With all the snow we’ve received so far this winter, Ottawa’s blown the budget alotted for snow removal. The bill so far is $88 million, $23 million over budget. Overruns happen, especially in government.
The first surprise was Mayor O’Brien’s suggestion that every household in town be subject to a $50 levy to make up the difference. I’ve heard the mayor on the radio saying he thinks the city should pay the bills as they come in. The snow may not be done with us this season, so how can the levy be set if we’re not yet sure how big the bill will be? The suggestion of the levy itself annoys me because it is an admission of a massive failure in the mayor’s ability to run the city. We had snow, not a hurricane or an armed invasion. I don’t know about any of you, but I’d sure like to apply a levy when an unexpected expense comes up. Sadly, you and I don’t get levies, we just pay them.
This snowfall being unexpected brings up another point. The mayor has said two things that don’t fit together. He’s said we’ve grown accustomed to comparatively little snow recently, so budgeting for an average snowfall has left us short this year. He also mentioned an emergency fund for snow removal and how it’s been dwindling for many years now. Presumably it’s in such a sorry state that it won’t help with this problem.
If the city budgets for average snowfall, the below average snowfall we’ve had in previous years would seem to indicate the budgeted money wasn’t needed for snow removal. Where has this extra money gone? If the money budgeted for snow removal has not been needed for that purpose, why has the emergency fund dwindled? Where has the money from the fund gone?
Further, how has the shortfall been paid when the average snowfall was exceeded in the past? Surely this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Why is this the first suggestion of a levy I’ve heard in nearly two decades of living here?
Something really stinks about this. I’m bitterly disappointed in Mayor “no tax increase” O’Brien, who wants a levy and a 4.9% tax increase next year. His term has been a disaster. I particularly like his consideration for the city by refusing to let the deputy mayor take over until his trial. Trial? Yes, trial. Our mayor was charged with two criminal code violations for allegedly bribing a fellow candidate to withdraw from the mayoral election he won in 2006.
Particularly encouraging was this part of the mayor’s statement, made when the charges were laid:
Quite frankly, I believe with every fibre in my being that I am innocent.
He said he believes he’s innocent. He apparently doesn’t know he’s innocent. You’d think it would be a simple matter to remember whether or not you bought off a fellow candidate. The only reason I can fathom for his not being certain is that he recognizes the legal ambiguity of his actions. If his actions straddle the line so closely that even he’s not sure, the situation is bad enough that he should have stepped aside, at least until the lawyers figure it out.
During the election, I liked the idea of a mayor who had some business-sense about him. It seems that he may be lacking in good judgement and the ability to put the city’s interests at the top of his priorities.