The View from Ward Three

I was very happy with the announcement that, starting in the new year, Jim Toye will be our new city manager. I've known Jim for several years, having met him through various municipal government circles, and I believe that he has the right mix of strengths and experience to lead city administration in working well with council.

Last Monday was our last council meeting until the middle of August. We've been doing this for several years now - one council meeting in July, and one in August, with an Executive meeting in each month the week before the council meeting.

Now that the tax notices have been sent, there's been quite a bit of feedback on the impact on both residents and business owners. Most home owners are facing a higher increase due to the flat taxes - the Pineview Terrace levy of $27, the $60 flat tax set a couple of years ago which has an undefined purpose, but which has been used in both previous years to balance the budget, and the new $189 flat tax which is directed to road repair and maintenance.

This past Saturday was the ninth annual street fair. This is an event that I always look forward to, the opportunity to wander up and down Central Avenue, eat outside, enjoy the outdoor entertainment, browse the various displays, and check out what the stores have to offer.

I've just returned from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) annual general meeting, which was held this year in Vancouver. As we often do, Andrea and I went out a few days early for a bit of a vacation before the work began. Just my luck, those were the rainy days, but even in the rain, Vancouver gave us lots to see and do. It's a great city that has put a great deal of thought into keeping its development balanced with maintaining accessible green space in a very livable and vibrant downtown.

There's been quite a bit of media coverage over the last couple of weeks about a policy brought forward by administration to set guidelines for the use of various technical devices that are available in city-owned property - cell phones, radios, vehicles, water meter reading devices, for example. Mostly, it speaks to the use of GPS (Global Positioning Systems) that are in such things, and how the city could use this GPS availability to track the location of city employees.

Any time council proposes doing things differently, we're guaranteed to get emails or phone calls from residents or other interested parties about how we shouldn't make changes, because the change will cost more. The most recent example is our decision to move to monthly water billing in January 2014, rather than the current quarterly billing. The immediate reaction from some has been that our costs for the actual billing will now be triple, and certainly, for paper billing, mailing a bill every month rather than quarterly will cost three times as much.

Considering the high waters that have been making headlines lately, it's rather topical that water was also part of a couple of agenda items at last Monday's council meeting. Both are issues that I've raised in the past, and finally other members of council are starting to seriously consider and debate the options.

For a bit of a change of pace this week, I thought that I would give an overview of the work that I did last week as a member of council. It was a pretty typical week since this new council began, and you may be surprised at the number of meetings involved, and the range of topics covered.

Flat taxes are not fair. For someone living in a home with a lower assessed value, the proposed $189 flat tax will be a higher proportional tax increase than for someone in a home with a higher assessed value. If your current tax bill is $1000, it represents an almost 20% increase. If your current tax bill is $4000, it represents only 5%.

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