Changing the Channel on Municipal Politics

[What is the motivation behind issue avoidance?]

Friday April 25, 2014

To those who have been regularly reading my analysis of local politics and frequently speak with me, thank you.  You are (hopefully) obtaining enough by way of these articles to begin demanding answers from candidates. 

We have looked at a wide spectrum of municipal issues over the past few weeks. Most recently, we looked health care infrastructure in Brampton.  The comments I received back were gratifying.  Upon reading a piece of Brampton’s most recently (under construction) planned health care facility; you were made aware the political trick of simply misidentifying something and we discussed the fact that deception was being used to hide the fact that Brampton is not getting a hospital despite glaring needs. 

We looked at public transit which is another hot button subject and saw the effect of “easy money” on planning. A simple announcement from the Provincial and Federal governments to commit money for public transit created a frenzy of slam-dunk bad planning that focused on which municipality could toss a plan together quickest.  The concept of “value for money” and needs analysis was either blithely ignored or completely avoided.  And, we talked about east/west City of Brampton gridlock and why it is that billions of tax dollars were destined, instead to deal with north/south traffic.  It does boggle the mind and (hopefully) the discussion here will lead you to be demanding cogent explanations from want-to-be candidates in the upcoming October election.

To my thinking, if any candidate only comes to me with a “platform” of finger pointing at perceived expense account excesses concerning the incumbents, I tend to take the position that it is better to stick with “the devil we know” than to take a leap of faith and trust someone who is quick with accusations and short on understanding of issues. So you are made aware, about 1 cent of each property tax dollar flows into expenses for the mayor and council members.  There are much larger tax areas that deserve your attention.  While council expenses are about 1 cent per tax dollar, garbage management amounts to 11 cents per property tax dollar.  If your annual property tax bill is $4,000, the council expense part is about $40 per year.  On the other hand, you are being charged ~ $440 per year for garbage that is being picked up at the curb in front of your home.  (Thus ten times as much!)  Makes you wonder why the Toronto Star (regularly writing about the $40 costs chooses to ignore the $440 garbage bill.

Today, let’s take another look at.  Several members of the Brampton city council also serve on the Region of Peel council.  The regional council sets the budget for waste management and enacts resolutions for contracts in excess of $12 BILLION annually to outside corporation that are paid to collect, process and dispose of that one-bag limit that you are “allowed” put out at the curb each week.

Drive around town and you may notice portable signs at many recreation centers that are announcing that (surprise!) your garbage will be picked up every TWO weeks instead of once per week.  I spend considerable time looking through the Region Peel Council meetings and NEVER once saw any one of your elected Brampton representatives on your Regional Council declare that he/she had a conflict of interest on the “garbage file”.  No one has “yet” explained that the John Sanderson who is listed as a contact person on the Miller Waste Management‘s company advertisement prominently on display at Brampton’s PowerAde Centre is a different person than the John Sanderson who chaired the waste management sub-committee at regional council.  It would also be nice to learn that the person named on the sign is not the same individual who presently seeks the office of mayor and is never once mentioned in the Toronto Star’s scandal exposés about the 1 cent council spending controversy.

Now, I am just a pretty pragmatic guy.  I happen to be a senior who manages to survive on a fixed income.  I am certainly not seeking public office and despite accusations, do not work for any one of the candidates who are seeking election in October.

I certainly do have conversations with my peers in the community and can safely say that the biweekly garbage collection is extremely unpopular-especially with seniors. The notion of storing two weeks of household waste in costly oversized containers and then struggling to roll the contraption out to the curb is not a happy thought no matter how it is presented.  In the case of this scheme, it was simply NOT sold to the public. Rather, it was inflicted and went unnoticed while the Toronto Star (and its little sister, the Guardian) drew your attention away from this and dwelled incessantly on the 1 CENT alleged scandal.  I think they have some “splaining” to do on this file (in the words of Desi Arnez).

Not only is the fact that these cumbersome wheeled contraptions an unreasonable demand on seniors and those with disabilities, the contraptions are expensive.  Be assured, you will being paying one way or another for this procurement.

The total amount (weight) of garbage moving from the curb for processing every two weeks is pretty easy to figure out. (Tada: one plus one equals two!)  Garbage carted away every two weeks will be the accumulated bulk of the garbage stored on your property during the two week period.  What part of grade two arithmetic has escaped these rocket scientists?  Moreover, where is there any evidence of dialogue or public consultation?

We live in a city that happens to enjoy a large amount of parkland and green space. Inherent in those large swaths of park land is wild life that can become quite dangerous.  In no particular order, we live next door to large numbers of foragers such as raccoons, rats, skunks, foxes, coyotes and squirrels.  Anyone who has camped or maintained a cottage needs little warning of neither how pervasive a hungry raccoon can be nor how adept the critter is at knowing, clawing and tipping containers in pursuit of lunch.

But, let’s do the simple arithmetic of this bizarre bit of municipal decision making. Given that (on average) the homeowner is paying $440 per year to have his/her garbage picked up hauled away, sorted and disposed of once per week. Given that the amount of garbage at the curb side every two weeks is the sum-total of what is presently being taken away in each of the two individual weeks, there would not appear to be much savings to the Region to switch to bi-weekly garbage collection.  The only significant portion of the garbage collection process would necessarily be that the trucks and crews would be used half as much.

It seems to many of us that if there are legitimate savings to be had by this scheme, we should be entitled to a nice tax reduction (ergo: $440/year divided by 2 = $220).  My Region of Peel assessment showed an increase of $27/per household instead of a reduction of $220.  I really does raise questions, doesn’t it? Are there some “conflicts” in those waste collection contracts that resulted in uncontrolled garbage collection costs?  It may also explain why we seem to be inundated with scandal stories and so little focus on real issues.

I honestly suspect that among the numerous aspirants to elected office, there are too many who seem to think that wagging a finger in accusation is a sure ticket into a comfy elected position….. Shake your head. When anyone dares to change the focus to real issues, this destruction gang attacks the messenger.  Must be hiding something! 


4 thoughts on “Changing the Channel on Municipal Politics”

  1. My understanding with this move to 2-week collection is to put the savings toward the construction of a new waste to energy plant. But in my view, if the region is serious about managing an increasing amount of waste, they should be focusing on reducing the amount of waste that gets produced in the first place.

    1. That argument loses traction considering the facts. IF there was a genuine interest in saving money, the Regional council would not have cancelled the existing contract with Algonquin and thereby walked away form the millions pumped into that venture by the Region. The cancellation raises bigger questions about conflicts of intrest.

      1. There’s an ongoing strike at Brampton’s existing EFW facility:

        “The strike enters week three on Thursday and is largely over proposed clawbacks to employee pensions and benefits…given the competitive waste market, the company says some hard decisions are necessary in order to remain viable.”

        This is the market that Peel Region wants to get back into with their new facility, in the name of creating jobs and saving money? The existing market-controlled facility is struggling. What makes the Region think they will do any better and save money on waste management for it’s residents?

        If there isn’t enough waste to go around to make these facilities viable, this is probably a good thing. And it reinforces the idea that the Region should be focusing on reducing the amount of waste that gets produced in the first place.

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