Well, the poor sods on city council have completed their deliberations, deletions and additions, and have come up with a tax hike of …. drum roll please…. 3.9 per cent.

Could it have been more? Yes. Could it — should it? — have been less. You bet.

I guess I’m OK with 3.9 per cent. Ultimately, it’s not that much money, but when you add it to the yearly increase in taxes, it adds up. I’m not one of those guys who thinks the city should cheap out on everything it does to save a few bucks. Your civic tax dollars, I believe, provide more value, dollar for dollar, than your federal or provincial tax dollars.

City councillors are in a tough spot, because they are under a far greater level of public scrutiny that an MLA or an MP when it comes to spending. For instance, every day that I drive around Edmonton I see examples of civic money being spent on what looks like pointless road work, or perfectly usable sidewalks being replaced, or newly paved roads being dug up for no apparent reason. We all see it, and we all tend to blame the city. How often do you see money being wasted, and blame your MLA or MP?

So, give credit to our city councillors for going through the mind numbing process of budget deliberations. That’s gotta be as boring as a Coronation Street marathon.

I suppose they did their job, but when you hear that the city approved spending  $578,000 for the Edmonton Homeless Commission, you have to give your head a shake. Here’s the description from the city budget document:

“On February 4, 2009 City Council endorsed A Place to Call Home – Edmonton’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. The Plan charged City Council with responsibility for leading the effort to eliminate chronic homelessness in Edmonton. Council established the Homeless Commission to oversee the implementation of the Plan. This service package includes the administrative support to the volunteer Commission. The Commission will: engage the community in support of the Plan; benchmark progress in meeting the Plan targets; influence key decision makers to support the Plan with funding and policy; and evaluate and modify the Plan based on research and changing conditions. This service package annualizes one-time funding including 2.0 FTEs (a Director and Clerk III) and other program costs.”

Based on this feeble bit of information, council agreed to this plan, which will result in the hiring of a director and a clerk for about $200,000.

Does nobody see the irony of spending $578,000 on homelessness that doesn’t result in one single homeless person getting a home, or even temporary shelter?

We all want to end homelessness, but of course, we won’t. The homeless, like the poor, will always be with us. The federal government pours millions into the problem, and the province pours millions into the problem. What good will another $578,000 of city money do for the homeless? My guess is, absolutely zero. Although somebody in the city bureaucracy will make a tidy six figure salary that will not result in any more homeless people finding a place to stay.

The city did, however, cut the mosquito spraying budget, a decision that could make life even more miserable for homeless people — and everyone else.


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