but is largely describing how Saskatoon City Council operates in Saskatoon. It’s really depressing.
Brownback’s tax cut proposal came as Kansas’s revenues were on an upswing. Spending cuts and a one-cent sales tax passed by Brownback’s Democratic predecessor had combined with economic growth to give Kansas a surplus. Now, Brownback argued, his tax cuts would lead to even more success. “I firmly believe these reforms will set the stage for strong economic growth in Kansas,” he said.
The governor proposed to cut income taxes on the state’s highest earners from 6.45 percent to 4.9 percent, to simplify tax brackets, and to eliminate state income taxes on most small business income entirely. In a nod to fiscal responsibility, though, he proposed to end several tax deductions and exemptions, including the well-liked home mortgage interest deduction. This would help pay for the cuts.
Yet as the bill went through the state Senate, these deductions proved too popular, and legislators voted to keep them all. The bill’s estimated price tag rose from about $105 million to $800 million, but Brownback kept supporting it anyway. “I’m gonna sign this bill, I’m excited about the prospects for it, and I’m very thankful for how God has blessed our state,” he said.
Democrats, and some Republicans, weren’t buying it. “It bankrupts the state within two years,” said Rochelle Chronister, a former state GOP chair who helped organize moderate Republicans against Brownback’s agenda. And the House Democratic leader, Paul Davis, laid down a marker. “There is no feasible way that private-sector growth can accommodate the price tag of this tax cut,” he said. “Our $600 million surplus will become a $2.5 billion deficit within just five years.” In return, Brownback’s administration claimed the bill would create 23,000 jobs by 2020, and would lead 35,000 more people to move to Kansas.
After the cuts became law, it was undisputed that Kansas’s revenue collections would fall. But some supply-side analysts, like economist Arthur Laffer, argued that increased economic growth would deliver more revenue that would help cushion this impact.
Yet it’s now clear that the revenue shortfalls are much worse than expected. “State general fund revenue is down over $700 million from last year,” Duane Goossen, a former state budget director, told me. “That’s a bigger drop than the state had in the whole three years of the recession,” he said — and it’s a huge chunk of the state’s $6 billion budget. Goossen added that the Kansas’s surplus, which had been replenished since the recession, “is now being spent at an alarming, amazing rate.”
This is crazy. His paid for bill went from $105 million to $800 million and he still signed it. No wonder Brownback’s popularity has hit rock bottom.
I know most of us are more concerned with the roads but have any of you noticed the condition of many of our light standards in the city. Some are almost completely rusted through. I have poked at more than one and had my finger go right through. Others are really swaying in the recent wind.
According to city reports, City Council has not only ignored city roads but also our electrical grid. I know, I know, marking priorities is hard.
There were roads, bridges, and snow to neglect and now we have light poles that are not structurally safe and are rusting out. It’s actually remarkable that council could let so many things at the same time.
Oh wait, amidst all of our infrastructure falling, we have a clear goal. In case you have ever wondered what drives the Mayor and council’s desire to keep taxes low when our city needs revenue, it is Calgary.
Saskatoon’s mayor is eyeing a property tax increase of one per cent per year less than Cowtown’s over the next decade.
In 10 to 15 years, Saskatoon’s tax rate could equal that of Alberta’s biggest city, where ratepayers have the lowest property taxes among major cities in the country, he said.
Calgary has fun with this.
To help set its mill rate, Calgary relies on a so-called municipal inflation rate, a combination of costs for salaries, service contracts, fuel and materials. Saskatoon’s administration is coming up with a formula to calculate its own municipal inflation rate and Atchison has said in the past it makes sense to try to tie property tax hikes closely to that amount rather than the consumer inflation rate.
Property tax increases since Atchison became mayor have averaged 3.7 per cent annually. During the same period, Calgary’s property tax has gone up by an average of 4.2 per cent with the municipal portion jumping an average of 6.5 per cent.
Atchison’s wish already has a fiscally prudent Calgary alderman, Andre Chabot, chuckling.
