One reader's take on election issues
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 14, 2013 06:00 am
We will soon be at the voting booths, voting for a new city council, one that you and I will have to live with for the next four years. The big day is October 21.
Once again the turnout to vote may be suspect. The last percentage I think was slightly over 30 per cent of eligible voters. Not outstanding by any means.
I am hoping voter participation will be much higher because there are several important “memory points” in my mind of which I do not want a continuance for the next four-year term.
I hope that the new council will have clearer priorities and take a much closer look at spending related to those priorities. The present policy and practices appear to result and to be the rationale or justification for higher taxes. Based on what we know, our direct and indirect average personal household costs (taxes) since 2006 may exponentially be well over 100 per cent in the next few years at the current rate of increases. This possibility scares me to death.
I hope that the hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on studies for what also appears to be unrealistic, in the eyes of many, projects. Projects such as: the LRT, DARP and Starbucks of which going into all the details would take much more than this tiny writing could handle. Suffice to say that ideas like having an LRT requires much more common sense and realism, even for a potential population of 120,000. The approach to future redevelopment such as DARP is well intentioned. However, it has some very serious geological land problems. Major problems like being on riverbed soils of massive proportion. So I hope that there will be more options and balance in thinking when considering other alternatives while we are still growing.
Going forward I hope will result in more positive outcomes in terms of research, potential problem analysis and efficiencies in expenses. I hope we do not continue with the same thought-ware it seems we have when budgeting direct and indirect costs. In the same vein, I hope we can recover the loss of millions of tax dollars on off-site levies and be pro-active with major properties such as those needed for schoolchildren. I hope we can introduce initiatives aligned with our destiny within the borders of our control, initiatives which will be more open to the public and benefit the future and present citizens of St. Albert.
Is it not time to ask ourselves: "What business are we in?" Perhaps we had “stars” in our eyes, or, too much caffeine when the city branched out into the entrepreneurial realm in desperation to offset millions of unplanned costs. In my experience, the normal model of partnering is a different matter in the private world. Public business getting into private business does not seem to work well anywhere. My thoughts and hope is that city hall will have the thought-ware of “a return on our investment” for all development, fair and equitably applied as an essential ingredient on council and in “our” administration.
Millions of dollars it may cost us for off-site levies. I am not clear about how much it has already cost us. However, a reliable source has said currently it could cost taxpayers up $60 million, plus what we may face in the near future if a continuance of the existing policy is not changed. I hope the present council will deal with this situation before the elections.”
I also hope that the utility rates with built in “pre-pay" amounts designated specifically for future infrastructure, which is already being used to shore up city debt in the form of a loan, does not continue. I encourage administration and councillors to avoid more “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and, as mentioned above, be better managed in a pro-active manner rather than reactive each and every year.
There appears for all intents and purposes an explicit lack of foresight, a vision with an aligned municipal development strategy and progressive, measurable implementation plans coupled with accountabilities. Now that we have the land for economic development and a projected 120,000 population, where will we be and what will we look like in 2020-2030? It is “now” that we have to: seriously form a concrete and comprehensive vision; have a strategy and respective implementation plans in order to sustain our city's great characteristics, people, culture, parks spaces, street safety and improved traffic systems, etc. This, I hope will be done with the utmost involvement of those who will be paying and paving the way? I understand that all of this requires the ability to “change the fan belt while the engine is running.” However, many of us think and most of us would say “the sooner we start, the better.”
John L. Goldsmith, St. Albert