Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

City issues.  Okay, really just the arena.

I wrote to my city councillor this week.  I'm happy to share.

Mr. Sohi:

I love the Oilers. I spend money to make sure I'm in the arena a few times a year to see them in person. I pay again to own and wear their jersey. My opinion is the opinion of someone who has no desire to see the team leave.

I've been reluctant to write because Daryl Katz's Seattle stunt enraged me. When the Katz Group negotiates with the city about building an arena, they're happy to define the responsibility for the team as going beyond the financial ownership. The Oilers are more than a business, they argue, it's integrated with the community - the team is a part of who we are as Edmontonians. This has been the argument of many team owners, across sports and leagues, all over the continent. The argument is offered again and again because it has truth to it. It's why a threat, however empty, to move the team has such power.

I've been reluctant to write, because I wanted my anger to fade. I wanted to calmly and rationally examine Mr. Katz's insistence that he only wants what's best for the team and the city. But time is running out before the meeting next week that the Mayor has asked Mr. Katz to attend, and it's telling that despite his apology letter that seemed to acknowledge that he hadn't done enough to communicate with us his side of things, he hasn't left the impression he or anyone from the Katz Group will be attending that meeting to answer questions.

As a private citizen, it makes no difference that I continue to be angry about this. With the lockout, I can't even refuse to attend games to express my displeasure with Daryl Katz. I know that as an elected official, you can't afford to be angry the way I am. You need to make decisions in a calm, rational, professional manner. I would like to offer a suggestion, however.

I was never very happy with the arena deal put together last October - I think Katz got the better of council. Still, like lots of Edmontonians, I think I was willing to say my piece at the time and then go on. In fact, I wasn't angry enough about it to bother writing to you. But things are different now. Katz's Seattle trip was a ham-handed effort to play hardball with Council. Council needs to be willing to play hardball right back.

Make clear that the October 2011 agreement is not a minimum that the Katz Group can hold you to - it's not an initial offer. It was an agreement. If Daryl Katz isn't happy with the terms, council will be happy to withdraw it and start again. In fact, make sure the agreement has a publicly-known expiry date. I know Council worked very hard to come to that agreement. But you have to be as willing to back out as Mr. Katz is, if you're going to negotiate on even ground.

Make clear that Council doesn't think the NHL will allow Mr. Katz to take the team elsewhere. Gary Bettman has indicated that he thinks it was a mistake to allow Winnipeg and Quebec City's teams to move. If the NHL is now willing to double down in Phoenix, where only the Canadian ex-pats care about hockey, they aren't going to quietly let the Oilers leave town. But be equally clear that we aren't going to be blackmailed, even if the NHL backs Katz's play. The Oilers sell some of the most expensive tickets in the league, they have a terrible winning record, and they fill the rink every night. There must be other owners around the league who wouldn't mind moving into this market at all. How happy can Glendale taxpayers be that they continue to subsidize a team that isn't even playing? Be clear that while Edmonton needs the Oilers, the Oilers need Edmonton more. There are very few hockey markets as attractive as ours, and I think it's fair to say there are none that aren't already served by a team.

Finally, offer an alternative. If the city is going to foot essentially the entire bill for a new arena, perhaps we should operate it and enjoy the financial benefits for the good of the entire city, not just one man. I'm sure we could do okay with the Oilers as a primary tenant forty-five nights a year. If the Katz group won't pay for the development, they can't expect to get a piece of every other event that passes through town. Alternatively, sell him Rexall Place, and let him do what he likes with that space. Downtown will continue to revitalize just fine without an arena, thanks.

If none of these deals, including the one he got from Council last year, sound attractive enough to Katz, then to hell with him. Let him try to negotiate with increasingly bankrupt American municipalities instead, if he find the grass so much greener. Best of luck to him.

I don't know the specifics of the financial situation well enough to know which of these suggestions are practical, though in fairness, since Katz refuses to open the team's books, neither do you. What I'm really suggesting is the basic advice - don't be afraid to play hardball with the Katz Group. Don't assume that because he owns a popular team, citizens are on his side in this negotiation. I'm not, and I haven't spoken to anyone who is. We know which side is working on our behalf. In fact, right now, while the lockout has fans even angrier than usual at NHL ownership, this may be your moment to get the best deal for taxpayers. Take a hard line, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how many citizens, including hockey fans like me, will be willing to cheer you on.

He responded, quickly and with pretty much the text of the statement you can find on his website.  The real test will come when Council meets this week.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Given my expectation of a WRP majority, this is certainly a better result. In fact, if Redford governs from as far left as she campaigned (not, you know, super far left, but better than the last many years), it might be a good result. But the "how" mystifies me a little bit. Stelmach did the same thing, polling not nearly as well as he finished on election night. Is there some sort of "vote Tory" programming in Albertans that only kicks in when faced with a ballot in their hands?

Monday, April 23, 2012


 I'm sure, if the Legislature seems to be shaking out to be in minority territory with an advantage to Wild Rose this evening, there will be some talk about which of the elected PCs can be talked into walking the floor to get WRP to a majority and shut the smaller parties out of the process. If this does in fact come to pass,let me be the first to issue a warning: the PCs that win tonight will owe those victories to not being Wild Rose. If they switch allegiances, they should remember that the WRP has promised a recall process. I'm just saying.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strategic voting, again

There's been lots of sturm und drang the last couple of days regarding a video produced with some Calgary youngsters, promoting a plan of "hold your nose and vote Tory."

 Here's the thing: there's a certain sympathy to this strategic vote plan. Going by this campaign, the Progressive Conservatives are much more moderate than the Wildrose party. Of curse, going back 41 years, maybe less so. Ted Morton's still a Tory, right?

 I digress. My point is that if you live in a riding like Airdrie, sure, vote PC to beat a WRP'er. We get that the right-wing has to split many more ways before other candidates are in a serious run. But if you're in Edmonton, in almost any riding, red or orange can win the day so long as people don't assume blue is the only colour capable of stopping green. Vote with your heart in the two big cities, and you'll be amazed at what can happen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Your local candidates

You know, I could accept Allan Hunsperger's "gays will burn in hell" nonsense, if it was left there. But it wasn't. Hunsperger went on to complain that Christian schools that fell under the auspices of the public school system would have to follow board policy, which says "The Board is committed to establishing and maintaining a safe, inclusive, equitable, and welcoming learning and teaching environment for all members of the school community. This includes those students, staff, and families who identify or are perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two- spirit, queer or questioning their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The Board expects all members of our diverse community to be welcomed, respected, accepted, and supported in every school."

In other words, he opposes a public policy which disallows him from making students feel unwelcome, disrespected, rejected, and unsupported for their sexual identities. That's not about his role as a pastor at some reactionary church, that's about his role as an educator. That's not about the afterlife, that's about the lives of children under his authority today.

By the way, Hunsperger is pastor of something called "The House Ministries of Tofield", which sounds associated to no popular denomination of my experience. Here's a link to the site for his church, which gives me, as a practicing member of a major denomination, pause.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Me too

I heart taxes

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

By that logic

According to Vic Toews, because privacy advocates are concerned about the significant overreach found in the government's new internet surveillance legislation, we are "stand[ing] with the child pornographers".

I suppose it's objectively true that the makers or distributors of child pornography may share my distaste for this legislation. It is likewise true that this sort of legislation would appeal to totalitarian regimes.

So, I'll tell you what, Vic. We can both accept that reasonable people can honestly disagree about how to strike an appropriate balance between public safety and the personal right to privacy. Or your critics can start calling you a Nazi with impunity. You pick.