He notes this spring council chose to boost the education portion of the property tax by a onetime whopping 10.4 per cent to take advantage of the province’s move to cut its portion of the property tax.
By comparison, Saskatoon’s property tax rose by a relatively small four per cent in 2011.
“For the mayor of Saskatoon to make a claim like that, it certainly is a politically astute kind of selling feature for his proposed tax increases,” Chabot said, “because he can always make the argument that it was at least one per cent lower than Calgary’s increase.
So how many miles of roadways does “politically astute” pay for?
Of course there is a reason why Calgary’s mill rate is lower. They collect more business tax.
Jack Vicq, professor emeritus of accounting at the University of Saskatchewan Edwards School of Business, said there are differences between how Saskatoon and Calgary are funded that need to be accounted for. The amount in business tax collected in Calgary keeps its property tax rate lower, he said.
More from Vicq
“Let’s make sure the framework we’re in is the same,” Vicq said. “I would go at it from the perspective of really, what is it we should be doing in the city of Saskatoon and how are we going to do that? And maybe that takes a property tax that is higher than Calgary. You can get into trouble by just looking at Calgary and saying, ‘I want to be there.’
“You might lose sight of what you should be doing as a city or what residents expect as a city.”
As an aside, as the video below shows, I am not sure that our mayor even understands basic tax policy.
Back to what we are talking about.
First of all, the reason we have a lower rate is that we don’t fund the city the same way. We have inferior snow removal and road repair policies to Calgary. We also do things like underfund transit and force them to purchase worn out busses from places like Edmonton. Parts of our bus fleet are so old that people come from all over North America to ride them. The reason we keep using them, they are cheap to run (but you knew that already).
We don’t repair things like light poles is no big shock but now we have the cost of replacing them that is going to be a big shock to the bottom line. Either that or we will just watch them fall over.
If you are ever in budget review meetings, you hear city managers say, “If you cut this amount, I can’t afford to do maintenance on parks” or “We won’t have enough for fuel”. Those things are cut anyway. You know because why do city vehicles need fuel budgeted for properly. In many ways I think you can say that Calgary is getting far more bang for their tax dollars than we do.
Instead of funding the city the way it needs, we have actually developed our own spin that blames “freeze thaw” for bad roads (we don’t have a freeze thaw cycle, it just freezes) or that rain wrecks our roads (because we are too cheap to use rock base and instead only use sand). My favourite is listening to council talk about how brave and hard working our city workers are doing instead of talking about how underfunding is creating this mess. My favourite was when Pat Lorje suggested that city council was under siege last winter because of the lack of snow removal which was something she voted against.
The whole things reminds me of Winston Churchill underfunding the defences of Singapore in 1937 while First Lord of the Admiralty and then calling the British general performance there abysmal when Japan invaded in 1942 and they had no defences to work with.
We have roads that are brutal because the Mayor and council stopped funding the roads years ago. We have light posts that aren’t safe because the city doesn’t have the cash (because of our desire to beat Calgary) and our city is dirty and grimy into July because it is cheaper to clean the streets slowly rather than quickly. We get upset that we don’t have enough swim lessons but underfund leisure services as the city has grown.
Jack Vicq is right. Instead of playing political games, we need a council (who can override the mayor) and fund the city properly. Instead we get a Twitter feed that is constantly tweeting power outages because they take large dividends out of Saskatoon Light & Power, a #BetterRoadsYXE hashtag, new pylons and lots of emails from the city telling me how much they are doing (that’s another topic).
While the 2011 article mentions the mayor, it is also the fault of city council. Darren Hill, Pat Lorje, Charlie Clark & Tiffany Paulsen have all been there at least two terms and are working on their third terms. Mairin Loewen, Ann Iwanchuk, Randy Donauer have all been re-elected once. They are all there when the council pulls a mill rate out of Calgary and agree to it. When you are as integral part of the problem, can you be part of the solution?
Sadly repairing the grid or maintaining the Traffic Bridge doesn’t get people elected. New bridges and low taxes do. This problem isn’t going to go away and if we don’t do something about it in 2016, the mess will be just huge when we do.
