The outlook for #StCath in 2014

An interesting article to be sure; I wasn’t asked my opinion, so I’ll leave it here instead.

Clearly the need for belt-tightening is on everyone’s mind – the key to that belt-tightening comes in the form of the Operations budget. We need to find ways to lower the operating costs of the City of St. Catharines, whether that involves fully contracting out services or finding private sector partners to work with the City to deliver what residents expect from the City.

The answer is NOT to simply halt capital projects. We had an asset management report that clearly stated the need to commit to a plan of action to maintain the city’s infrastructure. I said during the last election campaign that, in the past, the City has approached capital spending like a race car driver who gets up to a hundred miles an hour between red lights. It doesn’t make sense to do massive amounts of infrastructure spending followed by long periods of complete inaction. That status quo attitude is what got us to the current state of our infrastructure deficit; it will keep us there if we continue to take that attitude.

Find savings in the day-to-day operations of the City; provide residents with tax relief, and focus on ensuring the priority infrastructure residents need is maintained properly and replaced when necessary. 

A few questions from the article:

1) I’m glad to see the Mayor has found 3 million dollars that can be saved for taxpayers; I’m wondering where it’s coming from and why he hasn’t mentioned it before now. I’m also wondering why he’s so interested in saving money now, when last year I presented a couple of ways to save hundreds of thousands of dollars and he didn’t support any of it (even though what I proposed would not have been noticed in service changes by residents OR staff in the least).

2) I don’t follow the Mayor’s logic on the $4 million to be ‘repatriated’ in Hydro dividends. What we’d actually be doing is deferring the payment of 50% of the down payment on the project, rather than leaving it there and reducing the long-term cost of the Shickluna build, if and when it happens. That’s poor fiscal management, in my opinion. If you’ve saved the money, just because you can take out a bigger loan doesn’t mean you should.

But then, if he still wants to sell Shickluna, maybe the thinking is we’ll never need it. I don’t completely understand the logic behind selling what Mayor McMullan has made clear in the past will be a moneymaking asset.

3) If you’re wondering whether Mayor McMullan is running again, your answer is in points 1) and 2). He wouldn’t be putting forward an aggressive cost savings plan if he wasn’t running. The biggest criticism against the Mayor is that he spends too freely – doing 1) and 2) allow him to deflect that criticism.

4) I am again amazed the Councillor Kushner wants to get rid of the requirement for sidewalks. I don’t understand how he cannot understand how important it is for seniors, children and the differently-abled to walk through neighbourhoods. I can (almost) understand the desire to not add a second sidewalk (even though I disagree with it), but he wants to get rid of ANY requirement. That’s just bizarre.