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Old 10-14-2017, 12:21 PM   #16
Some kinda newsbreaker!
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Join Date: May 2004
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Globe and Mail reveal the tensions that happened at a July 31st meeting:

On July 28, the president of the Calgary Flames wrote a letter to the city's mayor. The hockey club wanted something it had never had and felt it badly needed: a private meeting between the NHL team's owners, the mayor and city council to explain the Flames' position in negotiations over a new arena.

And so the parties gathered behind closed doors at City Hall three days later. The meeting began and ended with handshakes. In between, it was tense, peppered with barbs, interruptions and threats. An uncomfortable silence brought it to a close.

"You could have heard a piece of dust fall," said Diane Colley-Urquhart, a local politician running for her seventh term as a councillor in Calgary's municipal election on Monday. "It was over."

The fervour of that meeting, which happened roughly six weeks before the team walked away from the negotiations, hasn't dissipated and the fallout will influence the entire city – physically, financially, and psychologically – for decades.

The stalled arena negotiations are about more than who should pay to replace the Scotiabank Saddledome, which is Calgary's most recognizable building. It is about Naheed Nenshi's style throughout his seven-year tenure as Calgary's mayor and how his personality affects his re-election campaign. It is about the city's changing demographics. And it is intertwined with the 2026 Winter Olympic Games, which Calgary is considering bidding on.

The fight over an arena in Calgary's Victoria Park encapsulates a debate cities around the world have over what spurs development, attracts businesses and enhances lifestyles.

"Due to the significant impact of success or failure in moving this project forward, it is important that all stakeholders including council have all the facts with which to make this important decision," Ken King, president of the organization which controls the Flames, wrote in his July 28 letter. "We do not wish to negotiate with city council during this meeting but rather inform.

"The meeting will afford council and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation an opportunity to understand each other's position and opportunities to move forward," said the letter, obtained by The Globe and Mail.

A handful of people who participated in the July 31 meeting have described it to The Globe. Further, individuals on both sides of the debate have made public comments about the private gathering since the warring camps started negotiating publicly in September.

The evening meeting began in council's new boardroom. Mr. King stood on the podium and did most of the speaking on behalf of the Flames. The owners sat on the periphery of the room. Flames' executives, city bureaucrats, and the mayor's chief of staff were also there.

Tension escalated when the mayor and some councillors challenged the Flames' financial calculations and the fact the club refused to open its books throughout the negotiations. Mr. Nenshi, in particular, pressed the ownership group. Then it got testy between him and Murray Edwards, the billionaire oilman who is the most powerful member of the Flames' owners.

"Both the mayor and Murray are snipers," one of the sources said. "The little shots and the interrupting and stuff – yes … definitely it was between both of them."

Other participants in the meeting echoed this analysis of Mr. Edwards and Mr. Nenshi. "It wasn't angry, but it was snappy," another source said. "And both of them are totally like that."

Ms. Colley-Urquhart's recollection of the tone is similar except she remembers it as being one-sided. "I just found that the way Murray Edwards was treated was disrespectful and condescending," she said. Druh Farrell, another municipal politician seeking her sixth term at city hall, described the exchanges as tense but said council was "respectful" and the mayor was "remarkably restrained."

The descriptions of Mr. Nenshi interjecting and perhaps agitating are consistent with his style, which is now a ballot-box issue. Mr. Nenshi's challengers are trying to exploit his freewheeling approach, arguing the stalled arena negotiations prove his running commentary is harmful to the city.
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