As you are now aware, a report is coming to the city's Finance and Economic Development Committee (FEDCO). In it, city staff recommend that the city enter into negotiations to hand over all programming of the public areas of Lansdowne Park to OSEG. This proposal is coming fast does not allow time for residents, council and city staff to reflect on the state of Lansdowne, a renewed vision for Lansdowne, and whether or not control should be relinquished to a private partner.
I have a number of specific concerns about this proposal.
Very soon an audit regarding Lansdowne Park’s Waterfall Agreement will be tabled--which will further inform our decision on any changes necessary. This audit will have important information about the financial state of Lansdowne. We should be fully informed of the audit results before any negotiation takes place.
There is significant concern with the process we are undertaking. There is currently no business plan that has been presented to show how the public would benefit from this proposed deal. The City received a letter one month ago from OSEG and would be turning around and directing our General Manager of Parks to come back with a deal. Vendors who book the space have just been made aware of this proposal and have many significant questions. There has been no consultation on how this will benefit the public at large. There was one meeting that was hastily organized by the community, where 500 people showed up and not one person spoke about being pleased with the FEDCO report, as it stands.
What Will Happen to Programming?
The Farmers' Market, 613Flea and many other vendors have expressed concerns about viability. There have been assurances that the Farmers' Market would stay, but OSEG is proposing that they set rental rates and fees, and they are asking the city to further subsidize rents. Prior to entering negotiations we should have a firm position on the Farmers' Market and the 100 free events that currently take place at Lansdowne. And this position should be informed by public consultations.
Questions have been raised regarding the exclusivity supplier agreements that OSEG currently maintains. Currently, renters can negotiate their own food and beverage suppliers for events in addition to their insurance and special occasion permit from the LCBO. The city does not apply extra fees and surcharges. A huge draw for charitable fundraising events right now.
The City is Doing a Good Job
Our General Manager of Parks, Dan Chenier, has confirmed that the city currently budgets about $1.7 million for programming and operations, but we only spend about $1.2 million annually, returning those funds to city coffers every year. City staff have demonstrated efficiency in running the park. Further, it demonstrates that we have an opportunity to explore new partnerships and opportunities (such as adding air conditioning in the Horticulture building or necessary repairs to Aberdeen Pavilion).
We are also told that, in fact, coordination of programming has been a very minor issue that is now being used to suggest that something is wrong with the public side of Lansdowne.
But perhaps the biggest issue in all this is that there is nothing stopping OSEG from booking the events that they would like to see right now. OSEG and the city have worked together for years, collaborating on a number of special events. The city has always entertained these requests in the past and will do so in the future.