Council debates city’s part in CCDA
Coun. McIntosh says scaleback is overdue while another says doing so would send the wrong message
A city councillor calling for cuts to a long-standing municipal grant to the City Centre Development Agency says it’s time to scale back the city’s relationship with the downtown development group, though another says council should stay out of the politics of the independent group.
Coun. Jamie McIntosh told council on Monday he feels city hall has “way too much involvement” in the CCDA.
“That’s just the way it’s developed over the years, but it’s time we took a look” at that relationship, he said.
McIntosh later told reporters that with the current $100,000 annual grant, city hall representation on the board, council appointing all board members, and the city’s securing of the Monarch Theatre loan in 2009, he feels perception is that city hall is running the organization that has been heavily criticized from some quarters.
He feels it’s time for business owners take full responsibility for the group, or decide if it should continue.
“I probably should have made this motion five years ago to get it on the table and people talking about it,” said McIntosh, referring his time as council’s representative on the CCDA board.
“A possible solution is to get the downtown stakeholders to let council know how they truly feel about the organization. Give a call and let us know how you truly feel about the CCDA providing value for money.”
Since the early 1980s the organization has existed as a business improvement zone, separate from the city under provincial legislation, and able to collect a levy from its business operators to promote the core and spur investment.
Over the years however, factions have complained that problems still persist, and several groups have attempted to garner enough support to force a referendum to dissolve the organization but without success.
At other times, groups have petitioned councillors directly to change personnel or force change.
The potential cuts, which were tabled on Monday until input from the CCDA could be obtained, were alternately supported as being budget conscious or levelling the playing field for business owners elsewhere in the city.
Coun. Robert Dumanowski said he was concerned that council is getting in the middle of another group’s internal politics, and if the city is going cut a longstanding grant, then it should be clear on the reasons.
“If this is simply about budget cuts, then let’s call it such,” said Dumanowski.
“My fear is that we’re making this a rebuke of the CCDA.”
He said to pull back support when “downtown is making a turn” is the opposite logic applied last fall when council extended an off-site levy subsidy throughout the city so fragile economic recovery wouldn’t be threatened. “It’s contradictory,” he said Most of the CCDA’s $225,000 budget is collected thought the levy, though the city provides an annual $100,000 grant with some restrictions and requirements, such as to maintain flowerbeds and hanging baskets as well as flow grant money to business owners to help pay part of the cost of leasehold improvements.
McIntosh wants that grant scaled back by $25,000 in 2020.
Council’s representative on the CCDA board, Coun. Kris Samraj, said the group met on Tuesday and the board’s view is that if the grant is cut, the requirements and leasehold grants will need to be scaled back in concert.
He also said the group is getting back on track after several difficult years, including a public blow-up several years ago over management of the Monarch, and a lot of turnover on the board.
“I do think it’s time for a larger conversation, because we do need to know what at the needs and wishes of the stakeholders,” he said. “That’s been a constant issue.”
Over the years city councillors have argued that they have no legal authority over the organization, stressing that provincial legislation formed and governs the business.
A city councillor is suggesting the city scale back its involvement with the City Centre Development Agency, sparking debate among council members.