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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dirty Tricks, Ethics, and Controversy on the Campaign Trail

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
October 25, 2010

Heard a good one the other day! Three teens were distributing John Gray literature to one of my campaign volunteer’s home off Central Park Blvd. The astute volunteer, thinking it unusual to have teen boys volunteering for a campaign, asked if the boys were getting paid. At first one of the young guys said, “Yes,” and then after a momentary pause, “Well not really! The Mayor has offered to donate to our church group trip to the Dominican Republic in return for our help in his campaign.”

This is an unusual way for Mayor John Gray to compensate these students as donations to a church youth travel group cannot be counted as a campaign expenditure on the official expense forms that have to be filed after the election and so the donation must come from another source.

There are two sources possible---a donation from the Mayor’s personal funds which, while admirable, wouldn’t make sense in paying a legitimate campaign expense which could, and would, be paid from his campaign donor funds.

The only other source of funds are city “Partnership Grants” which are available for assisting in the funding of worthwhile non-profit community projects. I’m suspecting that these are the taxpayer-funded donations the Mayor has offered.

This would be an unethical use of taxpayer money to help fund the Mayor’s campaign, but it is the only logical explanation for him not paying the students directly for their labour.

I shall be on this like a hawk to expose this dishonesty if a city grant is provided, or already has been provided, to help fund this church group trip, in return for campaign labour.

Such funding of campaign labour would also be a contravention of Provincial Legislation controlling the spending, reporting, and accounting of campaign expenditures as this labour would not be charged to the campaign.

Such un-reporting of campaign costs allows politicians to exceed campaign spending limits set by the Province and has been the subject of court challenges following elections.

As a demonstration of her campaign tactics, Louise Parkes has planted a women heckler in the audience in each of the last two Mayor Forums to shout out about negative campaigning when I mentioned her 54% salary/expense spending increases in the first three years of her current term, her exorbitant cell phone bills that have been just $23 less than the totals of 8 of her fellow councillors, and her call for bigger office expense budgets to cover her travel expenses.

At the most recent Mayor Forum, Parkes had her heckler sit directly in front of the microphone to discourage me from exposing her dishonesty. Guess she didn’t want the audience to know about her exorbitant spending habits at taxpayer expense! It didn’t work---cause I think voters have a right to know!

Parkes’ excessive feeding at the public trough is so inconsistent with the message of restraint and “Fair Taxation” indicated on her signs and in her debate presentations that it amounts to a lie.

For one, I believe that politicians should be honest and shouldn’t be able to get away with saying anything they want to mislead the public.

Another trick used by politicians is to plant “clappers” at political forums to clap thunderously at the most innane comments of their favoured candidates.

The unschooled in political campaigns do not realize the theatre involved in campaigns to demonstrate unsubstantiated support for their favoured candidates.

Nor do they realize that the local city newspapers, which are not titans of reporting integrity, base their important choices on retaining their share of the city advertising dollar which provides significant regular “lifeblood” revenues for the newspapers. This determines which stories they are going to print and which individuals will get exposure in their rags.

One newspaper gets over $20,000 monthly in city advertising and so their coverage is friendly to the politicians. I remember its reporter walking out of the room one time when I got up to make a presentation about retaining ward elections to a city committee. Obviously, the Mayor had made it clear that the city advertising budgets dictated that my comments were not to get exposure in their newspaper.

One little 8 or 10 page newspaper, The Snap Newspaper, struggling to increase its minimal city ad revenue, recently had 3 or 4 pictures of John Gray and a couple of pictures of Louise Parkes, John Henry, and Nester Pidwerbecki. This paper is aggressively biased in its political coverage and is working hard to get a larger share of the city advertising budget.

As mentioned earlier, all campaign costs have to be officially accounted for. The Nicholson Brothers, both running for election for different offices, have many signs throughout the city promoting the Nicholson name without any reference to first name or position being sought. This raises an interesting question as to which campaign, Brian’s or brother Mike’s campaign, should the signs be charged against, or both. Or in fact, if the signs are not clear whose they are, are they in fact legal. I did send an email to the city clerk who is in charge of city elections asking this question. She has not responded yet.

