Here we are, where the rubber hits the road when it comes to the core services review.
In the wake of last night's community meeting, organized by CUPE, the union representing city workers, city council sits down today to begin deciding what opportunities they'll be taking out of KPMG's report and implementing to slash spending in the municipal budget.
This afternoon's gathering is called a committee of the whole meeting, to separate it from a regular city council meeting, even though the mayor and all of the councillors will be there and they'll be making recommendations to themselves for the next city council meeting. On the surface, it's another layer of bureaucratic nonsense but there's an important reason for the distinction. Today's meeting is about deciding which items should be put on the agenda for more serious discussion and debate at a formal city council meeting.
That gap in time will allow mayor and council to make more thoughtful decisions, while also allowing the union representing city workers and everyone else to assess what's on the table (or not on the table but maybe should be) and then lobby mayor and council to accept some (or all) of the savings suggestions, while kicking the rest to the curb. Expect passionate pleas to save Pine Valley in its entirety, to freeze user fees, to save city staff and services.
Some of those pleas will be heard but many won't and there is a simple reason for that.
The day this mayor and council committed to the core services review and the hiring KPMG as an outside consultant to lead that process was the day the decision was made to cut spending at city hall.
Nothing has changed.
The decision now is where those cuts will come from but they are coming, make no mistake. Unless mayor and council lose their nerve in the face of huge public opposition, these cuts will involve people losing their jobs, service levels being reduced and user fees being increased. There is no magic solution to reducing spending at city hall that doesn't involve those options.
But which options will be applied is the question.
KPMG tackled the issue from strictly a financial perspective but mayor and council will attach the political piece, meaning there will be horse trading and which cuts can be more or less justified politically, rather than which ones just make the most sense and give the best bang for their buck.
A year into their mandate, mayor and council will own whatever they decide to implement from the core services review until November 2014, when voters return to the polls to rule on the wisdom of the decisions being made in the coming weeks.
By then, we'll have an excellent idea whether they were the right ones or not.