Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, February 8, 2010

Damn Lies, Bigger Damn Lies, and Consultant’s Reports

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
Feb 8, 2010

City Council told us that they had to demolish and re-build Council Chambers and City Hall "A" Wing because it had a leaking roof, then they said that it was not handicapped accessible, and then not energy efficient, where they finally found a justification that they thought would stick.

We were then told that the $25 Million demolition and rebuilding of Council Chambers and City Hall “A” Wing and the refurbishing of Rundle Tower would be paid for by energy savings at no cost to the taxpayer.

Lights bulbs are advertised by the energy payback time, a pitch never applied to costly appliances like refrigerators.

Brilliant though! City politicians are selling us on light bulb marketing to cover our city hall refurbishing and reconstruction costs. Yeah! Right!

I have maintained that the project was an unneeded wastage of tax money.

The leaking roof was a maintenance issue which is required for even brand new buildings, the accessibility problem was a minor renovation project, and energy inefficiency is a problem with every public building including Buckingham Palace, Parliament Buildings, The Louvre, The White House, etc. and will be the case of any recent construction in a few years as new standards and materials are developed.

The city employs "hired gun" consultants, almost like the "expert" witnesses employed on both sides of a criminal trial, who will produce reports, or testimony in the case of expert witnesses, to support the "preconceived" positions of those paying the bills.

I know that energy efficient windows installed in my house may pay for themselves in my lifetime, and while there may be some cost savings with the city hall projects, we all know they would never repay the $20M to $25M to $30M cost for demolishing and rebuilding city hall as City Politicians claim pointing to the consultants report that made the claim. But you can pay “hired guns” to say anything!

Without having access to all of the technical studies, I do have some common sense to apply, and so I made some assumptions for the demolition and rebuilding of Council Chambers only, and expect that the result would be the same on the entire project.

Suppose the Council Chambers cost as much to heat/cool as 100 homes. My house costs about $1500 to heat/cool per year so the Council Chambers would cost about $150,000 to heat and cool. Suppose reconstruction would result in an increased heating/cooling efficiency of an impossibly high 50%. The savings for heating/cooling the newly constructed $8 million council chambers would be $75,000 annually resulting in a cost savings of $75,000. At this rate, it would take ($8M/$75,000) 107 years to pay off the construction costs with the accrued energy savings not counting the debt charges on the money used to pay for the construction.

Now do you believe City Hall's Claim that energy savings will pay for the job? You don't? Me neither!

Now apply the same arguments to the complete project...the demolition and rebuilding of Council Chambers and "A" wing and the refurbishment of Rundle Tower at a cost somewhere around $25,000,000.

City Hall must think we're stupid!

But this is only one example of the misinformation and often outright lies fed to the people.

Council must think we’re innocent little chicks with our mouths wide open waiting unquestionably to receive all their BS. They’ll find we’re not!

This kind of information given to the public shows that council thinks the voters are dumb. That’s no way to show respect for the people. And I resent it!

There are lots of examples of this kind of lying and misinformation given to the public.
1. When the General Vote was being approved by city council, the Mayor publicly stated for the television audience watching the council meeting that night that city hall had no responsibility to communicate details of the plebiscite question to the public---no reason to explain the meaning of the question, the consequences of a change, or indeed why the question was asked since there had never been any concern publicly expressed about ward voting. He said this communication was the responsibility of concerned citizens like me to fundraise and inform the public.

Informal third party campaigns suggested by the mayor are against Ontario Municipal Election Law which the mayor must have known when he made these statements---but the lie sounded good to the uninitiated.

Council even voted not to give such information.

Doesn’t it make sense that if council wanted an accurate measure of public opinion, they would have wanted to inform the public.

Their failure to communicate showed they didn’t care.

They kept the question secret and worded it a way as to get the answer they wanted.

This is vote manipulation of the highest order.

Council should be ashamed of themselves for denigrating democracy this way. It was akin to the vote fixing of third world despots!

2. A common city hall statement following approval of every major funding expenditure is that it will have no impact on taxes.

We’ve been told that on the rebuilding and refurbishment project at city hall and on the building of GM Centre.

Every penny council spends has a direct impact on taxes.

Governments do not have any other source of income except from the people.

Creative accounting does not eliminate the impact on taxes.

Take the building of the $45 million GM Centre downtown.

They mortgaged, sold, or borrowed against part of the city ownership of the profitable Oshawa Public Utilities Commission and profits that would normally be returned to the city to assist in financing on-going city operations are now lost revenues directed to debt repayment or dividends to the note holders leaving tax payers to pick up the shortfall as inflated tax burdens.

No impact on taxes? Do you believe it?

No, I don’t either!

3. Recently, Councillor Brian Nicholson claimed on his facebook page in response to a complaint about high taxes, that Oshawa had the lowest taxes in Durham Region and was one of the lowest in the GTA.

This is a blatant lie.

When I pointed out the misinformation, Nicholson tried to skirt around the issue by saying he meant something else, and then proceeded to attack my credibility.

There is no question about Oshawa’s high taxes as anyone can see by consulting the GTA tax calculator.

By referencing this resource, Oshawa taxpayers would note that we not only have the highest residential taxes in the GTA, we also have significantly higher taxes than our surrounding neighbours, Whitby, Scugog, and Clarington.

Further, they’d be astounded to discover that an Oshawa house valued at $350,000 pays the same taxes as a Toronto house valued at $866,100 and that a $350,000 Oshawa house would be taxed at $1076 less in Clarington, $1389 less in Scugog, $1167 less in Whitby, and, get this, $3153 less in Toronto.

Nicholson has been on City Council for more than 20 years.

Was he lying to the public or after 20 years of budget deliberations, is he still unaware of our criminally high taxes here in Oshawa? I guess he just doesn’t get it!
Space limitations prevent me from identifying a good number of other examples of the damn lies and the huge damn lies being constantly fed to Oshawa people.

If the mayor and city council had any respect for the people and any respect for democracy, they’d tell us the truth…for once---please. Just for once!

Oshawa will have a chance to do a lot better at the next municipal election on October 25, 2010.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

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