Another mystery that has now been partially solved is “The Mystery of the Disappearing Signs.” There has always been sign damage and some shrinkage, but this has been a huge problem this campaign.

There have been some sightings of candidate campaign workers stealing signs and even of some photos of those in the act which has been reported to police. Recently, a Miller Paving Truck and a rental van were seen removing signs on Wilson. Although unconfirmed at present, it seems that the Region has contracted with some to roam regional city roads removing signs. I don’t know whether they are objective or selective in their choice of signs to remove. Apparently the removed signs are trucked to some as yet unknown location in Ajax.

As I write this, I have just returned from a storage facility behind the arts resource center at city hall after retrieving perhaps $500 worth of my signs that have been removed by city work crews. While I have the signs back, a real problem is the lost exposure time of the signs and the time to replant them with volunteer labour.

In all ways, incumbent politicians follow practices to promote themselves at public expense and pass bylaws to limit exposure of non-incumbents names to the voting public. Thus they pass bylaws limiting signs and then hire contractors to remove them.

Oshawa City Council incumbents use your tax money to pay for advertising, attendance at public events, and spend thousands of dollars in publishing and distributing unneeded, unread, and frivolous printed materials like “Inside Oshawa” which are really expensive glossy carriers for politician’s mug shots and messages and city propaganda they want to get out.

You’d think politicians would want to get out really important information to voters such as why the last plebiscite question was asked, what it meant, what difference it would make to voters, etc. Instead, they refused to communicate this information to prepare voters for the plebiscite question instead wanting to rig the system to favour the result they wanted...the result that favoured the re-election of incumbents. This is democracy---Oshawa style!

It angers me every time I see politician’s buying ads with our tax money to wish us Happy New Year, Merry Xmas, or to thank veterans on Remembrance Day. All are worthy endeavours...but not with our tax money!

These messages are nothing more than a shill where the ad is simply promoting the politician without any sincerity toward the cause being recognized.

One of the dirtiest tactics is unidentified telephone calls in the middle of the night. I received one of these at 4:42 am on October 21 only to be awoken by silence on the other end of the line. I also received a complaint that one gentleman was upset with my campaign because he said he received one of these after-midnight calls from someone who said they were calling on behalf of my campaign. I don’t know how many of these calls have gone out and how many votes I might have lost as a result of the angry recipients...but my campaign has done absolutely no telephone canvassing even at reasonable hours.

By the time you read this, you have probably cast your votes using the most ridiculous system in Canada with the huge ballot and the list of 70 candidates or so for the various offices. It may be Tuesday before you know the election results but hopefully all city councillors are punished for bringing you this impossible ballot, for bringing you the highest residential tax rate in the GTA, and for saddling you with a city debt that has escalated from $10M to $100M in 8 short years.

The campaign has been long for me from January 4th and so today (Monday, Oct. 25th) is a welcome end to all of the energy sapping campaigning.

We’ll all look forward now to what future the election has brought Oshawa, and this analysis will be the subject of my column next week.

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

Congratulations Oshawa....You have the Nuttiest Election System in the Country

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
October 18, 2010

Our city motto is “Prepare to be amazed” and so why not have the nuttiest election system in the country.

We already have the highest tax levels in the GTA, and perhaps the country, the highest Industrial Commercial tax rates in the GTA, and perhaps the country, to scare away good jobs and industrial investment in the city, so why not have this nuttiest election system too.

Our politicians have been writing the training manual on “How Not to Run a City” so why should our election system be the one everyone else uses. That would not be befitting of the city motto, “Prepare to be amazed.”

Mayor candidates Louise Parkes, John Henry, and John Gray have all demonstrated to the public that they are worthy candidates to carry on the ineptness that has characterized city hall.

All three voted to provide you with the General Vote system that has given you the giant impossible ballot with the 70 candidates that has made it impossible for you to be an informed voter.

