Editor's note: this rant consists of the contents of a letter sent to a local Hamilton politician.
Hello Donna, hope you had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I received your Xmas newsletter in December of last year. I don't think I'm the only Ward 7 taxpayer who felt frustrated and annoyed after reading the section titled "2017 Budget Crunch". I will refresh your memory of what you said.
We are facing an extremely challenging task, as we begin debate on the City of Hamilton's 2017 operating budget. It would take an extra $42 million just to maintain 2016's level of service, which would increase your taxes by 4.2% or around $140 for the average taxpayer. Clearly, that is not acceptable. Instead, Hamilton City Council have directed staff to come back with a maximum of 1.8%. That means we can't hire additional staff or expand department budgets. We hope to have the final budget approved by early March.
Here are my thoughts. When you say no additional staff will be hired and department budgets won't be expanded, well, let me just say, I'll believe that when I see it. We all know government loves to flourish with employees and thoroughly enjoys spending tax payer's money.
May I suggest City Council stop playing Santa Claus and cease donating our money to various special interest groups such as Boris Brott and his Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Supercrawl and Theatre Aquarius.
I know one of the city's past practices has been funding to certain arts groups as the article in The Record, April 10/13 stated City Council passed the 2013 budget and $1.9 million will be forwarded to seven arts groups.
Obviously, most of these groups are having a lot of trouble attracting clientele to their functions and performances and can't operate or survive without government assistance. Maybe these organizations should re-evaluate their programs and objectives and pinpoint the problem why they need government handouts...I've always had the attitude if the product or service is good no matter what the cost people will come.
Getting on with more wasteful spending, I would hope you and your colleagues would terminate the senseless bike lanes, 2-way conversions, and pedestrian crossover programs. It's very evident to me and many other Hamiltonians, the city has declared war on the "horseless carriage". Your associates appear to thrive on annoying, irritating and inconveniencing vehicle owners.
Your city hall crew would certainly save a large amount of money if you would abort the pointless and needless bike lanes and 2-way conversions...all they do is exasperate drivers. For the life of me, I still can't comprehend the logic of making traffic flow slower and continuously aggravating folks who journey to and from work or drive for a living.
Since I'm on the topic of the city infuriating drivers, discontinue installing those three-foot high plastic yellow delineators that are located throughout the city especially on Barton Street, east of Ruth Street, they are completely fatuous.
Now the city has a new fad and fixation with pedestrian crossovers. The Mountain News, Sept. 22/16 stated pedestrian crossovers can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 and the city is looking to install about 200 at various sites.
I think it would be an extremely reasonable and sensible notion to squash this misuse of taxpayers money...you specifically stated that council is in a budget crunch. Whatever happened to good sound judgment of crossing the street...it's a remarkable simple task, look both ways and proceed when it's safe...quite elementary.
I read another article in the Mountain News Aug. 25/16 that said you want to make Upper James more pedestrian friendly with the possibility of bike lanes...are you talking Upper James in Hamilton, Ontario or Upper James in Timbuktu? This is where we have to call time out,
I have driven Upper James (Hamilton, Ontario) on numerous occasions and completely agree with your colleague Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr when he stated (regarding pedestrians and cyclists on Upper James) "very rarely do I see one". It's safe to say pedestrians and cyclists are few and far between.
I was absolutely amazed when you stated the possibility of bicycle lanes in the article...where would they be located? There is, by no means, any space unless this is another chapter of the city's aggressive campaign of the war against the internal combustion engine.
If somehow that does happen (nothing surprises me anymore) the ramifications for drivers will be hellish. The traffic flow will be bumper to bumper and time consuming but then again it appears to me the city enjoys (for some bizarre reason) gridlock...I can't help but think the persistent crusade against the automobile.
The added trees, boulevards and other amenities you would like to see on Upper James (again the city is supposedly in a budget crunch) is more waste from taxpayers pockets.
I realize you didn't hold office until 2016 but the article I read in the Hamilton Spectator Sept. 16/14 placed me in a mode of shock and disbelief. The story stated the City of Hamilton had no money for pot holes...to this day I still can't believe it...completely absurd.
Another report from the Hamilton Spectator Feb. 12/15 said "City passes budget that leaves little room for road repairs," as well as claiming the city is about $120 million behind what is needed for road repairs. Who are these individuals finalizing the budgets? Unbelievable, a very sad state of affairs.
Road repairs are a huge priority and a major component of public safety. One of the functions and responsibilities a municipality has to their taxpayers is to preserve and maintain safe roads. However, council gives me the impression they judge bike lanes, 2-way conversions, and pedestrian crossovers are more pivotal and urgent.
I hope you and your associates don't procrastinate and neglect the Claremont Access problem. I think you would agree this dilemma has to be rectified immediately with no makeshift repairs...it's infrastructure.
A budget is a budget. It doesn't matter what type of budget exists, operating, capital, rate or departmental. The end result is the money will be spent from the same source...tax payers pockets.
I will conclude with the following: concentrate on public safety (fire, police, paramedic service) and infrastructure and terminate meaningless and aimless programs specifically (I know I'm repeating myself) bike lanes, 2 way conversions and pedestrian crossovers...I don't consider them infrastructure. That said, I do sense I'm spitting into the wind.
Uncle Block's Two Cents Worth
You're not just spitting in the wind, you're pissing in the wind.
The current crop of politicians who have been given decision-making authority in the City of Hamilton have to be the most incompetent bunch in the last half century. It's not hard to imagine that if the city were being run by a bunch of juvenile delinquents the results would be much different.
What this city needs is sober people with a clear understanding that their main responsibility is maintaining the roads, getting rid of the garbage and sewage, and little else. Above all, their job SHOULD NOT BE trying to impose some hippy-dippy "vision" where the population skips through fields of daisy's, and gazes in wonder at subsidized art, blissfully unencumbered by crude trivialities like earning a living and getting back and forth to work.