What happened at our Town Hall?
It was a merry gathering on Dec. 12 at the Cedarbrae Community Centre, where some 100 people turned out to talk budget, council’s “golden handshakes” and the potential axing of the mysterious, unparalleled retirement bonus.
If you were unable to attend, here is a summary of our community conversation:
What’s the deal with the “bad news budget”?
The room reeked of disappointment over November’s bad news Budget, with an effective tax increase of 7.5% to the average residential homeowner. Council demonstrated zero appetite for non-essential (not Fire, Police and 911) spending cuts.
I pushed my colleagues to find efficiencies in many areas including: the communications budget (one of the largest areas of increase since 2014); the art budget (which was nearly doubled in from the previous year); $50 million from non-essential services, and $50 million the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) which is essentially a $100M slush fund for the City to pick winners and losers in business.
Ultimately, Council did not support these proposals.
“What is the value in art if your home is burning down?” – Jeromy (on putting essential services first).
“It’s smoke and mirrors what this Council is doing … there’s only one taxpayer,” – Curt, Southwood (on the tax shift, no spending cuts).
“Who voted on this budget (turn on the electronic voting)?” – Barry, Cedarbrae (council’s voting record should be easily accessible and transparent).
Where did I sit on the budget?
“When we’re talking budget cuts, this must not happen on the backs of our City’s most vulnerable,” – Jeromy, on proposing thoughtful budget cuts
This translated to preserving things like the low income transit pass. I voted to keep the Beltline and Inglewood pools open because it would have cost us $200,000 to decommission them and keep up security and maintenance, while keeping the doors open costs only an additional $75,000 per year. This cost can be recovered through better marketing of the facility.
I successfully proposed moving $200,000 from the citywide speed limit review to go toward Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) Team. This program is a vital to the city’s fight against the drug crisis.
What is happening with the Ward boundary review?
Next week, Council will vote to amend the Ward boundaries without soliciting a recommendation from an independent, arm’s length committee. Typically, every eight years a ward boundary review is conducted by an independent committee to determine if changes are needed.
Making changes without using a committee screams conflict of interest and could allow for “gerrymandering” (adjusting populations/communities for possible political gain).
What is the deal with these “golden handshakes” and “golden bye bye bucks”?
I have put forward a motion to end the transition allowance paid to each Councillor who loses in an election, retires, moves on to another level of government or opts to not re-run.
This payment amounts to two weeks of pay for each year served (subject to income tax) and is in addition to a 5:1 pension and a salary and compensation package that rivals few in the entire country. I have personally declined this benefit, regardless of the outcome of Council’s debate.
“I know when wrong is wrong … I am not worth a golden handshake if I’m fired (lose an election), if I quit or if I ever go onto another level of government.” – Jeromy, on axing the transition allowance.
For context, in the 2021 election, the average outgoing Councillor will receive a pay cheque averaging just shy of $50,000. This payout is unparalleled in the private sector, was scrapped at the provincial level in 2012, and is not reflective of our economic reality. Above all else, a citizen committee recommended we scrap it two years ago.
I am hopeful this will coincide with getting rid of the mysterious retirement bonus for City staff. This absurdity entails a payout of over $10,000 on average to most City staff who retire into a pension. Records have been spotty, but the latest information indicates that this bonus dates back to at least 1964, and it is long past time for this program to end.
Councillors must lead by example and eliminate the transition allowance while voting to do away with this retirement bonus at the same time – which the Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates cost the taxpayer $7.6M between 2016 and 2017 alone.
I will continue to advocate for City Hall to curb its spending problem, make Calgarian a more affordable place to live and do business in and to call on common sense when it counts.
See you at the next Town Hall at the Kingsland Community Association at 505 78th Ave SW on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.
This event will be themed on issues that are top of mind for those reaching out to our office – on Crime Prevention & Safety.
This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.