I had the occasion recently to write to our City councillor, Wendy Stewart, regarding her report published in the Summit last month (May, 2001). I provided her with feedback on several of the items in her report. I felt a couple of my comments were worth repeating in a broader context, so I am sharing them with you.
Property taxes: There has been considerable media attention to the mayor's proposal for a 10% tax cut this year. I am not very keen on this idea without assurances that the price to be paid for it will not be greater in two or three years down the road. I would be quite satisfied with a status quo budget for the next couple of years.
Assessment growth, as Councillor Stewart noted in her update, will provide for some increased city wealth, and that can be used to fund continued levels of service as well as keep reserves at a healthy level. When these matters are looked after, any ‘excess' can be used for a tax relief.
Infrastructure: I have considerable concern over proposals to invest huge amounts in widening the Queensway and other roads. While investment is needed to keep the roads in shape and safe, adding additional capacity only serves to clog the ‘improved' road with even more traffic.
I would be much more pleased to see the $70 million (or whatever) used for public transit solutions. We simply cannot, and must not, pave over a large proportion of our beautiful (technically or otherwise!) city. I am beginning to hear my sentiments echoed by others that Ottawa seems to be on the way to becoming another Toronto or San Jose. If that happens, I am outta here. The former Regional Official Plan's emphasis on non-automobile modes of transport was a good one. We just need to allocate our resources in line with that objective.
One way I would like to see public transit spending given a better perspective is to compare it to the total cost of road expenditures. The public, through media reports, tends to hear about $xx million for public transit, but only gets $xx thousand for improving this road or $xx thousand for that roadway, never the total of all those roadway amounts. This tactic, would, I believe, put our expenditures on public transit in a much more realistic light.
I hope that if other residents have comments, either in support or contrary to mine, they will share them with our councillor. She keeps asking for feedback and she really does listen, I believe, to what we have to say.