September 13 2012 10:13PM
As a taxpayer in Edmonton, I'd like to hear what Daryl Katz has to say about the state of the downtown arena and why he wants more of my money to build it. I'm guessing I'm not alone.
I want to hear what Katz's vision for the project is. I want to hear why he wants changes made to the framework of $450-million a deal that was put in place months ago. I want to hear he's committed to doing what it takes to drag the project from conceptual drawings and slick videos to reality. And I want to hear it from him, not a hired mouthpiece.
When I expressed the same sentiment the other night on Twitter, more than one person told me I was either nuts or naïve – I think the exact terminology was that I was "dreaming in Technicolor." Those people might be right, but I'm hoping they’re wrong. If you don't ask (not that Katz has ever read a single word I've written), you don't get.
Given his obvious aversion to speaking publicly and his preference of staying out of the spotlight – Katz is the antithesis of former owner Peter Pocklington in that regard – I have no doubt the Rexall billionaire is reluctant to jump in front of a microphone, but if ever there was a time, I'd suggest it's now.
BE THE FRONT MAN
I don't want or expect Katz to unveil every single detail of the negotiations that are going on behind closed doors with members of city council. That's not the way you do business, not that a guy who has more money in his couch cushions than I do in the bank needs any advice from me on that front.
What I do want is for Katz to make his pitch. As the individual with the most to gain (and to lose), as the individual with the most skin in the game (even if we don't think it's enough), I want him to step out from behind his hired help and be the front man. Explain the vision. Sell the vision. Not with a carefully worded news release. Not through his spinners. Face-to-face with the people he'll be partnering with – the taxpayers. On the record.
Stepping in front of the public isn't going to change the fact that the process of negotiating and the ink and paperwork on any deal will be done privately, but I'd like to see Katz do what mayor Stephen Mandel has done on more than one occasion during the process – look people in the eye and offer his take.
I don't see any downside for Katz. Those opposed to spending one dime of public money on a "new arena for a billionaire" aren't going to be swayed by anything Katz has to say, even if it's genuine and heartfelt. Those prone to ripping Katz no matter what the message will avail themselves of that opportunity if he steps forward to have his say. They are the vocal minority.
My best guess is the vast majority of people, those who'll have a stake in the project and who have spent years trying to follow along, are willing to listen to reason. If Katz wants changes in the framework the project, it's not too much to ask that he step outside of his comfort zone and explain why the Big Ask is getting bigger, and in his own words, to the citizens of Edmonton. Sell his vision, Make his case.
He'll never have a more captive audience.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.