Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Isn't this the truth?

The government deficit is the difference between the amount of money the government spends and the amount it has the nerve to collect. ~Sam Ewing

Property Taxes in the Crowsnest Pass

There as been much said in the last few days about the large property tax increase in Calgary, an increase that works out on average to $106 per home. They should consider themselves lucky.
The "Average" increase per home in the Crowsnest Pass works out to $174.40, that's a whopping 11.2%.
The property tax for a average home with a value of $220,000 will be $1729.72
Keep in mind that is an average thanks to the wild swings in property values some people are going to see increases of 20-30%.
Don't be shy let the politicians know your feelings, excuses will be tossed around.
There is an attitude amongst politicians all over that the public will keep accepting these types of increases.
Is that true?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fear Mongering in the Crowsnest Pass (Crowsnest Centre)

"Fear mongering (or scaremongering) is the use of fear to leverage the opinions and actions of others towards some end".

The Crowsnest Centre debate continues, some people will go to any length to keep this facility open.

Up to and including Fear Mongering,

We used to have four schools in the Crowsnest Pass! Why don't we today? because we have an aging population therefore less kids, we don't need four.

We used to have three grocery stores! why don't we have them today? because a lot of people shop out of town, in other words we don't need three.

The reality of the Chinook Education Consortium is if there is a need for it, it will be here. If the Centre burned down this weekend would that be the end of the consortium? of course not if the consortium leaves it's because there is no longer a need for it.

We have spent the better part of seventeen years trying to turn the Crowsnest Centre into a convention centre, if there was really a need don't you think the private sector would have put one in by now?

Yes supporters of the centre are clouding the issues, do I support the groups that are in the centre? "One hundred percent". There is a place in this community for ever group, does it have to be the centre? No

When you get the time take a look at our facilities determine yourself if we are using them effectivily!

Remember the politicians may make the decisions but it's you the taxpayer that pays for them.

Let reason, logic and common sense decide this debate not "Fear Mongering"

Monday, April 7, 2008

Crowsnest Centre, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta

Myths, Issues and Realities regarding the Crowsnest Centre

I would like to deal with Nathen Gallagher comments first and then deal with my position on the Crowsnest Centre
The 2008 budget was finally passed at the March 25 meeting; this exact budget could have been passed on Feb 19 when Councilor Cole first made the motion. All Councilors knew there were issues with the centre and understood that they would not be resolved until there was a full council available, so if any councilors position was to “really” get the budget passed, all six of them on Feb 19 could have took the bull by the horn passed the budget and dealt with the centre later when we had all of the necessary information available. This is exactly what is happening as a result of the March 25th vote, so all six councilors share the responsibility for that vote. In real terms this budget did not need to wait, it could have been passed Feb 19.
To make the statement that the three councilors held up every part of the budget because off nebulous concerns about the Crowsnest’s Centre’s business plan is outrageous has stated previously there was an option to pass the budget much sooner.
We all know the centre’s problems go back much further than the boiler, roof, this particular financial crisis etc. So to claim that I latched on to those issues is ridiculous. My views on the Crowsnest Centre have always been very clear which I will explain in due course. First of all the Centre requested that we increase there 2008 budget 114% which was then pared down to an increase of only “42%”. When all other areas in the municipality were being asked to tighten their belts, this I did not agree with. The financial concerns do not end there; On August 15 2006, Bylaw 692 was passed which provided a Line of Credit for the Crowsnest Centre. I has a councilor raised the concern that previously the Centre had a Line of Credit in 1999 which was paid off by the taxpayers ($150,000), I wanted to make sure that would not happen again. I was assured by both our administration and the proponents of providing that Line to the Centre that was not a concern, due to the reporting requirements provided of the bylaw. Suddenly around the fall concerns were being raised in the community regarding the Centre’s financial state, we were told that the Centre’s Board would be coming to council to talk to us. That meeting happened on Dec 4th, at that presentation we were told by the board that they were having difficults and they would be bringing forth a financial plan to turn the Centre around I asked how long do you need to present that to council, the answer I received was thirty days. I also asked why we did not know before about the status of the line of credit due to the reporting requirements in Bylaw 692 I was told that those commitments laid out in the bylaw were not followed. The Crowsnest Centre Business plan was presented to us on Feb 5 within that document were numerous mistakes which I pointed out, the response I received was we were only given five days to put it together? It was a draft. The next council meeting was Feb 19 where the budget could have been approved.
My statements regarding the province and the timing of there budget and the fiscal year, I have since first being elected to council taken a position that the timing of the provincial budget is ridiculous especially in an election year. Taxpayers are asked to elect our councils in mid October, first council meeting does not take place until early November, every council usually as new members those people need a timeframe to become familiar with how council operates then we slide in to the Christmas season. The province dictates that we run our fiscal year from Jan 1 to Dec 31, due to this requirement we have new councilors that are forced to make multi million dollar decisions regarding budget. The province then does not tell us what they are going to give us for provincial dollars until April or May, how can you expect any council to run in an efficient manner especially in an election year. I believe the province should allow us to run our fiscal year from April 1 to March 31 just like they do, that would be much simpler for the municipalities, new councilors and all the groups that count on funding from the taxpayers.

