Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The $52... $104 Million Question?

So the City did it. They took our money citing the flood as the reason. I am unimpressed. I am impressed with Big Red but not Calgary City Council in general. Once Alderman Colley-Urquhart heard from us in Ward 13, she changed her tune about what should be done with the money. Who knew? We have a representative who listens! Exciting stuff.

I am seriously starting to feel Mayor Nenshi sees himself as Prince John and we his subjects. We are nothing but dollars signs to him, so why not tax us to death. The flood was nothing but a God send of money in the bank, gold to take from his subjects and a reason to raise next year's taxes beyond his forecast. It seems the decision has already been made that next year's tax break, if there is one, is going straight into the city coffers. Why not, last year's did. How much is that now? $90 million? $100 million that the city has taken from us? I would prefer the province no longer goes through the city for taxes. I know it's for their convenience, not mine.

I, like everyone else, knows the flood was unprecedented but that's what the emergency fund is for. The province has said they'll help pay for flood damages. The federal government has said, they'll help pay for flood damages, so why does the city need to keep money the province has allocated back to us? There is absolutely no reason for it especially since the city intercepted it long before the flood ever happened. How did this become “flood money” all of a sudden? As I've heard so many times before, it rained, use the rainy day fund.

Mayor Nenshi, it appears, wants to replenish the rainy day fund before it's spent. City Council doesn't even know how much of the city's rainy day fund will be spent. Not only that, it's not even known exactly how much flood recovery will cost. You know, the stuff the provincial and federal governments said they'd cover. Even if the city's rainy day fund has to be tapped, it's supposed to get replenished from future taxation, not current or in this case, past taxation. It's not like “oh look, we've been hit by a hurricane, use 100% rainy day fund AND increase taxes to fill it back up tomorrow.” We don't expect another emergency that quickly, that's why it's called an emergency.

If this is how the City of Calgary has decided to operate, this worries me. In essence they have raised taxes due to an emergency. What happens in the next emergency?  There will be a next one. Will they have an emergency session, find some law that states they can raise our taxes effective immediately and we're hooped? The province won't always provide the city with our money as a windfall.

With the farcical poll that was held, Mayor Nenshi says “the results don't add up to a whole lot.” I beg your pardon? 5 simple questions, click here, get simple answers. “Give it back” got the most votes. Why, why, why does that need a lot of thought? What I see is Mayor Nenshi trying to reframe the poll into “keep it for city hall.” But that doesn't matter anymore, city council has already voted to keep it.

If Mayor Nenshi actually cared what we thought, the money would have been put back into our bank accounts. It would never have been a question, but he doesn't care about us. Before the flood, it was all about the biggest, newest, shiniest project. How many hundreds of millions of dollars can be spent right now. City council would complain about how they have no money for infrastructure maintenance but that's okay, they'd just raise taxes next year. Now, it's about how quickly they can screw us and make us like it. I also didn't like the argument “well the previous council spent a billion dollars on their project!” So what? It has been time for fiscal responsibility for so long. City Council is borrowing money for projects as it is. We have to stop spending! Play catch up for a few years! No more $500 million dollar projects! We should not be spending on public art, ever, but especially when tapping into the rainy day fund for an emergency is a cause for concern. This is stupid.

I’ve also heard it said that taking this money IS giving it back to Calgarians by using it for maintenance, projects, flood recovery or what have you.  Then why not tax me at 100% and give me my daily rations, room and board.  Wait, I believe that was called Twentieth Century Motor Company.

I watched City Council for a short time and I was rather disturbed by some of the things the Aldermen were saying. Unfortunately, I didn't record who said what.

One alderman said we are a collective as a municipality. No, really, we're not. Yes, we all live in Calgary and speaking for infrastructure needs, we pay into the same pot and expect the city to do its job. Saying we're a collective makes it sound like we live in a communist dictatorship. I don't work in the best interest of some guy in north east Calgary. This is certainly not a reason to keep the refund the province meant for us.

Another Alderman did make the point that there is only one taxpayer, but then went on to say that the city can only tax property. This was the reason to take the $52 million. Again, no. He explained that after taxing property, they have to go with their hand out to the province and the federal government. And? Calgary is in Alberta which is in Canada and guess what, this one taxpayer has to pay municipal, provincial and federal taxes. I don't have a choice so saying that they have to steal my money in order that they don’t have to “beg” the province or the feds does not make me any happier. Hiking my property taxes 30% over the last 3 years really makes me unhappy, my bottom line doesn't like it. The city is still saying “please sir, I want some more!”  Then the so called experts say “people aren’t spending as much on goods and services.”  I wonder why?

If the city is so short on funds, maybe they should start running properly. I will repeat myself - fiscal responsibility - and there is a reason. No private company could run like this city runs, it would be out of business in no time. City council continually approves billion dollar projects, they borrow for the next huge project and each division gives themselves raises every year whether they deserve it or not - and they almost never deserve it. The only city workers that deserve it this year are emergency services. The Calgary First Responders did fantastically.

We need to restart plebiscites. If the city wants to do a $500 million project, do a real vote. They should never again do some poll that'll be outright ignored. When they do a vote, they need to include an honest cost/benefit and if the there are massive cost overruns, there needs to be an external investigation and audit as to why. It seems every project that runs through the government, there are massive cost overruns.  That needs to end. Again, no private enterprise can run like that. The project manager would be fired.  Things need to change.  No more stealing of our money, no more mismanagement of our money.  Enough is enough.

These last number of years should teach people something.  Don’t forget the last few years because of a couple of good weeks of leadership.  Don’t allow these politicians to continually steal, pillage and plunder from us.  Make them responsible.  Politicians, do your job.  You work for me, my neighbours, their neighbours.  You do not work for your own self interest.  My memory is long, your term is short.  Never forget, you only care about my opinion once every few years, but I show up, every single time, unlike your current power base.  

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