Just 126 more days…

Ron Bolin: July 15, 2011

My internet date calculator tells me that it is now just 126 days before our next Nanaimo municipal election on November 19.  It is time that we start to consider our options for this election.

Of course, if we are happy with the way things have been proceeding in Nanaimo –and they have not been a disaster unless you are one of those many citizen/taxpayers who are living on the margin of the economy and personal finance or among the about 15% unemployed here- you can join our City Council and Staff in the slogan, “I’m alright Jack!”, and go back to sleep.

If you are not among the currently impoverished but can see it coming along with the grand insurance and growth plans that the City is undertaking on our behalf, perhaps you should give it some thought.  And of course it you already find yourself at or over the economic edge put your thinking cap on quickly.  Is there anything we can we do about it at the November election?

The first question we need to address is whether there is anything that can be done by Council to stave off the wolves.  Are we so enmeshed in old infrastructure, both capital and operating, and so enthralled by the plans of our Staff that it doesn’t matter who sits on our Council?  If so, then we can all go back to sleep and let the inevitable happen.  An election won’t make any difference.

If, however, we think that something can be done, then we had best define both what it is that hasn’t been done and why this and previous Councils have not done it.  It is the objective of this piece to try to elicit some thoughts on whether, like Dr. Pangloss, we live in the best of all possible worlds and would be best off recognizing it, or whether we think things could be better and come up with some suggestions to bring this about using our upcoming election as the springboard.

For the sake of argument I am putting forward the notion that one of the things that could be better, particularly for all those of our citizens who find themselves at or near the margin of financial survival would be to establish a property tax growth rate that doesn’t exceed the cost of living while ensuring that new growth pays for itself.  Why hasn’t our income kept pace with the growth of our taxes?  Surely we have already invested huge sums in development via taxes that exceed the necessary.  Why haven’t we seen a payback which would reduce our taxes?

Is it possible to meet such a goal?  If so, is the failure to meet it over the last decade due to a failure on the part of our Council?  Does election to Council somehow clear the scabs from the eyes of even former naysayers and convince them that the costs of running the city must always exceed the growth in the income or cost of living in our community?  Is Council tainted in some way?  Is there any way to elect a Council which has serious and measurable goals and to hold them to it?  What should these goals be?

The clock is ticking.  Just 126 days until November 19.  Is there anything we can do that will provide results more democratic and desirable than what we see today?  Your suggestions and opinions are requested.  Time is running out.