Dispatch From The Southwest
(COTTONWOOD, AZ.) Citizen Ellie has been reading the Arizona Republic of late and it's surprising how many similarities can be found between what's going on here in Arizona and what's going on back in Ontario.
Arizona is in deep financial doo-doo. So much so that state parks are being threatened with closure as a budget-balancing measure. Given Dalton "The Deceiver" McGuinty's provincial deficit, can our provincial parks be far behind ?
In Phoenix, the police force expects pink slips to be handed out next week. Currently some 300 police officer positions (vacant due to attrition) remain unfilled and with the pink slips, a total of just over 400 officer positions will be eliminated.
The chickens have come home to roost here and surprise, surprise -- the League of Arizona Cities and Towns (which met yesterday to discuss how local governments are managing unprecedented budget shortfalls) is calling on state government to live within its means during these tough economic times.
Apparently during the past year, cities and towns in Arizona have cut staff, scaled back services and learned to be more efficient to navigate a drop in revenues due to the recession.
According to Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, city governments "got fat, dumb and sloppy" when times were flush, creating inflated staff levels. Doesn't this sound familiar ! Look at what's happened in Ottawa since amalgamation. Dowries (surpluses) from the smaller municipalities forced by the province into the shotgun marriage with Ottawa have been squandered, staff and salaries have increased and taxpayers, especially those in the rural parts of the city, are royally pissed off ! Taxpayers in the urban areas (where market value assessment hits hardest) are angry too.
Scottsdale's Mayor Lane says the downturn has allowed his city to "go back to where there is a SUSTAINABLE level of government which will carry forward savings for years to come."
In Phoenix, they're talking about recalibrating the city's economy -- moving away from being a second option for Californians and speculative real-estate investment, focusing instead on economic diversity and creating good jobs.
In Citizen Ellie's view, Ottawa needs to get beyond dependency on the federal government (which will shrink over the next few years as the feds cut programs and services in order to eliminate the deficit), construction and the tourism industry for job creation. Ottawa should become more like Houston, Tex., which has moved its focus beyond its core energy sector to fields such as international trade and medical services. Inertia -- the tendency to wait for things to come back the way they were -- doesn't cut it any more.
Ottawa's city council is currently in the midst of budget deliberations. Any tax increase beyond the rate of inflation is not acceptable to the majority of ratepayers, and in this election year, councillors would do well to remember that. "SUSTAINABILITY" should become the new mantra especially when there is evidence that times are not so flush in Ottawa after all !
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