Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

Audible Pedestrian Signals

September 6, 2008

This seems very strange. Item #8 of the 7th report of the Accessibility Advisory Committee is requesting that it’s $7500 budget be retained “to continue to allow the ACCAC to support the implementation of audible pedestrian signals…01

The city is currently flush with cash from the upper levels of government for transportation-related projects. If there’s a need for audible pedestrian signals, shouldn’t their cost be borne the same way that ordinary pedestrian signals are? And doesn’t such need deserve at least as much consideration as the extension, widening, and paving of roads?

Sources:
01. 2008/09/08 – CAPS Agenda item #1

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ETC Update

May 5, 2008

Coming to you live from downtown London, only moments after having left the ETC meeting at City Hall, where the Roads Rehabilitation budget proposal was passed without any discussion. What cowards!

I’m taking a moment to grab some supper before heading over to Centennial Hall for the public participation meeting re Accessible Taxi Licenses, but I’ll update this post before long. Stay tuned, and thanks for the emails!

Lobbying for London’s Pedestrians

May 5, 2008

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Trying to keep you informed about what’s going on.

Look for the follow-up post.

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Food Bank Challenge

March 11, 2008

The London Food Bank has issued a challenge. The premise is that, by restricting your family food intake to “$30 for yourself and…$25 for each additional family member for all food [which] includes coffee, donuts and lunch money and not using any food which may have been previously purchased, you’ll find out if you could live on the kind of annual income that it’s clients typically have to. 01

Having accepted the challenge, London Free Press reporter Joe Matyas writes that “it was a learning experience.” 02 But was it the right one? And although the article may have helped Sun Media to sell a few newspapers, did it really convey much insight into the plight of too many people?

One week is hardly enough time to gain much of an appreciation for the kinds of choices that have to be made on such a low income. And simply concentrating on diet terribly minimizes the problem of having to make equally and often impossibly difficult choices with respect to things like shelter, clothing, assistive devices, personal hygiene, transportation, recreation and entertainment (food for the soul), continuing education, counselling, legal representation, etc.

Like politicians who spend a few hours on the street to experience homelessness, or a day in a wheelchair at City Hall to experience being disabled (correction… one kind of physical disability), this strikes me as being a whole lot more about posturing than acquiring any meaningful understanding.

Sources:
01. London Food Bank: Take the Food Bank Challenge
02. 2008/03/10 – LFP: Food bank issues shop-on-a-budget challenge

Other Links:
AlterNet: Food Bills Getting You Down?

Does This Make Sense to You?

March 4, 2008

Following the Harper government’ federal budget last month, which included a $500,000 cut to the Library and Archives Canada budget, todays announcement that the national Book Exchange Centre will be closed.

“Opened 35 years ago, the exchange centre is a massive swap shop for public and academic libraries across Canada. Libraries donate books and periodicals their patrons no longer use and, in response to requests by other libraries, the centre redistributes them.” 01

“Those close to the matter said the usefulness of the service can be seen in the more than 500,000 publications distributed to member libraries across the country last year. While the main clients of the CBEC were Canadian libraries, it has also sent boxes of books around the world through partnerships with underdeveloped countries.”  02

Sources:
01. 2008/03/04 – Ottawa Citizen: Federal budget claims … Book Exchange
02. 2008/03/04 – Ottawa Sun: Feds axe book centre

Will London Spring For Cost-Share Police Hires?

February 27, 2008

One of the provisions of yesterdays federal government budget is a commitment to provide resources to recruit 2,500 more police officers across the country. Provinces and territories have until March 31, 2008 to opt into the cost-share initiative. 01

It’s no secret that I’ve long advocated for the hiring of additional police officers, and I continue to do so. As I attempted to demonstrate in a recent post, the ratio of police officers to hormone-charged young males in our community pales in comparison to many other Canadian cities. And the StatsCan numbers upon which that conclusion is based do not take into account the swelling of that demographic during the UWO and Fanshawe school years.

There is always considerable debate here in London about the size of the police budget and the ability of local ratepayers to sustain it. And the just-concluded budget deliberations were no exception. That being the case, can local police and politicians ignore this opportunity to secure federal financial assistance in order to increase our number of front-line officers?

If I have any questions, they pertain to the timing of this announcement and the arbitrary time frame being imposed by the feds.

