If there were a three-star selection for the 2014 budget process, I’m fairly certain Councillor Anna Ashley would fill all three spots.
Facing a $1.5 million budget shortfall and staff recommending a 10.2 per cent tax increase (before a change of heart that came so suddenly it wasn’t even reflected in the report of chief financial officer Corinne Bomben that was included in the public agenda) Ashley, if you pardon the pun, did her homework and came prepared to the March 24 meeting of council. She had crunched the numbers and come up with tangible solutions to alleviate an ever-growing tax burden on the residents and businesses of the community.
Some of the solutions didn’t seem to be too popular around the council chambers, like raising the airport ferry fee by $15 to offset the estimated $900,000 taxpayer subsidy for 2014, while others seemed to garner support, like cracking the whip on CityWest as the company’s only shareholder to get a dividend closer to the $1 million promised.
Other suggestions were small but meaningful, such as skipping the trip to Ketchikan this year. It may only save $5,000, but it shows elected officials are willing to forgo some of their past expenditures in the name of balancing the books.
Whether you agree with any of these ideas or not, at least Ashley is bringing ideas to the table and seeking solutions independently of city staff. Even if those suggestions die on the table at City Hall, at least Ashley took the time to look at what could be done in the face of serious financial challenges and brought those ideas to a public, open door meeting to spur on discussion in chambers and the community.
This is the kind of thing people should expect from elected officials — independently seeking resolution to municipal problems that may not be the ideas put forward staff.
So while other councillors sat around the table playing catch up and waiting to hear what staff had to say, Anna Ashley is to be commended for showing initiative. Hopefully some of that rubs off on others at City Hall.