Now I will explain my long held position on the Crowsnest Centre

Myth #1 That I have singled out the centre because of some personnel grudge, this is false I do not believe that we need or can support two community centres. So I have over the years looked at all of the arguments and determined in my mind that we only need one Community Centre and that should be the MDM. The only sound argument I have ever heard for keeping the Centre over the MDM is the central location. There is something to that argument but if you truly want to follow that through then we should place every facility in Blairmore I don’t agree with that I believe we are one community and there should be facilities in the West end, the East end and of course the center of this community. Due to the Geography of the Crowsnest Pass no matter where you place a facility a minimum of sixty percent of the people are going to have to travel to reach it.

Myth #2 the Centre was strongly supported by the community in the plebiscite of 1999
Interesting story on the front page of the Oct 23, 2007 Pass Herald, which comments on the low turnout for the election of 2007, we had 2100 people, vote for the position of Mayor. On the plebiscite, there were only 1492 people that voted of those 874 voted in favor of the centre, far from a huge show of support.

Myth #3 The centre will pay for itself
“The final years of Community Initiatives and Municipality support would occur in Years 2 and 3”
Nokomis Report June 1989
I can also provide quotes from other Business/Marketing plans talking about the Centre being self-sufficient. I do not believe the Centre will ever be self-sufficient. So now we has taxpayers must decide if we are prepared to fund two community centres?

Myth #4 The Taxpayers are prepared to pay for two Community Centre’s. That is certainly not, what I have been hearing over the last seven years since I have taken an interest in local politics. If I am wrong call me let me know call 563 4128 or write me at Crowsnestpasshome.blogspot.com I would love to hear from you.

Myth #5 The Centre is necessary because it is our emergency centre. Interesting during the power outage we had our taxpayers sleeping on cots in a hall, because the Centre was hosting an Elderhostel. Couldn’t we use the MDM, Schools, Elks hall, arena’s etc?

Myth #6 We will loose the Educational Consortium without the centre. The year that the MDM School closed, we had 967 children in our schools, today we have roughly 660 with another ten percent decrease anticipated in the fall. At that point our schools will be filled to around 37% of capacity maybe we could save a school by placing the Education Consortium in one of them. That argument was made in the lead up to the 1999 plebiscite and was brushed off as highly unlikely. (MDM) Also wasn’t the consortium here prior to being in the Centre?

Myth #7 We will lose the Food Bank. No question the Food Bank is important it is the reason I support it both politically and financially, with a little assistance from the municipality we can find another location.

Myth #8 We will lose our community hall and kitchen. The MDM as the facilities and the hours available to host all types of functions.

Myth #9 We provide affordable accommodation. First, I do not believe that government should be competing with the private sector. In addition, if we are going to attempt to provide affordable housing for anybody it should be our taxpayers, not the employees of a business that does not even pay taxes in our community.

Myth #10 The Centre is not in competition with other facilities. I have argued this point for the last three years, and was always told that was nonsense. In the Centre’s Business Plan, it clearly lists the MDM as one of its competitors. Than confirms that we has taxpayers are subsidizing two facilities with tax dollars to compete with each other.

Myth #11 The old hospital is in great shape. Council had a report drafted by Hirano and Heaton in 2007 that states “It is the opinion of the team that a renovation project on this building would be unwarranted as a replacement building would be less costly, more energy efficient and therefore more affordable to operate” Cost of that building $10-14 million. The report is available at the municipal office for anybody that would like to see it. Pick it up, read it and let me know what shape you think the building is in.

In Conclusion look at the problems we are facing today at the Centre; Boiler, Roof, Asbestos, Pipes bursting, these are the symptoms of a building that as not been looked after properly why? During one of our meeting with the Centre Board, I asked the question “Is it fair to say that the Crowsnest Centre as been grossly under funded for years” the response I received from the Board Chair was “Yes”. And why as that been the case? Because we cannot afford two Community Centres, lets do one Centre, do it right and not be going through the same problems twenty years from now because we neglected the MDM in the same way.