Sources:
01. 2008/02/27 – CNW: CPA Applauds Government’s Commitment …

Other Links:
Canadian Police Association
Ontario Assoc. of Chiefs of Police
London Police Service
London Police Association

London’s 2008 Police Budget Debate

February 21, 2008

I said it when I went before London’s CAPS Committee in 2002. I’ve said it many times since then. And now I’ll say it again…
London does not have enough police officers!

Police strength in Canada is well below that in many other industrialized nations. For example, police strength ranges from 222-270 officers per 100,000 population in the United States, Australia, and England and Wales. Police strength in Canada peaked at 206 officers for every 100,000 population in 1975. And of the 25 largest communities Census Metropolitan Areas (by population) in Canada, London’s police strength ranks way down (tied in 14th place with 7 others). 01

Appended 2008/02/24: Based on StatsCan cities-only data that I’ve now found, London’s police strength is actually in the middle of the pack from that more specific perspective. However, as I previously suggested, simply focusing on that stat is misleading (read on).

But that kind of comparison doesn’t tell the whole story, does it? My common sense tell me that the communities that need the most police, are those that have the most males aged 15-24 (approx).

Based on my crunching of the CMA numbers that I got from the StatsCan website, of those same 25 communities, London ranks 7th in terms of the number of males aged 15-24 per capita. And then I crunched the CMA numbers again, and I determined that London only ranks 20th out of 25 when you compare the # of police that we have with the number of males aged 15-24 that we have. 02

Appended 2008/02/24: Based on my crunching of the cities-only numbers that I got from the StatsCan website, London ranks 6th in terms of the number of males aged 15-24 per capita. And then I crunched the cities-only numbers again, and I determined that London ranks 14th when you compare the # of police that we have with the number of males aged 15-24 that we have. 03 Admittedly, not as bad a picture as was painted by the CMA data, but not a good picture by any stretch of the imagination either (if my premise is correct).

sshhhHowever, I do agree with those members of Council who are complaining about the lack of transparency. I think that all of the city’s Boards and Commissions that I’ve had any dealings with are too secretive. Like HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and…

Appended 2008/02/21: Coun. Nancy Branscombe is reportedly complaing that Council members weren’t given a copy of the police budget, and Police Chief Murray Faulkner is reported to have said that “all 62 pages…” of the police budget was provided “…to city administrators”03 The drama unfolds…

Appended 2008/02/22: Can this get any more interesting? Jeff Fielding and Vic Cote are reportedly denying that the city administration ever received a line-by-line budget from the police. 04 So, all that’s clear at this point is that someone isn’t telling the truth.

Sources:
01. 2007/11/16 – The Daily: Police personnel and expenditures
02. 2008/02/20 – FMBS: CMA spreadsheet data
03. 2008/02/20 – FMBS: cities-only spreadsheet data
04. 2008/02/21 – LFP: Secrecy claims raise ire of chief
05. 2008/02/22 – LFP: 4.4 percent

Other Links:
2008/02/04 – FMBS: Jonathan Sher’s Police Budget Half-Truth

Jonathan Sher’s Police Budget Half-Truth

February 4, 2008

Today’s newspaper article (‘Police budget under fire‘; London Free Press; 2008/02/04) appears to be another vainglorious attempt to stir up local ratepayers and drive a wedge between police and local government.


Different Truths 
Don’t be too quick to accept what’s presented to you. Yes, it’s true that the police budget is taking up a larger proportion of the total city budget. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the increased police budget is irresponsible or even unreasonable. It’s every bit as possible that it simply reflects the fact that the rest of the city budget may not be increasing as it should be. You may not want to hear that, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

What may not be sustainable, is local government’s ability to shoulder the cost so long as it is dependent upon the outdated property tax system. But Mr. Sher makes no effort to remind us of that fact.

Mr. Sher quotes Police Chief Faulkner as saying that “Policing is very expensive.” Well, I’d like to remind Mr. Sher and London City Council that not policing is even more expensive. The cost which would result from increased violence and property crimes would make current expenditures pale in comparison.

It’s been 6 years since I appeared before City Council’s Community & Protective Services Committee to argue for increased police funding (when nobody else was), but my position has not changed since then. Read the transcript HERE.

