Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Government Closest to the People?

The government that is closest to the people. 

That’s what they call local government.  At least that is what people in local government (politicians and senior bureaucrats) say about their work. I used to say such things as well while serving as a municipal politician 1991-97 and then again in 2006.  Now I worry that I might have been spreading false news.

Two cases in point came across my computer screen today.

First, there’s the situation of John Gauvin in Hamilton.  Read his story from the Bay Area Observer (http://bayobserver.ca/flooding/) and tell me that his local government is working for him.

Then closer to home (my former home) we can observe City of Burlington Councillor’s, heads firmly planted in the sand,  ready to raise transit fares by 8% on Monday night.

Now there really isn’t anything wrong with raising fares, fees or charges. It is just when you raise the price on something it is good business to be improving or at least maintaining the quality of the product.  This is not the case in Burlington though.  

Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit, better known as BFast, advocates for better transit in Burlington.  I used to be involved with them before  I got out of town.

In a media release they note that the Budget submission from staff to Council included no fare increase in the short-term, but proposed a process for adjusting fares. (http://bfastransit.ca/?p=88)

Then council, in their wisdom as they say, came out with what appears to be an arbitrary increase.

Bfast says Council justifies the fare increase based on improved services.  That’s the usual line from Council.

But Council is wrong.  As Bfast notes:

“Transit is still under-capitalized, and will continue to suffer from the $500,000 decrease in transit's share of the Gas Tax money made by City Council one year ago.

Recently Bfast asked for the City to restore transit's share of the Gas Tax funding.  They weren’t successful.

“The reality is that net transit spending by the City has decreased,” BFast claims correctly.

I used to go on about this on a blog I retired.   Public consultation demonstrated that residents wanted and needed better transit; so did business and so does our environment. Council wouldn’t listen. 

In http://burlbus.blogspot.ca/ I’d blame councillors like the one who got elected mainly to get the bus off his street and others who could be best described as environmental neanderthals.

But the mayor needs to wear this. 

I had a coffee with him when he was my newly elected Councillor in 2007.  He explained to me then that Burlington couldn’t support good public transit.

I disagreed with him.

But as the mayor of the government closest to the people I guess he was right.
Too bad.

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