Generous to a Fault
Ron Bolin: June 17, 2011
The words of Matthew (25:29) rang true on Monday night as Nanaimo City Council undertook the entire cost of installing a City sewer installation in the Green Lake area. This will cost taxpayers about $31, 700 for each of 101 lots for a total of about $3.2 million. There was reputedly a promise to bring sewers to this and other areas some 36 years ago upon amalgamation with the city. Clear evidence of the nature of this promise and the split of expenses has not been made public. In 1995 city policy set the ratio of city to property owners in such cases to 60% city and 40% owner. Green Lake residents apparently refused this split. Monday’s generous proposal was for an 80/20 split. In a cavalier motion, Councillor Bestwick took it upon himself to propose that general ratepayers pick up the entire tab -the difference being only a measly $640,000- and Council followed.
We can rest assured that the other sewerless areas will expect the same treatment. This can raise the cost to general ratepayers by another $16 million with city sewer installation costs running between $50,664 and $203,000 per lot for some 225 lots. (These figures are based on City estimates made in 2008.) Neither are we dealing with impoverished acres. I believe that one will find that virtually all of the lots involved have assessed values significantly above the Nanaimo average and were developed and sold as country “estates”.
The discussion here is not about whether our sewerless friends should be supported. It is about the amount of that support and the tendency of Council to be overly generous with public money. We have a lot of poverty in this town and we don’t need to push even more over the edge through taxation.
Matthew 25:29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
Correct me if I am wrong Ron. The cost we pay is to the property, the property owner will have to pay the cost to hook up to them once installed? If I also recall these costs to the owner will be approx $8000. I am wondering if the 80/20 split would have meant installing to the home? If so then one could look at this as an 75/25 split.
Gordon: Whether 60/40, 80/20 or 100/0, all costs are for sewer service along the street. There can still be substantial costs to the homeowner depending on the lay of their land and distance from the home to the street. As the part of the sewer connection from the house to the street always lies on the owners private property, these costs always fall to the owner. If you have a large lot with a house situated to the rear of the lot or are situated on rock or on a substantial slope, costs can be quite high, but go with the choices the owner has made. I suspect that many, if not most of these expensive conditions are to be found in these areas. It the work could be done inexpensively it would have been done a long time ago.
The idea that “the government closest to the people is the one that governs best” has long been a staple of conservative Republicans in the U.S. It was a favorite line of Barry Goldwater and more recently of the governor of Texas, Rick Perry.
Government closes to the people is presumably municipal government.
I suggest that in so far as the average person is concerned the exact opposite is true. Municipal government is the most intrusive level of government. Municipal government rolls out the red tape which ties up the lives of ordinary people – particularly those people who are unskilled at cutting their way through bureaucratic regulation.
The Liberals gave municipal government a virtual carte blanche with the Community Charter. At one time municipal government was limited in its power because it was a level of government of limited jurisdiction – it only had the powers specifically given to it by the provincial government. Over the years the province gave municipalities more and more powers until the Community Charter when it said (almost) that you can do everything we can do. It is now very difficult to challenge by-laws on the basis that they exceed municipal powers. We can see the egregious outcome of this with the almost fascistic (yes, it is appropriate to call this fascism) City of Mission by-law which allows them to storm troop people’s dwellings and impose huge fines even in the absence of the intended target, grow-ups. Right up there with Mission is Lantzville where growing edible vegetables (a small quantity of which are sold at a market) instead of lawn is considered a crime worthy of expensive enforcement activity.
One of the big problems with this government closest to the people is that at election time it is ignored by two-thirds of the people. An inevitable result is that the calibre of politicians elected at the municipal level is often far below that at the provincial or federal level. Combine the low calibre of elected officials with the overpowering presence of the municipal bureaucracy and you get what you get; government which unnecessarily intrudes on individuals, which makes huge capital spending decisions which have never been vetted at election time and which is anything but responsive.
The point that is missing is the low level of Municipal knowledge by the average voter.
Is this low level of knowledge the fault of the people, the press, the politicians or the process??
I would suggest apathy.
The voting public are fed up of having their wishes overlooked or worse still denied.
Eventually they just tune out ; particularly to local politics.
When the best they get for “news” is the 30 second sound bite that is seldom nothing more than opinnion ; I think it’s easy to become dissalusioned.
So then, it is pretty much People … apathy
Politicians ….. paying no attention to concerns
Press ….. 30 second news bites
Process ….. no viable alternative
On the Federal & Privincial scene I would consider proportional representation a step forward.
On the Muncipal scene the answer ‘may” be a limit to two electoral periods.
Apathy comes at both ends of the spectrum! those electing & those elected.
I think there could be much improvements in the civic scene if city staff managers were limited to two terms.
I would hazard to say that, like it or not, the vetting process which is done by the political parties raises the calibre of the candidates that are running at the provincial and federal levels. In our municipality, but not in all, vetting, if there is any at all, is done in the darkness of back rooms.