This city council has two big problems.
After years of neglect, infrastructure is crumbling and in desperate need of an overhaul. And they know it, but don’t have the money to fix it.
Secondly, saying what they mean.
Even with far too many derelict buildings and potholes, Prince Rupert’s real crisis is what you can’t see.
Mayor Lee Brain keeps telling us — echoing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — that what needs to be fixed is not “sexy development” and most people wouldn’t even notice what is being done. And one of the most pressing is dealing with the 110-year-old water facility.
Using the word crisis is not an overstatement or exaggeration. A lack of potable water for a city this size is not an option.
However, at the public budget meeting barely 30 residents showed up out of interest or concern over what the city is going to do with their money.
For those who did show up, they found themselves in an awkward Orwellian-like setting, with the councillors and mayor propped high on stage, overlooking the audience with the budget handout at the end of the stage. Behind the city politicians was a giant screen that displayed a question the residents were supposed to answer by using their smart phones.
Both questions were loaded and were looking for the same answer.
“Do you agree with the city’s recommendation in the 2016 budget to set aside funds into asset renewal reserves?”
It’s classic double speak. If people answer no, they are saying they don’t think the city should do anything about the crumbling infrastructure. If people say yes, they are agreeing to more taxes. But the wording is deceptive and confusing.
Why not ask: “Should the city raise taxes to fix the infrastructure problems?”
Instead of trying to disguise the word taxes with the obfuscating catchphrase “asset renewal reserves” or gobbledygook questions, treat taxpayers with respect and say what you mean.
If this is the way the city addresses the issue, it’s going to see more glazed eyes and less engagement.
Nobody likes to pay “asset renewal” fees.
But moreover, nobody likes being manipulated.
The City of Prince Rupert needs to speak plainly and clearly to taxpayers.
It may not be sexy, but it certainly is what taxpayers deserve if we are going to solve this crisis.