Thursday, November 20, 2014

MESSAGE TO COUNCIL FROM THIS ELECTION

LARGE NUMBERS OF RESIDENTS ARE TAX FATIGUED

The whole focus of my recent election campaign (many will tell you this is the flaw) was focused purely on the levels of taxation and city spending the community can actually afford. I was advised that my myopic focus would likely not get me enough broad support to win a seat but the 5658 people that did vote for me were only voting for one thing ........... city spending restraint. A platform which I feel could have provided 'elected' numbers had the message been presented using a larger promotion budget than I had at my disposal. Full page ads, with the same simple message could very well have translated into higher numbers at the polls. But considering a full page ad is in the $2,000 territory it was simply beyond the reach of my budget.

During the campaign period I did not do a lot of the 'advised' vote-winning activities such as going here and there to different special interest groups putting together support from across the community. Granted this is a good vote-getting/buying strategy that has merit to get elected, but, frankly is just not my cup of tea. I am of the opinion that unless and until we are assured our basic infrastructure such as water, sewer, roads, sanitation and safety are fully funded and protected we can not keep throwing money out the window on vote-getting projects.

That, however, is exactly what I expect to see as we begin to see which special interest groups have been elected. The IAFF union supported councillor to loose his seat came as quite a surprise but I will be interested to see which other candidates got the union-nod. I know that Councillors Bestwick and Yoachim were endorsed by CUPE via a postcard they mailed out during the election. The IAFF members were out in a force of eight to support their candidate (Ted Greves) at the Chamber of Commerce forum at the VICC during the election.

The union 'special interest' is one I have some difficulty with when you consider the percentage of tax dollars that are consumed paying their wages and benefits at city hall. When you consider the wages and benefits to the RCMP (never shown as part of the wages and benefits on city reports) combined with union and exempt staff at city hall, that is where over 80% of your tax dollar now goes. If it weren't for the revenue from user fees (just another name for tax) the city wouldn't have enough money to fill the pothole in front of your house. Note, when I claim 80% of tax dollars I am referring to the revenue in the city budget coming from property taxes alone. This of course is not the entire city budget which is also funded with user fees, transfer payments, DCC's and reserves, the reference is purely to the revenue coming from taxes which is now in the $93,000,000 range.

Put another way, with 745 FTEs employed by the city this means that less than 1% of the total population consumes 80% of the taxes paid by the rest of us. Sustainable? Affordable? City hall, and council will tell you it is.

TO BE CLEAR

This is not sour grapes on my part, nor am I claiming that "I" could have been elected by simply having a bigger budget. I am saying that with proper communication the 'fiscal restraint' message resonated with a lot of Nanaimo residents and that number could have been enlarged with more publicity.

This council was not given a blank cheque to start throwing even more tax dollars onto the fire. Whether they have the backbone to start dealing with the out-of-control wages and benefits being supported by the rest of the community remains to be seen.


My new byline:

Jim Taylor .....  
Nanaimo Councillor-in-waiting

allvoices

2 comments:

  1. Jim - McKay ran a pretty fiscally conservative election. He's already rattling the sabre at the port.theatre spending and setting the stage for a review of services. Isn't that a good start?

    Bill Yoachim was very anti-spendng at the all candidates event and even went so far as to mention he thought most of the city staff were overpaid and their budget was bloated. Let's give them a chance....

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  2. Agreed, just making a point that it is only well after an election that you find out what interests are being served. Did Bill McKay promise an immediate review of DCC's which haven't been increased since 2008 and even by those calculations are undercharging for water connections by about 25%. Wait and see what direction council gives our 'negotiator' for the next round of CUPE contracts. I doubt if the majority of council will back-up on the Port Theatre, the three incumbent councilors supported it before and Mr. Hong would likely see this as a plus for downtown, so just one more vote and it remains.

    Being anti-spending is a good policy, but new councilors haven't had the benefit of city staff explaining why nothing in the budget can be removed. They spent 80 hours last term doing just that, and council cut ZERO from the budget after understanding why everything is essential. Even million dollar repaints at the kiddies pools were essential!!

    Mayor-elect McKay's biggest challenge, IMHO, will be bringing together a council that isn't just as fractured as the last one.

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