Coming to a council near you

We received a couple of letters this week from Puslinch regarding the substantial tax increase there for 2010. One letter chastises councillors for their math abilities while the other praises the performance of two councillors seeking tax relief – after the fact.

Puslinch residents are not alone in condemning incumbents and the general state of affairs in most townships. In recent weeks there have been other letters castigating councillors and mayors for their inability to provide services and projects at no increased cost to taxpayers.

Some writers are clearly part of a campaign to move incumbents along, while others work to discredit dissenting opinion on behalf of politicians who might be their friends or family.

Down in Puslinch, the chuckle at work was Dick Visser and Susan Fielding at a recent council meeting lamented the public’s outrage at a 12% tax increase. Within hours, a resident sent a letter to us sharing her gratitude for Visser’s and Fielding’s stand. Absent in her congratulations was that Visser and Fielding voted for the budget a month earlier.

Neither Visser nor Fielding moved nor seconded a motion for reconsideration of that budget, suggesting to us they either do not understand how actions are tabled, or their Academy Award-style performance was based on some cheap publicity for this fall’s election.

Puslinch, sadly, is not alone. In other communities similar actions are underway, and we figure it will carry on into the fall.

Our plea and hope is that politicians keep electioneering to a minimum, continuing to serve the electorate with dignity and propriety. Those who disrespect others, choosing to harass and humiliate their opponents in the name of “the people” and a seat on council this fall, bear watching.

What to do

Just as Puslinch council reached for the stars with its new multi-use recreation facility and cost itself some popularity in the process, that type of thing goes on every day somewhere. We are speaking of the lure of grants and funding.

For the sake of the country, we hope that grant money from the federal and provincial government dries up soon. In what can best be described as an orgy of spending in recent years, local government has accumulated debt and obligations that will take decades to overcome.

Down the road, we foresee some tough choices that will be quite unpopular, while those who dug the hole forcing such future decisions will be regarded as heroes of their time. Remember when, they will say. The good old days.

As one businessman and community leader told us, “If the money is there, you have to get it.” We really wonder if it would be better stated as: “The money is there; do we really need it?” But as is the case for so much related to government projects these days, much of what is built or employed is as much a matter of keeping up with neighbours as it is a necessity.

If, all of a sudden, summer jobs programs, soft project grants and infrastructure money were cut off and communities had to make do a little and focus, we think communities would be stronger and more self reliant.

It’s going to take something that drastic to stymie the appetite the current generation has for burning through money.