For those who are wondering why I am criticizing publicly a mayor and council that I supported during the election (and continue to support, but subject to change), my thoughts are below.
They are failing to take a proactive lead on important issues and are allowing unelected administrators at the city to run without proper oversight. It is costing residents, not only with increased taxes but also their voice in the decision-making process.
The citizens of Prince George are entitled to fiscal prudence by our elected officials and administrators, which we are not getting. They are entitled to more of a say in where our tax dollars are spent, which the city has taken away by the imposition of the alternative approval process. I believe our mayor and council could do a better job on both fronts.
Just in the first five months of their mandate after the October 2018 election, mayor and council rubber stamped a massive tax increase, rubber stamped $32 million in loans ensuring more tax increases, rubber stamped the Willow Cale Road bridge fiasco and rubber stamped a borrowing of a further $8 million in addition to the $32 million. They have failed to respond to, and by all appearances, rubber stamped the gross overtime claimed by management during the wildfires. They have failed to look at the ballooning salaries of management. They have failed to look at the increasing contingent of management employees. The rubber stamping and failures result in increased taxes on our citizens, many of whom are already struggling.
The Willow Cale bridge project was nothing less than a boondoggle, a $7 million one that our mayor and council authorized with no independent investigation that could have resulted in safeguards in place. Nor were policy changes brought in that could have mitigated future problems, not just for the bridge but all projects. Our mayor and council dropped the ball by failing to keep themselves and administration accountable to the public.
Coming off the heels of a positive $50 million referendum in October 2017 for the pool and fire hall and the October 2018 municipal election, residents were rightly alarmed to learn that now the city wanted to borrow an additional $40 million when no mention was made of this additional amount in the run up to the civic election. The city has provided no reason why it could not have put the $40 million projects on the ballot during the election.
Instead, after the election, the city administration presented these costly projects to mayor and council. Our elected officials, once again, rubber stamped the borrowing and left to the public the difficult task of coming up with over 5,000 signatures in a few weeks for each of the 11 projects in order to show disapproval.
As far as I recall, never before has the city put to the alternate approval process so many projects at once.
By so doing, instead of giving more of a say and more control over the decision-making process to the public, the city has taken that away. It highlights a mode of operation at the city and a culture of entitlement that needs changing. In that vein, members of our community have taken up the call to defeat the borrowing of the $32 million (the city has made it so that the additional $8 million requires no public approval).
I encourage everyone to sign.
Neil Godbout's March 14 editorial minces no words and he is correct when he says, "like the bridge, these problems can be fixed but taking responsibility and ownership has to start now." It is time for our mayor and council to reflect, reassess their decisions and start doing their job for which they have been elected. It is still not too late to review again the borrowing of the $40 million, send the plans back, find cost efficiencies, cut projects that are not needed and return with a more reasonable proposal that the public can vote on by referendum.
It is still not too late to investigate the bridge fiasco, nor too late to look into management overtime, salaries and the bloat. In Neil Godbout's Feb. 19 editorial, we together challenged mayor and council to a formal public debate on city tax increases and spending. So far, no one has accepted our challenge. That challenge remains open.
-- Bobby Deepak, Prince George