NANAIMO RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION

Don Graham: Feb. 12, 2013

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This post was submitted by Don Graham, a long time Nanaimo resident and is published without the editing of the text.

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PREAMBLE:

In as much as City Council has lost sight of it’s role in construction and management of infrastructure, we, the people, comprising members of the newly-formed Nanaimo Ratepayer’s Association are proposing to get the Mayor and Council back on track. We will do this through a Manifesto that will set out broad objectives Council should adapt to better serve the taxpayers, who provide all the funds used in running the city.

In addition, we will monitor the proposals and projects brought foreword by the mayor, Council and staff We will offer suggestions when necessary to keep them all on track.

MANIFESTO

  1. The NRA will identify projects that will provide little, or no, benefit to taxpayers.
  2. Objectives which should be followed include:
    1. Health, safety and well being of it citizens by supplying fire protection, policing, and shelter for the homeless as well as other humanitarian services where required.
    2. Construct and maintain infrastructure that supplies water, sewer, road, and garbage services.
    3. Cultural services which would include theatres, museums, parades and other cultural activities if supported by a majority of the taxpayers.
    4. Provide recreational facilities if and when voted on by the public
  3. The NRA will discourage the City from competing with business in matters of land speculation, hotel ownership etc.
  4. Re project financing:
    1. The City should not borrow funds for future projects. Funds should be set aside from current revenue.
    2. Decisions on capital expenditures should not be made at “in camera” meetings, and should be based on need science, and benefit to taxpayers.
    3. All non-budgeted projects over one million dollars should be approved by the voters and be subject to cost/benefit studies.
    4. Engineering and design should be targeted toward lowest cost alternatives.
  5. Policy guidelines will include:
    1. No money to be allocated to support charities. This should be left to the individuals.
    2. Job creation should be to senior governments. The City should concentrate on providing a business-friendly environment. This means low taxes. No group such as the N.E.D. should be funded by the City
    3. Staff salaries and benefits should not exceed those in the private sector.
    4. Homeowners right to “quiet enjoyment” of his property shall not be impaired except for essential public purposes.
    5. The mill rate will not be allowed to increase faster than the rate of inflation.
    6. To prevent excessive growth in the bureaucracy zero-based budgeting should be introduced in all areas and “sunset” clauses to a maximum of 5 years to be included in all management level employment contracts.
    7. When onerous and, apparently, unnecessary work in ordered by senior levels of government it should be contested by Council.
  6. Rational:
    1. Councils have initiated projects which had no demand from the taxpayers
    2. They have taken shortcuts to avoid referenda
    3. They have incurred debt that is an on-going drain on City funds. E.G.

i.      Port theatre
ii.      Conference center

The hotel they propose cannot attract private enterprise even with $10,000,000 in tax subsidies! If this does not point out the project is not economically viable what will?

Before the Port Theatre was built research was published in the Nanaimo Daily News which pointed out elsewhere in Canada such a theatre would incur annual deficits of $500,000 and we are almost there.

The City is speculating on land by buying Wellcox waterfront – this suggests they think they can do a better than private enterprise – I don’t think so.

The latest outrage is the expenditure of $11,000,000 to replace a small bridge in Quaterway and gussy up the roads. This represents a cost of $1,000,000 per 100’ of road or $10,000 per foot. To add some perspective to this consider it was not that long ago average cost of gravel roads supporting 200 tons were built for $10,000 per mile. It is obvious it was not engineered for lowest cost. Galvanized corrugated iron culverts would have done the job for fraction of the cost. Peripheral work also appeared to be over done.

Lack of controls on growth in staff numbers has contributed to increases well in excess of growth in population and city revenue.Re: the latter, the Mayor and Council obviously feel they can do same thing over and over and get a different result.

  1. Action Required
    1. The cost of running recreation programs is well ahead of need considering participation’ when they kicked out their biggest customer in hall rentals to make room for occasional meetings of the bloated staff it was clear there is too many personnel. Cutting staff to sustainable levels should be spread over 5 years to limit hardship on redundant staffers – 5% reduction per year should create the necessary balance.
    2. Other departments should b pared back if indicated by the annual zero based budgets.
    3. The practice used by the Mayor and Council to have all the planners and other senior staffers sit around in a pow-wow spewing out ways to spend money which they put in categories called ‘strategies” – theses are presented to the public which is encouraged to put them in a list which represents the priorities – this exercise morphs into public support for all the projects apparently. Nowhere is the there opportunity to prioritize cost savings. If this elite group is insulated against layoff the city could save money by having them sit in the corner doing crossword puzzles.
    4. If provincial regulations included in the building code require retro-fitting of structures to provide “seismic upgrading” it should be challenged in court and the Province should be have to provide scientific evidence that a real risk exists as defined by the probability of a earthquake causing damage to the structure.
    5. As so called ‘peer reviews’ of consultant reports and recommendation often appear to be “birds of a feature” supporting their colleagues in the hope of reciprocity with future work the NRA will conduct these reviews using arms-length professionals.
    6. As suggested in a recent letter in the Daily News by Wayne Schulstad “when is the City going to focus on saving not spending?

    End of Text by Don Graham

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