How can the mayors unite and say they are against property taxes being increased to fund the cost of the Moving Forward plan when they have already agreed to it?
The mayors' council has continually refused to approve further property tax increases to fund TransLink, but their indecisiveness of alternative funding could result in just that.
The mayors' council and the province have agreed on a funding formula for the plan that includes a two-cent-per-litre increase in motor fuel taxes in April 2012, plus, by 2013, either a property tax increase averaging about $23 per year for the average Metro Vancouver residential property, or a new long-term source of funding.
Accepting a plan that leaves a big controversial funding source to be determined with a property tax hike as the fallback mechanism is ridiculous. Property taxes do not relate to transportation. I only wish the mayors' council asked the taxpayers before making such a major decision on taxation behind closed doors. With the mayors' council supporting a two-cent-per-litre gas tax, are they representing the wishes of the citizens?
I firmly believe there has been a lack of genuine public meetings with all three levels of elected representatives to engage the citizens to seek their opinion about the proposed funding sources and expansion of transit. The TransLink consultation meeting held in Coquitlam on Sept. 15 was simply a dog and pony show allowing TransLink to say they engaged with the public.
There is no clear vision of what the long-term expansion plans will be beyond 10 years, what the costs associated will, and how the taxpayer will pay for it. A lot more homework on how those pieces fit together still needs to be done before the mayors' council votes in October to adopt a "sustainable funding" formula that is full of holes. Maybe this vote should be delayed until this issue can be further debated during the municipal elections, and for the people to elect those they feel will represent them.
The mayors' council refuses to accept that there could be possible savings found by eliminating any unnecessary spending of tax dollars in regional local government budgets. None? Could a three-percent savings in wasteful spending from the $1.3 billion TransLink budget and the $800 million Metro Vancouver budget be found to provide the $70 million needed to fund transit operations?
Our mayors' council needs to lobby for the senior governments to supply the municipalities with greater revenue streams, instead of downloading costs. When it comes to regional transportation and public transit, it would only make sense to use a significant portion of the carbon tax and federal taxes on gasoline to do something truly environmentally friendly, by funding transit improvements and the operation of those same transportation services. The provincial government is taking $140 million a year from ICBC. Should not some of that money be used to fund transit operations?
The municipalities and local mayors now have close to zero influence over projects or expenses. TransLink has morphed into an unelected form of government that is only beholden to the provincial government, but certainly not to the citizens and taxpayers of our region. TransLink does not care if it is outspending the taxpayers' ability to pay as long as the mayors' council simply raises taxes.
PoCo council proposed the expansion of the Evergreen Line to downtown PoCo as part of Phase 1, and TransLink said No. Port Moody council fought for the Murray Connector, and TransLink said No. TransLink clearly does not represent the best interests of the citizens of the Tri-Cities area. Strong leadership is needed from our local councils to ensure that the mayors' council will be given direction to slay the dragon that is
We are experiencing an example of the tail wagging the dog, in which an unelected agency defines what we will receive in services, sets its own price and threatens dire consequences if we do not pay up and shut up. The structure and governance of our regional transportation authority needs to revert to something more akin to the original format wherein local communities and mayors have actual input regarding projects, revenues and expenses. With the scarce dollars TransLink has, there is no luxury of just making political decisions any more, as was done with the Evergreen Line by choosing SkyTrain instead of the initial recommendation of LRT. Does it not make more sense to scale the cost of the Evergreen Line down by using LRT (as originally planned by TransLink), thus making it affordable to extend the line to the downtown core of Port Coquitlam as the last station of the Evergreen Line tying in with the existing hub of buses and train?
On Nov. 19, municipal voters need to elect people with a vision for their community, an understanding of regional issues, a strong sense of leadership and, most importantly, those who recognize there is a shrinking pool of disposable money from the already struggling taxpayer, and that existing taxes are spent efficiently.