After being elected in 2013 I began to realize that being a fiscal hawk on City Council can be a lonely experience. It is only now, in the months before an Election that I find myself surrounded by fiscal conservatives all clambering to grab your vote. I wonder, along with many Calgarians I am sure, where all of them were in the last four years?!
As I said many times, this past spring when Council was talking about what to do with a surplus of $22.5M, that I wish an election were held every year, that way Calgarians would get a more efficient and effective Council. My Motion to return the money to taxpayers succeeded. Had it not been an Election year, I doubt it would have.
Since being elected in 2013, I have stuck to my promise of defending taxpayers. This occurs even though I am often on the minority side of Council and raise the ire of administration. But that does not matter to me because I was elected by you, not them, and will continue to do so if I earn your support again this October.
Too often elected officials forget what level of Government they are under, what they are in charge of, and instead seek to place their mark by asking for funding for pet projects, or initiatives. To them projects are about a legacy. To taxpayers it simply means more debt. The question every elected official needs to ask themselves, and indeed candidates who are running, is whether this appropriate project is a need or a want? If it is not in the parameter of your level of Government, and not a necessity to taxpayers, then why are you proposing it? One Councillor this year proposed and won support to send $25,000.00 of tax dollars to help build roads in Haiti. Helping those less fortunate then us is admirable, but I have requests for stop signs, and traffic pedestrian lights in my Ward that are needed by residents who are concerned about safety. International aid is a federal issue, and a pet project for someone to put their name on is not right.
This is why I stand by my record as your Councillor for Ward 4.
I have been consistent voting against raising your property taxes. I have said repeatedly that Council should lead by example and that is why voted for pay cuts. I have also voted in favour of freezing our wages. I have asked nonstop that any surpluses be returned to taxpayers and when I lose that battle I then vote for that kept money to go towards infrastructure projects that benefit the majority of Calgarians. I have consistently asked administration to find efficiencies and savings in their budgets and make hard cost cuts through attrition. I fully supported a volunteer committee to look at Councill’s pay and benefits, in which the Chair was rudely attacked when cuts were suggested. Lastly, I was the only one who voted to end transition allowance for Councillors if they retire or are unelected.
Calgary is in another economic downturn. The dollar is weak, the price of oil is down, and the trickledown effect to our local stores and small businesses has begun. As a past small business owner I know the hard work and long hours it takes to be successful. So, what is not needed is the Government making it even harder for companies to make it through these tough times by raising property taxes and utility rates.
Over the last several years Calgary has had over 11,000 businesses shutter their doors. This is 11,000 entrepreneurs, and their families, struggling to make ends meat. We all know of a local salon, a pub, or coffee shop that is gone, or a service company that can only make it a few more months at reduced rates. And, we all know a company owner taking pay cuts in order to keep their staff employed, and employees who take cuts across the board so their fellow colleagues don’t get laid off. But with the City, the increase in property taxes this year for many was the final straw. This is not right.
Some of my colleagues have not listened to Calgarians asking for alleviation on property taxes. The arguments against this are the same. The surplus, divided amongst property owners is so small that we should keep it – and when they ask for a tax increase, the dollar amount is so small that it won’t matter to the average Calgarian. But it does matter. Over and over I hear that every tax increase means that you have less money in your pocket. That is a bus pass, a grocery bill, or a tank of gas. This all adds up. You and I only have one wallet.
Things need to change. The City needs to see its citizens as something more than a property tax bill or a cash cow. This change needs to come from the top. I have been often a lone voice on Council asking the tough questions that don’t earn me much support from Administration , but after years of door knocking I know that you have told me to keep going and to keep their feet to the fire.
That is why, if you re-elect me on October 16th, I will keep being that fiscal hawk you deserve, and will again defend your tax dollars.
I will also push for my vision of Calgary, and how we can make the City a friend of small businesses, and not a hindrance to success. The City needs change from the top down, but to do that you need strong voices at Council to keep hammering away at administration to find savings, to find ways to cut regulations, and to find ways to be an ally of entrepreneurs and taxpayers.
I will continue to be your voice.
To seem my latest video on taxes click here.
What will my focus be if I earn your trust again on October 16th
- Continue being the fiscal hawk on City Council;
- I will always question Administration on budgets, spending priorities, and whether what we are proposing is with the City’s purview (i.e: Roads, Transit, Water, Sewer, Parks and Recreation);
- Continue to ensure that the Council initiatives brought forward satisfy a need and do not promote a want or legacy project that unnecessarily place taxpayers on the hook;
- Continue reviewing departments with zero-based budgeting in order to find savings;
- Seek initiatives from City employees, asking them where they think we can cut costs and provide new and innovative approaches in delivering City Services. Often when I work with Roads and Transportation, the innovation comes from City employees who saw a way of doing a process better, and in doing so cut a Departments costs. We need to encourage this more; and
- Create a panel of small business owners, to work with Administration, to review the process in which small businesses must work with the City. This work would include processes for streamlining permits, making development applications clearer, and finding ways to support businesses struggling with property taxes and rate fees during economic downturns.
These are just some of the initiatives that I want to accomplish if I earn your vote again. I have worked diligently on these items for FOUR years already, but more work needs to be done. If you have ideas on ways the City could save money I also I want to hear from you! Making the City a more effective and efficient place to live will take a lot of people to coming together, but it is something you deserve!