I was disappointed to read the Ms. Tash Taylor’s letter to the editor in the Saturday, March 21 Gazette. Ms. Taylor is the current executive director for the St. Albert Housing Society, and for some unknown reason has decided to attack Coun. Sheena Hughes for her motion to provide support to STARS using city surplus funds. Her letter incorrectly stated that STARS had not done requests to council during the regular budget deliberations. Considering Ms. Taylor was also the previous director of strategic services for the City of St. Albert, which must have worked very closely with the mayor and senior administration, I was surprised that she did not remember the many past presentations STARS has made at previous city budgets, requesting municipal support.
It was revealed during debate that almost three quarters of STARS’ funding must be found through donations and fundraising to remain operational each year, and that the province provides little more than one quarter of its annual operating budget. Most municipalities across the province support STARS. Our neighbour, Sturgeon County, regularly donates over $30,000 a year to STARS, yet St. Albert has never provided support to STARS. Considering that St. Albert has used STARS’ services 10 times in the past five years alone, it is appropriate that we offer financial support with excess funds. This one-time donation is equivalent to less than 80 cents per resident, which remains less than half of STARS’ ask of $2 per resident. A reasonable investment, considering the 24-hour critical emergency responses this organization offers to all our residents for no charge, regardless where they are in the province at their time of need. It is confusing why Ms. Taylor had an issue with providing support to this valuable organization.
What is also confusing is that while five council members supported the STARS motion, Ms. Taylor singled out one individual to attack. In my opinion, Coun. Hughes is a one of few who care about reducing the tax burden on our residents and businesses and has repeatedly shown her commitment to integrity and accountability. I am grateful for her balanced leadership and dedication to the position. Instead of providing criticism in a divisive approach, the St. Albert Housing Society executive director should be trying to emulate the collaborative and positive leadership Coun. Hughes has brought to our community.
Amy Cooke, St. Albert