An Open Letter to the Residents of Prince George

Greetings. I am writing to remind you that the May 30th deadline for submitting no less than 5,546 signed Alternative Approval Process forms to City Hall is fast approaching. I agree with Mr. Eric Allen, as well as a wider chorus, that forcing our Dear Leaders located at that ugly building on Patricia to rethink the borrowing for capital projects is paramount to our pocketbooks.

I recall that a municipal election was held not too long ago and, as grumpier folks around town observed, the "freeze or lower taxes" candidate was nowhere to be found. For my part, I can't remember the current borrowing plan, let alone the list of capital projects, being put forward and discussed as election issues. That seems like a rather large sin of omission given the price tag of $40 million or more including interest that can only be financed by raising levies on voters.

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Supposedly things were "under review," which sounds like managerial speak for "oh, the cheque is in the mail." Having spent time in boardrooms with such folks, I can assure you that this is a pathetic deflection, often shrouding an all but malicious intention to do as they please.

Unfortunately for the machinations of local officials and their klatch cabal allies, people were not so stupid as to go quietly into that goodnight of more taxation and less transparency. In the tradition of Magna Carta, dragging the Speaker, and the populist rebellions of today, citizens have dared to say "enough!" Now, by democratic means, the rule of faceless experts from that shabby shack will be questioned using several thousand pieces of paper, signed and delivered.

Of course such romantic notions of historic precedence are belied by the quintessentially Canadian process at hand; no effigies or slogans will be found near the Cenotaph on May 31, or whenever they bother counting the AAP's. If the threshold is achieved, some of the projects will be amended quietly, a few may go to referendum, but most will wither and die, remembered as "those crazy proposals" in ten years. Clearly, we are people who riot over hockey, not taxes.

But the polite nature of our polity does not take away from the principles at stake: zero mention of said proposals at election time, interest cost on a loan that by law cannot be paid down faster, and imposing tax increases long after this council has expired. In short, the method of accountability as well as the end being pursued can't really offend any but the municipal authorities themselves; and had they shown a modicum of restraint, this wouldn't be happening.

Again, I exhort citizens of Prince George to sign these negative ballots. Our community requires sober and judicious leaders - as they have obviously failed in this instance, the only backstop left are vigilant taxpayers. So grab a pen and start scribbling, May 30 is almost here.

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