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

Monday, May 30, 2011

So You Thought City Politicians Were Elected to Serve You? You’re Dead Wrong!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
May 30, 2011

Once elected, city politician’s chief job often becomes serving themselves and looking after their own interests.

It’s a little club and they look after themselves first---any service to you is simply a by product. It doesn’t seem the chief objective of their work.

Oh, from time to time, we do see politicians full of bluster at their “opposition” cohorts appearing to serve our interests, but that anger is an academy award performance like that mustered up for public consumption by the WWE boys in tights who get together for a few friendly beers after they’ve been socking it to each other for your entertainment.

What is best for the Region and the City, and you, is not always “the right stuff” to earn a politician’s vote.

While the “right” outcome is generally obvious to voters, it is frequently not the choice made by politicians.

Politicians are often “dead wrong” in decisions they make like implementing the general vote in Oshawa to make it virtually impossible to mount creditable campaigns to unseat incumbents. The motivation to implement the general vote was to protect incumbent's seats....or so they thought before the last council messed up so badly.

It’s easy to spot the rationale for many political decisions and, very often, it’s what’s best for the politicians.

Consider online voting. That would seem to be a convenience that would increase voting, something politicians “say” they are keen to do...but city politicians turned it down. “Not secure enough,” they said, while continuing to collect our taxes online and send confidential contracts and other communications electronically.

The real reason they’ve resisted this convenience for voters is that low voter turnouts favour the re-election of incumbents---it has nothing to do with security of the vote.

Those places that use online voting protect vote security by simply mailing voters an individualized identification code necessary to login to the voting site, similar to the system the city already uses for online registration and payment for parks and recs and seniors programs.

Politicians continually talk up transparency and care with the taxpayer dollar---yet they continue to vote for tax increases and hide details of their expense spending.

Two city politicians, “tax fighter,” Bruce Woods of Oshawa Taxpayer Coalition fame, and Tito Dante Marimpietri both exceeded their Yearly Expense Account Budgets in the first quarter.

This, despite the fact that Marimpietri’s Election Web Site championed what he called his 6 Progressive Tax Controls to reduce spending and property tax increases, and Wood, as the founder of the Oshawa Tax Coalition, was calling for tax cuts and more responsible city hall spending.

During the election, Marimpietri didn’t tell you he was going to splurge $426.24 of your hard earned tax dollars on Souvenirs and Mementoes and another $982.38 on Conferences and Travel during the first quarter for a grand total of $4598.81 ($1000+ per month) excessive first quarter spending over his second highest high-rolling city council competitor. And Bruce Wood, Oshawa Taxpayer Coalition Founder spent $625.20 on Communications (runner up spent $77.68 in this category) and $517.90 on civic receptions and meals (runner up Amy England at $318.87---$207.20 over next highest competitor). These excessive expenditures were highlighted by the very limited expense spending of some city politicians.

There are so many discrepancies in what a politicians say they’re going to do and what they do that political promises have no credibility.

Politically some things just make good common sense. Basic to our whole idea of democracy is Representation by Population, the idea that political representation is somewhat related to population, although alterations to this premise are necessitated when a small population resides in a large area.

In Durham Region, According to a report authored by the Town of Ajax, Ajax has a Regional Councillor for every 30,056 residents, Whitby has one per 27,796, Clarington has one per 25,940, Pickering has one per 21,959, while Oshawa has a regional councillor for every 17,000 voters---almost twice the representation of Ajax....and this inequity grows worse with each subsequent year as population growth in Ajax, Pickering, Whitby, and Clarington outpaces growth in Oshawa.

To correct these serious inequities in political representation, Ajax Mayor, Steve Parish, presented a motion at the May 18th Durham Regional Council to strike a committee to review the composition of Regional Council and make recommendations to adjust the present allocations for fairer representation.

Part of his motion called for a freezing of the size of Regional Council, thus adjustments in representation would result in losses in over represented communities and gains in under represented communities.

Oshawa, as an over-represented area, stood to lose 2 or 3 Regional seats.

Remarkably, this common sense motion to review Regional Representation was defeated 18-8 (2 absent) in a recorded vote.

Too bad!

