Citizen Budget Requests – Part One

As announced in the Council meeting on Monday, there will a significant number of opportunities for taxpayers to observe the Town’s process for setting its 2019 budget (see link below) but there is only one where feedback is allowed and that has already happened at the Public Meeting held for that purpose.  It was held at 6:00 pm after the Council Meeting on Monday.  As expected, there were requests to minimize tax increases or even reduce them but one request was especially unusual:  Edgar Carman of Trinity Housing asked the Town to subsidise Low Cost Housing and the amount was not small.  This was a major issue in the recent election campaign so perhaps Edgar was hoping the Council would deliver on the rhetoric.

Because of the detail provided, this is the first of a two part report.

Edgar Carman
Edgar Carman

As reported earlier, Edgar Carman also requested money for the Highland Games; at the public budget meeting, that request was deferred to the discussion on grants that will occur on March 7.

In his role as President of Trinity Housing Corporation, Edgar was asking for a grant of $233,826, a loan of up to $400,000 and a possible guarantee of a loan from CMHC of up to $350,000.  The plan is to spend a total of $6.5M on expansion of Trinity’s existing housing units at 25 James Street East.  There would be 13 low-rental units and 14 units at market rents.  Most of the financing comes from other sources but some of this financing “requires that another level of government makes a financial contribution”.  Since subsidized housing is a County responsibility, Edgar was asked if he had asked for such a contribution from the County and he replied that they told him that they have no cash for this.  Trinity Church is to be commended for their initiative but it remains to be seen if the Town will commit taxpayer money to this.

Elizabeth Healey made a separate presentation about the need for affordable housing.  She spoke of the difficulty of finding apartments at affordable rents and said it looked to her like price fixing.  Her final statement was:

I take my responsibility of voting very seriously and my selection of candidates. I look forward to great things from you as all but one stated affordable housing is a strong priority to them in their election platforms.

Ted Williams made a presentation that asked that the budget be reduced by 2% – he believed that would now be possible because the Northam Industrial Park mortgage has now been paid off.  In particular, he thought that there was room for reductions in the Parks and Recreation Budget.  When asked if he would accept a reduction in services, he said that this may not be necessary.

Warren McCarthy gave a detailed written report focused on Protection Services which covers Police and Fire Departments and consumes 38.6% of the total operating budget. His report consisted of a series of questions that generally asked why do we pay more for Policing in Ontario and Cobourg than elsewhere and why has the use of Special Constables and Volunteers not reduced the number of Sworn Constables.  He also asked why not consider OPP as an alternative?  John Henderson said that he should be addressing these questions to the Police Services Board since they would be able to provide answers.

Bryan Lambert made a comprehensive presentation on the whole budget process, he asked some pointed questions – more on that in Part 2 of this report.

Miriam Mutton said that the signage to Venture 13 needed improvement.

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Walter L. Luedtke

Mr. McCarthy did much research on policing, but he missed the role of the Police Services Board.
The Police Services Act sets out the functions and roles that PSBs have control and authority over. Among the responsibilities, PSBs appoint members of the municipal police force, establish policies for the effective management of the police force, recruit and appoint the chief of police, and approve the police budget.
There is some overlap between Council and the PSB, but 2 out of the 5 members are appointed by the Province, meaning local MPP.
It seems that there is a vacancy on the PSB right now. Sooooooo!

Wally Keeler

Sooooo, thanks for stepping up to the plate, Walter. I’m sure you’ll do a fine job on the PSB.

warren

Thanks Walter. I think I do understand fairly well the unfortunate relationship between the Province, the Police Service, the Cobourg Police Service Board (CPSB) and Council – in which the Province has the power, the Police Service tries to deliver the best possible Policing, the CPSB accepts the Police Service’s operations and plans, and Council and the taxpayers pay the bill.

In my opinion, Cobourg taxpayers can not afford ‘best possible’ Policing, and they would be satisfied with a good, or adequate or acceptable level of Police service.
The Province has most of the power re. Policing, but my meetings with Chief Liu and Deputy Chief VandeGraaf and the CPSB convince me that they have the opportunity to make staffing and operational decisions that can significantly reduce spending while delivering good acceptable service levels.

Regardless whether they are appointed locally or provincially, the CPSB members are paid by Cobourg taxpayers to guide, influence and ask the Police Service to deliver good and affordable service.

In 2007, the County concluded that using the OPP and providing the same levels of service – would save Cobourg $1,938,045 per year for Policing. 12 years later, why not evaluate it again?

Walter L. Luedtke

I agree with all of your points, Warren.
Having been a member of a PSB, I have found that rather than delivering civilian oversight and policy initiatives as you suggest they should, the PSB is a passive, toothless audience for the proposals coming from the Chief.
This is not to say that any of the initiatives from the Chief, such as Tiered Policing, are without merit.
But, the main concern of the PSB is smooth operation without scandals and embarrassments, of which the Cobourg Police Department has had its fair share over the years.
Thank you for your work on this important matter.

Miriam Mutton

I spoke to a need for improved evening time exterior lighting and wayfinding signage/markings for Venture 13 since it is a destination which attracts attendees who may not be familiar with the facility and surroundings, including parking and building entrances.
BTW, not a fan of sign clutter (too many signs are a symptom of poor planning and design) and I hope that is not what came out as my message!

BruceB

I support Miriam’s request. As someone who helped run Cycle Transitions out of the back of Building 13, I can attest that people had trouble finding us. Since most people drive to the venue, the Venture 13 team should find a way to identify the driveway off of D’Arcy Street to be used to access parking. I have not been to Venture 13 in the evening but I can see that there is a need for exterior lighting, particularly at the back of the building.

Rob

Miriam – I would say the exterior lighting throughout the Town needs a review and a significant improvement. I don’t know who’s brainchild the low wattage (I assume LED) street lights were, however we might be better off with tiki torches or candelabras ever block or two. They have created a safety concern.

Ken Strauss

No they are not LED lights but a much older technology called “electrodeless induction lights”. The whole story of how a previous town administration with grandiose plans for selling lighting managed to fail in all regards — poor lighting, no sales and paying an undisclosed amount to settle the lawsuit. See http://www.lightnowblog.com/2012/09/osram-sylvania-settles-canadian-patent-infringement-lawsuit/ and https://cobourgtaxpayers.ca/2015/07/24/%E2%80%8Btown-of-cobourgs-secret-utility-company/for a few details.

cornbread

Lets not get into the “Lighting” business again in our town…the last time our council got involved, I believe we wound up in court…paid a big fine, around $50,000…and lost a bunch on money on purchased light inventory…ask previous Mayor Delanty for details…they were all swept under the rug.

Durka

Cobourg has always been a progressive and forward looking town. You win some you lose some.

cornbread

The lights over the rinks at the CCC are junk as well…lenses held on with plastic tape that dries out…then the lenses fall.
Who approved these lights???