Re: “No corporate welfare for CalgaryNEXT,” Paige MacPherson, Opinion, Sept. 9Well — they do intend to pay for their “flashy arena desires” — not taxpayers! There were so many ill-founded politically expedient statements and assumptions in this piece that I felt compelled to respond.
I did find an accurate one though — “Every use of public money is a choice made by our elected officials” — just as city council did in East Village 10 years ago by pioneering the first community reinvestment levy in Canada. We set up a separate corporate entity called the Calgary Municipal Land Corp. and told them to go to work.Using taxpayer dollars, the board maximized the rate of return on blighted land in East Village and enticed private and public investment into hotels, highrise condos, the public library and the National Music
Centre, along with restaurants, walkways and bridges. Now this usable land is generating a significant tax base to start paying back this citizen investment.Disparaging, unwarranted comments about “rich hockey players” and “wealthy corporate executives” and doling out tax dollars to a pro sports franchise and big business are extremely unfortunate, unhelpful and degenerate the discussion. This attitude is not the pioneering foundation onto which our city has been built.Likewise in West Village, council invested $39 million into a land assemble of blighted property over several years, and in 2010, adopted a redevelopment plan. Now, with the model of best practice in East Village behind us (which other Alberta jurisdictions have adopted), we are ready to put CMLC to work again to find mutually beneficial partnerships such as a P3 or P4 plan to clean up this area too. I believe we have an obligation and responsibility to do so.A group of local citizens approached us recently with $450 million of their own money
that they want to invest here — their own money, along with future earnings from one of their assets. Invest for a profit opportunity? For sure — nothing wrong with that — but to also, and most importantly, provide our citizens with new amenities that are desperately needed for generational benefit too.These are Calgarians that genuinely care about our city. A group of people and their families that live, work and play right here — who have made significant philanthropic investments into our community — making life better for all of us.What’s in it for us? What will it cost citizens in taxes? Well, if it aligns with one of our long overdue (unfunded) priorities like a multi-sport field house, check that box. If it’s the fire starter to clean up this valuable but contaminated land, check that. If it creates jobs and stimulates our economy, check that! If CalgaryNEXT creates a new stream of revenues from revitalization taxes (that otherwise wouldn’t exist), yes check that too.Great cities are not built by saying we don’t have the money. We are a city that is open for business, that finds a way to make such
investments continue to roll in — now more than ever. We are seen as a community that attracts such groups — both locally and from abroad — who want to be a part of and contribute to our vibrant, active city.Let’s keep an open mind to see this proposal for what it is — a way to leverage public dollars at all orders of government with private dollars. Unquestionably, there are many good questions that justifiably need answers before any of us rush to judgment. We all need those answers for this vision to become a reality.The long-term success of our city as a global leader is what we must envision. We too must lead. Let’s not allow this opportunity to drift away or be shadowed with anything other than a potentially win-win opportunity. It’s not either-or. We can have it all.IMG SOURCE=http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/colley-urquhart-dont-be-so-quick-to-dismiss-calgarynexts-merits