Friday, May 30, 2008

Where do my Tax Dollars go in the Crowsnest Pass?? Politicians Wages

Have received several calls wanting to know what a municipal politician is paid in the Crowsnest Pass. These are the numbers for 2004-2007.

You can find this and other financial information at the following address

I have included the Mayor and all Councilors from the last term, because any new councilors elected in October would have less than three months of payments.

Mayor Irwin $77735

Councilor Chorney $46335

Councilor Ham $29002

Councilor Stolarik $38697

Councilor Sygutek $31582

Councilor Taje $51772

Councilor Ward $40272

Both Councilor Chorney and Mayor Irwin also received full payment for 2004 where the other five individuals only received three months payments for that year.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Crowsnest Pass, What are our neighbours up to?

To keep my readers informed here are some different issues other southern Alberta communities are dealing with.

Town Considers Car Smoking Ban OKOTOKS -- Drivers may soon be forced to butt out when ferrying children, thanks to a ban set to be debated by town council this week.

Town Eyes Sorting Recyclables BANFF -- Town administration will be applying to access funds through the Waste Management Assistance Program for a container sort line after town council unanimously approved the idea. (Banff Crag and Canyon)

Cat Licensing Considered PINCHER CREEK -- The town may consider a bylaw to license pet cats. (Pincher Creek Echo)

Water Reductions Considered LETHBRIDGE -- A community group will ask city council to implement a water conservation bylaw. (Lethbridge Herald)

Any comments on any of these or any other issues you would like to talk about you can place you thoughts on this page or email me at

Alberta the "democratic" one party state!

Will Alberta ever become a true democracy? Politics and the whole democratic process only works if you have honest debate amongst people with different views. When one party owns 72 of 83 seats what chance does dissent or differing opinions have? Kevin Taft hasn't determined his future yet! will the Liberal party ever have a chance in Alberta? The NDP could hold their caucus meeting in a phone booth. Both of these parties combined to garnish a whooping 11 seats between them. Is it a matter of leadership in these parties, will Albertans ever accept what they represent? Paul Hinman and his Wildrose Alliance are they done? are they a real alternative? I believe we need a new party that takes the place of all three of these, it needs to happen soon pulling together a new party a few months before an election makes no sense. More than anything a new party needs some dynamic leadership. The last leaders debate was like watching paint dry. At heart I am a conserative, but the democractic process always works better when the political decisions are made in the legislature, not in one parties leaders office.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Crowsnest Centre Petition Requests to Remove Names

Regarding the Petition on the Crowsnest Centre, I have now received a number of calls, and several emails from people wishing to remove their name from the petition. According to the MGA (Municipal Government Act of Alberta) Section 225(2) "No name may be added to or removed from a petition after it has been filed with the chief administrative officer". So unfortunatly if you signed your name for whatever reason and didn't want it on the petition, there is nothing you can do except learn a lesson and don't sign something you disagree with in the future.
I was also asked what this would cost the only thing I have to compare it to is the last election which cost the taxpayers roughly $23,000.

Where do my Tax Dollars go in the Crowsnest Pass?? Recycling

Important issue for every community in this day and age. Recycling Last year the Crowsnest Pass shipped 7000 tonnes of material into our Landfill which is high in itself (1.3 tonnes per citizen, provincial average is aroung 0.8 tonnes per person). During that time frame our recycling centre gathered just over 200 tonnes that means we, the citizens of the Crowsnest Pass recycled 3% of our total garbage. Not a number in my mind to be proud of. Lets look at the cost side of this issue, it costs $41 per tonne in tipping fees at the landfill. We pay a contractor $7500 per month to provide the recycling service that's $90,000 per year, or $450 per tonne. I do not believe for a moment that we should quit recycling, what we need to do is a better job, if we increased our volume of recycled material to 10% of total volume that cost would decrease to $130 per tonne, 20% it would be down to $65 per tonne. What is the answer? how do we get more people to recycle? other communities have banned cardboard, plastic bags, we have a residential bag limit of 5 bags is that to high? Looking for input on this issue.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Politics, anybody disagree?

"Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan (R)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What we've been doing isn't working maybe its time to look at new idea's

Check this out I may not agree with all of Randall's idea's but at least he is taking the time and effort to be creative and look at other possibilities for the Crowsnest Pass.
And yes some of his idea's are really good

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Change! The Crowsnest Pass can no longer pretend it is what it used to be.

I have been reading and listening closely to what my fellow bloggers and folks in the community are saying. Going back to the 1970’s when I first moved to this area, it was a thriving coal mining community. Our business sector was vibrant; we had four grocery stores, three hardware stores, three car dealerships, etc, etc. Our schools were full all four of them, there were kids everywhere.
Fast forward to 2008 we can no longer say that the Pass is changing, it is changed. We have two grocery stores, two hardware stores one car dealership. Our tax base is made up of 85% residential and 15% commercial. Our schools are empty every student we have today could fit into our high school and still only be at 90% of capacity. I have been on council for forty two months, I have heard from day one, the kids are coming without our great facilities we are not going to attract families. Well I have news for you, the mines have been hiring like crazy for the last couple of years, the numbers are still going down, you cannot hold up that as our saving grace. At an average of two kids per family, we would have to attract one hundred families here just to replace what we have lost in the last three years. What I am trying to tell you, is that families are not coming in any great degree. Real estate is getting too expensive here, for a decent home $300,000 is not out of line, on a twenty-five year mortgage your cost will be $2466 a month including taxes and heat that requires an income of $100,000 a year or $50 per hour.
What we have become in just a few short years is a weekend retreat for Calgary. Need proof of that in the fall of 2004 around 15% of our homes were owned by non residents (1 out of every 7!) nothing to get alarmed about right? Today that number is over 30% (1 out of every 3!) wow. In 1996, 28% of our full time population was 55 or older, today that number is 37% not many of those folks will be starting families. The only way you are going to attract families here is affordable housing.
Other bloggers statements are true developers are building all around us and yes, we have had some success here but nowhere near, what our neighbors have seen. We need to show some leadership, we need to move forward, we need to clean up our community. We need to realize that instead of spending all our resources trying to hang on to every building in the community that’s more than thirty years old, trying to do two or three of everything and waiting for those mythical children to fill our facilities. Lets take charge and do a few things well, has we grow we can do more things well. However, right now we are spread so thin we cannot do anything the way it should be done.
I read the blog about a tube park, did some research on it, they appear to be very popular, first impression great idea if we want to attract people here we need to do something different. Unfortunately, we do not have a chairlift on our ski hill, could we, should we have a chairlift? How? Well if we moth balled our second arena for the cost of $15-20000 and took what we put into that facility for the next 7-8 years we could finance a chairlift at no increased cost to the taxpayer. If in those year’s we have a sudden influx of kids you can always fire that old facility backup.
The point I am trying to make is we have to let go of the past before we can more forward. We have to live and deal with the facts as they are today, not what they were 30-40 years ago. We are not a wealthy municipality; we do not receive big tax dollars from the mines like our neighbors. We have to use our dollars wisely build a solid foundation first and grow from there. We are all indeed talking about the need for leadership, just in different ways.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Time and place for everything!

Very well written editorial in the Crowsnest Pass Promoter today, please take a moment and check it out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Where do my Tax Dollars go in the Crowsnest Pass??

Often asked by residents of the Crowsnest Pass why are my Taxes so high? (sure I will be asked a lot more in the next few days tax notices go out today)
Starting today I am going to let you know some places where you dollars go, you are welcome to agree or disagree with the service provided but understand at the end of the day it's simple math if we are going to spend the money then we must bring it in. If you have an opinion on any of the issues I bring up, express your thoughts to the people that make the decisions.

