May 20th, 2024

October election may be city’s most important


By Letter to the Editor on October 9, 2021.

Editor:
October 18 may be the most important election in the history of this city. That day residents determine whether they employ a municipal government who works for them, or if they continue to enslave themselves through runaway taxation and work for government!
Administrators at every level are slowly eroding through debt-supported taxation, freedoms and enjoyment of life we once cherished. They’re accomplishing this by running massive “fly now pay later” deficits adding to out-of-control debt loads and interest charges.
A perfect example adding to the fiscal calamity is talk of a totally unnecessary, Performing Arts facility. This $100,000,000, (plus plus plus) extravagance is a duplication of existing entertainment venues – ones primarily only the wealthy among us can afford to use.
Recently, Lethbridge taxpayers spent $14,000,000 renovating Yates Memorial Center. What for? Why? Prior to that your Enmax Centre swallowed $26,000,000. That’s $40,000,000 dollars.
Forget the tax financed monies poured into CASA, Nikka Yuko, and the Agri-Food and trade center, among others. What Lethbridge really “needs” are road and infrastructure repairs and maintenance, an efficient transit, properly funded police agencies, a safe city and facilities keeping the destitute from stealing our kid’s bikes, or busting down any door with a valuable behind it to fuel a substance abuse problem. Until every kid in this town is fully funded educationally, until every person with a need is housed, clean, sober and leading a productive life, the wealthy in my books can pound sand, along with the mayoralty aspirant who thinks progress is celebrating a city “with a flourishing arts community,” damn any unfortunate living in a cardboard box under a bridge, or the struggling parent(s), who, will never see a kid off to hockey school because all the money is gone to food and rent. Frankly I’m sick of artsy extravagances. I’m sick of those who support it too, particularly when we’re already impaled with massive debt & runaway social dysfunction – both killing our former great city.
Lethbridge, Oct.18 is the day you get to choose whether government works for you or you work for government. Vote smart or regret it forever.
A.W. Shier
Lethbridge

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buckwheat

Good letter Alvin, I too have enough enough of the passion and love Lethbridge crowd. We do not need a PFA.

Montreal13

I agree Buckwheat. The fashionably crowned ,trendy I’m the “in” crowd beautiful “visionaries” with lots of campaign donation money from too few narrowly focused sectors is creating a hierarchy not seem since the middle ages of Lethbridge history. But their “in” so who cares? They will continue to alienate and erode community spirit with their “in” crowd coronation, that will clearly pinpoint their axis of regal power.

Montreal13

Sorry,….not SEEN since the middle ages of Lethbridge history.
And who do you think is squeezing the free speech on social media ,including the herald? It couldn’t be the monarchy,could it?

Montreal13

Actually CASA was a significant exception in the financing formula.
But I agree,governments need to go back to the basics and their primary roles.
However,I am not going to discount a candidate because they think that perhaps down,down the road and with mostly provincial and federal money ,bigger projects can’t be examined. I agree that some of these projects could contribute to employment etc.etc.. However,I do like to see city council say thanks but no thanks to funds from other levels of government from time to time. The yearly maintenance/staffing costs are killing us on some of these “wants”. In the past , some councils seem to have failed to responsibly consider up keep costs.

Les Elford

Great letter!!!!
Respectfully,

SophieR

It’s great to see so many, including the letter writer, who know with so much certainty what governments are ‘for’, and the differences between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.

It goes to show how important it will be to elect some youthful perspectives onto Council. People who are more concerned about people than pavement.

HansDad

Oops, this was supposed to be a general comment, not a reply

Last edited 2 years ago by HansDad
HansDad

Mr. Shier perhaps goes a bit too far in rejecting out of hand any community project that he deems to benefit only the Community Snoots, because I believe any number of community projects have value(s) beyond simply subsidizing the entertainment choices of the well-heeled. However, he is bang-on that the real issue here is prioritizing projects, which isn’t a debate that seems to happen. With the greatest of respect to SophieR, Mr. Shier mentioned road maintenance but clearly stated he would prioritize education, housing, addiction treatment, and policing over art; how exactly is that putting pavement ahead of people? You may disagree with the order of his priorities, but what are yours?

