Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pasadena City Council balks on new ice rink -- again!!!!

It appears that the Pasadena City Council has mastered the art of making it appear they are doing something when, in fact, they are doing little or nothing when it comes to finding a temporary home for ice skating in Pasadena.

The Council met last night and after an hour of discussion unanimously passed something. "Something" is the key word in that sentence because few in the audience could be sure of what, if anything, the Council approved. In my book, it's called treating the public like they're idiots.

As best as I could understand, the Council voted for a motion that says: A) the Pasadena Convention Center can go forward on seeking a conditional use permit for a new ice rink to be located next door to the current one, and; B) but the Council wants to talk more about the finances, parking and public benefits program at the rink on Sept. 20 before deciding to loan the Convention Center $1.5 million to help build the rink.

In other words, the Council punted the issue another six weeks. Due diligence, you say? Wanting to know all the details before taking a vote?

You can interpret it that way. But I don't buy it.

As someone who covered the L.A. City Council for three years and saw all kinds of legislative shenanigans, I see it this way: With the exception of Councilman Steve Madison -- a serious supporter of ice skating -- these guys wouldn't know vision if they were sitting in a puddle of it. The Council basically did nothing last night and even their own attorney told them so, warning them that they couldn't make the motion appear to be pre-deciding a future vote on going forward with the temporary rink.

The other problem that came up was the question of how temporary this rink would be. The Convention Center, which owns the land, has made it clear that moving ice skating from the old ballroom building -- where it has been since the 1970s -- to the tent structure was a temporary move until a permanent home for skating could be found in the city.

There has been talk over the years of building a hotel on the site of the tent building, but no firm commitments from any developers or the city. And, after nearly a decade of discussion, the Council last year failed to summon enough votes to build a new rink in Eastern Pasadena that would have had two sheets of ice. They decided at the time to look into renovating the current rink.

Well, the Convention Center -- which owns the lease to the current rink -- hired a consultant that said the current facility is basically too crappy to even renovate. Instead, they recommended moving skating next door to the tent structure, which would allow a full NHL-sized rink to be built.

In the meantime -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- the city has been focused on a temporary solution and stopped looking for a location where a new facility could be built. A couple of the Council members even seem surprised that they were talking about spending money on a temporary structure -- even though everyone in the room who has been following the debate knew that. The Convention Center people made that point very clear at a heavily-attended public meeting about the rink in July.

In short, here's what happened last night: The Council failed to give its final approval to moving ice skating to a temporary structure next year at the Convention Center. They did this despite having no Plan B to move skating anywhere else when the current facility is scheduled to close in Sept. 2011. And they did this after squandering the past year and failing to look for a permanent home.

That's why talk about parking, revenue projections and public benefits is mostly nonsense. Let's say next month Convention Center officials come back with a parking plan the Council doesn't like because lack of parking could hurt business at the new rink (the current rink has no parking). Then what is the Council going to do? Kill the whole thing? And then what? When you don't have a Plan B, concerns over parking and selling discounted tickets to disadvantaged youth seem a little trite. At least to me.

And this much is clear to me: Despite some lip service from the Council, it's pretty clear that none except Steve Madison really cares that much about whether ice skating survives here. To them, it's a small sport with a passionate following -- a following, they are gambling, that can't muster enough votes to boot them from office if skating were to disappear from the city.

But I guess we'll have to see about that.


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