Spring/Fall cleanup
Late last year I contacted close to a hundred communities to see what they do for a spring/fall cleanup. I received responses from twenty six communities of those that provided me financial information the highest cost community was Lacombe which spent a whooping $51,000 on cleanup which worked out to $10.54 per dwelling. In the Crowsnest we spent a incredible $231,731 or $77.14 per dwelling. The other issue that politicians loose focus of is we had our employees spend 4621 man hours picking up garbage, time that could of being spent doing other municipal work in comparison Lacombe spent 896 man hours.

Other communities that reported costs were:
Brooks 832 man hours $30000 $5.94 per dwelling
Devon $8000 $3.42 per dwelling
Wainwright 640 man hours $18000 $7.79 per dwelling
Lacombe 896 man hours $51000 $10.54 per dwelling
High Prairie 400 man hours $15000 $13.59 per dwelling
Coaldale 360 man hours $27000 $11.80 per dwelling
Sylvan Lake $1200 $0.28 per dwelling
Pincher Creek 720 man hours $24000 $15.96 per dwelling
Drumheller 648 man hours $25000 $7.71 per dwelling
Crowsnest Pass 4621 man hours $231731 $77.14 per dwelling
Canmore 720 man hours $20000 $3.04 per dwelling
Rocky Mtn House 256 man hours $9600 $3.53 per dwelling
Cochrane 400 man hours $14000 $2.82 per dwelling

Now this year we have made a step in the right direction the plan is to limit the cleanup to six weeks three in Spring and three in Fall. We have also reduced the types of material that will be picked up. Assuming that we have twelve employees working on the clean up we will still invest 2880 man hours and assuming we pick up sixty percent of the volume we did last year. The cost will still be in the range of $140000 or $46.60 per dwelling.

The questions are do you want this service? are you prepared to pay for it?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Affordable Housing in the Crowsnest Pass, Is it really an Issue?

The dream of every young family to purchase their own home.
Lets take a look at what's available in the Crowsnest Pass, the average home in the Crowsnest Pass is now valued at $220,000.
What does $220,000 get you? well on the MLS site for the Crowsnest Pass there are presently 97 listings, 35 of which fall in to that $220,000 range or lower.
Today $220,000 will get you a 940 square foot house on a 30x100 lot in Bellevue, 893 square foot house on a 30x100 lot in Coleman, 1176 square foot mobile home on a 50x115 lot in Blairmore and finally a 921 square foot house on a 50x100 square foot lot in Coleman.
So obviously there are homes available in our community in that "average" price range, now is that "affordable".
What is the mortgage on a $220,000 home? Assuming you have $20000 to put down and you get a 25 year mortgage at 7% the payment will be $1400.83 per month. Taxes on a average home in the Crowsnest Pass $1729.72 per year or $144.14 per month.
So how much money do you need to make to "afford" the types of homes listed above?
The banks used a formula to calculate that, it's called "IPTH" which stands for Interest, Principal, Taxes, and Heat. Using the numbers for an average home that comes to Interest/Principal $1400.83, Taxes $144.14 and Heat $150 for a total of $1694.97 per month.
That number cannot exceed 32% of your gross Income (that's regular income they won't let you include overtime).
Which means you must be making $63600 per year to meet the banks standard to get a mortgage for a $220,000 home.
But keep in mind the banks will not allow your total payments to exceed 40% of your income. Which means you can't have more than another $424 per month in payments of other things (Car, recreational vehicles, credit cards, etc).
"Affordable Housing" is a tremendous issue in the Crowsnest Pass, prices have climbed so much, so fast. Four years ago you could buy that average home for less than $100,000 nobody's wages have climbed that fast! What's really scary is we are fast approaching the point where using the banks numbers somebody in the Crowsnest Pass making $75,000 a year will not qualify to purchase a decent home. This time next year that average home could be selling for $250,000 to $260,000.