Sunday, April 13, 2014

Correcting a Misconception

For some people, when they get what they think is a good story, they'll keep repeating it, with embellishments, until they forget what the actual truth is.  That's how rumours get started, and grow.

There's one story about me that I hear occasionally, that I want to set the record straight on.  And I'm sure that I'll hear it again, even after I've set the record straight, but at least I'll know that the truth is out there.

The misconception that has been voiced more than once is that I've never, in all my fourteen years on council, voted in favour of an annual budget.  This is not true.  I have voted to support the budget three times, when I felt that the budget process had been fair and open, and that the result was fair to all city residents.  They weren't perfect budgets, but I felt that they did the best job possible of addressing the various issues of the day.

But I haven't supported several budgets, and always gave my reasons for doing so.  I did not vote to support, for example, the budget that took money from the road maintenance budget, and directed it towards Neat and Clean, the slush fund that was used for such things as painting light standards as high as the painter could reach, and no higher, and putting new furniture in the mayor's office and in council chambers.  I did not vote to support the budget that had a tax increase of 0%, because that resulted in our falling even further behind in infrastructure maintenance, and was only set because it was an election year - an extremely short-sighted and obvious tactic.

There are people on the current council that voted to support both of those budgets, but nobody ever asks them to explain why.  I find it interesting that, when people go along with the majority, it doesn't seem to get questioned, but those of us who aren't afraid to voice different opinions get questioned, and the implication is definitely made that we're not good team players.

This year, I think that the budget process was better than it has been for several years, although there still is much work to be done in questioning the status quo.  The difficulty that I have is with the continuation of the initial $60 flat tax, that was created four or five years ago so that the rate increase could be smaller, and then  immediately used to balance the budget.  I voted against that flat tax, and continue to do so.  When I objected last year, a commitment was made that this year, council would look at removing this undirected tax, as we had brought in the flat tax directed towards road repairs.  But that didn't happen, with no explanation.

I have less problem with taxes directed toward capital expenditures - last year's tax was set to cover the amount of work that we thought could be done, and we were trying to make up for several years of past neglect.  At some point, when we've caught up, I expect that tax to be removed.  As for the initial $60, undirected tax, I don't agree with the current proposal to direct half the $60 towards snow removal - that is an operational expense that varies widely from year to year, and we don't know if the $30 will be enough, or too much.  And it still leaves $30 undirected.

I'm surprised that so many members of this council support flat taxes, since they are considered regressive by  most cities.  Low and middle value homes proportionally pay more under a flat tax than higher value homes.  Most of us represent far more lower and middle income citizens, and yet, we're quite okay with an unfair tax for most of those who elected us.  It doesn't make sense to me.

The so-called flat tax is applied differently to commercial properties.  For those, it ranges from $300 to $3000.  Somehow, we recognize that a small business cannot afford to pay as large a tax as a large business, but we don't apply the same logic to small homes compared to large homes.  I'd love to hear a coherent explanation of that inconsistency.

I have a problem when people suggest that I should vote against my better judgement just so that council can appear to be united.  Council isn't some old boys' club, and being on council isn't a game.  We're each elected to represent our constituents and their interests, as well as consider the well-being of the city as a whole, and we can only move ahead and change if we're not afraid to question and at times disagree, not just with the status quo, but with each other.  And I will continue to vote in the way that I think is right.

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." - Winston Churchill

1 comment:

Lisa Stiglitz said...

Hi Lee
Hope you've been keeping well
I am trying to get a hold of Jim but I guess he changed his cell #. He called a few weeks back and I said I would call him back, not realising his # had changed. If you know it could you send it to me at
Thanks and take care!