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Columns: The Real Costs Of Incompetance
By Mike Archer. What Bruce Beck and John Smith forgot to tell you when they promised you prosperity and profits for supporting the Plan A referendum is that you would be handcuffed to their dream for the forseeable future.
While City Manager Frank Pizzuto tells us Council always intended to spend $2 Million a year subsidizing the Abbotsford Entertainment Centre (AESC), and politicians like John Smith and Bruce Beck shrink from the weight of their public statements promising profits – not subsidies – from Plan A, the real cost of the our councillors’ and bureaucrats’ incompetence eventually takes on a very human reality.
Tyler Seebach is an average Abbotsford homeowner and taxpayer. He lives off of McClure Road – a designated truck route – and he has been complaining about the noise in his neighbourhood resulting from the trucks for years.
Now Seebach is not an unreasonable man. He has told mayors from George Ferguson to George Peary to Bruce Banman that he is aware that, had he done his homework before purchasing his house, he would never have bought in the nieghbourhood where he now lives due to the truck traffic.
He has not been asking for compensation, redress or a change to the truck route. Since 2001 he has been asking for a sound barrier to protect his children and family from the noise of the trucks. He has been given excuses ever since he first asked for help.
Even George Peary had a ready explanation …
No Money For Taxpayers
“The City of Abbotsford does not have the resources to do such work.” – George Peary
What is most interesting is that neither George Peary, nor anyone from City Hall, has told Seebach the City can’t help him … they’ve told they can’t afford to help him.
By all rights Seebach has no real right to any form of correction for the situation in which he finds himself. As he readily admits, he should have done his homework before buying his home. There are a great many arguments his fellow taxpayers can make against Seebach’s request that they spend money erecting sound barriers to protect him and his family against noise which he could have known he would face were he to buy a house in that neighbourhood.
Seebach admits as much.
But where this story becomes interesting is the change in the story Seebach has been given over time.
When Bruce Banman was elected Seebach decided to find out if the promise of change which had taken Banman to power would provide a different answer but, after receiving an initial response from the new mayor, Seebach received a letter from Russ Mammel, the City of Abbotsford’s Director of Transportation giving the real reason for the denial of his requests for all these years …
“The City is currently taking necessary steps to minimize tax increases for property owners.” – Russ Mammel, R Eng. Director of Transportation.
… so the City doesn’t have the money to do what the City is supposed to do – deal with taxpayer problems – because it has to keep tax increases to a minimum.
And why is that?Taxes have risen almost 50 percent since Seebach moved to Abbotsford, mostly because of Plan A which included the AESC, The Reach and the need to take on the Abbotsford Heat all of which cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year.
The taxpayers also subsidize The Reach Gallery and Museum (Plan A) and now the Ledgeview Golf Course & Country Club. Were it not for the Plan A projects Abbotsford would not have had to increase taxes to such a high level and the City of Abbotsford would not have had to reduce and restrict Parks & Rec programs, increase fees and turn the city into the worst city in the Lower Mainland for recreational programs and facilities.
Were it not for the millions of dollars a years being sunk into the money losing propositions the City has taken on the need to “Minimize tax increases for property owners” might not take precedence over making life more liveable for residents.How many other services, products and amenities are no longer available to Abbotsford residents because so much of our annual municipal budget goes to debt servicing and subsidies associated with the AESC, The Abbotsford Heat, The Reach and the overall long term costs of Plan A – not to mention such incredible wastes of money as John Smith’s million dollar ‘Friendship Garden’?
Having already increased property taxes by close to 50 percent over the last six years in order to pay for such vanity projects, our municipal politicians and staff have finally realized that taxpayers’ ability to pay for their largesse has reached its limit.
So now, faced with real demands from real taxpayers over real problems, they haul out the “we need to minimize tax increases” excuse for not solving taxpayer problems!
Perhaps Mr. Seebach has no right to expect help for his noise problem due to the truck traffic on McClure Ave. Perhaps his proposed solution is an affordable and intelligent solution to the problem to which his fellow taxpayers wouldn’t object.
Cities erect sound barriers all over the western world and throughout the Fraser Valley. It is not that expensive or unreasonable a request to make.
The unfortunate truth is we will never know because, like many other problems this community faces, it cannot reasonably be dealt with because, Abbotsford must now “keep tax increases to a minimum” at all costs.
Thanks to Bruce Beck, John Smith the Chamber of Commerce and our incumbent councillors who thought mortgaging taxpayers’ future for the sake of a hockey rink made sense we can now no longer deal with the day-to-day concerns of taxpayers in Abbotsford.
Suddenly tax increases are a concern.
The real cost of Plan A is that we no longer have any choices left when it comes to taxpayer concerns and what is best for our community. We are now forced to live in a political environment where keeping tax increases to a minimum is a political necessity that trumps any other decisions which might benefit the community.
Whether or not Mr. Seebach has a legitimate concern it doesn’t matter.
There are rich hockey club owners, professional athletes and upper class golfers who need to be subsidized instead of desperate drug addicted citizens, homeless residents and taxpayers with normal, everyday issues like noise complaints.
Priorities, priorities, priorities …