Zero means zero
November 16, 2006
Well, the municipal elections are over.
For all those that supported Alex Munter - thank you. For all those that voted differently- glad you got involved. And for the next four years - try to stay involved. Watch our new mayor and his promises, stay in close contact with your councilor, join a local community association. Munter said in his final speech that we lost the election, but we didn't lose our voice, or our values, or love of our city. He was pleased to see all the dialogue between people, the interest from people in how their city was run, how their money was spent. And he hopes that O'Brien and the council can keep people energized and involved. He admitted he was asked by his advisors to also promise zero taxes, he felt he couldn't do that and promise acceptable service levels also, from his experience not that easy to do.
The results were 47% for O'Brien, 35% for Munter, 15% for Chiarelli. Seemed to suddenly become a battle between the left and the right, with no room in the middle for Chiarelli. And most of the incumbents were re-elected (as often happens) so will be the mostly the old council, who are used to tax increases of a few percent. Not zero.
There were several issues discussed, so interest was up. 55% voted this time as opposed to 30% in the last local elections. The main issue was taxes - always seems to be, and it proved irresistible for the voters. While the others promised to control tax increases, O'Brien said there would be ZERO increases over the next 4 years. And he would do this by increased efficiencies, by running the city like a business, by maintaining core services. I didn't remember a specific inclusive list, but he did say snow removal IS core, libraries are NOT core. Our mayor was elected as a conservative, but changes will be radical I think, to achieve what he promised. Tough on crime, tough on panhandling - all good plans, but still need
expensive social services. He's talked to some of the kids on the street and realized social safety nets are needed, but he feels there are a lot of overlapping ones that could be more efficiently blended together. We'll see. "Better means cheaper" is a good sound bite- but isn't a given. I'm all in favour of a vision and mission, of specific measurable objectives, of time-lines and reports on deliverables - I would expect he's familiar with the concept too, and that we will soon see those set up for the next four years.
O'Brien is touted as a "businessman", we weren't given details on that, but he will need some specific leadership and management skills to run the city. He may have shown some of these before (opinions differ), but being the CEO is different from mayor - he's just another vote. He'll be spending the next few weeks cramming, as he admits to knowing little about the workings of city governments in general, or the peculiarities of this one. Especially of working with a staff that has had a number of years of being told to cut back, to be more efficient, to do more with less. Been there, done that, got the half a t-shirt - cutbacks and efficiencies just means fewer people left to do the same jobs, with more report and meetings to reassure upper management. Plus, many are unionized and will expect at least to get COLA increases - they won't be a part of zero-means-zero, that's for someone else. If someone disagrees, he can't pull a Trump with "You're fired". The other prime issue is the LRT - he has to promised to reexamine the whole concept, see if we can delay, redesign to make it rapid also. And also address current transportation bottlenecks, not future ones based on shaky population projections.