The city has to live up to the motto, “Prepare to be Amazed” even though Canada’s Supreme Court has said, and even elementary students in democratic nations would know, that an informed public is a basic requirement for democracy to work.

So Parkes’, Henry’s and Gray’s support for this giant, unworkable, and undemocratic ballot does qualify them live up to the “Prepare to be amazed” motto. After all, how could they be Mayor of this city if their actions and their votes to support such a stupid election system did not measure up to the city motto? A vote in support of the general vote showed that their level of incompetence could carry on the many inane actions of this council.

Other incumbents who are running in this election who voted for this general vote with the giant 70 name ballot simply to enhance their own electoral chances were Nester Pidwerbecki, Maryanne Sholdra, and Tito Dante Marimpietri….so certainly they lived up to the city motto, “Prepare to be Amazed” by being more concerned about implementing a “self-serving” electoral system rather than one that serves this city and its voters.

Certainly if the system they voted for was best, it would be used widely across the country rather than only in Oshawa….but then in all ways, we have to live up to the motto, “Prepare to be Amazed!” For their self-serving votes to support implementation of the general vote, they should be defeated.

One of the key components of heading up this council is to show that you have the required level of incompetence to amaze and both Henry and Parkes are showing remarkably well in this regard.

At a recent Mayor’s Forum at the CAW Retirees Hall, a question was asked about how the various mayoral candidates would attract industry and good jobs to this city. Of course, this would be an expected question from the Canadian Auto Workers and their retired brothers and sisters in the hall.

Parkes answered that she would strike up a mayor’s council…a brilliant answer in showing the proper level of incompetence to amaze all those present. With that, she certainly showed that she was in the incompetence park with the present mayor and therefore in the ballpark to become mayor.

Parkes’ answer showed four things….1) She had no idea on how to attract industry and jobs, 2) Being devoid of any ideas of her own, she would ask business leaders how to do her job, and 3) Despite being on council for 12 years, she had no idea that Oshawa’s industrial commercial tax rates were the highest in the GTA and scared away any industry from locating here even if the land was free, and 4) That the basic requirement to attracting industry and jobs to Oshawa is a reduction in our Industrial/Commercial tax rates to make us competitive with our neighbours.

Despite her inane answer, her “plants” in the audience cheered at her call for the Mayor’s Council which must have impressed them. Interestingly at the most recent Mayor’s Forum, she had a plant who screamed out “Stop the Negative Campaigning!” when I mentioned Parkes’ 54% increase in her salary/expense spending in the first three years of her current term with the results not yet in for 2010. I responded, “I may not have your vote madam….but I do believe voter’s do deserve the truth!” This response did seem to receive universal applause, all except the shouter, of course, who probably wilted back into the woodwork a little embarrassed at her outburst and determined not to be “used” again by the Parkes Campaign.

Anyway, any 12 year veteran of council should know that an investor wanting to build a $25M plant would save over $200,000 annually by building a mile down the street in Whitby. Why would an industrialist invest here?

Louise Parkes’ answer to the question was so ludicrous; she must be putting us on. She must have been downplaying her intellect to show the level of incompetence she thought was required to step into John Gray’s shoes.

Not to be outdone, John Henry worked hard to be in the incompetence game.

In his answer to the question on how to attract good jobs and industry here, Henry gave us an analysis worthy of an average grade 8 geography student. As if no one in the room knew, Henry informed us that we had a deep water port, an airport, a major highway, and we were on the main rail line across the country. We also have a skilled work force….”We can build anything and ship it anywhere in the world.” He said. Now don’t you think this is an unbelievable insight into the question? Again, Henry’s “plants” cheered enthusiastically at his astute wisdom.

Henry failed to recognize that Oshawa has had these attributes for the last 50 years and yet we have been steadily losing industrial jobs here. I suppose Henry’s answer demonstrates that nothing has to be done---that Its just a matter of time before industry flocks to our city to take advantage of all of the attributes he mentioned---so if he’s elected mayor, he’ll just sit back and wait for all the magic to happen.

