“Affordability”

The language of “sacrifice” has arrived to the budgeting process in Guelph. It’s dangerous language, politically.

In talking about what sacrifices we may be prepared to undertake it reminds us, all good citizens, that corporations do not make “sacrifices” — people do — corporations, adapt, evolve. And as all good citizens know, they will be carrying the burden of any “sacrifices” that are decided on by City Hall.

We are already making our own sacrifices in our lives, in ways that are meaningful to each of us and in ways that aren’t actually anyone else’s business, including and especially City Hall’s. We don’t need more communications from City Hall to help us to get why the “sacrifices” that are required of us each year are so… wonderful… if we only understood them better.

We get it. Trust us. We get it. We exist for City Hall and the city, not the other way around. We seem to be the ones with the burden of proof when it comes to questions about the value we get for the taxes we send to City Hall.

That’s backwards, isn’t it? Good grief!

The point, City Hall, is people have responsibilities apart from bankrolling you, and some are at their breaking points, and in talking about what sacrifices we may need to take on, you are really saying, I’m pushing my dark need for legacy, my lack of direction, my lack of restraint ahead of what you are dealing with — and these are the sacrifices you actually have to pay attention to.

Honestly, take a hike. In the opposite direction. Stop trying to be everything to everyone (who votes). You are putting us in an early grave with spending priorities disconnected from how most of us live. So, what additional sacrifices are you asking us to now take on — and for whom, really?!

City staff asked Guelph Councillors to consider the what would be an affordable rate by which to increase taxes as part of the budget process for this coming fiscal year.

And of course, the question of affordability is posed within the assumption that there will be an increase, that it is inevitable that we will have one.

The question of affordability surfaced again at Monday evening’s budget prep workshop, as reported by the Guelph Mercury’s Scott Tracey.

Here’s a quote from Tracey’s coverage of the workshop — let’s take a look at it:

“Coun. Karl Wettstein said a bigger issue that the ultimate tax increase figure is whether the community can afford to pay it.

 

‘I do not know what the affordability number is in our community,’ Wettstein said. ‘I’m inclined to think from an affordability perspective three per cent is the maximum.’”

The question of “affordability” is a complex one – stats being the likely easiest starting point for the discussion, notwithstanding the deeper truth that statistical “averages” being cold comfort for the individuals and families of all ages that are clinging to a lifestyle they’ve worked hard to have.

But as individuals and families consider what an increase above what they may be seeing in their household income, if they will be seeing an increase in the coming year, and what it will mean for them, and how they will adjust their lifestyles, the question is simply:

Do taxpayers have confidence in the current administration? Are we ready to follow it where it may lead us in the name of necessary “sacrifices”?

As individuals and families and businesses go about trying to be more creative with their purchasing power this coming year, will they be doing so within the context that they consider there is good alignment between their priorities, and the priorities and initiatives of City Hall?

My sense is, no. That connection is just not there.

And so if the question of affordability is first a question of household dollars, and what ripples are set off in the local economy, it is also a less tangible but central matter of whether or not psychologically, the will is there to “afford” it as well.

It’s a mattter of confidence. Or lack thereof.

Last, watch for what services are the “same” but have or are projected to become a lot more expensive.

***

It seems to be a denouvement of sorts for this administration. It’s a time of self-serving statements that reveals the extent of the blind spot suffered by some, such as in the arrogance of pronouncing that the capacity of Guelphites in figuring it all out will win the day, and we’ll always seek to be good neighbours to each other.

It’s an administration that has forgotten who it is working for.

About Craig Chamberlain

Ward 3 Guelph resident, dad and step-dad.
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