They might be grumpy, but the members of a local ‘citizen’s advocacy group’ remain motivated.
The Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria held its annual general meeting at the downtown public library Wednesday night, reviewing the frustrations, challenges and accomplishments of the region’s municipal governments over the past year.
Chair Stan Bartlett says the non-profit has the same goals it always has: more accountability and transparency from local governments.
“We find that virtually all issues come back to what we think is a broken and dysfunctional government system,” Bartlett says. “By that I mean the 17 jurisdictions, 13 municipalities, three electoral districts and the Capital Regional District (CRD).”
Bartlett says the Grumpy Taxpayer$ have always taken the position that amalgamation should be studied closely and any changes made using evidence-based decisions.
“It’s hard to find efficiency with five police departments, parks departments…” Bartlett says. “Certainly, councils are very reluctant to change the status quo. We have 94 politicians in the region, getting wages and prestige, why would they rock the boat?” Bartlett also has concerns about rising property taxes and police spending.
In the last year though, the ‘grumpy’ group has praised what it believes to be some some positive steps in the right direction. Those steps include the CRD’s new regular highlights report, which gives the public accessible entry points to background information on the latest decisions and changes in the region. Bartlett also praises the City of Victoria’s public dashboard, a program started in July that offers easy public access to council voting records.
Heading into 2020, the biggest priorities include: Scrutinizing major budgets, improving transparency and reviewing infrastructure upgrades and spending.
Bartlett calls the group “exceedingly optimistic” for tackling the issues at all.
“Local governance is improving, but it’s at a slow pace,” he says. “The roads, the sewers, all that boring stuff is really, really important. It’s very complicated, its very fragmented and because its an older area things fall apart. The infrastructure needs here are great, we can’t just close our eyes and not fix the road.”
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