He calls himself a businessman with his little office equipment business…but any business person worth his salt knows that business is about dollars, and yet he didn’t think of reducing the industrial/commercial tax rate to make Oshawa competitive with our immediate neighbours.

John Gray has published his email address as bojogray@primus.ca and it strikes me that bojo might be an apt descriptor for our mayor. With Parkes’ and Henry’s responses to the question of attracting industry to the city, both have indicated that they too are bojos.

At the same meeting, I pointed out that we couldn’t attract any industrial investment and good jobs into this city until our industrial/commercial tax rate became competitive with our neighbours. I did point out that a $25M plant in Oshawa would be taxed at $1.3M annually and just over $200,000 less in Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering….and $875,000 less annually in Markham. Even free land would not attract industry here since costs for the building and the land can be paid off…but the land tax goes on forever. In business, money is everything and no business would locate here when they could save $1M every 5 years by locating one mile down the street in Whitby.

I pointed out that our high industrial tax rates here will lose us all of the jobs, assessments, and investment in this community of the many spin-off industries to locate in the vicinity to use the research facilities, like the giant wind tunnel, at our university. To keep these jobs here where they belong, I pledged to bring our industrial/commercial tax rates for new businesses to competitive levels with our neighbours.

Unfortunately, my idea is just plain common sense and common sense just does not amaze----and thus is not a bojo idea that may compete with the stupid answers by Parkes and Henry. Their stupidity in answering this “jobs” question certainly meets the “Prepare to be amazed” test.

If either wins this election, we will be in for four more years of inept leadership without a vision or plan for the future of this city.

If you want to see a real vision, check out my platform on the site www.wepromise.ca, and also see the candidates I’ve endorsed on my site as worthy of your vote in bringing sensible and business-type leadership to this city to get our economic house in order.

Wish I was like Louise Parkes and John Henry and I could amaze you at the stupidity of my every comment.

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Attracting industrial commercial development and jobs to Oshawa

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
October 11, 2010

This is a question that comes up in every mayoral debate and is one that Mayor John Gray gloats over in mentioning the courthouse and university and their location here in attracting high level employment to this area.

Neither, of course, have anything to do with his efforts or city council policies. City policies neither encourage nor discourage government or educational facilities from locating here since city tax policy does not apply to such buildings which, along with churches and government buildings, are property tax exempt.

City policy, under John Gray’s leadership, does provide active discouragement for the location of industrial/commercial businesses with its job growth here.

Besides having the highest residential tax rates in the GTA, Oshawa also has the highest commercial/industrial tax rate in the GTA. In 2010, Oshawa’s Industrial tax rate was 5.144417. Throughout the GTA these rates were as low as 2.14 in Markham, to 2.49 in Whitchurch Stouffville, to 2.46 in Vaughn, to 2.46 in Richmond Hill, to 2.64 in Newmarket, to 2.75 in Mississauga, to 2.53 in King, to 2.92 in Georgina, and to 2.66 in Caledon. Industrial concerns would pay only half the property taxes in any of these cities mentioned than they would in Oshawa….so why locate in Oshawa?

The tax rate means big dollars to the location of an industrial plant. A plant costing $25M would be taxed at $1.361M in Oshawa and at $535,000 in Markham in 2010….If you were a businessman with $25M to spend, why would you bring your plant and your jobs to Oshawa when a Markham location would save you $826,000 in taxes every year? Oshawa high taxes actively discourage industrial concerns to locate here.

The only jobs growth we can attract are government and university jobs, which because of their tax exempt status are not discouraged from locating here, by the high Oshawa industrial/commercial tax rates.

Both the courthouse and the university are great for the city, but neither pays property taxes to assist with the costs of administering this city, and so neither contributes to providing any tax relief for residents.

In driving into Oshawa along the baseline, the 401, or Taunton Road, you can see loads of commercial development right up through Whitby until the Oshawa border, and then the commercial development stops to be replaced by vacant fields, due to the abrupt increase in commercial rates once you hit the Oshawa boundary.

