Wednesday, December 15, 2010

City Hall, Councillors, and Votes

I took my place in the gallery at City Hall to hear the last Council Meeting of 2010. The agenda was huge, printing 6 pages in total. Like the meeting I was at yesterday, most items were passed even faster than they could be read. This time they were passed in groups, two, three, and nine at a time. First reading passed, second reading passed, suspending rules for third reading passed. I hope the councillors know what they are doing, and I hope they all read what they were passing prior to attending the meeting. Because I sure know they were not being educated at the meeting on the content of most items that were carried.
There were a few items discussed, and some at great length. I was interested in the discussion of Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works 2011 Capital spending on local streets and alleys. Councillor Wyatt stated it is "demoralizing that we do not look after our infrastructure". Councillor Smith echoed that thought. Then Councillor Eadie went further, stating nobody in the North End has respect for back lanes. He said they were a place for hoodlums, and where dumpsters are set on fire. He stressed the importance of repect for the streets to reduce crime, and said his area has only been given budget money for two back lanes and two front streets to be repaired this next year.
In another part of the question period Councillor Eadie asked Mayor Katz when the North End would be getting the much needed 58 new officers and how they were to be financed. Eadie stressed the need, with the Mynarski ward having such issues with crime and violence. Katz stated the money would be coming from the Operating Budget, and resources would be coming in stages over the next few years. Mayor Katz did say the new Cadets were sworn in yesterday and hit the streets today. He said there will be 20 more officers walking the beat, 20 going into the gang unit, and gave more numbers, but I wasn't able to catch it all.
In another of the items that were passed with haste, it was carried that more money would be going into the Canine unit facility. I like that. I feel the police dogs do a great job in helping to track criminals. We should ensure the police dogs are properly housed and taken care of. As I was typing this I was wondering what the actual report stated, so I took a quick look. The Canine Unit is getting $1.25M, coming out of the Police Radio 2010 capital budget, Police Priority Dispatch System, and WPS unspecified Capital Account. I sure hope they know what they're doing. The WPS is getting all kinds of improvements and increases in officers, and it is all magically coming out of the same pile of cash. Somehow I am finding that particular pill hard to swallow. When will the other shoe drop on that one.
Then there was an item in the Financial section that caught my eye. It was the 2011 Fees and Charges Increase. There was a very brief discussion on this regarding changes where they were going to have full cost recovery incorporated in some areas, and add new fees that were not being charged previously. My mind went immediately to By-Laws on the books that are not currently fining people, but could. I wondered if maybe this could be the issue I have been waiting for, and dreaming of. I couldn't wait to get home and read more about it. I am all for fees used as a cost recovery, especially if someone has committed a By-Law offence and is costing tax payers money in remedying the situation.
When I got home, I had a look at the report in the Agenda for the Council meeting. It turns out they were discussing Water and Waste. Garbage is waste, so I got a little more excited, and kept reading. Then I saw it. All they were talking about were issues related to water, sewer, and that sort of waste. Now, I think they were talking about how they were not going to be increasing our taxes, but just adding the fees to recover costs into the bill. Now I am wondering if my property taxes will be higher without the Mayor officially "increasing" them. Hmmmm.
But again, lets find the bright side. Is this where I need to look to ensure By-Laws are enforced and fines are levied? Should I go to the Financial Council Meetings and see how they come up with these changes? Should I lobby for change in the By-Laws that regulate Fees and Charges? I wonder.

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