Back room deals must have shuttled any common sense (and common decency) aside.

Politics is not for looking out for your best interests and mine...be damned what is right and proper for taxpayers! It’s all about protecting the interests of the politicians, in this case protecting the jobs of politicians already in the cosy Regional Club.

The representation review would have resuled in a reduction of 2 or 3 Oshawa members bringing our present 7 Regional jobs (not counting the Mayor) down to 4 or 5.

Such a reduction would result in a job loss for probably some of the recently elected politicians such as Amy England and Tito (High Expensing) Dante Marimpietri and potentially one other.

Because of danger of losing their jobs, both England and Marimpietri were most verbal in opposing any change to city regional representation to protect their jobs.

England called potential reduction of Oshawa’s representation “undemocratic” and argued for an increased council size to facilitate fixing the under representation of Ajax and Whitby. As population grows into the future, I guess her idea is that council size should also grow to preserve political jobs and grow taxpayer expenses.

Marimpietri argues that Oshawa taxpayers contribute more to the Regional Coffers than other municipalities and thus our relative “richness” deserves greater representation.

Democracy stands for the equality of votes among the population....not that votes by wealthier areas or wealthier people should be more plentiful or influential...and so Marimpietri’s argument runs contrary to everything democracy stands for.

Representation by population is the most basic principle of democracy without any reference to wealth or influence.

Both England and Marimpietri were stretching at straws to preserve their seats.

Governments should not be about protecting political jobs but be about providing effective and cost-efficient governance.

The Minutes of the May 18th meeting have not yet been published so we can only speculate that Parish's motion gained support from Ajax and Whitby Councillors, plus one other, and was opposed by all others. It is obvious that it would have been opposed by Oshawa Councillors plus those of the Brock, Scugog, and Uxbridge, the municipalities whose low populations spread over large areas, justifies their richer representation...but they wouldn’t have wanted to “chance” this being changed.

I see any adjustment to reflect rep by pop as a good thing and a first logical step in wiping out the costly and superfluous local municipal governments like Oshawa City Council that has few meaningful or important responsibilities.

Despite losing all real responsibilities to Regional Governments, local Civic Administrations have persisted with expensive unneeded duplicate departments for responsibilities now carried out at the region. While their roles have been lost, the costs of retaining these unneeded duplicate departments continues to consume about 1/3 of our municipal taxes.

The city now only acts as a tax collector for the Region and the Board of Education, administers City Parks and Recreation Services, Library Services, and Fire Protection Services, collects garbage which is transferred to Regional Trucks for disposal, and maintains local roads even running their snow plows over Regional Roads with plows lifted to get to their local streets.

Such a waste...and the duplicity of politicians and bureaucrats to sell us on keeping something we don’t need, all for saving their jobs is criminal.

That’s why when you look carefully at City Hall Agendas, there’s nothing of substance there....and why our city hall meetings, since verbose grandstander Brian Nicholson got defeated, can now be over in an hour or so!

So city taxpayers, keep smiling as you spend thousands of tax dollars on a city government you don’t need!

Keep dishing out that taxpayer cash to keep the political charade alive.

Editor's Addendum
A classic example of the idea of politicians serving themselves even at the expense of putting their government (and the world) in jeopardy is the recent refusal of USA politicians to come to timely decisions to raise the American national debt ceiling until the eleventh hour.

This was part of the plan for the scare-mongering Republicans with their 2-stage debt reduction plan to bring renewed budget battles to the fore during the next presidential campaign to undermine President Obama's electoral chances at a second 4 year term.

This irresponsble action has cut the USA credit rating for the first time in history, caused huge week-long massive declines in the stock market and cost all investors, large and small, considerable losses. This game of political gamesmanship will no doubt put the gun to the head of all borrowers by pushing up interest rates and provide a significant pull-down of the American and world economies.

American brinkmanship has additionally hurt small Canadian RRSP and mutual fund investors who have lost close to 30% of their investment as a result.

So much for politicians doing what is right and best for their nation,for their people, and for the world!

As I've stated in the main article, national interests (or municipal interests in the case of local governments) are trumped by political interests and what is best for the politicians!

And here is another prime example of a politician priming his own pump at taxpayer expense....despicable!

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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