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Dear Mayor

Aug 11, 2008

Centre for Municipal Studies

Dear Mayor,

Let me first congratulate everyone involved in the snow removal process of the city, as I felt that given the near record snow accumulation, our streets were relatively clear and drivable most of the time. So again, congratulations to all.

I am a little less pleased with the situation regarding potholes earlier this spring. On that one, the city failed to meet what I would consider respectable standards. But I must say that in this case, the city eventually got a grip on things.

But now I am worried. Rumor has it that our bridges are not in the best of shape. Moreover, our sewer system is getting old and the population is getting worried that the quality of our water is getting poorer and poorer. These are serious threats to our safety and quality of life.

Then we hear that globalization is not a vague concept anymore but a reality. This implies that our city will have to establish sound economic development policies in order to ensure its long term prosperity.

We also need our city to show leadership with respect to cultural activity. Our museums require significant investment to make them more attractive to tourists, while our libraries certainly cannot be considered to be as great as they were a decade or two ago.

On top of that, homes in the city are becoming more and more expensive. Sure, this is great news for the wealth of current home owners, but it makes it difficult for our younger generation to get started in life. Seeing as younger families are struggling to find a place to live, I think our city should definitely make accessible housing a priority.

I recognize that the elements brought forward above are important challenges. But the time has come for a long term plan. Our city will thrive as long as it establishes a strategy that will ensure sound economic growth, significant investment in both infrastructure and cultural establishments and the provision of social housing. The city also has to keep in mind that these policies have to be established in a sustainable framework, where our city will grow while at the same time ensuring a cleaner environment for future generations.

One last thing, if I may. Property taxes have been on the rise over the past few years and my friends and I agree that this must stop. We then strongly encourage you to reconsider your plan to increase property taxes again over the next fiscal year. For years, property taxes have been frozen and our city was in better shape than it is today. I think this says a lot about the overall failure of the current management.

But it is not too late, if you freeze property taxes and put in place a long term plan as briefly described above, you will get a chance of being re-elected.

Good Luck,

Joe Citizen

Letters like this is the reason why I will never run for municipal office. Not that I think I have what it takes to be a mayor and I respect all of those who get involved in municipal politics. But I have spent the past five years working closely with mayors and city officials across the country and the kind of requests expressed above are those our elected officials have to deal with all the time.

Well, dear Joe Citizen, what you are asking for is simply impossible to achieve. Numerous Conference Board studies have documented the fiscal imbalance that our cities are currently facing. Each of these studies concluded that under current conditions, cities are unable to provide the services for which they are responsible while at the same time securing a level of infrastructure sufficient to meet current demands and accommodate future growth.

It’s time for a reality check. If Canadian cities are to play a leading role in the national prosperity agenda, as Joe Citizen wishes his own city will, they need the fiscal capacity to provide the services, programs and infrastructure that will allow them to prosper over the long term. A vision is great. But a vision is nothing without the funds to implement it.

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