The real focus needs to continue to be on funding of municipalities. I addressed the audience during Jay Stanford’s recent Waste Diversion Open House at Laurier S.S. when their understandable upset over rising property tax increases inappropriately manifested itself in a criticism of the perceived cost of environmental initiatives. Here is my recollection of what I said…

In the beginning, before money even existed, the way that people measured their wealth was in land, and the ability of that land to produce crops and sustain livestock. We were an overwhelmingly rural society. Then, as now, there was a need to collect from citizens a share of those costs which were incurred for the whole community. Those taxes were in the form of potatoes, corn, goats, etc. Over the years, property tax has fulfilled it’s purpose for local communities pretty well. But we have made a transition from a rural society to a predominantly urban one. And that trend continues. The property tax system is now broken. It can no longer support all of the costs which city dwellers place upon it. There needs to be a new revenue source for cities. Federal and provincial governments do not suffer the same problem. They have multiple ways in which to raise revenue. The federal government has been awash in our taxdollars for quite some time. Year after year it declares surplus budgets. The fiscal health of the provinces is not so clear-cut, because of the convoluted transfer payments between each, division of responsibilities, etc. But one unmistakable fact remains – provinces has the ability to raise more revenue whenever they need to. Recently, the City of Toronto was given some special new powers as a result of it’s continued budget deficits and advocacy. But other cities have not been treated as fairly. If citizens want to bemoan the seemingly continuous increase in their property taxes, and I fully understand their angst, they must start to appreciate who the real villians are. Don’t moan and groan at City Hall. Take your frustration out on the MPPs and MPs who deserve it. Tell them that we need and demand a New Deal. One that will sustain our changed lifestyle instead of pitting us one against the other.

Submitted 2008/02/04 5:15 a.m. to the London Free Press as a ‘Point of View’ along with this restriction:
Please view my original post (https://frommybottomstep.wordpress.com/ 2008/02/04/jonathan-shers-police-budget-half-truth/) and consider publishing it unedited as a POV. If you have reasons for editing it, I am willing to discuss that possibility, but will not surrender that right to you without justification. Submission of this article DOES NOT imply such consent.

Other Links:
2008/02/12 – Ottawa Citizen: Tax land, not homes
2008/02/12 – Globe & Mail: Miller Plays Politics

CUPE’s Poverty Reduction Proposal

January 28, 2008

CUPE Ontario will make a deputation this afternoon that will propose three policy shifts that the government must make in order to achieve a reduction of poverty in the province…

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Ridership Rhetoric

January 2, 2008


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On the ‘In Brief‘ news page of the most recent The Londoner weekly, in a section titled ‘Cash for London Transit,’ readers are told that “the gas tax funding program has increased ridership by 23 million passenger trips a year since 2004.”

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve questioned the reported public transit ridership numbers, and that there’s been no response from Larry Duscharme even though it’s been 4 months since I sent him this communication.

London’s 2008 Budget Guide

January 2, 2008

According to the City of London’s website, “Residents will receive the City’s 2008 Budget Guide with their January 2 edition of The Londoner. It will also be distributed January 5 as an insert in The London Free Press.” But you don’t have to wait. Click HERE to get a 3.76MB PDF copy right now.

Year-End Reminder – 2007

December 31, 2007

click meWell, it’s getting towards that time of year again when politicians receive automatic salary raises, usually accompanied by a silence that is uncharacteristic of them.

It’s the time of the year that I like to point out that fact.

It’s the time of the year that I like to propose, as I so often have in the past, a fairer way of establishing political raises. A way that would have the added benefit of keeping our “leaders” more in touch with the plight of the disadvantaged.

From my 2006 municipal election platform re taxes:
I oppose any automatic wage increase for local politicians unless a policy is adopted which ties those kind of auomatic salary increases to social assistance rates.
You might also like to review my 2007/04/18 Council Salaries post.

You may wish to pay particular attention this year, given the recent trial balloon that appeared in our local daily with respect to the possibility of increased City Hall expense accounts. IMHO, Council needs to tackle the concept of public scrutiny of their expense accounts; i.e. disclosure, rules about allowable expenditures, a municipal Ombudsman who can respond to citizen complaints, etc.

But that’s just me. What do you think?

