Dubious award nomination gets mixed council reviews

The City of St. Albert’s nomination for a dubious distinction has earned mixed reviews from councillors.

Last week, the City’s decision to open a Starbucks Coffee kiosk in Servus Credit Union Place earned it a nomination from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in its 14th annual Teddy Waste Awards, recognizing the worst in wasted taxpayer dollars from the past year.

While the City didn’t win a dubious award — the municipal award instead went to the City of Montreal for video of snow-removal machines operating on bare streets — at least one councillor said it reinforced his reasoning for opposing the idea in the first place.

“I’m kind of surprised by the level of national attention this thing has received, but by the same token, I think what caught everyone by surprise is what I felt — that this isn’t the proper role for a municipality to partake in,” said Coun. Cam MacKay, who voted against the Starbucks deal when it came before city council last July.

He added that the ordeal may make leasing space in Servus Place more difficult.

“Now not only do [business owners] have to think if they can make a profit and deal with that, they also to consider what we’re going to do,” he said. “Are we going to get into the same line of business as them? That adds a lot more risk to anyone that would seek to do business with us.”

The Starbucks deal cost the City $280,000 for renovations and the corporate licence fee, which came out of reserves.

Coun. Cathy Heron, who voted in favour of the kiosk, said she thought the nomination was “puzzling.”

“Starbucks is not a very good example of wasting taxpayers’ money,” she said. “The whole issue with Starbucks, and it goes back to last summer, was a philosophical thing about whether municipalities should be in private business. The fact that we spent money — zero of it was actually charged to the taxpayer; it all came out of reserves, so reserves will be jiggled and priorities for the next 10 years at Servus Place reworked. It didn’t cost the taxpayers a penny; it’s putting money back in the taxpayers’ pocket.”

The kiosk is projected to bring in $90,000 of revenue each year, helping to offset the facility’s deficit, which currently sits at about $700,000 a year.

Heron added that her position has not changed in the months since.

“I would have loved for someone to do it privately; that would have been the best solution for everybody. But it didn’t happen,” she said. “So St. Albert took advantage of that potential revenue, and we’re benefiting from it.”

However, MacKay hasn’t budged, either.

“[My position has] just been confirmed more and more by recent events,” he said. “The one thing I’m really hoping is that it does turn a dollar, which is very much in doubt with a Tim Hortons opening so close. I’m really hoping for the best on this.”

— GLENN COOK, St. Albert Leader

Comments

  1. John Simpson says:

    “The fact that we spent money — zero of it was actually charged to the taxpayer; it all came out of reserves, so reserves will be jiggled and priorities for the next 10 years at Servus Place reworked. It didn’t cost the taxpayers a penny; it’s putting money back in the taxpayers’ pocket.” said Cathy Heron.

    This must rank as one of the dumbest comments I have ever seen by a politician here in St.Albert. Where on earth does she think the money loaded into a reserve comes from? pennies from heaven? No I’m sorry that comes from the taxpayer. You show a dangerous lack of knowledge for someone being in office nearly 2 years now. This one statement just cost you my vote and the rest of our familly. Crack a book and start to figure out how finances work, please!!!!!

  2. Jim Starko says:

    @ John Simpson – I couldn’t agree more.

    It’s absolutely stunning to me what a ridiculously stupid comment that is. And, these are the people we have making the decisions here in St. Albert. Councillor Heron doesn’t seem to grasp the relatively simple bottom line that, in the end, there is only one taxpayer and essentially one pot of money, and everything the city does is paid for from that one pot of money. The mechanics and specifics of exactly which account or where that money comes from is then just a “shell game.”

    The money that she speaks of coming from reserves was probably put there as part of a prior year’s property tax surplus. Just like this year – there is a surplus in excess of $549K for 2011. Will that money be refunded back to taxpayers? No way. The city will put it into some “reserve(s)” account(s) for a rainy day – like for when they make an ill-advised, ill-conceived decision to purchase a Starbucks master license, for example, and open a coffee shop in $ervu$ Place to compete with private enterprise that already exists there and the Tim Hortons opening right across the street that provides exactly the same kinds of services at a much lower price. Those kinds of decisions.

    “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

  3. phil chatwin says:

    @ John and Jim, I will also agree that this is the stupidest thing I have ever heard a politician say and Heron just does not seem to learn from her past mistakes.

    I unfortuantely have to say I voted for her because I wanted to see a female on Council but I can certainly say she lost my next vote along time ago and dense comments such as this just continue to confirm my feeling that certain people should not run and participate in municipal politics.

    Let’s take the inverse stance on this debate. How much would it have cost to just set up a simple City run Coffee shop with no franchise alliances? A lot less that $280,000 plus renovation fees and all the prescribe goods from Starbucks.

    This lady is so lost I am amazed she can make her way from from City Hall.

  4. Heron is way off base

  5. This Starbucks fiasco is going to cost taxpayers plenty as it will never be profitable

  6. Heron’s vote for the Starbucks outlet and her comments in this story are aptly described by Forrest Gump, who if you recall said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

  7. G. Proulx says:

    i’m taken aback by Coun. Cathy Heron statement in part “”The fact that we spent money – zero of it was actually charged to the taxpayer, it all came out of reserves.”
    Yet I understand that the city surplus for the year 2011 was pegged at $549 thousand dollars with $500 thousand of the surplus to be put into the city’s Stabilization Reserve.
    What is mind boggling is this action was taken by the City’s Standing committee on Finace, made up of all seven councillors and chaired by Coun. CATHY HERON. Is this not monies that were received from taxpayers for the year 2011?

  8. Crouse and Heron are a good team> Dumb & Dumber!

  9. Coun. Cathy Heron is either living in her own universe or actually is as clueless as her statement about not spending residents/taxpayer money makes her out to be. I missed the news announcement when they wasted taxpayer money on rebranding as a botanical arts city that they have found the trees that grow gold. Every penny that council is throwing around with abandon on this fiasco as well as Servus comes from taxpayers. She deserves her own award for clueless or maybe she like Crouse do not care one iota as we the taxpayer are truly viewed as a personal bottomless ATM for Council. Lord help us all when the people voted in to represent us are this unconcerned about the taxpayers they represent.

  10. The more that I think of Heron’s comment, the angrier I get. Does she not have a clue on whose money she is spending? So it is O.K. to invest and lose money? She and her husband should have purchased Starbucks if it is so profitable! Nobody in their right mind would invest. So we have Dumb and Dumber and the supporting cast–Lemieux, Brodhead, Bracko,