by Graham Lane
Published by the Winnipeg Sun on October 19, 2017
Mayor Bowman came into office wearing the clothing of a fiscal conservative. But, his administration has proven an enormous disappointment to city taxpayers.
Instead of focusing on long-standing spendthrift city policies and inept cost management, Bowman, complicit with his mostly silent elected colleagues and the city’s old style bureaucracy, seeks the easy and traditional way forward — find new revenues and grow existing revenue sources, even if there are innovative ways to transform and improve city services without spending more money.
It is not only the big revenue-clawing ploys: property tax, raiding water and sewer revenue, transit tolls, and the constant crying for more money from the provincial and federal governments. Growing in significance as Bowman and crew continues to ignore rising city costs in favour of new revenue are exorbitant traffic fines, new so-called development impact fees (to address the myth that new subdivisions are not covering their costs), enhanced frontage taxes, parking charges and inspection and permit fees.
Perhaps Bowman has innocently been diverted from cost control, instead pandering to the media on problems beyond the scope of city government.
Like combatting racism? He should focus on things he can impact.
Such as, why are taxpayers set to pay $5 million to $6 million a year more for garbage collection? Didn’t city bureaucrats like the previous contractor? Why does Winnipeg have the most cops per capita? Sell their helicopter and armoured SWAT vehicle?
Try selling your business: fear the city’s costly inspection ahead of costly permits. Most likely you will wait and wait, and when it finally arrives, hope major renovations are not ordered.
Like psychiatrists forced to move from Grace Hospital looking for a new roost. That roost itself wanting to move, but unable because the city demands unnecessary improvements to their preferred site. What about a hairdresser: wanting to retire and sell her salon, only to learn that in the change of ownership expensive but unnecessary remodelling will be required — ending the sale?
The city recently bragged as to its new impact tax revenues, forgetting the impact this latest cash grab has on future new housing developments within the city’s boundaries. It’s a bonanza for housing construction outside the perimeter, which avoids the extra $10 grand per house foisted on purchasers inside the perimeter.
The city claims it wants more retail business and residences downtown, but boosts parking rates to ever more lucrative levels. Park downtown, below Portage Place or Main and Portage, and now the Forks, and watch the fivers fly out of your wallet. Of course, just more reason to enjoy free parking at Polo Park, St Vital and other malls.
But, swelling city bureaucracy and service units are doing just fine. Every public works job, however small, appears to require four or more employees — one to hold the flag, one to drive the truck, one to sweep the road, and one to put up a barrier. No wonder knowledgeable construction and development sources claim public works costs 30% or more than private works.
Let us hope that when the next city election is held we have mayoral and councillor candidates that know something useful about improving city services while lowering costs — i.e. placing priority on running an efficient and effective operation.
More From Manitoba Forward