Commercial establishments like the OC shopping centre and the big box stores along Taunton just have to grin and bear our high taxes for the sake of having Oshawa outlets. The high Oshawa taxes would, however, make these stores less profitable than their neighbouring stores in Whitby, Scugog, or Clarington. Perhaps that is why outlets like Home Depot located in Whitby first, and Oshawa customers had to trek over there to the baseline store for a number of years to make their purchases.

Similarly, Oshawa’s 2010 residential tax rate at 1.704499 was highest in the GTA. GTA residential tax rates ranged from Oshawa’s highs down to Toronto’s lows of .0831, to Vaughn’s .977, to Richmond Hill’s .979, to Oakville’s .983, to Mississauga’s .982, to Milton’s .878, to Markham’s .963, to Halton’s .995, to Aurora’s 1.077.

So a $350,000 Oshawa house in 2010 would be taxed at $5966 and $2901 in Toronto, $3419 in Vaughn, $3490 in Richmond Hill, $3441 in Oakville, $3437 in Mississauga, $3073 in Milton, $3335 in Markham, $3500 in Halton and $3770 in Aurora. The second highest taxed place in the GTA is Brock at 1.530 which would result in a tax of $5355 on that $350,000 house, still $611 less than Oshawa’s sky high taxes.

No wonder we have a tax revolt underway in Oshawa. One homeowner told me his city taxes were like a mortgage he could never pay off!

Like the high industrial/commercial tax rates that make Oshawa a less attractive place to do business, our high residential tax rates make Oshawa a less attractive place to live. This is why Oshawa has the lowest priced housing in the GTA.

High taxes depress house values robbing homeowners of tens of thousands of dollars of home equity. Lower taxes, after an adjustment period, would see a rise in housing values and a lowering of the tax rates to produce the same city revenues.

As we continue to be unable to attract industry, and are only able to attract tax exempt institutional uses like the university, a higher proportion of the costs of administering the city will be transferred to the residential tax rate, causing even higher taxes into the future unless we take the bull by the horns and cut our industrial commercial taxes.

If we don’t do so, any high tech job spinoffs from UOIT will locate in Whitby, Ajax, or Pickering where a $30 million factory investment would generate an annual real estate tax of $1,543,325 in Oshawa but would save the investor $226,060 annually if built in Pickering, $219,577 annually if built in Ajax, and $206,480 annually if built in Whitby.

So if you were an industrial investor, why would you pay from $17,207 to $18,838 more monthly to locate farther from Toronto in Oshawa than the lower taxed, and closer to Toronto, Ajax, Pickering, or Whitby?

The city is going to take a revenue hit when it does significantly cut taxes to attract industry and all those millions spent on the needless city hall reconstruction and the $40M spent on the GM Centre to increase the value of the Oshawa Generals, so they could be sold by their owner for a considerably improved price based on the taxpayer arena investment, might well have been spent in transition spending subsidizing the city’s reduced industrial/commercial tax rates to attract industrial/commercial jobs investment in this community.

Attracting industrial/commercial development is crucial to Oshawa’s future. We have to not only get our residential tax house in order, but we have to start lowering our industrial/commercial tax rates if we are going to attract industry and jobs to the city.

The costs of doing business is everything! If we don’t lower the industrial/commercial tax rates, Oshawa will become more of a bedroom community with more mass outflows of residents, along packed highways every morning, crawling into Toronto, and Oshawa shall continue as the lowest priced housing but highest taxed place in the GTA.

The Mayor and council with their rose coloured glasses which block them from seeing the serious consequences of the high tax rates facing this city have to be replaced before more damage is done to this city.

High taxation levels are resulting from a city council that believes in spending our way to prosperity. This is a pipe dream that has driven many into uncontrollable debt and bankruptcy…something this city council with its high taxation levels seems intent on doing to our citizens. City hall spending reminds me of the “big-time” spender with the high life style struggling behind the scenes to pay the bills to keep up the appearances. Diamonds bought with borrowed money soon lose their gloss!

