This article from the Toronto Star is really weird and convoluted and lede-burying, but if I get the gist of it, it’s that some members of the Calgary city council are trying to find a way to freeze Mayor Naheed Nenshi out of future negotiations with the Flames over a new arena, because he’s been too good at not giving away the store. The evidence on hand:
At least 10 councillors are directly involved in or aware of recent meetings in which elected officials have discussed drafting a notice of motion calling on council to strike a new committee — one that may exclude past brokers from both parties.
“Initially, it should be new blood that’s on it to give it a different perspective than we’re getting now,” said Coun. Ray Jones.
“The longer we leave it, the more it just kind of goes away,” he explained. “Everybody right now is gung ho to get going on it, and I think we should take advantage of that.”
In addition to Jones, councillors Ward Sutherland, George Chahal, Sean Chu, Shane Keating, Peter Demong, Diane Colley-Urquhart, Joe Magliocca, Evan Woolley and Jeff Davison are directly involved in or aware of discussions to restart talks and form a new committee.
“We’ve got to get a few oars in the water here and moving in the same direction before we really can make any headway with it,” said Davison, who is leading the charge.
“Overall, you’re just seeing a different makeup on council,” he said. “There’s a lot of us that are new, and sometimes some of the ideas that failed in the past get rejuvenated.”
Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, said councillors might be wary of voter backlash given many Calgarians supported Nenshi’s position.
“I suppose it does make sense to try to get new people to the negotiating table so that any animosities that may be lingering from the breakdown of negotiations in the past would not be part of this,” Williams said.
Okay, sure, “new blood” and “new ideas,” but otherwise this is just weird: The last round of negotiations “broke down” not because of any problems on the council side, but because Nenshi pointed out that the Flames owners’ plan could cost the city more than a billion dollars, and then the Flames walked away from the table and put all their energies into trying to defeat Nenshi in last fall’s mayoral election. When that didn’t work, they mostly sighed a lot about how now what were they gonna do with a mayor in power who didn’t want to give them lots of taxpayer money, and deployed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to say that the Flames will lose money without a new arena, when that’s patently not true.
While Nenshi has been possibly the most prominent city mayor anywhere in holding the line on sports subsidies, he’s always been limited by Calgary’s weak-mayor system, in which he’s only one vote on the 15-member council. Given that the Star report only talked to a couple of council members, it’s hard to say whether this is an actual major revolt or just some people trying to trash-talk the mayor into getting out of the way and letting them get down to the business of shoveling money at the Flames — one councillor, Shane Keating, is cited as having said of Nenshi, “I’ll never be as intelligent as you are, but I’ve been smarter than you many times,” which is described as a “stinging rebuke.” Maybe it sounds different in the original Canadian?