Last month we published Four Years Of Constructive Criticism Part I and II in response to a column in the Abbotsford Times by Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Allan Asaph. Prior to starting the ‘Four Years Of Constructive Criticism’ series we had responded to Mr Asaph but we felt his suggestion that, without the proper control of out-of-town newspaper chains and business clubs like his, public opinion expressed on newfangled technology like the internet wasn’t worth much, required a bit more of a response.
The response has been rewarding and so we reiterate our disagreement with Mr Asaph’s position regarding what he refers to as the “unfortunate” fact that, nowadays, “Anyone with access to a computer can create a website, a blog or other web presence and hold themselves out as an arbiter of what is wrong and right.”The leadership of Mr Asaph’s business club has been responsible for cheerleading, lobbying and pushing hard for the agenda which has brought the City of Abbotsford to its financial knees.
Perhaps, if he or his colleagues had listened to some of the criticism we’ve been publishing daily for the last four and a half years, he might have found some wisdom that would have kept him and his organization from looking so foolish.
So here is Part III in the long list of constructive criticism the very talented and intelligent citizens of Abbotsford have provided, through Abbotsford Today, to those in the little social club atop the power structure of Abbotsford only to be ignored, denied, refused, marginalized and rudely denounced by those who are ruining our city.We’d like to, once again, thank Mr Asaph for his comments on the low value he sees in the criticism expressed on the internet from those outside of the established power structure and those within it who have brought our city to its current state because, if nothing else, it has caused us to go back and look at some of the constructive criticism we’ve provided over the years.
ARA Budget Speech 2009
———http://www.abbotsfordratepayers.org. As the President of the ARA, I delivered those speeches. This column will give you my reaction to the reception our thoughts were given and then I have some direct responses to Councilor Loewen’s comments that he posted here on Abbotsford Today.
Let me start by saying that I don’t “get it”. The City of Abbotsford held these two nights of consultation, Council and Staff constantly say the want our input and feedback and then we give it to them only to be told we are all wrong.
What is right and wrong? Isn’t any idea a good idea? I guess if you have no intention of considering anything that anyone will ever have to say then you can make that sort of judgement, but the ARA’s intentions were to purely offer areas of budget cuts that we endorse should staff present them to Council.
If not one suggestion the public presents to the City is seriously considered, surely that is “wrong”?!?!?
So, the ARA delivered our thoughts and there were some tough suggestions in our list. The Mayor has told us we need to make tough decisions, but it looks like we taxpayers are more willing to offer those choices up than our politicians.
As you can see on the video, at the end of our speech, the City Manager Frank Pizzuto offered the cursory “Thank you”, but then couldn’t wait to tell me how “wrong” we had been with our numbers.
Most of those numbers were yours Mr. Pizzuto. You kindly offered them up in a series of articles in the Abbotsford News and when you take the time to put those numbers together, which we did, you get the totals we came up with. The ARA is more than happy to substantiate every number we put forth. Obviously we couldn’t do that in our speech because of limited time, but I offered that at the time, and I do so again now.
The problem is that staff and council think we are just trying to criticize them or the job they do. That’s what you do with someone’s previous actions. Our speech looked forward. Certainly we have to consider the burden of Plan A so that we can plan for the future. If we don’t talk about the new entertainment centre and how much it costs us … this would suit Council I’m sure…then we can’t consider our city’s finances in the context of all it must pay for.
Councilor Loewen had some thoughts and I’d like to make some responses to each area. My replies are highlighted below his original comment …
During multiple presentations on the 2009 Budget, only one single chart displayed any kind of breakdown of the General funding description. For example, there was no breakdown of General capital expenditures into Parks & Rec, Engineering and so forth. The one chart that did show any breakdown was a 3 year average. Not exactly full of detailed information from which we can give you detailed input.
Frankly, this is not acceptable. The taxpayers and voters are your CEO. While you may have been elected, that is not unconditional acceptance of anything you might care to do. No CEO operates a business without monitoring his Vice Presidents.
