Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Community Impact Analysis - My thoughts

The Community Impact Analysis - Proposed Gaming Facility in Woolwich Township report put together by David Brenneman and the Senior Management Team (SMT) of the Township of Woolwich was released.  The following is the recommendation from that report.
THAT Council, following consideration of the information, input and analysis outlined in the attached Report A01-2013, provide direction to Staff as to whether the Township should proceed to advise the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation as follows: 
"That the Township of Woolwich agrees to be a willing host for a new gaming facility"
AND THAT should Council support being a host community, that council provide direction to staff as to whether it wishes to attach any conditions of approval to this agreement.
To start of my thoughts on this recommendation I would like to commend the staff who worked on this report as it is quite thorough and contains many details that I find interesting.  You can read the full report on your own if you would like.

First quick read through the report I found 51 instances of the word "potential" and "might/may/usually" combined for 26 times.  I understand that we need to be cautious as you move forward on something but this didn't instill confidence in me.  To complete this word count perspective the word "problem" shows up 61 times.

The best part of the report is where they talk about the public input that they received through the "Green Card initiative" that I explained in an earlier post. The result of that green card was that 11% (1954) responded with 62% (1159) stating that they were not in favour of moving forward with a casino in Woolwich. (p.41) This part of the report kind of contradicted something they wrote a bit later:
With the growth and change in demographics, the makeup of the broader Woolwich community has evolved, and there appears to be a much greater willingness to explore and consider the community infrastructure benefits that could be derived from the establishment of a casino. (p.40)
If 38% of respondents is a "greater willingness" then I would hate to see what it was before. Of course I am not very happy with an 11% response rate from the target community.  I would have appreciated that more resources spent to gain a better understanding of the communities opinion of this casino.  If this response can be somewhat similar to that last municipal election that put this current Council in place (36% - 6089) I would feel much more comfortable with it.  However, 2/3 of the people who could actually find that card voiced their opposition so that should count for something.  The Council should have given this initiative more resources and awareness.

The main purpose for putting a casino in Woolwich is for revenue.
It is estimated that the Township of Woolwich could receive $4 million per year or more in gaming revenue. (p.26)
Now this statement combined with another one later in the report gave me a bit of a pause.
With time participation rates go down because the novelty has worn off, and the populations familiarity with the product (and potentially adverse experience) helps inoculate them from further harms. (p.30)
So does this mean our coveted estimated $4 million could be less as time goes on as we become more dependent on this income?

Does Woolwich have a need for an additional $4 million? Can someone explain how we got in such a state that this is what is needed to fix it?
To put this in perspective, this level of additional funding would equate to a 40% increase to the Township's Capital Budget, or alternatively the Township would need to approve a 52% increase to the tax rates to raise an equivalent amount through property taxes. (p.26)
What happens when we become dependent on this unbelievable increase in our capital budget and then the OLG changes the rules and we lose everything?  If you think that this can't happen you should go talk to the Centre Wellington folks and ask them.  This type of monetary only increase is not going to help in the long term economic sustainability of the Township of Woolwich.  We have to focus on sustainable growth and development that provides Woolwich with a unique identity.  Give people a reason to come to Woolwich to be inspired and to invest in our future.  We exist on the edge of Waterloo the most innovated community in Canada and we want to put up a casino because we are so unimaginative that we can't do better.

My big problem is that they ask the public for an opinion but do not adequately give us a good reason why the results of that opinion are not valid?  I know that this is just a staff report that the Council needs to read and then vote on.  I hope that the Council does their own homework by talking to people. The next municipal election is scheduled for October 27, 2014. I hope that these Councillors and the Mayor realize that listening to their constituency is the best way to keep their own jobs.  I want a government that inspires me to be a citizen of Woolwich.  This whole process is very uninspiring.

This is the Record article that discusses this report.  The first of 2 public meetings will be tonight February 19, 2013 at 6pm.  The meeting is planned for council chambers in the township office building, 24 Church St. W., in Elmira. If you want to find out more then you can go.

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