By Mike Archer. Abbotsford’s power structure and its newspapers have not had a very good batting average over the last several years if you look at the issues they defined as important for the community, and the response of the community.
Full Headline: Abbotsford’s Dwindling Old, White, Predominantly Male Power Structure And Their Incompetent Lackies
Consider the major initiatives, causes, projects or expenditures of your money they have supported and promoted – in some cases going so far as to predict an end to economic growth if they were not successful.
The issues on which they succeeded are bringing the City to its financial knees. As for the ones over which they cried wolf and lost … the fact they were defeated is the only reason our heads are only slightly below water instead full-on drowning.
There are several things that are consistent throughout all of these initiatives:
1. They have benefited a few private companies and individuals
2. They have cost Abbotsford taxpayers and hurt the City’s financial sustainability
3. When taxpayers, residents and citizens have been told what is really going on they have defeated the power structure at every turn, oftentimes despite, rather because of the old out-of-town media’s coverage
To this day a significant number of citizens say they thought they were being asked for permission to spend $55 million … not the nearly $500 million the projects will eventually cost.
In response to the incredibly narrow victory in a controversial democratic exercise during which they did everything they could to stack the decks, a lot of people would have realized how close they came to failure and considered addressing some of the concerns of those who were predicting disaster.
- Cost overruns
- Difficulties finding an anchor tenant
- Travel and other subsidies to teams and owners if we did get a hockey franchise
- Massive tax increases
- Massive debt increases
- An ongoing financial drain on City reserves
- The need to further defer desperately needed infrastructure projects
- An increase in Parks and Recreation costs and a decrease in available programs
Not in Abbotsford.
Abbotsford’s power structure and both of its chain owned newspapers closed ranks and insulted, berated and marginalized all those who had done their homework, warned of the pitfalls and pleaded with the politicians not to make the mistakes they so proudly blundered into.
All of the above warnings have, of course, come true and the subsidy of the hockey team we found after the arena went over budget and over time are an annual reminder of how dumb the deals were that were made on our behalf.From George Peary’s Deal to funnel public money to the private owners of the Heat through a ‘supply management fee’ to the decision to pay an American multinational (Global Spectrum) to run the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC) at a loss, to the decision to spend $650,000 a year managing The Reach Gallery, which isn’t open when residents could visit it if they wanted to, the entire Plan A fiasco has had far reaching and enormously negative effects on what Abbotsford citizens can and can’t expect from their civic government.
And it goes far beyond the obvious hemorrhaging of public money on the Heat and Global Spectrum to which John Smith, who helped arrange the hemorrhage, refers to so critically as he stands back to look at the mess he created.Beyond the idea of providing public money to private organizations – a strategy the City was later going to pick up again in two major proposals – the P3 water referendum and the YMCA fiasco – the Parks and Recreation Department and the Economic Development Department – with the full blessing of the power structure, their dutiful politicians and their out-of-town media – plowed ahead with their mindbogglingly bad management of City finances ignoring both the fact that all of the warnings were coming true and none of their own predictions were.
Following its well established policy of providing public money to private or pseudo-private organizations, Abbotsford City Council decided to bailout Dave Holmberg’s favourite watering hole – Ledgeview Golf and Country Club, without even considering providing the same benefits to Ledgeview’s competitors.
In a departure from the practices of every other municipality in British Columbia, Abbotsford decided to transfer a substantial amount of the cost of development from developers to current residents.By applying DCCs to all sorts of things never dreamed of by the framers of the legislation governing the charges and by applying them to existing property owners in ways never intended, and by transferring tax money to developers through an enormous increase in what is known as the ‘Assist Factor’, the City of Abbotsford effectively changed the balance of just who was paying for development by putting more of those costs onto existing residents than in any other community in BC.
Adding fuel to the fire, the Economic Development Department provided ten-year tax breaks for certain developments.
Facing, what George Peary described as a situation in which the City was “starved for cash” they began trying to find money wherever they could through such measures as:
- Reduction in Parks and Rec programs
- Increases in Parks and Rec fees
- 50 percent increase in taxes
- Doubling of residential water rates
- Measures such as the Upland Ditch Tax
- Other measures designed to get cash wherever they could to deal with John Smith’s perfect description of the hemorrhaging of public money to the private sector
“We can’t afford not too …” was Smith’s mantra when offered the opportunity to spend millions on things like a million dollar ‘Friendship Garden’ or the $8.3 million Vye Rd overpass which started at a cost of $650,000 but, due to council’s dithering and vanity projects will cost more than ten times as much eight years later.