Political opponents accuse each other of lying all the time, but one Oklahoma congressional candidate took his accusation to a new level this week when he claimed his opponent was actually dead and being represented by a body double.
KFOR in Oklahoma reports that Timothy Ray Murray believes Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), his opponent in the congressional Republican primary, was executed three years ago and is being represented by a look-alike. Because he believes Lucas is really dead, Murray said he will challenge the results of Tuesday’s Republican primary, in which Murrayreceived 5.2 percent of the vote. Lucas won the primary with 82.8 percent of the vote.
“It is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike. Rep. Lucas’ look alike was depicted as sentenced on a white stage in southern Ukraine on or about Jan. 11, 2011,” Murray said in a statement posted on his campaign website.
“I am contesting that this matter has happen [sic] since his election was blocked, because of the U.S. Defense Department’s use of Mr. Murray’s DNA. To my knowledge, the U.S. Defense Department has not released to the public that information, as it is their confidential information about many people,” the statement said.
Brian Dean, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board, told The Huffington Post that Murray had sent the board a copy of the statement posted on his website but had not formally filed a petition asking for a recount or alleging election irregularities. He has until 5 p.m. Friday to do so.
In the statement, Murray, who did not respond to an interview request, also reassured voters that he is not a body-double.
“I, Timothy Ray Murray, am a human, born in Oklahoma, and obtained and continue to fully meet the requirements to serve as U.S. Representative when honored to so. I will never use a look alike to replace my (The Office’s) message to you or to anyone else, as both the other Republican Challengers have,” he said.
Lucas, who has served in Congress for the last 20 years, told KFOR that he’s never been to Ukraine.
“Many things have been said about me, said to me in the course of all my campaigns. This is the first time I’ve ever been accused of being a body double or a robot,” Lucas said. Lucas also added that Murray ran against him as a Democrat in 2012.
If more “Americans” are watching soccer today, it’s only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.
This is so offensive. The fact that “Americans” is in quotation marks is offensive as if immigrants from around he world are citizens. Plus, my grandfathers were born in Canada (I know, not “America”) and if alive, they’d be watching England stink up the joint like the rest of the nation. They’d also be making Suarez puns like the rest of the world.
So again, Ann Coulter is being offensive while talking about something she knows nothing about.
Ted Cruz, the Republican junior senator from Texas, has heard the line about how the Party needs to become more moderate to win Presidential elections. “It is amazing that the wisdom of the chattering class to the Republicans is always, always, always ‘Surrender your principles and agree with the Democrats,’ ” he told me. “That’s been true for my entire lifetime. The chattering classes have consistently said, ‘You crazy Republicans have to give up on what you believe and become more like Democrats.’ And, I would note, every time Republicans do that we lose.” Cruz then offered a short history of recent Presidential politics. Richard Nixon ran as a conservative, twice a winner; Gerald Ford, moderate, loser; Ronald Reagan, also twice a winner. “President George Herbert Walker Bush ran as a strong conservative, ran to continue the third term of Ronald Reagan, continue the Ronald Reagan revolution,” Cruz went on. “Then he raised taxes and in ’92 ran as an establishment moderate—same candidate, two very different campaigns. First one won, second one lost. In 1996, you got Bob Dole; 2000 and 2004, you have George W. Bush; 2008, John McCain; 2012, Mitt Romney. And what does the entire D.C. Republican consulting class say? ‘In 2016, we need another establishment moderate!’ Hasn’t worked in four decades. ‘But next time will be the time!’ ”
Great speech but factually incorrect. If Reagan was in power now, he would be lambasted by guys like Cruz for being too liberal and a RINO, a Republican in Name Only.
The dynamic reinforces Nate Silver’s observation after the 2012 elections: “if a place has sidewalks, it votes Democratic. Otherwise, it votes Republican.”
Among those who identified as most conservative, 75 percent reported they’d prefer to live in a place where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away.” Only 22 percent said they’re prefer to live in a place where “the houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.”