Perhaps you think we won’t understand a detailed Budget document? The ARA is made up of a Board that includes a Senior Financial Advisor, an Economist, an Accountant who previously audited Municipal books, and many business owners. If my accountant presented me with the information you present to taxpayers as my business’ upcoming budget, he wouldn’t be working for me for very long.
Why is this so important?
Well, in last year’s budget there were detailed numbers that deeply troubled the ARA. Chief among them were your choices of what capital projects to defer.
Of the close to $50 million in deferred capital projects more than $32 million were road construction or maintenance projects. This basic infrastructure was set aside, and now the City of Abbotsford hopes to make up for it by imposing a Gas Tax. I’m going to talk more about that later, but there was something glaringly missing from the list of deferrals…
…not one single penny of Parks & Recreation spending was deferred…not one.
For the full article click here.
Here’s my list:
- I don’t need $100,000 spent on a children’s play structure in a recession. Wait a couple of years please and don’t give me the line that you are getting a deal. That’s like your spouse coming home everyday claiming the shopping they did was “on sale” so they saved you a ton of money. When they do that everyday, they aren’t saving you any money at all.
- I don’t need $175, 000 spent on Matsqui Trail. It is beautiful and covering it with a layer of gravel is unnecessary. The Trail is in good repair and this won’t be an upgrade at all.
- I don’t need all those new city vehicles that are popping up everywhere. Extend the leases, hire a mechanic and let’s make do with the old cars for a bit. I drive an 11 year old Corolla…by choice…and city workers should do the same.
- $800,000 for the scoreboard at the new entertainment centre was enough. I’d like to have my $1.2 million back please. I don’t need ads displayed to me particularly when it sounds like no one is buying the space anyway. Again, pie in the sky ideas and no results.
- I don’t need a new digital sign at the Abbotsford Recreation Centre. It’s a recession and that is a luxury. Changing the sign by hand in the rain instead of typing it into the computer is certainly not a hardship, but raising my taxes is.
- I don’t need any more bike lanes. I ride 1000 kilometres a month and I didn’t need the first one….don’t spend money on more.
- I don’t need more City staff. While a hiring freeze may now be in place, City staff increases outpaced city growth rates in the last two Council terms.
Laying people off is OK. Millions of people in the private sector have experienced this over the last 6 months, City Hall can downsize too. The term “laying off” is designed to invoke the idea that they may be hired back when things “pick up”. So, lay them off in a recession and hire them back later. I know its hard to do…but I’ve done it and if I can do it, so can you.
- I don’t need an Economic Development Department at City Hall. In the last year, I have seen no announcements of new major businesses, investment or development…other than that funded by taxpayers…in the City of Abbotsford. Business as usual is not “development”. This department should be spun off into a separate entity that funds itself. This will save taxpayers almost $800,000Ã‚ per year and if it actually produces results then Abbotsford will benefit and it will self-fund.
- I don’t need the Water Park at Mill Lake to be upgraded during a recession. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars are being put into the park when it was perfectly functional. In fact, if it were broken beyond repair we shouldn’t be fixing it. You spent our recreation money on a hockey team, you don’t get to double dip because the Water Park is someone’s pet project that they just can’t give up!
- Lastly, I don’t need a golf course that loses hundreds of thousands each year. Developed into housing, the land has been estimated to be worth as much as $100 million. As much as I love golf, it is time to sell this asset. I’m sure you will be able to grandfather in free rounds for the old boys club. The bar will still be open…you just won’t be able to pour for yourself anymore.
For the full article click here.
By Vince Dimanno. Global Spectrum is going to be under tremendous pressure to perform. Most important to the Abbostford Ratepayers Assocition (ARA), and the taxpayers of Abbotsford, is that if they are unable to perform, the City of Abbotsford has the ability to move on to another service provider. We must think this way. We are literally weeks from opening and we have no hockey team and only a handful of possible events booked. We have no business plan from Global Spectrum and not one single communication with the people of Abbotsford on how they will solve the parking problem so we can all attend events they arrange.
So with no hockey team, very few bookings, no business plan, and no parking, the City’s contract with Global Spectrum should include an exit strategy that won’t penalize taxpayers.
For the full article click here.
For more ‘From the Vault’ click here.