Montreal13, I think we are of similar mind that we shouldn’t simply dismiss out of hand large projects that can be funded from grants emanating from senior levels of government, but that belief still doesn’t address the problem that priority arguments never get made (or aired, at least) in this city. In that regard I must disagree with your assessment that CASA was a “significant exception in the financing formula.” With the greatest of respect, I suspect you have succumbed to Candidate Dodic’s spin. Political memory being short, I offer the following CASA refresher:

CASA started as a $9.2 million project in the 2008 CIP, with funding pretty much equally split between MSI funding (that is general provincial grant money for infrastructure projects of all kinds) and “internal borrowing” (ASIDE: internal borrowing is one of the dubious tactics over-employed in the Tarleck/Dodic era; instead of borrowing from ACFA – which requires public notice and advertising and opens up potential demand by citizens for a referendum – Council borrows from the MRSR and charges interest at ACFA rates for doing so. The net result is the taxpayer is still required to pay more just as if the city had borrowed from ACFA in the first place, but in the meantime the City’s MRSR reserve fund is depleted of actual cash, its value replaced by IOUs representing future taxation. But I digress too far for present purposes).

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-8, the federal government embarked upon stimulus spending, which resulted in Build Canada Grant funds being made available to cities. Lethbridge received, I believe, about $12 million in and around 2009-11 and decided to spend the initial half of that on the CASA. With an extra $6 million sloshing around, suddenly the acquisition cost of the CASA land doubled, resulting in some controversy you may recall (as well as a dust-up over the payment of an outsized commission to a party not entitled to the same, another event you may recall). Anyway, instead of using the $6 million to eliminate the internal borrowing and free up some MSI funds for other projects, the Dodic council decided to expand the entire CASA project to $20.73 million in the 2011 CIP. Under the revised plan, CASA would eat up the $6 million in Build Canada money received to that point, and $14.73 million in MSI funds (no more internal borrowing, which by then some people had started getting wise to).

However, the $10+ million increase in MSI allotment meant that the MSI account would be overdrawn in the period CASA was being built – to the tune of as much as $13 million in one year. Naturally, the city cannot actually spend grant money that doesn’t exist, so something had to give. But the Council’s only role was to approve an overdrawn budget document, so the question of priorities was never debated in that chamber (unless it was done in secret, which would be illegitimate). 

So certain projects that were supposed to be paid from MSI funds in the relevant period didn’t proceed or were later found altered. For example, $1.9 million in bridge rehabilitation work wasn’t done. A $3.4 million operations depot for the west side was put off for years, ultimately driving up the costs of getting it done later (and possibly displacing whatever project might have received later MSI funds). Upgrades to the EnMax and the building of the Twin Ice Centre (which later morphed into the debt-riddled ATB Centre) were also affected, but because both were altered in the ensuing 2014 CIP it is impossible to quantify the effect of diverting funds to the CASA.

Other debt increased. Between 2011 and 2012 debt incurred on utilities projects (water, sewer, waste, electric) increased almost $5 million, and other so-called “self-supported” infrastructure debt increased $4.5 million. All of those kinds of critical infrastructure projects are exactly what the MSI is for – had the Dodic council not decided to double the CASA budget, would this borrowing have been necessary?

And none of this begins to address the question what projects were rejected long before the CIP document even got to the attention of the Council of the day. The mere voter never gets to know that.

It is tempting to think that, because grant money can be assigned to a particular project, that the project somehow becomes “free,” that it has no effect upon the financial decisions and priorities of the City and its residents. I hope I have demonstrated here that this notion is hogwash. And the CASA was not some rare planning exception, but a typical example of the utterly opaque process of capital budgeting in our fair city.

Should the expanded CASA have been given priority over these other things? Should the original design have been preferred, to open up funds for other projects? Should other projects have been prioritized for grant funding, leaving CASA to be funded from external borrowing (and putting it at risk of being defeated in a referendum)? Mr. Shier, SophieR, Montreal13, me, and others may all have different legitimate opinions on those issues.
 
These are exactly the kind of questions that Councillors and candidates should address/debate, but I don’t see that they ever do. And here is where I end: if the politicians can’t or won’t speak to their priorities, how do we know what we are voting for? Is it any wonder that so many people vote and yet insist that their voices are not being heard?

Last edited 2 years ago by HansDad