(In case new readers think I’m exaggerating – you can’t make this stuff up)And so Abbotsford taxpayers had to pay Ed Fast’s boss for the privilege of building Federal overpasses over a Federal highway at Mt Lehman and Clearbrook roads. The ‘gifts’ forced the City to empty and then borrow against its DCC fund.
Ostensibly designed to solve the traffic problems caused by John Smith’s suggestion that we place the AESC beside UFV, the new overpass didn’t solve the problems at all because now the traffic is backed up onto the highway due a to a left turn light which, until the overpass, wasn’t an issue for highway traffic exiting to go to a Heat game.
The only thing preventing complete gridlock and accidents on Highway 1, it seems, is the low attendance at Heat games.
All of these decisions have been supported and cheered on by the power structure, the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and the flyer delivery companies, all of whom seem to think their servants on Council can simply do no wrong.
The fact those servants are spending other people’s money making a few people rich doesn’t seem to bother anyone in the power structure. Why would it. The money is all being spent for their benefit.But as with most issues time has a way of bringing balance. And so even though downtown developer Bob Bos and Abbotsford’s top cop Bob Rich abused police power, municipal political power and probably broke the law just to get Tim Felger out of downtown Abbotsford, Felger has been winning in the courts and promises when he is finally vindicated to pursue everybody including the Abbotsford Police and the City of Abbotsford who ruined him, assaulted him, falsely arrested and jailed him and destroyed his property and business just because he, like most Canadians, thinks weed should be legal. See you in court guys. At taxpayers’ expense of course. Despite a full court press in both out-of-town newspapers, George Perry was turfed after one term and his lies about the fact we were running out of water and facing economic ruin because of an inadequate supply, despite being widely distributed and supported by the newspapers convinced no one except the small group of people who depend on the City nabobs and will believe anything they are told and do anything they are told to do – the Plan A supporters.
Fully 75 percent of the community told George Perry, Frank Pizutto and Jay Teichroeb they didn’t believe a word they were saying and rejected the proposal to spend $300,000,000 on a new water supply. They fired George Peary into the bargain.Simon Gibson’s Anti Harm Reduction Bylaw appears to finally be dead or dying despite a full court press by all of Simon’s supports in the radical, white, religious clique who would rather those unfortunate people (addicts) just die in the streets as a result of HIV or Hep C (Abbotsford, thanks to Simon, has among the highest rates in Canada of both afflictions) than be kept alive through the provision of clean needles long enough to be cared for and perhaps saved.
The Abbotsford YMCA giveaway fell flat on its face despite ten years of work by former Parks and Rec Director Mark Taylor and a great deal of pressure from the Fraser Health Authority (FHA), its most controversial director – developer and McCallum Rd. property owner Karen Matty, and the reported involvement of Mike de Jong.
The YMCA debacle created a rift within the power structure. The proposal to provide the YMCA with a gift of $17.5 million plus tax free status in order to help it compete with the established privately owned fitness centres caught the attention of Fred Thiessen who, almost at the 11th hour began a grass roots campaign to have all of the details of the proposed giveaway made public and succeeded in causing the City and the YMCA to pull back on the massive transfer of public money … at least for now.
Fred Thiessen is hardly part of the much maligned lunatic fringe which seems to know a great deal more about reading balance sheets, achieving profits and avoiding losses than the entire Chamber of Commerce Executive between 2006 and 2013 and the nabobs at City Hall combined.
Fred seems to have caused some of those with real money in the community to take a second look at the way things are run at City Hall and, by all reports, they aren’t impressed with the mess the power structure has made of things.None of the big things the old power structure has simply grown used to being able to have happen just by telling their servants at the public trough and in the media to get them done are happening anymore. Could it be that having convinced most of the political class and the out-of-town media to sing their praises and put forward all of their arguments for them, they have only managed to make voters, taxpayers and citizens no longer believe anything City Hall or the newspapers tell them?
Every major initiative which succeeded between 2006 and 2008 was supported by the newspapers and they have led to a financial disaster at the City of Abbotsford that will take generations to untangle.
Every major initiative which has been defeated in Abbotsford since 2008 has been supported by the newspapers and has been defeated despite their support by a community trying to wrest control of their city back from those who quite simply either don’t know what they are doing or don’t seem to give a crap.
Could it be that the days of the old, white, incompetent and predominantly male power structure are coming to a close?
We can only hope so.