As of the date I write this, not one mayoral candidate has knocked on my door, and with the exception of a card received with my mail from Don Atchison today, I have not received any print information from the other three.
Of the six councillor candidates in my ward, only two have bothered to leave information cards. As I have been house bound for the last three weeks, it is not a matter of anyone calling while I was out. Perhaps I just have a big, black X beside my name and they bypass my house, or maybe my vote has little value to these folks.
But I had questions, more so for incumbents than fresh candidates.
Although the matter of the Remai Modern Art Gallery (RMAG) has been beaten to near death, I still want incumbents to explain to me why they spent $106 million on this project (and if my sources are accurate there are more cost overruns to come.)
This whole debacle started with the Mendel Art Gallery board asking the city for a commitment of $4 to $5 million for a renovation/expansion project so they could approach the federal and provincial governments for an equal contribution towards a proposed capital budget of $14 to $16 million.
Fast forward to when those two senior governments committed $13 million each, purportedly on condition that we build a white elephant on the riverbank. Then the RMAG was created, construction started, and the project budget grew like a noxious weed.
Although the Mendel closed its doors in mid-2015 and we have been without access to a public gallery since that time, the operating costs are soaring.
I supported the initial expansion of the Mendel and believe that exposure to the arts is food for the heart and soul. The Mendel was open to all, rich and poor, young and old. We will eventually recover from the capital cost of the new gallery, but the ever-increasing and excessive operating costs are of concern. Add to that an outrageous admission fee, which the majority of taxpayers will not be able or willing to pay.
How is this of benefit to our citizens? How did we go from $14 to $16 million to $106 million in costs? All incumbents have some explaining to do, especially Atchison in his role of mayor and more so Charlie Clark because he sits on the RMAG board that now demands excessive operating costs.
And now, my definition of debt. Debt is any money due and owing by one person/corporation to another, be it for a mortgage, car loan, line of credit, credit card balances, agreements for sale/purchase of home, cabin, etc., promissory notes or IOUs. In essence, any money you owe is debt.
Atchison and Clark were being a tad disingenuous when they challenged Kelley Moore on her suggested city debt servicing numbers because they neglected to mention they were using 2015 numbers. If you use projected 2016 city debt numbers, Moore was pretty close to the mark on debt servicing.
When discussing city debt, do the incumbents include the payments that will be made to the private contractors under the P3 contracts? Is debt for the new police station included in the city’s debt ceiling, or is it under the independent police budget?
Speaking of the police budget, why did we build the overly large police station designed for a city with a population of 400,000 at a time when our population base is nowhere near that number? I understand planning for the future, but why not build to accommodate an addition when the need arises? If not that, why not put up a demising wall and leave the excess space unused, thus saving on utility and maintenance costs? Both Atchison and Clark sat on the Board of Police Commissioners and need to be held to account, as do all incumbent councillors who supported these expenditures.
What was the consequence to those in administration responsible for the bad advice that caused the illegal transit lockout and subsequent cost to taxpayers? Or did they all just get pay raises? I guess the loss of a few million bucks of taxpayer money doesn’t warrant a wink, blink or nod. All incumbents should answer for that decision.
What about the parking stations downtown that don’t always work? Not only has the city lost parking revenue, but users lose loonies in those machines and are not always able to get a printed receipt to prove payment. When parking stations were first introduced, I was of the understanding that you would be able to add time to your parking through an app using a cell phone, without being physically present at your vehicle. Instead, if you have a half hour of paid time left and need an extra half hour for your appointment, adding that half hour before the initial paid time is up means you lose existing time and rather than spending a loonie you have to plug in a toonie. What a rip. (This only happens when the stations actually work.)
I wanted to ask, when the growth plan approved by council encouraged city centre and downtown density, why are we spending hundreds of millions of dollars on roadways, overpasses and new bridges to accommodate urban sprawl? This is not a question of sprawl vis-à-vis density; it is a question of consistency. And why did new roadway infrastructure to service urban sprawl get priority over repair and maintenance of existing roadways which were falling into decay? Basically, outside of city growth, what value do we get for our tax dollars?
Without serious answers to my questions, how do I make a decision in the mayoral race? Well, if I want status quo, I vote Atchison; if I want status quo, plus massive bike-lane infrastructure, I vote Clark; if I want real change, I take a flyer on Moore. If I don’t like any of these three, but want to exercise my franchise, I’ll throw my vote away on Hein.