Response to $52 million dilemma
The one thing I’ve learned over the past three years is that I can’t please everyone. I can only try to bridge the gap. The question of the $52 million is not about ideology, nor is it about left or right politics. It’s about doing what’s best for The City of Calgary and each of our Wards. As you will recall, the tax room vacated in 2013 was quickly scooped up by City Council. I’ve always had the stance that the process to auto absorb the vacated tax room was flawed. In both 2012 and 2013 I voted against taking the tax room.
I argued that Council should debate about whether to absorb or to return the money to tax payers. In order to do this we need to identify a area of desperate need. After which, we dedicate the funds to the area of desperate need and not to general revenue. A vote then should take place to determine if the City will take or not take the tax room.
What greater need do we have if not transit? I have always said—in the media and on my website (see links below)—that if I could guarantee that all of the $52 million for each year for the next ten years could be used on the Southeast Transitway (SETWAY), I would support this cause wholeheartedly. My policy to reverse Council’s ability to automatically take the extra property tax dollars provided Council with a legitimate process to debate and identify transit as a desperate need
During the election, I went door-to-door and listened to Ward 12 residents. Overwhelmingly, residents identified transit/transportation as the most important issue going forward. Almost 87 per cent said they would prefer to see the $52 million go toward transit. This presents us with a unique opportunity. We are unsure if the Province and federal government will have enough grant money to help kick-start SETWAY for years. Given that, and given the need for accessible transit in the southeast and north-central, it makes sense to debate the questions: do we fight to give it to transit, or do we fight to give it back? What’s best for Calgary going forward?
*As mentioned above, here is a list of blog posts in which I discuss the $52 million. As well as several articles that refer to my stance on the issue. I
- http://www.calgarysun.com/2013/10/23/most-of-new-city-council-favours-giving-back-52-million-tax-break-for-2014 In this Rick Bell article I am quoted as saying “if he could get $52 million for 10 straight years going to the Southeast LRT he would be jumping for joy” and it also says “Keating is also strongly opposed to the city automatically taking any tax breaks.” Finally, “the process is flawed”, and for this reason I want to ‘give it back’.