This city council is one that believes if you zone for industrial parks, etc., industry and jobs will come. On the contrary, the high taxes “smell” from a mile away and scare industry away just as effectively as a cornered skunk. Without lowering industrial/commercial tax rates, industry would not locate here even if the land was free. Industrialists know that you can pay off construction costs of new plants, and that a skilled workforce is mobile, but that taxes go on forever.

Oshawa's sky-high industrial/commercial tax rates not only rebuff business from locating here, they act as an "eviction notice" for companies already here.

But hey, what kind of economic understanding do you expect from a Mayor whose “real job” was as a part time bookkeeper and who has council members like Brian Nicholson chairing economics committees because he claimed to have a degree in economics and political science only to recently come clean admitting that he is a high school graduate with some economics courses, and Louise Parkes who claims an honours degree with her 4th year incomplete which means she doesn’t have the degree claimed.

Let’s get some bright and honest people on council before these incompetents destroy this city beyond repair.

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

Monday, October 4, 2010

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes---The only thing on Voter’s Minds!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
October 4, 2010

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes---The only thing on Voter’s Minds!

Well, there may be one other thing on voter’s minds. One man wanted a lawn sign while I was out door knocking this week and said, “There has to be a wholesale change on council.” He said any sign that had the word “re-elect” on it lost his vote. “Taxes are just out of this world,” he said.

An email this week informed me that 12 Durham Region Works Department Maintenance Supervisors named on the Ministry of Finance Salary Disclosure List are making in excess of $100,000 and one of these, the foreman of a paving crew, earned over $130,000 with $40,000-$50,000 of these salaries in overtime supervising night time and weekend jobs from their 9-5 daytime assignments. This is disgraceful! The private sector pays half the money for these positions.

He thought these salaries were criminal when hard-pressed families are struggling to pay property taxes increasing twice as fast as inflation. Why shouldn't they be scheduled to work the same shifts as the workers they supervise and put an end to this outrageous overtime expense? How many workers do you know, he asked, make $40,000-$50,000 in overtime, more than most Canadians make, to top up their very generous salaries. No wonder we have the highest taxes in Ontario.

In my response to him, I related stories of city employees pocketing over $1000 per week, 52 weeks a year in addition to their generous salaries, for using their own vehicles on city business. This madness has to stop. It would be far cheaper for the city to provide a city vehicle for work related travel.

Many city-owned vehicles also are driven on long work-home commutes, using fuel and other auto related costs at taxpayer expense.

This mindset where city politicians and city workers feel entitled to reach deeper and deeper into taxpayer pockets to fund their own entitlements has to stop.

City workers are not alone in this drain on the city taxpayer.

You can read many claims of care for the taxpayer dollar and cost-cutting on politician’s campaign materials and websites that is equally disgusting, untrue, and misleading.

Louise Parkes has some display lines on her literature distributed by mail drop across the city that screams, “The Road to prosperity begins with fair taxation” and “Council must first set an example by tightening our own belt. Her signs of course say "Fair Taxation! Some fine example of fair taxation and belt tightening she provides!

While making this statement, she grabbed a 54% salary and expense spending increase in the first three years of this current term with the results not yet in for 2010. Fair taxation for sure! Over that time, her blackberry bill was only $23 less than the total of eight of her fellow councillors. She made a pitch at council for increased office budgets to cover her travel expense despite the fact her literature says council entitlements must end. Some belt tightening and some example of restraint! And some big lies completely inconsistent with her personal wallowing in the trough!

She has gotten some major press by calling for a 5% salary cut for council members and a wage freeze for the upcoming council term. This sounds good but is “smoke and mirrors” with no real savings for city taxpayers. The city portion of Councillor Salaries totals about $500,000 annually. So a 5% rollback would mean a total taxpayer savings of $25,000 annually or about $1 per household...now in a couple of years at that rate of savings, you could buy yourself one Tim’s coffee!