The situation was reversed for the most liberal class of respondents. Among this group, 77 percent said they preferred a smaller house, closer to neighborhood amenities. Only 22 percent would opt for the larger, more isolated house, Pew found. The proportions were roughly reversed for conservatives.
Americans overall were roughly evenly split, with 49 percent saying they’re prefer the bigger, more remote house, and 48 percent saying they’d prefer the walkable community. Interestingly, both classes of respondents — conservatives and liberals — showed little love for the suburbs. Just 21 percent of liberals and 20 percent of conservatives said they would prefer living in the suburbs.
Among the factors that were important to liberals and conservatives in choosing a place to live, there were some consistencies and some inconsistencies. Both liberals and conservatives rated living near extended family and strong schools highly. But access to museums and theaters was particularly important to consistently liberal respondents: 73 percent said these amenities were important to them, compared to just 23 percent of consistent conservatives. Liberals were also more likely than conservatives to say it was important to live in a community with a mix of people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds.
The province now hires an army of communications consultants and flacks – many of whom were at one time colleagues of mine – to make sure its message stays on track. These ranks far exceed the number of journalists whose job it is to give the public a balanced view of how their institutions work.
Concern about branding has these hired guns twisting themselves in knots to make sure the message the media gets conforms to an artificial identity they have created for these public institutions.
The City of Saskatoon has also fallen into this trap. For many years I reported on civic affairs along with Art Robinson. We would routinely roam the offices at city hall, visiting all from the senior administration to the cubicles of engineers, and these committed public servants would speak openly and freely about what they were doing, including explaining errors and prescribing corrections.
Former city commissioner Marty Irwin recently reminded me that the reason the administration had no concern about our impromptu visits was it had confidence in the quality, intelligence and dedication of civic employees, even if they may have wished at times we didn’t ask the questions.
Today, civic employees are restricted from talking to reporters unless they have undergone media training – that is, lessons in how to spin the message to protect the brand. Reporters are asked not to approach staff directly but to vet their inquiries through the communications office.
This strategy, by the way, is doomed to failure. Rather than protecting the brand, these public institutions are shrouding it in cynicism and suspicion.
In their private question-and-answer session, Obama let his guard down and eventually shared some thoughts that revealed more about his view of American politics than perhaps anything he said publicly during the entire campaign. Election Day was still more than eight months away. But Obama, in a previously unreported riff, signaled surrender on one of the fights that had drawn him to politics in the first place: the effort to limit the flow of big money. It was a remarkable concession, one that would have stunned the campaign volunteers who believed so deeply in his promise to change the way politics works. It wasn’t just that he was admitting that his own election prospects would be disproportionately influenced by super-rich donors like those he was addressing. He had already done that 11 days earlier, when he blessed a so-called super PAC collecting million-dollar checks to boost his reelection. What really distinguished his remarks to Gates and company from his carefully calibrated official position was the admission that the grassroots, people-powered politics he had long glorified might never again trump the swelling political buying power of the very richest donors.
“You now have the potential of 200 people deciding who ends up being elected president every single time,” Obama told the group in response to a question about the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in a case called Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which gutted campaign finance restrictions and marked the beginning of a new big-money era in American politics.
Unless things changed dramatically, Obama predicted, “I may be the last presidential candidate who could win the way I won, which was coming out without a lot of special-interest support, without a handful of big corporate supporters, who was able to mobilize and had the time and the space to mobilize a grassroots effort, and then eventually got a lot of big donors, but started off small and was able to build. I think the capacity for somebody to do that is going to be much harder.” He continued, “In this election, I will be able to, hopefully, match whatever check the Koch brothers want to write,” referring to the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. “But I’m an incumbent president who already had this huge network of support all across the country and millions of donors. I’m not sure that the next candidate after me is going to be able to compete in that same way.”
