Something weird has happened with this Berman/Chadwick Enterprise Bulletin column writing situation. I have been visiting EB’s online site since yesterday afternoon looking for Chadwick’s column. Steve Berman’s offering was available last week at 4pm Wednesday. Chadwick’s bi-weekly kick at the can has been strangely absent. I then tracked down a hard copy of the local rag tonight and again no sign of anything from Chadwick. I texted Steve Berman to ask him what was going on and I got a very abrupt “no comment” response. My spidey sense was in full investigative mode at that point. So I phoned Steve, he did not pick up (very unusual) and he has not returned my voice mail. I didn’t want to push him any further, but this is really strange now. I decided to visit Chadwick’s blog Scripturient and see if he had said anything about his absent EB entry there. I couldn’t imagine our narcissistic ex-councillor would deny us his sage words of wisdom by choice. Plus if he had been silenced, he must have written a bombastic lambaste against the perpetrators of such a crime against this man’s very shallow ego. Again nothing……..
…….but wait a second. Something odd had happened on his blog. I read most of Chadwick’s writing. When he stays away from local politics I actually like some of his offerings. He is long-winded for sure. Elitist absolutely. True some of his stuff is a little beyond my grade nine educated brain to comprehend. But it is one of my guilty pleasures in life. So I am quite aware of most of the content on his blog. A post had appeared that was not there previously and it was situated prior to the first column he wrote for the EB when he went toe to toe with Berman on committee’s. Another thing I noticed was this post was not as verbose as his posts normally are. If you remove the two additional comments at the end it is only 538 words long, right in line with the 600 word limit that the EB had set for the Berman/Chadwick columns. I have been reading Chadwicks blogs in all their various forms for close to 10 years now and a 538 word post is completely unheard of by him. The content of the blog was full of Chadwickian twists and half-truths which could easily be refuted by the right people. The structure of the blog is in the post tense of the one that followed it. Lastly, it’s just different from how he normally writes. Not sure how to explain that statement any other way, it just felt different. I am willing to take a wager that the following post was Chadwick’s column for the EB and it did not pass the muster of the paper’s editorial board. I will publically print a retraction and apologize to Mr. Chadwick if I am wrong about this. Or someone comes up with a believable reason why he has not published a column in the EB when it was his turn two weeks after this little adventure started.
The following is what I believe is this weeks proposed Ian Chadwick EB column:
The tail wags the dog again
By Ian Chadwick
In January, the CAO coupled a ‘sky-is-falling’ presentation about the town’s debt with a proposed 5.11 percent tax increase. *
Councillor Kevin Lloyd made a motion to have staff bring back two options for council to consider: a one and two percent increase to the general tax levy, with comments on how these would affect services.
Council approved the motion and directed staff to prepare them.
Instead, what council got at its Feb. 24 budget meeting was a wish list from staff for additional spending. The direction from council for a report on 1% and 2% increases was totally ignored by placing this material ahead of the report. (This report should have been presented this week so council could assess the wish list in context, not as an afterthought.)
Council did not even get to see any department’s full, line-by-line, preliminary budget so it could make an informed decision on whether these items should be budgeted.
As a result, council wasted five hours wrangling over items and requests without even the slightest understanding of how these decisions would affect the overall departmental budgets or what their impact on our taxes would be. This is backwards.
Council also received a brief notice that the overall tax increase would start at 2.37 percent, but these additions are on top of that. All the savings made by the last council could be wiped out in a single budget this term.
Listed in the document’s “unavoidable” costs was a staff increase of 2.25 percent. Why is this unavoidable? The town doesn’t need any new staff and after years of receiving automatic increases, municipal staff could easily shoulder some of the burden and do without an automatic increase for a year. It’s not like they are underpaid: most municipal salaries soar over their counterparts in the private sector (the CAO withdrew his request for an executive assistant – at a starting salary of $82,400! – but the report retained a request for a part-time, 20-hours-per-week cashier position at a starting salary of $36,895! ).**
This is troubling not only because council is making uninformed decisions about your taxes without any of the crucial data necessary, but also because staff ignored council’s direction. Yet most councillors seem content to be ignored and work in the dark. Only Councillor Lloyd raised his voice in protest.
Here we are in March and the budget cycle for 2015 is barely started. It won’t be completed for at least 60 more days, maybe longer. There’s something seriously wrong with this process. Why can’t budgets be presented before the year they relate to? Other municipalities do it. Private sector firms can do it. Why not Collingwood?
During my time in office, attempts were made to rejig the process so that at least preliminary budgets appeared before council in November for the year to come. But there was considerable resistance from staff to such efficiencies. It seems that reluctance is continuing, and I don’t hear any other voices raised at the table to fix it this term.
The budget is big, dense and difficult, but it’s the most important thing council will debate in any year. To do it effectively and efficiently, it requires both effort and a tightly controlled process. The 2015 budget is receiving neither. Council has to take the responsibility and put on their big-kid’s pants to remind staff that they, not the administration, are the collective boss.
(Let’s see if this post gets any kick back.)