There's been a lot of ink poured over the outcomes of the Toronto and Calgary elections. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, in the eyes of writers such as Eric Mang is the very embodiment of an irrational uprising. Or if you'd like, a Canadian representative of the Tea Party.
The Courier's Allen Garr shrugs off concerns that the changes sweeping across other Canadian cities will impact Vision Vancouver. He says, "as long as Robertson keeps the noise about backyard chickens, bike lanes and municipal office renovations to a dull roar, I wouldn't expect we'll see a Calgary or a Toronto here."
Even journalist and fellow blogger Frances Bula seems to suggest that the door is shut on a meat-eating conservative becoming Vancouver's mayor. But the Globe and Mail's Gary Mason is so far the only contrarian. "Think Rob Ford couldn't happen in a place like Vancouver?" asks Mason. "Think again."
Today's decision by the Metro Vancouver board of directors, and the failure of the Vision Vancouver representatives may have planted the seed for a Ford-like ascendancy of a cost-cutting candidate for this city's top job. The board voted to jack up regional spending 5.8 per cent to $603 million, adding 24 more full-time staff.
This week the Vancouver Sun editorial board lashed out at Gregor Robertson and Vision for their seeming inability to address the cost of running Vancouver. They make a smart suggestion about hiring a Director of Budget Sustainability. The cost of municipal government – where salaries and benefits use the vast majority of budgets – is out of control. The decision upon getting elected by Vision Vancouver to remove the City from the Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Bargaining Unit, will inevitably result in "whipsawing" between jurisdictions over the cost of labour settlements. Just ask CUPE.
If you own an average property valued at $600,000, thanks to the decision by today's Metro Vancouver board you're looking at a $44 annual increase. Vancouver single-family homes bottom out around $1,000,000 today, regardless of what you paid for it. You're on the hook for over $700 worth of taxes for Metro.
Some directors, such as Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean rejected MV's extravagences. As Early Edition's Rick Cluff tweeted out, there are 50 communications staff for example! The Surrey Leader's Jeff Nagel has written the most comprehensive report so far on the board's decision, and he caught MacLean in an honest moment:
"There are so many stupid things in there when you add them all together they add up to real money," said Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean, listing spending on a web-based regional arts and culture calendar and drinking water wagons to try to reduce bottled water use.
MacLean also criticizes proposed spending of $295,000 next year on international travel, including a water conference in Dubai. "We have the best water in the world and we're off to Dubai to learn more?" he asked.
The group sent out to Metro Vancouver to represent the City of Vancouver continue to embarrass themselves with last minute motions drafted for cheap politics.
The Vancouver reps proposed an amendment measure that would have saved just 70 cents per household. There's no love lost between senior board member Mayor Derek Corrigan of Burnaby.
...Corrigan, who voted for the budget and against Vancouver's effort at modest cost control, said it was too late in the budget process to perform major surgery. He accused Vancouver councillors – who hold influential positions on the finance, water and waste committees – of repeatedly pressing Metro to spend more on priorities that fit their green agenda without consideration of the ultimate costs.
"Now that they've seen the final numbers, they've got buyer's remorse," Corrigan said. "I consistently voted against stuff all year, saying it's going to cost us a lot of money."
Surrey City Councillor Linda Hepner is pushing for a review of expenditures.
"The taxpayer is getting squeezed from all directions," she said. "Honestly, I think we have to look at doing some of the work within existing resources."
All of these additional costs are on top of increases in civic taxes (look for 3% at a minimum in Vancouver for residences) and a possible Translink levy. It is possible that these increases might elect a new administration in a city like Vancouver who will look hard at reigning in costs.
Writers like Garr might be suggesting to his friends in Vision, don't worry, go ahead and spend, you'll get re-elected. But that's advice I wouldn't be taking these days.
METRO AVERAGE 2011 COST PER HOME (based on $600,000 home)
- Regional taxes – $39 (up $2)
- Sewage fees – $170 (up $8)
- Garbage disposal – $91 (up $11)
- Water rates – $213 (up $23)
TOTAL: $513 (up $44)
- post by Mike