“I am sure you will also tell me that it is just a coincidence how the pro-arts centre letters to the editor are getting WAY MORE print than the against ones are. Don’t think we haven’t noticed! Your newspaper is obviously trying to help the yes side!”
We did not address this misinformation from a KTW reader in our introduction to the Arts Centre Fact Checker series in Wednesday’s paper and online at kamloopsthisweek.com.
But I can address it here and repeat what I told the reader: Since July 1, we have received 17 letters on the proposed arts centre. We have published 16 of them. One remains in the queue because the facts in the letter are incorrect. Of those 16 letters we have published, nine are in favour, six are opposed and one is on the fence, depending on how it is funded.
So, no, we do not choose to print pro-arts centre letters over letters of opposition. We print virtually every letter — either in print or online or both — we receive.
The fact is we have thus far received more letters in support than in opposition.
It was a few months ago that we mulled the idea of creating a fact-checking series on the proposed arts centre project, considering how polarizing it has once again become and due to the fact there is so much erroneous information and genuine questions needing answers we have seen online, in letters to the editor and in conversations with residents.
The city has launched a similar endeavour online.
Editorially, we are neutral, but on this opinion page, I support the idea of the Kamloops Centre for the Arts, as I did in 2015 when a far different performing-arts centre pitch was defeated by voters in a referendum — a 54-46 percentage margin, with a voter turnout of about 32 per cent.
Had it been approved by voters in 2015, that arts centre would have given the city permission to borrow up to $49 million toward a $91-million project, with the average assessed household paying $38 per year for 20 years.
The upcoming April 4 referendum will ask residents to approve the city borrowing up to $45 million toward a project pegged to be in the $70-million range (with the remaining funds coming from government grants and donations). The average-assessed household will pay nothing extra as the $45-million to be borrowed will simply replace the debt of the Tournament Capital Centre, which will be retired right about when the arts centre begins to rise.
(Of course, taxpayers will be on the hook for annual operating costs, as they are now with every city-owned soccer field, ice arena, recreation centre and pool. Those costs, per household, will be a few dollars per year.)
I sympathize with those who cite tax fatigue. My property taxes rose by $500 last year. My 2020 utility bill will increase by 14 per cent. I work at a newspaper, not a place where one gets rich, nor a place where pay raises are aplenty.
Still, the taxes and fees that keep me on my toes do not dissuade me from supporting the arts centre, with the plan proposed well within the household budgets of most in Kamloops.
The predominant argument against the arts centre proposal has been that there are many more important things on which we should be spending money.
But if we were to base all tax expenditures on only what is essential, we would never have a park, a library, an arena, a pool — anything. Sure, the potholes might be filled in, but what else would we have other than a well-maintained replica of a Soviet-era city?
Did you know Riverside Coliseum, Tournament Capital Centre, McArthur Island, Tournament Capital Ranch, Riverside Park and Pioneer Park all went to referendum?
Not all of those things are for everyone, but can anybody seriously argue Kamloops would be better off without any of them?
There will always be something that needs attention, but life is about more than potholes and the basics.
To borrow and fine-tune a quote of a prime minister who served through three decades: “Of course Kamloops with an arts centre will be more expensive than a Kamloops without an arts centre. But Kamloops will be richer for it.”