After a few months on summer break, City Council committees start meeting again this week. Including my favourite one, Budget Committee! Here’s a quick read-through of the agenda, adapted from Twitter. Mostly because my soul recoils at the thought of using pictures of text instead of actual text.
As City staff gear up for the 2017 budget process, the mayor has declared that an above-inflation property tax revenue increase is off the table. Council has also successfully pushed off introducing any new revenue tools until next year. What does that mean for the budget? We read the City Manager’s latest report so you don’t have to.
For years, the City of Toronto has been deliberately taking in less revenue while expanding infrastructure and services. Forget the “efficiency” bullshit—this has largely been made possible through unsustainable and unreliable funding sources. In this new report, top City bureaucrats warn City Council that they can’t postpone tough decisions any more.
Here’s the full report. It’s like 40 pages. Are you gonna read it? Hell, no! So here’s the gist.
Much is at stake for the future of accountability at the City of Toronto. A modern government cannot expect to retain the confidence of the people unless it is willing to hold itself accountable by submitting itself to the kind of scrutiny an independent ombudsman provides. While Council recognizes this in principle, insufficient finances increasingly contradict that support.
The residents of Toronto count on their municipal government to properly fund the office in order to meet our mandate effectively. That assumption remains unfulfilled, even though the money required is an investment in a strong system of accountability that produces savings and good governance.
I reluctantly have to warn Council and the public, again, that our ability to meet our statutory mandate defined by provincial legislation is undermined by a lack of funding. Toronto cannot have a legislated ombudsman who is “independent” and then have the office’s work indirectly controlled through budget allocation.
It could be said that the office is a victim of its own success. But that loses sight of who is important. The real victims of this funding shortfall are the residents who will not be able to get swift action on their complaints, those who continue to face unfair and unequal provision of city services.
—Ombudsman Fiona Crean in her 2014 annual report
Wall-to-wall committee meetings this week! Following committee meetings is a great way to “preview” items before they go to City Council — and, if you want, voice your opinions. Also, petty drama is 100% guaranteed. Continue reading The Cheat Sheet: Committee Meetings, Feb. 23-27