by Mike Andruff
When you walk into your local voting district (polling station) on election day, you won’t just be voting for 27 civic officials, you will be asked to approve the City of Vancouver’s Capital Borrowing Plan for nearly a quarter of a billion dollars ($235 million).
To provide some context in terms of the 2014 request, the City wants 31% more than you approved in 2011.
Now given the next civic term is four years in duration, all physical assets do need repair and replacement. The question remains how efficiently can we expect these funds to be used? And, will they be used for the purposes intended?
In my July 2013 post on Vision Vancouver’s transparency issues, I noted the cost of the bike lanes were not available to the public in the public records (please recognize I take no issues with bike lanes, only with the lack of transparency). Repeated FOI requests were rebuffed. But by tallying numbers used in City Council minutes, bike lane spending could be estimated at $75-$100 million. Here is what the 2011 Capital Borrowing Plan detailed:
B. Transit and Safety Improvements
To provide for modifications to the arterial and neighbourhood transportation networks, and to expand and make safety improvements to the system of greenways and cycle routes $8,500,000
One must be excused if over swept by a healthy sense of skepticism about how the current borrowed funds will be spent.
I recall Visionista, Kevin Quinlan’s famous statement: “Vancouver’s still-embedded-but-painfully-outdated notion of civic government as non-partisan and being solely concerned with efficiency and delivering services is to be forever altered by Vision Vancouver”.
Well, as I read the Capital Plan, it has a lot ($95,700,000) to do with the basic services systems we rely upon. We are now being asked to authorize undefined capital spending that will be used at the whim of council and may include: recreational and exhibition facilities, public safety, street and bridge infrastructure, street care and communications, community facilities, and civic facilities and infrastructure. But maybe not, as we saw with bike lane spending over the last three years.
Community centres have been outraged over previous capital promises made and then changed on a whim. Other facilities need sharper definition before assent should be granted.
If only the Public Safety and Public Works were authorized, an accountability message would be sent to council when spending the taxpayers’ money.
Being a voter is no easy task in the civic context. Continue to read about the issues, study the candidates, and remember on November 15th – VOTE!