What happened Monday? The Council voted 4 to 3 to build the new rink. But five votes were needed for passage and the potential fifth vote, Councilman Victor Gordo, was absent from the meeting. Madison tried to postpone a final vote, but the three opponents of building the rink -- Chris Holden, Terry Tornek and Margaret McAustin -- also voted against that motion. It needed five votes to pass, so Holden, Tornek and McAustin were smart in a sneaky, sleazy kind of way: they knew that if Gordo decided to show up at a future meeting, the new rink might actually be approved.
Instead, the Council ended up passing a motion to investigate renovating the existing rink. The current rink has one, small sheet of ice. The new rink would have had two -- meaning actual time and space for ice hockey. That's a good thing if you, like me, are 43 years old and trying to learn to play the game. Here's the thing about learning to play ice hockey: I've found it really helps to spend time on actual ice.
In a sharply worded email sent to fellow supporters of the new rink, Councilman Steve Madison wrote that there are numerous reasons to believe the current rink in a converted ballroom at the Convention Center is doomed when its lease expires in Sept. 2011 (I added the italics for emphasis):
The new rink would have cost about $18 million. According to a city report, the city would have had to commit about $1 million to the project and guarantee about $8 million in bonds, meaning the city was potentially at risk of losing money if the new rink was under-utilized.
"I have asked for a detailed investigation into why the project took so long to come to Council such that we lost our momentum and ultimately the project itself, wasting a decade of time, energy and literally millions of your tax dollars. At the end of the discussion, a majority voted to explore renovating the current civic auditorium single sheet rink, so that the three council members’ votes do not end ice skating in Pasadena. But the reality is that is likely what they accomplished--with parking now $9 at the convention center, a dilapidated rink that is too small to begin with, crammed into an old ballroom, and a lease that expires in September 2011, this may well be the end of figure skating and ice hockey in Pasadena."
In a short blog post on the vote, the Star News' Dan Abendschein reported that Madison implied that the three opponents of the rink aren't exactly supporters of youth activities. My opinion is that Madison is extremely correct on this point. The vast majority of people who use the Pasadena rink happen to be under 18. Go anytime and see for yourself. It's all munchkins, all the time -- with a few geezers like me thrown in as a novelty.
Terry Tornek is my representative on the City Council, although I use the word 'representative' only in the strictest technical sense. He doesn't represent my views, nor does he seem even slightly interested in explaining his views. As I posted earlier, when I emailed Tornek last month expressing my support for a new rink, I received a bleak two-sentence no-reply: "Thanks for your comments. Sorry we disagree on every aspect of this proposal."
Isn't it refreshing when a politician tries to explain himself? (Note to literal readers: That last sentence was intended to be exceedingly sarcastic).
I'm going to email Tornek now and ask him the BIG question: How does renovating a rink that is too small -- and with no room to expand -- remedy the problem that the rink is too small? I am no physicist, but I'm pretty sure this makes no sense whatsoever.
Here's my take: Ice skating is still seen as a freaky sport in Southern California. Although we have two pro hockey teams here and some of the world's best figure skaters (world champion Evan Lysacek, to name one) have called the area home, people just don't associate skating with the region -- likely due to the weather, poor media coverage and ineffective marketing of hockey by the perenially losing Kings. So when politicians are faced with a decision to spend public money on skating, their instinct is to think it's a waste, although anyone who has been to a busy rink knows that it is not.
The full text of Madison's email to ice rink supporters is posted after the jump. It's worth reading.
P.S. In case you also live in the 7th Council district and were curious, Tornek is up for reelection in 2013. He was elected to the Council earlier this year after serving on the City Planning Commission -- a gig he was appointed to by his predecessor on the Council, Sid Tyler.
As for Tyler....In my former capacity as transportation reporter for the Newspaper Whose Name I Shall Not Speak, I once called Tyler and asked him why the traffic lights in Pasadena are amazingly unsynchronized. Tyler didn't know what I was talking about. Please. Anyone who has ever driven in Pasadena knows exactly what I'm talking about--green, red, green, red, red, red, etc. So whenever I hear the words "Sid Tyler" I always think of the phrase "out of touch."
From: Steve Madison <email@example.com>
Date: September 15, 2009 9:43:43 PM PDT
Subject: RE: UPDATED! Pasadena "Build The Rink" (Your Support is Still Needed by July 31)
Last night the Pasadena City Council ended our dream of building a new ice rink in Pasadena. Although Mayor Bogaard, Steve Haderlein, Jacque Robinson and I voted to continue negotiations to build the new rink, we needed 5 votes and Chris Holden, Margaret McAustin and Terry Tornek strongly opposed building a new rink in Pasadena and insisted on killing the project last night. Victor Gordo, who has been supportive of the rink and might have been the necessary 5th vote to continue to work on ways to build the rink, was unable to attend the meeting last night because of work commitments. At one point I made a motion to table (postpone) the matter until Victor was back. But that motion failed by the same vote—led by Chris Holden, the three opponents realized that the rink project might still be alive if we put the matter it over until we had all 8 councilmembers present, so they opposed my request for a postponement of one week! Again, we needed 5 votes to postpone and we only had 4.
This decision essentially ends 8-10 years of work for many of us; years in which we spent $3 million of taxpayer money on the new rink, set aside another $2.5 million to be used to build it, acquired and readied a site in East Pasadena supported by the Councilmember from that district (Steve Haderlein), retained architects and developed plans for a new state-of-the-art double sheet rink that under the most conservative estimates would be a moneymaker for Pasadena (without even considering the indirect economic benefits of hotel stays, restaurant business, sales tax, etc.), and negotiated extensively with Luc Robataille and others for a management agreement that would have included the support of the LA Kings for the new rink.
I have asked for a detailed investigation into why the project took so long to come to Council such that we lost our momentum and ultimately the project itself, wasting a decade of time, energy and literally millions of your tax dollars. At the end of the discussion, a majority voted to explore renovating the current civic auditorium single sheet rink, so that the three councilmembers’ votes do not end ice skating in Pasadena. But the reality is that is likely what they accomplished--with parking now $9 at the convention center, a dilapidated rink that is too small to begin with, crammed into an old ballroom, and a lease that expires in September 2011, this may well be the end of figure skating and ice hockey in Pasadena.
I look forward to hearing from you as we go forward about what if anything you believe we should do at this point. Please pass this message along to anyone interested in skating in Pasadena, and let them know I would love to hear their thoughts about where to go from this point. Thanks for your support, and I am so sorry we were not successful.