Sunday, July 9, 2017

On Being Truthful and Practising Good Grammar

The last week of June Andrea and I headed to City Hall to make the final payment on this year's taxes.  I know, I know, there are some people who think that paying taxes is optional, but like most responsible citizens, we recognize that taxes need to be paid so that the city can function.

Along with the tax notice, of course, came a page of bumph about how hard Council worked to keep taxes at the same rate as originally set in the budget.  Of course, with some of the decisions made by the province in their budgetary exercise, that didn't happen, hence the additional payment.

I understand the impulse to put a positive spin on what Council is doing.  However, I think that putting in some honesty never hurts, and helps to earn respect, although I'm sure that most people don't bother to read these included messages - they know that it's just politics inserting itself.

The first statement that made Andrea laugh out loud was in the very first paragraph.  If City Administration has been looking hard at expenses, why do they keep creating new positions?  One of the most effective ways of cutting costs is to freeze hiring, and to not take on new, expensive projects if they're not essential - I would put the new GIS system in that category, a nice to have, but not essential.  More on hiring later.

The second statement that elicited laughter was in the third paragraph, where the talk is that the decision was made to not let the mistakes of the provincial government be shouldered by the taxpayers of Prince Albert.  Well, taxes went up, plus they decided to duplicate how the province got into this mess by raiding reserves to cover operating expenses.  That's like dipping into your RRSP, which is meant to be saved for the future, to buy your groceries - not smart planning.  Reserves are meant to be saved for specific purposes, like big ticket items.

Then, of course, there is more verbiage about how hard Council is working to do more with less.  While I don't argue with the importance of infrastructure maintenance, it was a priority for the last council too, and as for back lane reconstruction, that's been a headache for years that won't be solved simply by buying another piece of equipment.

Back to hiring.  The city now has not one but two communications officers, and yet inappropriate capitalization - the Oil Spill Water Crisis - really? It had a name? made its way in.  Then, instead of using the subjective form of the first person singular (that would be I) to refer to himself, the mayor uses the word myself, which is wrong.  And on the second page, buses is pluralized incorrectly.  Two communications people, and they didn't catch these.  My resident grammar goddess, whose degree is not in English, was not impressed.

So what, you say? Grammar doesn't matter?  If you have communications people who can't make sure that a communication from council is as good as it should be, someone isn't doing their job, for which your taxes are paying.  Big or small, it all matters.  And yes, some people will notice, and it matters to them.

"Good English, well spoken and well written, will open more doors than a college degree.  Bad English will slam doors you didn't even know existed."  William Raspberry