Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Assorted London anaesthetics…

The London Fog reads the London Free Press so you don't have to. Save yourself a dollar…

Provincial initiatives costing Londoners plenty

If you're asking how the provincial government's energy policies make any sense, you're forgetting that you're not paying the Liberals so that you can ask questions, you're paying to… well, pay up! Of course, you're allowed to ask the rhetorical question whether simply writing a blank cheque to the premier would be cheaper in the long run than hiring a brigade of legislators and bureaucrats to decide what to do with the funds in your account. From the London Free Press:

Saving energy with "smart meters" could cost London ratepayers millions of dollars a year because of added expenses for reading water meters, Controller Gord Hume warned yesterday.

[…] The problem is the city relies on London Hydro to read water meters while reading electricity meters. But smart meters are monitored remotely and don't have to be checked by meter readers.

That could force the city to take over reading 93,500 residential water meters at a cost of $6 million — double what the city pays now for meter reading and billing, city officials say.

"Three million dollars is almost one per cent of our tax rate," said Hume. "It is significant dollars."

City council's environment and transportation committee wants Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco to write to Ontario's energy minister about the situation. That recommendation goes to council today.
Things are pretty serious when Anne Marie DeCicco, the doomsday weapon of intergovernmental lobbying, starts writing letters…
London Hydro has estimated the cost of installing smart meters at about $40 million, plus $10 million to upgrade software and computer systems.
Speaking of intergovernmental relations, now that the city has received block funding from the provincial government and gas tax money from the federal government, Anne Marie DeCicco and council, never ones to accept blame when there's another Liberal standing around to take it, have to dig deeper into their trick bag of excuses for fiscal mismanagement. And as much as it pains me to say, this time they're right
London politicians and business leaders want the province to fix an arbitration system they say unfairly costs local taxpayers millions of dollars a year more for police, firefighters and paramedics.

[…] But the city gets little sympathy from arbitration experts and union leaders.
Okay, now that you know who's in support of the current arbitration system…
On Nov. 21, the city and the London Professional Firefighters Association, representing 330 firefighters and 37 fire prevention, communication and support workers, take their contract battle to arbitration. Firefighters are seeking retention or "experiential" pay to maintain wage parity with police, as they have in their last two contracts.

But the city says retention pay is unaffordable and unnecessary, since London has no trouble keeping firefighters.

The issue came to light when the 2006 draft budget was presented last Wednesday. City politicians were told the fire department, with a 2005 budget of $40 million, may need $6.2-million, 15.3 per cent, more next year to cover firefighters' contract demands.

[…] In 2004, an arbitrator awarded local paramedics a 28-per-cent wage hike over three years to match other Ontario paramedics. Rulings on police retention pay soon followed, leaving London little choice but to grant the salary premium first negotiated in Toronto to stem the flow of its officers to smaller forces.
The city argues that its budgetary injuries result from a system that needs to be fixed, a meek understatement. Arbitration, such as it ought to exist when consulted by agreement of both parties, should split the differences between employer and employee — its value, its claim to expertise if you will, is a qualitative evaluation of competing demands when they cannot be measured directly against each other. Introducing binding benchmarks into the arbitration process based on other jurisdictions' or services' contracts is immaterial and arbitrary — these benchmarks create an artificially absolute quantity against which other measurements are ignored, such as other contractual items, quality and quantity of services being performed both across jurisdictions and service types, and demand for wages in different jurisdictions. If the city is having no trouble retaining firefighters, they have obviously no need to sweeten the pot for those employees. Of course, the introduction of arbitrary variables posing as absolutes is inevitable — and indeed complementary to the process of political variables being turned into legal absolutes — when cities are bound to offer services that others are legally prevented from offering and when municipal employees are bound to perform those services by essential services legislation.

But local initiatives don't help either…

From the London Free Press:
Overtaxed Londoners can't afford to continue a gravy train that next year would give $3.6 million to local hospitals, Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario, Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen said yesterday.

[…] Next year's draft budget calls for grants of $500,000 to Fanshawe, $1 million to UWO and $2.14 million to London hospitals. Together, they add up to nearly a one-per-cent tax hike — one-fifth the total proposed in a draft budget.

"We have to reduce grants to special interest groups and focus on core priorities like roads, sewers and the servicing of industrial land," Van Meerbergen said. Council must reduce the size and scope of government if it is to deliver to Londoners what Van Meerbergen says they deserve — a tax cut.
A tax cut in London? I expect to perish first. UWO, Fanshawe College and London hospitals are largely denied by law the ability to raise revenue by charging prices relative to costs — this is unfortunate because much of their success and new furniture must then depend on their ability to obtain welfare. These institutions are all of course permitted to raise funds from voluntary contributions and do so, and Londoners are permitted to contribute voluntarily to those institutions that they themselves value. Of course, Van Meerbergen faces "substantial opposition" to his proposal, including from Anne Marie DeCicco who has no trouble assigning the interests of 340,000 distinct Londoners as an integral "community" based on the 49,000 votes for mayor she received in the last election — a 7:1 ratio of egomania to reason apparently compensating for a 1:7 ratio of votes to constituents.
"I couldn't fundamentally disagree more," she said.

The hospitals and schools provide employment and make the city desirable, creating economic benefits for the community, she said.

"While it may not be our core business as a council, it is a core business for our community," DeCicco said.

[…] The city grants were part of a multi-year commitment that has already paid $12.8 million to the hospitals, $5 million to UWO and $2.5 million to Fanshawe. […] Next year would be the last year of grants to the hospitals. Fanshawe is to receive $500,000 a year through 2010, while Western is to get $1 million a year through 2011 and $500,000 in 2012.
Sad eyes, turn the other way
I don't wanna see you cry

Some Londoners, having benefited from previous development to own their own homes, have decided that the dividends of their participation in free market residential development should now be a limited statutory franchise. From the London Free Press:
A neighbourhood group fighting a condominium development […] says the city's planning committee unfairly approved the Sifton Properties project while their president was out of the country.

[…] Planning committee last week recommended — by a 3-2 vote — that Sifton Properties be allowed to go ahead with a 59-house development. The condo project would be built on the northeast corner of Wonderland Road North and Gainsborough Road and secure the future of Woodholme Castle.

[…] Plaxton said [Lawson Estates Ratepayers Association] president Danny Young spoke to a city planner before his vacation and was told it was "very unlikely'' the condominium issue would come up while he was away. Young returned yesterday from three weeks in Portugal.

[…] Coun. Cheryl Miller, who chairs the planning committee, said she won't support another public meeting. "We've already had two," Miller said.
Surprisingly, the Lawson Estates Ratepayers Association does not actually own the property in question — only their feelings of entitlement to someone else's. Economic well-being for future generations still awaits the passing of the baby boomers…