Friday, March 21, 2008

First You Say You Do...And Then You Don't...And Then You Say You Do...And Then You Don't...So Whatta Ya Gonna Do?

Once again, Oshawa City Council is demonstrating its grossly misguided, rudderless, and waffling leadership in playing fast and loose with your tax dollars.

That commercial slogan, “You’re in good hands with Allstate,” certainly cannot be applied to our City Council here in Oshawa.

Their self serving moves to wipe out your local neighbourhood political representation and bring us city wide elections for all city politicians, a move only designed to facilitate their own political careers while grossly reducing political accountability, attests to that.

At the March 3, 2008 City Council Meeting, Councillor Mary Anne Sholdra told me as much when she said with the "General Vote", she’d now have a much easier time getting re-elected. Perhaps this is why she voted against every single question designed to provide citizen information about the change and supported every single question to bring about the less democratic general vote.

A less accountable General Vote Council that cannot be defeated at the polls can do anything to you and perhaps this is why this City Council has implemented so many controversial, alarming and costly decisions. An unaccountable politician can bulldoze like a dictator, be damned public opinion or the public good.

Besides the Cullen Miniatures purchase, the UOIT student housing issue, the $12 Million redevelopment of City Hall apparently to provide more palatial office space and more presidential council chambers for city politicians, this post describes another example of the irresponsible actions of an unaccountable City Council which has continued to run up debt despite already being the highest taxed region in the GTA.

At an in-camera meeting on January 24, 2007, Oshawa City Council voted to spend $500,000 to hire a PR firm to promote Federal Government Assistance for the development of our waterfront and marina.

In a time when Mayor John Gray was promoting and supporting a 9% property tax increase and also promoting cutting back of services as well as fee increases for others such as the use of our taxpayer funded recreational facilities to reduce the ability of families to fund their child’s participation in activities like hockey, swimming and soccer, all of which would help decrease the major epidemic of child inactivity and obesity, this half million dollar expenditure is a serious misplacement of priorities.

It is all the more ludicrous when the most efficient promotion of Federal assistance to our waterfront should simply result from the mayor picking up the phone to chat with our three area Government Member Federal MP’s.

Surely as past President of the Oshawa Federal Progressive Conservative Association, you’d think he would get a friendly ear from our Conservative Members including Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who holds the Federal purse strings, Minister of International Cooperation, Bev Oda, who also holds a seat at cabinet where all important decisions are made, and backbencher Colin Carrie who should be well-positioned to lobby in Oshawa’s interest with his fellow influential Conservative Oshawa area MP’s.

Even Minister Flaherty ridiculed this expenditure stating it was a total waste of public money and he could hear the “flushing” sound of your tax dollars all the way to his office in Ottawa. He stated it would have been far more prudent and more cost-effective for the mayor to pick up the telephone to speak to him and the other Oshawa area MP’s.

Finance Minister Flaherty probably and deservedly felt that the Mayor’s failure to utilize him and the other local Federal government members undermined public confidence in their service to the Oshawa community. End-running our influential Federal Members will do us little good and will probably leave them sitting on their hands when the question of Oshawa’s waterfront comes up. No one would have ever considered this "end run" when Ed Broadbent was our member!

When Oshawa Council came “halfway” to its senses on January 28, 2007 (Page 46), it “tabled” Phase 2 of the PR effort costing $385,325 approving only Phase 1 PR funding of $134,675--still a ludicrous expenditure when one realizes that the Federal Government had hired David Crombie, probably Canada’s greatest advocate for the preservation of waterfronts and the development of eco-friendly waterfront nature trails and bike paths to investigate and report on the matter.

Crombie has submitted his report which we are assured will be relased to the public. Undoubtedly though, Crombie would have supported his waterfront vision for Oshawa, the only residential community on Lake Ontario without a recreational marina.

Compounding the problem, however, City Council advocates of the full half million dollar funding, realizing some opponents of the spending (Councillors Marimpietri, Neal, and Parkes) were absent during the March 3, 2008 city council meeting, slipped in a motion by Councillor Pidwerbecki seconded by Councillor Nicholson to re-introduce re-opening the question and it passed on votes of Councillors Cullen, Henry, Kolodzie, Nicholson, Pidwerbecki, Sholdra and Mayor Gray. Councillor Lutczyk was the only councillor present with the sense to oppose re-opening the question.

Like Finance Minister Flaherty, can you hear the sounds of flushing of your hard earned tax dollars down the toilet? At an average house assessment of about $3000, this expenditure consumes the residential tax of you and about 160 of your neighbours.

Now let me go out and count the houses in my neighbourhood to see if my neighbours and I can cover this expenditure with our house taxes! I don't think we can!

I smell some rot somewhere in this!

Be prepared for more of this Oshawa. The heavy handed and ham fisted council you are now seeing is only a start to worst days ahead under the general vote when guaranteed re-election will make politicians far less accountable to your wishes.

And you, Oshawa, by your inaction in regards to the loss of ward voting, are letting the politicians do this to you.

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