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A more balanced approach needed from city council

High taxes indicate high spending or poor decisions – or a combination of both.
An ever-growing number of people in town agree that with the successive annual raises, we have high taxes here. While a distraction or inconvenience to average or above income earners, it is an injustice to all those living on fixed or low income. Why are we in this situation?
Every taxpayer in town should do some work before the upcoming election to answer this question. The answers I’m finding aren’t as comforting as the polished messaging from city hall. Taxes are determined by decisions – about policies, programs, services, etc. Administrators at city hall, the elected mayor and councillors make those decisions.
How our money is spent depends on whom we elect to do the job. To paraphrase an expression oft used by thinking people – you can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been. So let’s look back a bit.
Longtime residents know that at one time our municipal governance was highly regarded by citizens and outsiders alike. Business and residents worked in harmony. Decisions were made that resulted in a balanced approach regarding the services, and their costs, provided the city. The city started to attract new people and grow. The profile of council and its decision-making changed.
A few years ago a one-term mayor led with a vision to put out a welcome mat to real estate developers.
A lot of houses got built, creating a problem by exerting expensive pressure on city infrastructure. This, of course, became the rally cry for a new mayor and reform councillors with a more socialist vision. The welcome mat to business was yanked away. Business went elsewhere. A new problem was created, and the taxation shortfall was dropped onto residential bills.
The same single-focus agenda that gave us the “developers rule” period now seems to have been replaced similarly with the expensive “us-first-award” pursuit for environmental and social engineering. Both have admirable qualities but have produced a “living-beyond-our-means” situation.
There was a newspaper column in these pages last week intimating only one of the current mayoralty candidates has the public interest at heart. I’m not sure how that writer defines “public interest.” My definition includes taxpayers knowing that council is non-partisan, making decisions about governing our city competently and with common sense.
Actions like putting up the “open for business” sign after realizing their policies have created a problem isn’t an example of good management. Finally allowing a condo developer to build downtown is hardly boast-worthy. Neither is lowering the tax increase, but following up with new or raised fees on every other facet of community service.
Council is comprised of 13 people who have the responsibility to make good decisions for us all. We should expect this to be a consensus process, yet the results we see are often lop-sided or unsettling, even birthing a citizens’ protest organization. Why?
Municipal government requires leaders who understand that a sustainable, developing city must have a balance between practical business principles and social initiatives – before the problems appear. We should expect that their decisions be influenced by the vision and needs of the majority of the citizens, not simply a majority of council.
A few days ago our chief of police stated that policing either had to change how it did business or be unsustainable.
I think it makes sense to apply that thought to city council as well.

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