Obama turned to face Gates, who stood awkwardly, his hands stuffed in his suit pants pockets. “And at that point, you genuinely have a situation where 10 people—hey, you know, Bill could write a check.” And, Obama pointed out, it wasn’t just Gates, whose fortune, then estimated at $61 billion, Democrats had been hoping to tap in a big way. “Actually, there are probably five or six people in this room,” Obama said, gesturing to Ballmer and others, as nervous laughter spread through the crowd. Obama plowed ahead insistently, eyebrows raised, his voice rising with agitation as he stepped toward the donors. “I mean, there are five or six people in this room tonight that could simply make a decision—this will be the next president—and probably at least get a nomination, if ultimately the person didn’t win. And that’s not the way things are supposed to work.”
The leader of the free world—the man who had built so much of his identity around the idea that average people could band together to change the world, the politician who once boldly declared that it was time to take government back from “the cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play”—had become one of the biggest cynics of all. Here he was, freely admitting that American politics had fundamentally changed in a way that made it, at the highest levels, a game for the ultra-rich. And he was right.
Francois Biber joins David Kirton to talk about bike lanes on the Saskatoon Afternoon Show.
Excellent summary of the issues by both of them.
Just previous to this segment, Kirton expressed his frustration with city councillors, the mayor, and city administration being pro-car. Listen below.
Carson gives an entertaining picture of Harper’s first few cabinet shuffles, starting with the story of an attempt to move Jim Flaherty from Finance to Industry, and Flaherty’s dramatic refusal to be budged.
He also relates how Harper decided Rona Ambrose was “spending too much time doing other things than looking at her [Environment] portfolio.
“He [Harper] couldn’t understand the media’s interest in the fitness regime of this cabinet minister, and why she would take time away from work to discuss such ‘trivial matters’ with the media,” Carson writes.
The other problem was Vic Toews in the Justice portfolio, says Carson, adding that Toews scared people when he talked of jailing 12- and 13-year olds.
“The prime minister was quite tired of morning meetings where the main topic was Vic Toews going off message,” he writes.
Another report has come out in support of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), an innovative way to provide public transit at a low cost with dedicated bus lanes, stops, and schedules.
The study (PDF), from pro-transit group Embarq, found that BRT drastically reduced commute times, improved air quality, and cut road fatalities in congested cities like Bogota, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Mexico City. And we already know that BRT is one of the most cost-effective public transit investments a municipality can make.
The catch? In most cities examined in the report, those benefits only extend to low- and middle-class residents. (In Johannesburg, the poorest residents did not use BRT).
“Since the dominant benefit is travel time savings,” the study’s authors wrote, “the majority of benefits tend to accrue to the strata most represented by BRT users — typically lower- and middle-income.”
While it’s great to have a system that improves transportation access for the majority of a city’s population, BRT’s mass appeal could — ironically — be a political concern that prevents its adoption, at least in the U.S. As Alex Pareene wrote in Salon, public transit often suffers because politicians and donors rarely rely on it. The results show in the states, whose existing BRT systems lag behind those in cities around the world.
Even in densely populated and traditionally liberal cities like New York and Minneapolis, politicians neglect transit. And “because they don’t know or interact with or receive checks from people who rely on it every day, there’s almost no hope for cheap, efficient mass transit options anywhere,” Pareene wrote.
Indeed, the Embarq report echoes the public transit wealth gap, and cites that most BRT systems are often paid for by tax revenue collected from those who may never ride it. Bogota’s famed TransMilenio was financed by increased gasoline taxes, and all the systems required both substantial investment and support from municipalities.
But the Embarq report also showed that BRTs benefited cities with environmental and productivity gains more than they strained financial resources. For example, the average commuter in Istanbul now gets to and from work about an hour faster thanks to the Metrobüs, and Mexico City’s BRT system reduced air pollution enough to save 6,000 sick days a year.
As cities continue to grow and congestion increases, the benefits of BRT may become impossible to ignore — even to the rich and powerful folks who are stuck in traffic.
You see the same thing here in Saskatoon. After last night’s City Council meeting, you could almost say the same things about bike lanes.
It always rings false when political candidates promise to create heaps of new jobs. Conservative Tim Hudak claims he would wave his magic wand and create no less than one million, just like that.
