Re: Petition aims to halt tax increases (July 25)
I hope those who are signing the petition to have a zero tax increase are prepared to detail which services they want cut. Is it the summer maintenance program including daily clean up of Memorial Park, the overtime associated with snow cleanup on the infrequent snow days we have, or maybe the seasonal sewer cleaning and street cleaning or the removal of goose poop so the beach is usable? How about garbage pickup once every two weeks as a way to save? The district could always delay further road and water repairs which often get pushed out in time.
We could, of course, choose to not enforce our bylaws which would beg the question of why we have those pesky bylaws and the councillors who create them. There are legal functions in running a town that by provincial law have to be done and need qualified people to do them. These include the regulatory demands of development control and plan approval to ensure safety of all current and future residents, all financial functions, privacy legislation, water and sewage inspection, emergency response, disaster planning to name a few.
Policing and education are outside of the control of the district as are the volume of provincial unconditional grants. We could however have more babies as those grants are based on population and their decline was the major contributory factor to the tax increase! A councillor sits on the library board and the mayor sits on the Fraser Valley Regional District, and both agencies bill the local taxpayers; one for the library services and one for the recreation centre, but with one vote there is little influence. More complex than you would think.
My wife and I retired to Hope based on our perception of a great place to live and my service for a brief time with the district did nothing to change that view. We enjoy the amenities of a much larger town with the library complex, pool, golf club, curling club and views to die for. In the last few years we have witnessed a new bridge that came in under budget (costs shared by three levels of government), the savings permitting another dangerous bridge structure to be replaced over Sucker’s Creek. A sewer project funded primarily by the province has resulted in a new business in Hope (Flying J), with more to come along that line. The landfill liability has been resolved by the district in a fashion that will dramatically reduce the costs of disposing of waste and be reflected in lower taxes or better services within the next few years. These are simply a few examples of great things that have been accomplished and, in my opinion, we are getting good value for our taxes.
However, all elected district councillors vowed to make better citizen communication a major priority in the last election and their failure to do so really puzzles me. There are great stories out there and nobody is telling them. Citizens are also notably absent from the public meetings scheduled specifically to get their input. There were two citizens who turned up at the meeting held last summer to present and get input on the long awaited future of the landfill site.
In my life experience, while petitions have their place, positive citizen participation in partnership with staff and elected officials at the right times in the public process, is a much more effective strategy. The last petition for the bridge replacement served no purpose, caused serious project delays and resulted in additional taxes; all to make a decision for which a duly elected council is mandated.