I was initially going to write on the issues I have with the impending green bin fiasco that I see coming but I think I want to do something a little different. Not so much different but change my tactics because really, what's bothering me about the green/blue/black bins is not so much the bin but the lie.
In Calgary, we currently have a city council that does nothing to protect the taxpayer. This city council is quick to spend. They love their legacies, good or bad. The rebuild of 16th Avenue North is a good example.
Calgary has been my home most of my life but I moved away for a couple of years. During that time, 16th Avenue got torn apart. When I decided to visit, I learned (by driving down it) to stay off 16th. I had no idea why it was being torn up but friends were telling me it was to expand it and make it easier to get through the city. I thought “fantastic”! I used to go to Crescent Heights High School, so I used 16th a lot in my teenage years. Traffic has only gotten worse, go for it.
I move back to Calgary after four years and 16th Avenue is still under construction. My God this is taking awhile! The Brick closes, the dry cleaner moves under protest, but the construction moves forward. Awesome. Then, those planter boxes get put down the middle of the road. Traffic is as bad as ever, very little changes and the lights are synchronized to go red no matter how fast or slow you drive. I mean seriously, have you driven down 16th Avenue? I still avoid 16th Ave like its plague. So how many millions went into space for really big, ugly planter boxes?
Okay, I can deal, not a problem. I don’t own a home yet, I haven't noticed too much. Why does my rent keep increasing? I lived in Tofino FREAKIN' BC for God sake and I think this is nuts! I'm not kidding. I rented a house in Tofino for cheaper than my tiny apartment here in Calgary! I'm having serious issues with this.
I'm sorry, how much for an LRT expansion? I'm not going to hyperventilate. I'm... okay. I'm still standing. The world is a little fuzzy, I'm feeling a little woozy. What else is happening? Oh, that Glenmore upgrade thing? Well, that's cool, it's needed that for awhile. What else? There are how many construction projects this year? I did notice I can't drive anywhere without running headlong into construction. This is crazy even for Calgary.
Okay, I own a house now. That's nice. I find I'm paying a lot more attention to stuff. I don't know if that's better but I'm paying attention. A lot of stuff the city and province do give me a headache. The tunnel is one of them. It was suppose to replace Barlow but it follows Mcknight and Country Hills Blvd. and costs how much and ends where? Oh look, my property taxes just increased. That's why my rent kept increasing. You want to build 4 rec centres with money you don't have. Oh look, my property taxes increased. You introduced blue bins and black bins, with a fee... but my property taxes went up. How does that work? You can't control Calgary Transit or its costs so you now include them in my property taxes and now my property taxes increase. I'm seeing a trend that I don't like.
City Council says time and again that they're dead broke, no money for years to come. The province doesn't know what they have to give but you want to build a composting facility, so you are probably going to increase my property taxes. You want to build a new library with money you don't have, guess you want more of my money right. You have this fantastically fabulous idea for green bins, that will come with a fee but you're going to not only take the tax break the province gave me, you're going to increase my property taxes. OH, and you've already decided that next year's is at least a 6% increase.
Are you seeing a pattern? Are you happy with the pattern because I can certainly say, I'm not. I'm very unhappy with this pattern and I'm very concerned. Not only am I concerned, I'm angry. Why can this city council not control its spending. Why can it not stop spending? Why can it not get its fiscal house in order? This has to stop and it has to stop 5 years ago. There are only so many “only's” left in us. It's “only” $6/month. It's “only” $126/year. It's “only” 6%. It's “only” my hard earned money. It's “only” my husband's hard earned money. It's “only” my neighbour's hard earned money.
The effort of earning a living, the effort of earning nice things, the effort of putting food on the table does NOT give this city council a right to take it. Public art is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard. No public money should ever go to art! I'm sorry but I will stand by that and I'm a photographer.
I also don't like it when I read that Calgary has the lowest level of taxation across the country, so be happy with the increases. No, I will never be happy with increases unless I can agree with why I'm being taxed to death. When taxation is over 40%, I’ve got a problem with that. When the mayor is taking a tax break given to us by another level of government, and then tells us there is due process to potentially get it back, I’ve got a problem with that because Calgary city council interrupted due process in the first place.
As far as this $52 million is concerned, the province taxed it away from us, the province decided to give it back. The only thing the city did, was take it for the province. City council should have NO right to keep it once the province decides to give it back. It was NEVER theirs. Same with last year’s $40 million. The city made their budget, it should be their responsibility to stay within their spending means. They did not find $52 million laying around, it's not a windfall. It's theft, from either the provincial coffers or from us. Plain and simple.
The politician that puts the word “only” in front of an increase or dollar amount has immediately lost my respect. That politician certainly has no respect for me. Just because it's “only $$” to him, doesn't mean it's only $$ to someone else. That could be a meal for someone's children or a bus ticket to work. I put value into every dollar I have. There was a time I had very little. I'm by no means rich yet but I'm no longer poor. $126 could be groceries for a week for some family. My family used to be one of those. I can thankfully say I'm no longer in that boat but it's still my $126 to do with as I please. It's not City Council's to take out of my pocket because they've overspent and now they're screwed.
Mayor Nenshi does want to add some sort of municipal tax to keep up with the city council's out of control spending. He would like to put upon his subjects a tax of “only” 1% above GST or a gas tax or whatever else he had in mind. He does not wish these taxes put to a vote. We're being gouged enough though. As landowners, I want a Magna Carta signed!
Maybe we should be writing up a new Magna Carta. We have one but it's being ignored, so perhaps the Magna Carta 2013 is required. Our current “leaders” are certainly acting like Kings of the land so I don't see why not. We're certainly being treating like subjects. We're being taxed like subjects. When does the tax collector knock at my door to collect his gold? I won't be surprised when he shows up.
The Magna Carta was written to limit the powers of the King. City council and the province are way too liberal with our money. That’s because it's not theirs. I do want to limit the spending powers of the Federal government as well, but we can argue with them some other time. Governments should be worried about protecting us in various ways, not about their legacies. They should be worried about infrastructure, water & sewer, roads, not public art and bridges we never wanted. That bridge is less than 100 m from one and I can see another bridge not far on the other side. However I had to ride my bike 7 km to find one when I was at 17 St SE. I could have thought of another place that required a bridge, even an eyesore like that one. Governments should be worried about bylaws and how to enforce them, not shark fin soup bans. That's a federal deal in my opinion, if it's an issue at all in Canada.
If city council actually got its priorities in order, actually did what city council was suppose to do, we wouldn't have this spending problem. Our city council could, in theory have money. But they want to go the easy route, they'd rather continually increase taxes. They'd rather give themselves yearly raises and pat themselves on the back. Do you know who should vote whether they get a salary increase or not? Us. Even I would vote myself a salary raise - anyone would. Why not if you could? It's not their money, until it is.
Enough useless spending. Enough unwarranted salary increases. Enough abusing taxpayers. They seem to forget, there’s only one taxpayer for all levels of government. Don’t say you respect the taxpayer, show it. As far as I’m concerned, we’re being treated like ATM’s. The wallet’s empty, time to make another withdrawal. It’s “only” another twenty bucks.