Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And the winner is...

So Mr. Mandel has decided to run for office again.  Does this mean "third time lucky" for the people of the City of Edmonton? Or are we in for yet another 3 years or so of being smiled at, while behind your back someone is sticking the proverbial knife into you.  There are several little things that I want to touch on, and of course the list is not limited to this, but they are points that maybe people should be thinking about.

A few years back, Edmonton (and many other areas) went through the 'boom period', where housing prices literally double and tripled over night.  And since the amount of tax you pay is based on the value of the property, many people found their tax bills doubling, or more. Certainly a huge bonus for those selling property, certainly a nightmare for those looking to buy property, and outright disastrous for those on a fixed income.  But with that said, the amount of additional revenue going into the City coffers was huge.  Where did all of that (guessing) doubling of income for the city go to?  Perhaps those answers will start to come a little further down.

So now there was a massive increase in what the City was bringing in, and along the way, the amount of tax people are paying continued to climb.  So lets get creative!  We can keep the tax "increases" lower (as in you are still going to pay more tax, but just not as much) by doing "this".  Well, one of the "this" things was "Hey, lets take garbage collection out of the tax base, and add it on to your utility bill!".  This change came about, if I recall correctly, so that in January of that year, garbage (collection) charges appeared on a separate bill. But if you think about it, the City double-dipped that year, because taxes are due I think around the April mark or something.  So the taxes you paid that INCLUDED garbage collection, were not given back, but the City got several extra months of revenue by charging you twice for the same service.  And now this 'fee' is around $30 per month, or $360 per year... and your taxes STILL went up on top of that.

Then we have the Consultants scandal. In just one area examined, many millions of dollars were wasted in paying consultant fees.  I even wrote to the City Council suggesting there were issues with Consultants long before this came out, and Mandels response was that of a shuffling off rather than wanting to know more. Only one member of City Council wrote back to get more information.  Bottom line is that the City pays for consultants and programming needs that exceed multi-millions of dollars, when the same services can be provided "in house" for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There is the Airport issue, where the urgent need to close the airport and sell off the land seems to be going against the wishes of the citizens of the city, at least from reading many of the comments posted in the Edmonton Journal's article about lawsuits over closing the airport.  I have to wonder WHY this has been pushed as hard as it has been by Mr. Mandel?  Many people seem to think there are issues with some friendly pocket-type-padding-potential as one reason.  I would think that this election time should be the perfect opportunity to add this item to the civic vote so that it is CLEAR what the citizens of Edmonton want. And this must be done before any contracts have been signed.

Let's not forget the Indy as well.  Sign a contract that pays people a huge amount of money so we can host the event, because we can make a profit from it and it will be SO cool to have!.  Opps.. it turns out that someone made a mistake and it ends up costing us millions of dollars instead.  But hey, we signed a contract so too bad so sad, right?  How many more contracts are we going to sign, that in the end, it ALWAYS ends up costing more than we were told, but of course it's too late to do anything about it, because after all it WAS a contract, right?  Remember that when you talk about LRT and EXPO2017. (Note that I am not personally against these ideas, but I am suggesting that we are being blind sided yet again on the truth of the matter.)

And of course, the famous downtown arena. People and polls everywhere have said "no" to tax payer dollars, but the impression I get is that Mr. Mandel seems to be pushing to find a way for this to happen, and continues to appear to ignore what the citizens have been saying.  Some people have even suggested that the reason for this push has to do with the huge donation Mr. Katz has made in the past to Mr. Mandel.  I can only shrug my shoulders and wonder why.

Recently, there were media stories on the completion of a bridge project, and the "requirement" to spend $600,000 on "art", because "city policy" says you have to.  I am not opposed to "the arts" by any means but sheesh, don't you think it's time for that policy to be reviewed? Six hundred thousand dollars... for a freaking bridge! *sigh*

Now we are told there is a substantial surplus left over from the last budget, and guess what... our taxes are going up again.  And it makes me wonder why those who are in charge have not stepped up to the plate and done something to fix this.

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