City Spends $119,000 to Ignore Citizens

Is the City Deaf to Citizens Concerns?When city hall conducted its annual public consultation process on the 2008 city budget this past February, was anybody listening? It appears the answer would be no, according to the updated interim budget estimates report from senior staff coming before Mayor Sam Sullivan and city council today.

Almost 1,700 citizens and businesses took part in the city's annual budget consultation process at a cost of $119,000. Individuals and businesses were asked their opinion on what their priorities were for this year's budget by telephone poll, at three public meetings and through submissions of the annual City Choices survey. Citizens could also email or write city hall regarding their budget concerns.

According to Think City Citizen Budget organizer Bill Hopwood, the updated interim estimates do not in any way reflect the city's public consultation process. In fact, the revised estimates are virtually the same as the original interim budget estimates that council reviewed on Feb. 12 before the public consultation process got underway. In particular, key citizen concerns regarding public services, policing and taxation are ignored. Below are three examples:

The parks board budget will be cut despite the elected commissioner's Feb. 25 rejection of staff demands for a $300,000 reduction. This latest cut comes on the heels of $3 million in total reductions the board has sustained over the past 12 years. Moreover, according to the City Choice's survey, at least 89 per cent of businesses and residents called for maintaining or increasing funding to the parks board.

According to the city's telephone poll, citizen support for 48 patrol officers was at 70 per cent while the staff's original Feb. 12 request for 96 officers and civilians was supported by only 49 per cent of those surveyed. In the end, staff have recommended the higher increase in police department staffing.

On redistributing tax from commercial to residential owners, both the city's telephone poll and City Choices survey found that a majority of residents were opposed to the proposed tax download to residents. However, with five opposition councillors opposed, Mayor Sullivan's Non-Partisan majority passed the tax increase onto residential owners on March 13. And like the public consultation process on this year's budget, opposition councillor calls for a more fair and equitable tax system that would target much-needed cuts to only local, small businesses were also ignored.

On April 9, city council will hold the only meeting at which the public can speak to all elected representatives before they vote on the 2008 city budget. If you are interested in appearing as a delegation, please contact Laura Kazakoff in the city clerk's office at 604.871.6353, or by e-mail at laura.kazakoff@vancouver.ca.

Think City will also be attending this meeting to present the results from our Citizen Budget survey to Mayor Sullivan and city council. If you are interested in receiving a copy of this report, please contact us through our web site by clicking here.