Windsor City Council voted 7-3 in support of my motion on Aug. 6 to grant the Via Italia Bike Race $5,000 to help cover upgraded fencing and security, mandated by the Ontario Cycling Association, for the iconic 55th annual race to be staged Sept. 1.
Before the vote, Aldo Scalcin, who has been the chief race organizer for a quarter of a century, faced a grilling from Mayor Eddie Francis and a few Councillors, who raised fears about setting a precedent and wondered why Scalcin couldn’t raise more money from private sector sponsors.
Astute taxpayers surely couldn’t have missed the rich irony and hypocrisy here. Eddie and some on council are anathema to granting public money to local for-profit, and not-for-profit events, but heap hundreds of thousands of dollars (almost $1.00 for every man, woman and child in the City of Windsor) without batting an eye on mega for-profit U.S. or International corporations with no bona fide payoff except for the hyperbolic economic benefit numbers bandied about by interested parties. Do you see a fatal flaw in this model?
Why did these councillors not suggest to the multi-millionaire Wrestlemania owners and/or the billionaire Detroit Grand Prix owners that they need to make a better effort of drawing out other private and public sources for their events rather than coming to Windsor’s city council, getting financial support and creating a precedent? Why is it that some homegrown person seeking a little city assistance for an event, on home soil, that has documented success, is given the bum’s rush, yet people whose events do not need our financial support are given the royal treatment?
Wrestlemania 2015 and the Detroit Grand Prix representatives never had to appear before council to present their requests for taxpayers’ money and, thus, were not subject to any of the questioning that local event coordinators have to endure. Rather, these requests were pushed through the budget process at the 11th hour by the mayor (through the mayor’s office on behalf of the U.S. organizers). Eddie mentioned that there were a couple of line items re U.S. event sponsorship exactly seconds before a debate-weary, glassy-eyed council voted to accept the budget and adjourn, which is the oldest trick in the political book.
That way there was no discussion and no pertinent questions could be raised as to the net benefit of this largesse. If any of the local groups tried to get their requests passed that way, they would be told in no uncertain terms to get lost.
Again, $60,000.00 for Wrestlemania 2015 + $280,000.00 for Grand Prix 2013 through 2015 = approx. $1.62 for every man, woman and child in Windsor (based on a population of 210,000) with no metrics to show any net benefit other than the WORLD STAGE argument.
Compare this to the Via Italia Race sponsorship of $5,000 (for fencing) = approx. $.023 for every man, woman and child (based on a population of 210,000). And here, local businesses can well attest to a positive net economic impact.
The Via Italia Race draws 7,000 spectators and some 200 cyclists from across Ontario and several American states.