Question: If you give politicians a large sum of money to make Moncton more attractive, what will they do?
1. Consult urban development experts, and think through all the needs of the city, and the relationship of those needs to how to make the city more vital and stimulating for us common people and for tourists.
2. Put all the money into one, huge and jazzy but overpriced project the city doesn't need. In the process, bulldozing much of downtown Moncton, and destroying most reasons for anybody going there ever again.
If you chose number two, consider yourself a possible mayor or at least a city councillor for Moncton.
When all three levels of government pledged to give money to Moncton (well, our money, actually, since they're borrowing it, and we all have to pay it back with interest.) - anyway, they announced there was eighty million to spend on Moncton.
City Council didn't even need to think about that one. (At least, I hope they didn't think. If they did, they must have have all the thinking skills of a moose in heat.) (Sorry. I meant to say mousse.)
It immedately announced it would use our eighty million dollars, every cent of of it, to build a specacular hockey stadium/showplace in downtown Moncton. That would revive downtown Moncton, and draw tourists and shoppers back to it.
Oh, really? Just consider this.
1. Moncton already has a large hockey stadium/showplace. It's not all that old; and one might reasonably wonder whether supporting two, large hockey stadium/showplaces might be a bit ambitious for a small city.
2. If you think a hockey stadium/showplace is going to revive an area, please send me a list of all the restaurants, boutiques and offices around the present stadium.
3. How many people, tourists and locals would find it a big thrill to go downtown so they can stroll around a huge building and its enormous parking lot?
4. Imagine the hell of traffic downtown whenever there is some event at the new building.
5. Much of the cost of the new building will be money thrown away on pure destruction. A very large area of quite sound and useful buildings will have to be expensively bulldozed before we put even the first dollar down for building.
6. The involvement of all three levels of government will be good for only one group - those lucky contractors who have the right connections to get lush contracts at our expense.
Question: Are there other needs Moncton has? Well, a few are glaring.
1. Downtown Moncton is losing out to malls because of parking availability. A better planned bus service could make going downtown just as attractive for business, shopping and pleasure as going to a mall. It could also be done ffor much less than eighty million dollars (though I can see enough contractors with the right connections running over that.) Going downtown will not get more popular until it is easier to do.
2. Instead of spending millions to destroy usable buildings, some of them heritage buildings, why not create attractive districts, each of a stret or two united by an overhead roof of translucent material, and closed to motor vehicles. These are very popular in Europe, and draw people for a pleasant time of shopping and dining - especially dining outdoors in summer. That would cost way under eighty million.
3. As City Council has observed, many people in Moncton wear skates at one end of their bodies. Perhaps it might take a moment to look up and notice they wear brains at the other end. Now, that sure points to another need. In other cities, I have seen libraries that are always full of visitors, and get heavy use as a meeting place for students after school. Iin Moncton, there is almost nothing for the mind. Such a library could be very helpful here. But ours has two fatal handicaps. One is that it is not easily reachable (that bus problem again); and the other is that it is hopelessly underfunded and understaffed to do what libraries in other cities can do. It has so little money, it cannot afford even to keep up to date in books. It certainly has no money for the staff it would need to put on adequate youth and adult programmes.
(Yes, I know the universities should be filling some of the intellectual blank spaces. But, like most universities, they don't do much in the public area.)
Alll three of these suggestions would preserve downtown, and make it more attractive to people and to business. All three together would cost far less than eighty million. But we are going to borrow eighty million (plus the inevitable cost overruns) to destroy downtown, replacing it with a monster building we don't need while continuing to ignore the things we really need.
Enjoy paying for it for the next couple of generations.