Monday, April 2, 2007

Why Stop at the General Vote...Oshawa should go all the way and disband Oshawa Civic Administration...Maybe Council is on to something!

I am jumping for joy at the announced tax increase of only 3.9%. Aren’t you?

Politicians used the tax collector’s ploy that has been used since the beginning of time. They highballed projected increases of over 6% and were able to come in a couple of points lower…whoopee!

And all of this comedic routine just to provide relief to the harried Oshawa taxpayer.

Interestingly, this 3.9% figure was mentioned in the press prior to budget approval. Politicians knew this as the “real” final figure all along.

Sort of like yard sale routines...ask higher but know you're going to settle for lower. And then the buyer (or taxpayer) knows he's getting a real deal.

I think Oshawa taxpayers are too smart to fall for this ruse.

The big question…what are we getting for the money?

The city tax is about the same as the regional tax and yet the region has all of the larger, more important, and costly functions.

The Regional responsibilities are 1) Strategic land use planning, 2) Subdivision and condominium approval, 3) Area Municipal Official Plans and Amendments, 4) Water supply, distribution and billing, 5) Sewage collection and treatment, 6) Police services, 7) Arterial roads, traffic lights and controls, 8) Garbage and refuse disposal, 9) Health and social services, 10) Emergency measures, 11) All borrowing of money for capital expenditures, and 12) Economic development and tourism.

The city only looks after 1) Local planning (zoning), 2) Local streets and sidewalks, 3) Garbage collection, 5) Fire protection, 6) Parks and recreation, 7) Tax collection, 8) Building inspection and permits and, 9) Licencing.

So why is Oshawa’s tax bill so large?

The local city government and the regional government have many overlapping functions and systems and many overlapping departments and bureaucracies that are often duplicating and doubling costs to the taxpayer.

Since Oshawa politicians want to wipe out your local ward representation with the general vote which will move local government further from the people, perhaps they should “go all the way” and wipe out Oshawa Civic Administration completely and hand Oshawa's few responsibilities over to the the region.

The Oshawa taxpayer would not see one iota of difference except for a decreased tax bill…and, Lord knows, as the highest taxed citizens in the GTA our shrinking Oshawa wallets need the tax relief.

Does it make sense to you that the Region looks after all of the main streets such as Grandview, Wilson, Harmony, Ritson, Simcoe, Centre, Park, Stevenson, Thornton, Phillip Murray, Farewell, Wentworth, Olive, Gibb, King, Bond, Adelaide, Rossland, Taunton, etc. and that city equipment runs over these roads with the same equipment to maintain, clean, and plow the local residential streets. Doesn't this sound like duplication and inefficiency to you with both levels having road maintenance/snow clearing, road cleaning equipmment going over each jurisdiction's roads to service their own?

And doesn't it sound inefficient to have city picking up refuse and garbage but the region disposing of it?

And doesn't it sound wasteful, costly, and inefficient if both jurisdictions have similar departments like human resources, planning, procurement, legal, accounting, municipal clerks, etc. all performing the same services at the different levels.

Amalgamation of services seems to be the sensible direction. Regional public transit systems are a case in point. Did it make sense before amalgamation a year or so ago that you couldn’t get to Oshawa from Whitby or Bowmanville on public transit? Yet recall how hard the politicians fought to retain their turf even at higher costs and inefficient delivery of service to the people.

When regional governments were formed in 1971, all of the major responsibilities were given to the region while the city was left with minor and incidental responsibilities. Yet the Oshawa taxpayer pays about as much for the minor responsibilities carried out by Oshawa as it does for the major responsibilities carried out by the region.

Provincial policy under the Harris government was to amalgamate municipalities to cut out overlaps and duplications of function to result in greater efficiencies and lower costs.. This worked out okay in Toronto where the former 5 cities were merged into one administration with no problem. The change didn’t make any difference to the people. People still say they live in Scarborough, or North York, or Etobicoke, etc. It’s just that they don’t pay taxes to those municipalities.

Oshawa taxpayers would still live in Oshawa even if our civic administration was disbanded. We just wouldn't pay taxes to Oshawa.

So the precendent has been set. Even expert efficiency and costing studies have been done. They just have to be implemented.

Amalgamation makes sense. We are already there with most of the important local government functions. We just have to add some minor changes to complete the process.

Go for it Oshawa politicians...fold complete amalgamation into your strategy to return to the general vote. A local government close to the people doesn't matter!

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