Mayor's stake in ballpark won't affect city decision on parking lot: Katz
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz is rejecting suggestions his cabinet is under pressure to vote any particular way over an issue related to the Goldeyes, the minor-league baseball team he owns.
On game days, fans park on city-owned land near Canwest Park under a lease between the city and an agency called Riverside Park Management.
Riverside Park Management has been arguing with the city over the value of the parking lot. The city nearly doubled the assessed value of the land, to $3.96 million, in 2006; the agency, whose lease agreement prohibits further development on the land, argues it cannot afford to pay the taxes on that value.
The issue has been kicking around Winnipeg City Hall for months; the downtown development committee has twice been unable to come to an agreement on it, so it is moving up to the executive policy committee — the mayor's cabinet — without a recommendation. The EPC will make a decision on the matter next week.
Katz said he has nothing to do with the agency that leases the parking-lot land from the city.
"They're a not-for-profit entity," he said. "Contrary to what many people think, I am not on the board."
The councillors who sit on the EPC were appointed by Katz, but he bristles when asked if he thinks that would have any bearing on the committee's decision.
Suggestion 'an insult'
"I would say that might be one of the most ludicrous statements I've ever heard. I find that to be an insult to the members of EPC," he said.
Still, he said he's not surprised by suggestions of a conflict.
"Who would have ever thought that, you know, being mayor, you'd encounter someone Photoshopping a picture of Adolph Hitler and putting your face on it. Who would think as mayor, you have someone basically on a website offering $10,000 to kill the mayor," he said.
"There's things that go on every day that always surprise me, but you know what? You got to live with them."
Katz, who sits on the seven-member committee, said he will recuse himself when the issue is brought forward.
A report from city staff says Riverside Park does have a legitimate concern about the assessment, and recommends that the city should not pursue payment on an outstanding $233,000 tax bill, and amend the lease to cover half of the land, which would significantly reduce the tax bill.
Coun. Dan Vandal said he believes Riverside Park is being given special treatment because of the mayor's connection.
"I think the whole issue is outrageous. I can't believe that Winnipeggers, taxpayers, are being asked to basically pay $233,000 of revenue that should be coming from Riverside Park and the ballpark," he said.
"I don't know how we do that in good conscience at the same time when we're … increasing licence fees for small businesses all across the city, we're increasing fees for non-profit organizations to run festivals … I mean, there's no way the City of Winnipeg should be doing this."
Katz said the final decision will be up to all city councillors, regardless of what the EPC decides. City council is expected to vote on the issue later this month.
"Council makes all the decisions," Katz said. "Ultimately, council is supreme. We all know that."