The privileged few: Elton John fans vs Kitchener city councillors
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Kitchener is a small town located 1 hour west of Toronto. It is also home of the "best" Oktoberfest outside of Germany (I've heard, I've never been). I think Kitchener is more famous because of its proximity to Waterloo, home of the University of Waterloo.
Kitchener-Waterloo is a happening place: Bill Gates is in town today
, for the second time in 3 years; and Elton John is giving a concert sometime this month.
Elton John's visit, however, has brought controversy to our town. City councillors get free tickets to the concert and also have access to a reserve of 57 extra tickets. This doesn't seem to be a big deal, but the problem is that the capacity to the event is limited and music lovers waited for hours to get tickets for the event, which sold out in minutes. Obviously, people are wondering why city councillors have advanced access and don't have to line up, like everyone else, to buy such tickets. Most important, why are city councillors enjoying shows on my dime? The Aud is a city corporation and our tax dollars are what keeps it going.
I'm not a fan of Elton John, but there is something underhanded in this deal. It doesn't sit right with me, for some reason; it feels too much like a favour that needs to be returned in the future. These are politicians (more or less) and the appearance of impropriety is taken seriously. Nevertheless, the mayor, Carl Zehr, is standing by this policy (?) and defends the privilege by saying, "The encouragement is for us to be there to understand how the auditorium works and functions for a variety of events." Right...People are not buying it, including me.
We have become very vocal about this. Local newspapers keep getting letters and phone calls on the subject. These are some of the links I've found:
Even I have become "political" about the perceived privilege. Yesterday I wrote a letter (email) to the mayor and all the councillors. This is what I wrote:
To: Carl Zehr
Re: Elton John Concert...
I rarely make a point of contacting city officials directly, as they seem to be doing an adequate job at managing city assets. However, I couldn't help to hear about the Elton John concert and the minor controversy that has risen around the number of tickets allotted for each city councilor, including yourself.
Your explanation (given on Canada AM and reported on Sudbury concert controversy angers Elton John fans) of "The encouragement is for us to be there to understand how the auditorium works and functions for a variety of events" doesn't appease my sense of fairness. I think that one ticket per councilor is sufficient--perhaps even two, but not more.
I don?t like Elton John, so I wasn't affected by the quick sale of tickets. But I do hope your office reconsiders returning the tickets for public, fair consumption. I don't think there is a question of impropriety, as the vendor (The Aud in this case) is the one allotting the number tickets available to your office; nevertheless, as city officials, there shouldn't be a question of privilege or difference between you and me (and the rest of Elton John fans, who are not city councilors).
Best regards, from a concerned Canadian citizen and Kitchener resident.
I haven't received a reply, except for an "out of the office" auto-message from one of the councillors. If you'd like to email them, these are their email addresses
I don't think there is anything to be gained or lost from my email, but I find it interesting that this gets my blood flowing faster. In this case, free tickets for a concert I had no idea was taking place.
I guess the issue I have is that I could have called Mr. Zehr to get me some tickets, instead of lining up. I don't know him personally, but why use his connection to get them for his friends. The Kitchener Record reported that "Zehr also said he received a number of calls from friends and associates looking for tickets, and he placed calls on their behalf to the Aud's management. They bought their tickets from the batch controlled by the management of the city-owned facility."
What will happen here? Will they return the tickets? Will they apologize? Will they change their office policy on freebies? Will the councillors sing along "Candle on the Wind"? Will I get a reply from the mayor? It's all in the air...And the soap opera continues to the tune of Elton John...