks mid-November to the end of February, instead of opening them later and then keeping them open in March despite the high sun.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, also there as a guest, spoke about the lack of public agenda notice about this cost containment item.

Mayor Miller hurried the discussion along to get done in time for lunch. Parks Committee chair Paula Fletcher (also on the Executive Committee) said she didn’t want to “cherry pick” other items to be rescued from the list of cuts. Deputy Mayor Pantalone said that only a six-month-old would imagine that more cuts could be changed before accepting the whole land transfer tax package. Councillor Moscoe said that if people think they can avoid the new taxes, “just watch me,” for much worse cuts will come. Budget Chief Shelley Carroll was very puzzled about our organization – i.e. what was our expertise on outdoor rinks based on? (We later asked her if we could give her a rink budget briefing sometime soon, but she said no, the only conversation worth having at this moment is how to get the taxes through.)

Meantime Brenda Librecz, general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, came over to say that she had ordered the rinks to stay closed because of explicit instructions from Council, not because she herself wanted that cut.

Councillor Stintz’s rink motion did not pass. After the meeting broke up, Mayor Miller gave a message to Daniel Cayley (the "save our rinks" researcher): “tell Jutta Mason that the rinks have to stay open into March Break because parents demand that, and the weather in December is too warm for the rinks.”

The Mayor is a lawyer, not a weather scientist, but hopefully he will soon read the "save our rinks" temperature graph and will then grasp how outdoor rinks work.

posted September 26, 2007

Highlights of City Council discussions, September 26 2007.

About the outdoor ice rink season:


Councillor Michael Thompson tried to make a motion to included the rinks in the community centre discussions, but that was ruled out of order. We're still transcribing bits of the tapes we made, because some discussions relevant to the rinks did creep in anyway, for example this exchange:

Karen Stintz
Councillor Karen Stintz:

In the legal opinion we have, it indicates here that only council may amend the city budget.

Shirley Hoy
Chief Administrative Officer Shirley Hoy:

I did not amend the budget approved by council. What we have done is managing the delivery of services – just two things – how we deliver, and the service level.

Councillor Karen Stintz:

But in fact, the delaying of the skating rinks is an absolute effect on the 2007 budget, because what we’ve said is we won’t open skating rinks at all in 2007.

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Content last modified on December 29, 2008, at 08:36 AM EST