Links:
City of London: Council Members’ Expense Account
2007/09/13 – FMBS: NDP Pay Pledge
2007/12/22 – LFP: Stage set to double council expense accounts
2007/12/24 – LFP: Silent Campaign Platforms
2007/12/24 – LFP: Expense Accounts
2008/02/29 – Globe & Mail: MPs to get raise to $155,400 annually

‘Permanent’ Gas Tax Transfers

December 8, 2007

The federal government’s Building Canada program was promoted as providing “stable, predictable, and flexible funding which will allow Canadian municipalities, provinces and territories to plan for the longer term—allowing them to address their ongoing infrastructure needs.”

As usual though, and I say it often, the devil’s in the details. “Over half of the fundingwill be provided as base funding…” (the Gas Tax Fund and the Goods and Services Rebate) “…over seven years.” Specifically, that portion (at least) of the funding was originally scheduled to end in 2010; then extended to 2014. Temporarily “predictable” perhaps, but hardly the “longer term” that was touted.

Somewhat better news, maybe…

The Globe reports that last Thursday there was an opposition motion which called for the transfer to be made permanent, and that the Conservative government “quietly” agreed to it. Holy smokes! That seems to be quite a reversal from Jim Flaherty’s 2007/03/19 rebuke in which he scolded: “The day in Canada of governments with their hands out to other governments (is) passing. It’s time for governments to be self-reliant and to be answerable to their own taxpayers.”

I suspect that there has to be a catch, and I fully realize that “permanent” in poli-speak only means that it lasts for as long as it lasts, but I’ll wait hopefully for some more of the details to come out.

Appended:
I forgot to point out that the reason municipalities so desperately need direct funding from the federal government is because of the lurch that they were put in by the provinces back in the late 1990s. You may remember that when the federal government cut transfer payments to the provinces, they turned around and cut their transfers to local governments. There’s a good post about it HERE.

Links:
GovCanada: Gas Tax Fund
2005/06/16 – TransitToronto: Gas-tax formula a blow to TTC
2005/12/21 – NDP: Jack Layton’s letter of commitment…
2007/03/20 – Globe&Mail: Mayor views budget as big setback
2007/12/07 – TelegraphJournal: MP smells fertile area for Grits
2007/12/08 – Globe & Mail: Cities to reap gas tax revenue permanantly

Wastewater Tax Increase

December 8, 2007

According to CLEAR: Shared AccountabilityThe storm drainage system in the city is extensive. Over 1,100 km of storm sewers help remove surface water and transport it to creeks and rivers… Eliminating roof downspout connections to the storm sewer system and ensuring that there are no connections to the sanitary sewer systems is another way to reduce the harmful affects to the river. The Drainage By-law has specific drainage related stipulations that require residents to handle storm water on their own property first by allowing it to infiltrate into the soil.”

When I tried to raise the subject of wastewater during the past municipal election campaign (click HERE and HERE), there didn’t appear to be much interest.

But wait! As part of the new water system budget, London’s City Council has just increased the wastewater tax by $40. You’ll now be paying about $478 next year for the water/wastewater services that you enjoy.

Perhaps more people will be interested in things like runoff diversion now. You think?

Links:
2007/08/10 – Globe&Mail: New system could halve water consumption
2007/10/27 – Globe&Mail: City proposal aims to divert runoff from sewer
2007/11/01 – Globe&Mail: Council urged to order downspouts disconnected
2007/11/03 – Ottawa Citizen: A quest for neighbourhood
2007/11/19 – Toronto Star: Downspouts top city agenda
2007/11/21 – CBC: Downspouts (audio that runs 11:26)
2007/11/21 – Globe&Mail: Downspout program swamped with requests
2007/11/21 – National Post: Unhooking Downspouts May Cost $65M
2007/11/22 – Toronto Star: 10-year wait for downspout disconnect
2007/11/23 – Toronto Star: Councillors need lesson on economy
2007/11/24 – Toronto Star: No wonder Toronto’s finances are in a mess
2007/11/24 – Toronto Star: High cost to protect residents and city
2007/11/24 – Toronto Star: Offensive for Star to print such hateful ruminations
2007/11/28 – Toronto Star: Cost of program defies common sense
2007/12/05 – The Londoner: $67 more a year for water and sewer services
2007/12/03 – Proposed Water Rates & Charges Bylaw
2007/12/03 – Proposed Schedule of Sewer System Fees and Charges Bylaw
2007/12/03 – Overview of 2008 Water & Wastewater & Treatment Budget
2007/12/05 – The Londoner: $67 more a year for water and sewer services