Overbudget ? What's New ?
They haven't even started boring the Alex Cullen Memorial Tunnel deep into the centretown core and we learn that the LRT project is already $100 million over budget !
That same Councillor Cullen, who apparently won't rest until the taxpayers are bled white by this costly transit project, is the same man who earlier this week castigated the mayor and some of his fellow councillors for setting budget efficiency targets for 2010 which he says are "too ambitious."
These folks, he told The Ottawa SUN, want savings instead of resorting to a tax increase. Shame ! Shame !
The council-directed budget efficiency target for 2010 has city staff looking for about $138 million in savings. Almost $47 million has been found, and it's predicted another $22 million can be achieved in 2009 with another $19.4 million in 2010. That leaves the city some $50 million short of reaching its goal. Four city departments -- as yet unnamed -- are missing their targets and the city has created a group to help managers meet the goal. Given the city's penchant for hiring consultants at the drop of a hat, have consultants been hired to oversee this process ? Inquiring minds want to know.
Citizen Ellie wonders if the city's managers are subject to annual performance reviews and if so, surely meeting (or not meeting, as the case might be) departmental budget efficiency targets would be part of the review. It certainly would be in the private sector where managerial fortunes rise and fall on the manager's ability to either meet or exceed budgetary expectations.
Given this bit of news, and the word that the LRT project looks as if it's going to be waaaaaay over budget, Citizen Ellie can only conclude that this extremely important aspect of a manager's job isn't on the line when performance is being reviewed.
One good bit of news is that those councillors keen on saving tax dollars staged a revolt over giving committee chairs an additional $10,000 to spend on consultants --to help these poor overburdened chairs with their new budget duties -- i.e. membership on the audit, budget and finance committee which is headed by Mayor Larry and is supposed to streamline the budget process which, as everyone knows, is a huge joke, except that the taxpayers aren't laughing. This demand for extra cash closely followed the granting of additional funding so committee chairs could bring in an extra person to work half-time in their offices. The money was offered up by Mayor Larry -- money from his office budget which he didn't spend on mayoral activities while off on leave during that farce of a trial.
It's interesting to note that the councillors who wanted to save taxpayers' money are not committee chairs. It's also interesting to note that the money isn't going to be saved anyway. Mayor Larry apparently is going to take those dollars and -- guess what -- hire a consultant who'll be made available to the committee chairs. Just goes to prove old Polish proverb -- if you want to beat a dog you can always find a stick.
On the LRT issue -- enough's been said and written about what all the fumbles are doing to the city's credibility with its two potential partners --the federal and provincial governments. Those current members of council who are contemplating a run for the mayor's chair are probably going to be left twisting in the wind which is likely to sweep through city hall in November 2010.
One Way To Save Taxpayers' Dollars
Apparently charging taxpayers who want to use meeting rooms at city hall to hold budget consultation forums involving council members is the new way to inch a step closer to finding budget efficiencies -- especially if the group organizing the forum favors frugality when it comes to spending taxpayers' dollars.
The Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group (Ottawa TAG) hosted such a forum at city hall on September 15 and subsequently received a bill in the amount of $142.50 from Councillor Alex Cullen -- presumably Ottawa TAG's share of splitting room rental costs.
Ottawa TAG sees this as a cheap shot and Citizen Ellie joins the group in expressing gratitude to Councillors Bob Monette and Rob Jellett for stepping in and picking up this tab. These Councillors have demonstrated that they believe public engagement in the city's governance is a good thing.
Is Ottawa TAG correct in its view that certain members of city council would prefer to see the organization as a threat which must be silenced because its members hold opposing opinions on how taxpayers' dollars are spent ?
Citizen Ellie wonders if a social agency or one of certain councillors' pet special interest groups would be charged a room rental fee if it wanted to hold a budget consultation forum in a city hall meeting room ? What do you think ?
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