Make no mistake. The Francis Council’s plan to light up Jackson Park at Christmas is nothing but a vote getting maneuver. There is but one last Christmas before the next election and drastic action was required to up the city’s glamour quotient.
Some $3 million will be used to put Christmas lights at Jackson Park. Instead of creating a Christmas Wonderland in the city’s core to support its struggling merchants, inexplicitly Jackson Park got the nod.
Square columnist Howard Weeks, in a Facebook post, called the situation a, “… resounding slap in the face to groups like the downtown Windsor Business Accelerator which was turned down for $90,000 in support money and even more so to the Windsor International Film festival which was denied $5,000.”
When these organizations asked for money it was scarce. So scarce, Council had to impose a tax increase last year of 2.7%, which included a 1% hospital levy.
In his defence, the mayor told the CBC on August 29 about hearing that some people were against the project, but claimed an equal number were for it. His presumption doesn’t seem to match reality.
The CBC’s morning stand-in host talked of 150 comments being received on its story on the big spend with few, possibly one, in favour. Comments on the Windsor Star’s story were also heavily weighted in the “can’t believe this” column.
The Square’s poll assessing the support for the expenditure was 100% against.
Interim mayor Dilkens, the second least liked large city mayor in the country, will use the lighted park as his legacy. The local paper, on August 29, confirmed this by reporting he, “… said he sees it as a legacy project that will leave people ‘wowed.’”
Wow is important to a Council that is not known for its solid workmanlike approach to governing. While the city falls apart, including the August 28 and 29 flooding, its emphasis is on achieving greatness and getting on the world stage.
There are some stark realities with the $3 million.
- It is about equal to one year’s hospital levy.
- It is found money which couldn’t be found for the 2017 budget.
It will be paid for, as the Star reported, with an, “… anticipated $1-million surplus from an EnWin special dividend, $400,000 from the Windsor World Junior Hockey placeholder, and an anticipated $500,000 surplus from 2017 OLG funding. Another $1.1 million will come from the 2014 enhanced capital placeholder funding for a new city hall parking garage.”
Why couldn’t this money be used to ensure no tax increase for 2018?
Sadly, the reality is that when money is needed for a glitzy legacy, it can always be found.
Although, practical people might point out that the Dilkens legacy is much less costly than those multiple million dollar ones of his predecessor. Maybe, in the end, it is a small price to pay.