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Hold council accountable

cartoon_jan202016Alarm bells are already ringing, and the budget deliberations haven’t even started yet.

During the opening of budget talks, a few words echoed around the council chambers that should probably never be uttered when speaking about a multi-million dollar budget lined with tax payers’ money.

“May not be completely accurate.”

“Somewhat spotty.”

Yet, the latter of these words was used to in reference to the city’s proposed tax increase, noting that the estimated $325,000 “average house” assessment may not be correct. In fact, a simple Google search reveals that according to the Durham Region Realtors Association, the average home in Oshawa sold for more than $355,000 in 2015.

This, along with the “somewhat spotty” records that the city keeps to track its employee overtime and lieu time, and the fact that a budget document, now public on the city’s website, was scanned along with penned-in question marks in the margins, suggests that perhaps things need to tighten up a little around city hall.

That’s where you, the public, come in.

Most recently, both the corporate services and development services committees expunged, at length about their glorious accomplishments in 2015. However, what they failed to mention were the things they intended to use your tax dollars for, but actually didn’t get around to.

A design for the harbour lands? Council’s community services listed that as an objective last year, but it didn’t happen. A review of Oshawa’s bylaw practices, slated by the corporate services committee to be completed by the end of 2015? Still not done. A red tape reduction initiative for the development services department was another. Well, there wasn’t a word about that. And it’s safe to say many remember the snubbed noses after a certain Fraser Institute report was published last year, stating red tape was actually hampering development in the city.

For 2016, these objectives will once again be set out for the public to see. Already, these lists include the finalization of Oshawa’s new Firehall #6, as well as the review that will be the starting process for commencing the switch back to wards for the next municipal election in 2018. Council has also decided it will look into the possibilities of ranked balloting and online voting this year.

A Jan. 26 public meeting at 6:30 p.m. will allow Oshawa residents to have their say on how the city spends their dollars. Because it is your money, and the same way you get a financial advisor, or debate buying that new TV, or even Google money saving tips on the Internet, you should let these elected officials know what you think they should do with your money.

At the very least, let them know they should have their staff clean up their act, or perhaps it won’t just be their employee overtime records that are “somewhat spotty,” but their own record as a councillor when 2018 rolls around.