The battle over taxes in Pitt Meadows has turned ugly.
The city first proposed tax increases of four per cent in each of the next five years, after years of the same.
Residents then started a petition in the summer, asking for a zero per cent tax increase next year.
We don’t know how that would be achieved, what services would have to be cut, or what else, because council refuses to direct staff to show us what a budget with a zero per cent municipal tax increase would look like.
Instead, council is engaging in a war of words with those who started the petition, and those who report on it, demonizing anyone who challenges them to be more responsible or try something new.
What are Mayor Deb Walters and her colleagues afraid of?
Their arguments and challenges are hollow – and sometimes malicious – because they have nothing to back up their claims.
Meanwhile, other municipalities (Mission, Penticton, Whistler and West Vancouver) have passed or are set to pass budgets with no municipal tax increase. Abbotsford is planning a “near-zero” tax increase in 2013.
How prudent of them all, to try and reduce the burden on residents by showing a little restraint, passing up modest salary increases, some of them even.
Pitt Meadows is a small city, not even a city at all, really, and just sold municipal land to a developer for $12.25 million, enough to cover much of the debt incurred in recent years to build a new community centre, new library and skate park, and upgrade the hockey arena.
Residents are happy to have them all, no doubt.
Still, it is frustrating to watch council lash out at those who pay their salaries when members are not insisting a budget with no tax increase be passed, only that one be presented for viewing.
Here you have citizens who want to be involved – they packed council chambers Tuesday – want to have a say, be engaged in the process, and council is disrespecting and criticizing petitioners, for exercising their democratic right, going door-to-door collecting signatures.
They got 1,300.
This petition isn’t about one person, or playing politics. It’s about listening to the electorate.
You can’t tell them it can’t be done if you are unwilling to even try.
Enough with the bickering and the antics.
Get to work.
– The News