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posted January 10, 2008

October 1, 2007: Surprise rink vote

Today (Monday Oct.1) there was a surprise outdoor-rinks vote at the Executive Committee meeting at City Hall.

Background: 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 last night, the agenda for that committee listed no opportunity to address cost containment measures.

Then this morning the Cost Containment issue was suddenly on the Executive Committee agenda. Two of us 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), I made an impromptu deputation about how the cuts were made with too blunt a hammer, and about the configuration of the rink season. I 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 (our 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 our temperature graph Outdoor Rinks And Weather and will then grasp how outdoor rinks work.

Meantime, Ms.Librecz promised that she would ask the Parks Director and the rink manager to begin meeting with rink users within the next two weeks, to address rink operating issues. As soon as we know the dates and location, they’ll be posted on this web site (for whoever can attend), and after every meeting, the minutes will also be posted.

I have cc'd all the councillors and staff referred to in this mailing, and if they have any corrections to my quotes, I'll make sure I transmit them to this list.

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Content last modified on January 10, 2008, at 06:19 PM EST