Maxed out 

Choices in hard times

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Would you prefer to see your property taxes go up... or would you rather see me cut this dog's throat?

Zippy the Dog's hopin' that's a rhetorical question in such a dog-lovin' town. Me too.

Sadly, it's about as rhetorical - and pointless - as most of the questions asked in the recent Mustel Group telephone survey designed to rally statistical support for Fortress Muni's foregone conclusion to bolster the revenue side of sources and uses.

"Would you rather pay more property taxes or would you rather see Meadow Park Wreck Centre closed down, the grass uncut, potholes the size of Manitoba on the roads, crack dealers in your neighbourhood, rapists violating your loved ones, elimination of arts funding and, oh yeah, your dog's throat cut?"

"Sorry, what were those choices again?"

Of course I had to lie to the person reading the text on the other end of the phone to hear the questions since I work in media and would, therefore, be disqualified from taking part in the survey and would, instead, most likely be redirected to the office of Miss Communication. It didn't take two graduate seminars in quantitative methodology to understand the gist of the answers the questions were designed to elicit. Still, I don't feel I entirely wasted my education dollars taking them. I most definitely wasted my time answering the questions though.

Despite the skewed questions - and the mother of all questions left unasked - barely half the permanent residents of Tiny Town supported higher property taxes. And what was that unasked question? Good question. It was would you rather pay higher property taxes or would you like to see municipal salaries and wages frozen and/or rolled back? Support for that question would have made the philistine's unwillingness to support the arts pale by comparison.

Before my home is stormed by torch-carrying muni workers I implore you, read on. I'm fer ya.

A variant of that question was raised last Thursday evening when the most recent in the series of budgetary placating sessions was held at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre. "Why don't you freeze muni wages, you chowderhead?" is, I believe, close enough to the exact phrasing that was used for purposes of this page.

Without boring you with details or trying to explain the inexplicable - like why any time was spent trying to "benchmark" Whistler to Vail, Aspen and that pathetic excuse for both a ski hill and a town, Breckenridge - I'll share the three most important things that came out of the two hour session.

First, your property taxes are going up. This year, next year, the year after that.... oh yeah, so are non-tax taxes. Pay to play, water, and just about anything else that might transfer dollars from your pocket to muni hall. Since senior levels of government can download costs to municipalities and there are no junior levels of government to which the muni can reciprocate, the end of the download line is, well, us. If you smile with your mouth open it's easier to pay through the teeth.

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