It’s budget time in Morinville and rather than decide how our money is going to be spent, our elected officials are leaving those decision up to us. They’re going to hold a couple open houses this week, bus in seniors and hire babysitters so mom and dad can come to see our politicians and tax dollars in action. Smith Music students and the MCHS band are being brought in to lead us all in the fiscally-responsible and communal singing of Kumbaya. OK, that last part isn’t true, but it ought to be because it is going to be one hell of a democracy-in-action party.
They’ve got a laundry list of ways to spend our money that range from $5,000 to fund some art council for the Community Cultural Centre to $125,000 for something called a technology plan development and implementation. We can only guess what the first one is, but have no idea what the second is all about. Could be iTunes accounts for all town employees or finally figuring out how to make councillor e-mails accessible from the Town’s web site.
See in years gone by, council spent numerous hours in council chambers debating the budget program by program, project by project. For the media it meant hours sitting and looking at mayor and council. For the public it meant they just had to pick up one of the local news publications to find out the pluses and minuses so they could complain about it in the coffee shops of Morinville.
This year council passed first reading of the budget with no public discussion at all and then threw the media a 10-page document after they had voted and moved on with the next item on the agenda.
This unprecedented and obscene short cut in the process did two things: it left the media with a lot more free time to cover other stories, and it left all of us who care about how tax money is spent in this community with no choice but to get off our collective couches and complacencies in order to head out this week and find out where our hard-earned bucks are going…or look at the budget online and submit comments.
Good for Council. Good for Administration. Good for them both for sticking to the script of the Municipal Sustainability Plan and ramping up community participation. And good for them for throwing all of us a bit of a curve ball on what is traditionally a pretty mundane financial process that often results in apathy during the process and plenty of whining after the fact.
We’ll be attending both open house nights – the first to cover the process as media; the second to ask some questions as tax payers.
We’ll be asking why we need to spend $300,000 to bury some power lines on poles in one neighbourhood while another neighbourhood on the outskirts of the Town proper have no sidewalks. We’ll be asking why the Town of Morinville is in the concert promoting business and how much money has been lost on the Centennial Concert Series to date. We’ll be asking why $50,000 is deemed sufficient for a Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Review and Plan when we can dole out $71,000 for one of those big outdoor TV screen signs they’re looking to buy. We’ll ask why the aerators were not installed in two ponds as agreed on last year or why we still have no economic development officer a year after it was approved.
There will be other questions that will either sway our or the Town’s view about the validity of proposed projects and spending.
What will your questions be? Will you come out and participate in the process in order to shape the budget or will you simply wait until the budget is decided for you so you can complain about it as you dunk your donut in your large double double?
Morinvillians don’t need to pitch tents in St. Jean Baptiste Park and form an Occupy Morinville movement, but they do need to get off their apathetic backsides and Re-Occupy Morinville. There was a time when the community was smaller and the resident and rate payer ruled the roost. This year we’ve been given a chance to sit on the roof and crow once again. It would be a pity if we stayed in the coop and merely clucked and complained like the majority of us so often do.