Coun. Jeff Davison said you can’t even compare the Event Centre and the Green Line project, let alone the consultation on it.
Earlier this week at the city’s Green Line committee meeting, council members heard that a closed-door meeting is scheduled in January to review the options on the table. It was expected three options would be presented at Tuesday’s meeting. Now, Green Line solutions aren’t expected until March 2020.
During that Tuesday meeting, the public was also allowed to speak, with no prior notice, after administration made a presentation on the project. This drew the ire of many watching online or through social media.
Coun. Davison remarks about ‘grumpy’ public draw criticism
Still, remarks made in debate by Coun. Davison suggested the public shouldn’t get “grumpy” about delays or ongoing consultation on the Green Line.
“We need to be mindful and really extra careful that we’re doing our due diligence to ensure that this is the best possible project and spend for all Calgarians, not just the people it will service,” Davison.
Those comments were contrasted with his debate during the Event Centre presentation.
There, under scrutiny over only a week of public consultation in the mid-summer for the $550 million Event Centre, Davison said that anyone complaining about the timeline “is frankly wanting to kick this can down the road so they can mount their opposition to it.”
We asked him specifically about both comments.
Davison, who is vice-chair of the city’s Green Line committee, and chair of the Standing Policy Committee on Transit and Transportation, said in no “way, shape or form” are the two projects identical.
To start, Davison said, one is a $5 billion major infrastructure project. The other, a $550 million project, he referred to as a private-public partnership where the city’s contribution is $290 million.
Davison said though the Green Line project and degrees of consultation have been ongoing for six years, the extra time – and stakeholder consultation – is critical to ensure it’s done right.
“The risk of getting the downtown component of this wrong is huge,” Davison said.
“And so, we’ve got to take some extra time and due diligence to make sure that that alignment is done correctly, because that alignment will set the tone for the rest of that line.”
Further Green Line consultation kicking the can down the road?
When asked directly if this was “kicking the can down the road” so further opposition to the Green Line project could be mounted, Davison said no one’s trying to mount opposition.
“This isn’t a conversation of, is the public getting behind not doing this?” Davison said.
Davison also disputed the suggestion that this is another delay. He still expects track to be put down on the Green Line project in 2021. It’s not going to be delayed until “(20)22, 23, 24,” he said.
“I don’t want to draw a conclusion that somehow there’s this quote, unquote, delay or confusion tactic happening. That’s not what’s happening here,” Davison said.
“What’s actually happening is we’re structurally aligning our downtown on the basis of the vision that Council has 100% supported.”
During the public submission portion, the Green Line committee did hear from downtown building owners, business owners, communities about the potential impact to the already pressured downtown property values, mobility and accessibility to surrounding businesses.
‘Certain people’ get wound up about further conversation, Davison said
Davison said he understands the frustration some Calgarians have with the process.
“I think anytime there’s any delays or further conversation certain people are going to get wound up about that,” Davison said.
Davison said he’s focused on getting the best rider experience for their funding. They’re examining different scenarios and measuring risk – especially with the different downtown options.
“Our goal is to make it on time and on budget and, you know, have benefit to the largest amount of population we can serve,” Davison said, assuring later in the interview that the ongoing consultation wouldn’t lead the city to the same conclusion as one recently made in Hamilton to scrap an LRT project with costs mounting.
Once the city hammers out a Green Line solution, with stakeholders on board, Davison said he’s certain the public will get further consultation on what they’ve mapped out.
“That’s not an opinion game. It’s a numbers game. You have to be able to show that this thing serves the most amount of riders by going a certain way,” Davison said.
“That’s the program we intend to put together over the next couple of months. And that’s the program we’ll take forward to the public to talk about when it’s ready.”