When candidates for mayor vow to spin jobs out of straw, the boast sounds especially hollow. Most job creation comes from economic growth, and mayors have very little power over that. Even prime ministers and premiers exaggerate their influence over the business cycle and they have far more than mayors.
That hasn’t stopped this year’s crop of mayoral candidates from posing as magicians of job creation. Start with John Tory, a former Conservative leader and business executive who should know better.
On Wednesday his staff sent a bulletin to the media: “John Tory to unveil plan to create 70,000 jobs.” When the promised unveiling came the next day at an east-end coffee wholesaler, it turned out that he was merely expressing support for a private company’s existing proposal to develop some industrial land near the mouth of the Don River.
First Gulf wants to build a new business hub on the site, an ambition it announced a couple of years ago. Its chief executive says the development could bring “as many as” 70,000 jobs to the city. In other words, up to 70,000 people could work there one day. Making a place for 70,000 people to work is not the same as creating 70,000 jobs.
Though the proposal is promising, there are big hurdles to jump before it can happen. Making the land usable would require rerouting the east end of the Gardiner Expressway and running new roads and transit lines into the area at the cost of many millions. All of this is already being studied at city hall. Mr. Tory’s endorsement of someone else’s proposal that is years from fruition hardly amounts to “a plan to create 70,000 jobs.”
His other job promises are almost as implausible. He wants to start a new medical school at York University, exploiting the coming subway link with Humber River Regional Hospital and creating a “high-tech employment corridor.” Mayors don’t create medical schools. That is a provincial responsibility.
He wants to lean on companies to hire more young people, a plan that, according to his website, would “result in thousands of new youth-employment jobs in his first term.” He would use his personal connections, too, calling business contacts to remind them of their “civic responsibility” to hire the young. Even a man as plugged-in as Mr. Tory is unlikely to create many jobs just by picking up the phone.
How to cities encourage economic growth?
Rather than pressuring or forcing companies to hire, city hall should be creating the conditions that make them want to hire. That means keeping taxes reasonable, cutting red tape, providing good services, building and maintaining infrastructure – all the things that make a city an attractive place to live, work and do business.
Saskatoon has the tax part down, now if we could just cut red tape, provide good services, and maintain our infrastructure, we could become something some day.
His former chief of staff, Tom Flanagan, writes in his new book: “There’s a dark, almost Nixonian, side to the man. He can be suspicious, secretive and vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia.”
The list of officials who have felt the sting of Harper’s white-hot rage is long: Remy Beauregard, Marty Cheliak, Richard Colvin, Sheila Fraser, Linda Keen, Paul Kennedy, Marc Mayrand, Adrian Measner, Kevin Page, Munir Sheikh and Nigel Wright.
Then there are the political opponents. Harper has systematically bombarded Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff and Justin Trudeau with simple-minded attack ads.
Politics is a nasty business, since a key part of convincing people to vote for you is convincing them that your opponents are bad news. But Harper has brought it to a new level, bringing to Canada a style that appears to have been inspired by Lee Atwater’s brutal dismantling of Michael Dukakis for George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election.
Conservatives can take pride in many things Harper has done — steering the country through the recession, cutting taxes, cutting spending with less suffering than the Liberals did in the 1990s — but it was all accompanied by Machiavellian machinations and ugly denunciations of perceived foes.
The prime minister has built a fearsome team, promoting remorseless MPs like Dean Del Mastro, Pierre Poilievre and Paul Calandra, and overlooking gentler characters like Ted Menzies and James Rajotte.
Harper gains advantage from his authoritarian attacks, because everyone in Ottawa is afraid of crossing him, but it has all made our national discourse unnecessarily unpleasant.
You ought to be able to say that you don’t agree with Sheila Fraser’s criticism of the elections act without implying that she is making her comments for money, as Poilievre did.
It feels like all of this nastiness has started to catch up to the prime minister, and he is in trouble in Ontario, the key to the next election. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is attacking him daily on the campaign trail, which can only be because he is less popular than Tim Hudak. Eve Adams didn’t move from Mississauga to Oakville for the scenery.