I am the only Mayoral Candidate calling for tax cuts. My plan, a 3% tax cut will cut about $3.5 million of fat, waste, and inefficiency out of city hall spending yearly at a slow enough rate that adjustments can take place without service cuts. City Hall rakes in about $115 million from residential taxes and it will be very doable cutting $3.5 million from their total tax take. It’d be easy! It’d be like finding a $3.50 savings out of $115 dollars in your pocket. And we’d have these regular 3% cuts until our taxes reach the levels of our neighbours. If they can have lower rates, why can’t we?

Parkes’ brochure claims she has opposed over $70 million worth of unnecessary spending this past term. This is a remarkable claim since she voted to support the $25M, but unnecessary, city hall demolition and rebuilding, pushed for the Cullen Gardens Miniatures purchase and wanted to spend another $2M for a site to host them, voted for the 13% tax increases over this term in a time when inflation was only 6.56%, initially approved the $46,000 MBA fundings until voters found out exposing the issue and then she jumped on the “political opportunity” bandwagon, and she throws around terms like zero based budgeting which doesn’t mean a damn thing in terms of tax savings for ratepayers.

While the “zero-based budgeting” sounds great, she knows that the budget items are all prepared by the bureaucrats and that council’s job is not to do the nitty-gritty job of micro-managing but to set the policy on big decisions like budget increases, approval of big capital expenditures, and setting policy for the city and finally approving the staff budget. Beyond that, it is a lie for her to let on to taxpayers that she has the knowledge, expertise, experience, qualifications, or time to know the fine details of every manager’s and every department’s spending details. They make up their own budgets, which are administered by the City Manager and his management team. Council only approves it.

My 3% tax cutting plan, on the other hand, is straightforward and simple to implement and is a “policy decision” which is within the purview of elected officials. I’d simply say to the managers, “You had “X” dollars last year. You have 3% less this year. You have to cut 3 cents out of every dollar you spent last year. Cut out the fat and waste, improve efficiencies of city hall, and make sure there are no service cuts. As I said earlier, this would save taxpayers about $3.5 million annually at the present assessment rates and is a small enough adjustment for changes to take place. The biggest change, however, will be in the mindset of officials who will concentrate on real needs and just not on wants.

Louise Parkes misleads the public in every way possible and she is not to be trusted. In academic credentials she presented to a local newspaper in response to a candidate questionnaire, she said that she had an “Honours Degree---fourth year incomplete.” That fourth year would be a requirement for the degree and so Parkes was misleading the public in saying she has that honours degree when she does not.

Along the same theme, earlier, Brian Nicholson claimed on Facebook to have a BA in Economics and Political Science from Trent University, and this claim as a person trained in Economics may have secured him all those Regional and City Finance and Economic Committee Chairmanships he’s had over the years. When questioned about the degree, Nicholson deleted all the references to it but not before I had a screenshot of his claims. He threatened to sue anyone, including a Toronto Star Reporter, who pursued the story. In his bio submitted recently to a local paper, he confirmed that he is only a high school graduate with some university courses in Economics and Political Science. His claim to the Economics Degree did not serve Regional or City Taxpayers well as his untruthful claim to an Economics degree would have held undue influence with his political cohorts.

But then, politicians often claim to be different than their records indicate. Mayor John Gray gave me a call this past week and, among other things, informed me that Mayor Candidate, John Henry, who campaigned on a promise not to take the $100 weekly car allowance in the last election, did in fact take it and cancelled it only recently when he declared for Mayor. If this is so, perhaps the extra thousands he would get would explain why he held on undeclared for so long.

John Henry also has portrayed himself to be a guy looking after cost-cutting, restraint, and responsible use of taxpayer money. But the most recent political entitlement, “Health Benefits for life for retired politicians” which got taxpayers mad as hell was moved by John Henry. And as a guy who wants to cut costs, why has he not been calling for tax cuts...or why hasn’t he been putting forth a platform.

Even as a fellow Mayor Candidate, I have no idea what John Henry stands for. To me, he is still a “pig in a poke!” I would never put my “John Henry” next to his name...although it is a great political name...and sometimes people vote for the strangest reasons.

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