Community "Safety Tax
|Full Name||Dan Dickmeyer|
The following was published by the Driftwood as an In Depth Op Ed focusing on the passage of a safety tax for Islanders( Bylaw 4325). If you agree with my views and want to stop this tax use the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) by going to the CRD office on McPhillips and ask for an elector response form, complete it and drop it in the box there. 900 or more people must do this before December 9 at 4 p.m.
I am happy to see that the Driftwood editorial is in favor of not allowing the Community “Safety” Service (Bylaw 4325) to advance into law. It is one of the worst proposed laws offered to the electorate that I have seen in 50 years of voting in two countries. Its origin, its need, its methods of carrying out its mandates and its lack of methods for accountability have created confusion and the usual divisiveness that can occur on this island. Let me explain:
The word “safety” is used ten times in the short bylaw. Yet never is a formal legal definition or a colloquial definition given in regards to this bylaw. That precipitated my question at a public session at the Library: “What was the tipping point that led to this bylaw?” I got the feeling from the discussion and the head table that it was last summer’s vandalism, a property crime by a known resident and not an assault. Is that reason enough to proceed with a tax that has no sunset clause (ending date) and will be administered by a group of concerned citizens (known as stakeholders) from special interest groups and not a formal Commission like the Transit Commission? (I detest the word stakeholder by the way). I am a stakeholder in my “safety” and I was not notified how to become a “stakeholder” or attend a stakeholder meeting.
Gary Holman has been the chief, if only, spokesperson for the passage of this bylaw. Fair enough. He drafted it and brought it to light and he is our elected CRD director. Several meetings were held with representatives (stakeholders) of other business and community service groups concerned about safety issues in Ganges over the summer. But we have not been privy to what was discussed or how the bylaw was found to be the best way to create a better, safer place. I wonder why representatives of these groups have not been making public statements in the paper or the Facebook discussions or holding a public forum.
I have heard there is even disagreement within those groups about the approach being taken. It is time they spoke up and said what kind of services they would like to implement. After all there are huge differences in attacking the social issues such as homelessness, mental health, substance abuse, etc that may lead to antisocial behaviors and ideas and funding for stopping illegal acts.
One absence from the Library meeting and the Community Alliance meeting has been a representative of the RCMP. Or at lease he/she did not identify themselves. If “Safety” is the issue where is their representative. We always hear they are too short staffed to meet our current needs for safety so how will they find time to administer future security measures that are adopted.
I am not opposed, nor should anyone be, to contributing this minor amount of money needed to carry out admirable, but so far undefined, goals of this bylaw. In fact if details and specific plans were shared NOW I would contribute more in tax money. I would hate to see any idea for improved living for our island fail because of lack of accountability.
The bylaw specifies that the tax and the services be carried out through the entire SSI Electoral District. But we all know and can see from the position papers the focus is on Ganges. A property tax weighs more heavily on business property owners than home owners. This is divisive. And as we all know business property owners and home landlords usually are forced to pass taxes on to their tenants. We are already faced with unaffordable rental housing and rental opportunities in Ganges for small businesses so why risk another increase. Maybe a Parcel tax would have been more equitable.
I believe this whole by law was developed backwards. In order to arrive at the money we are being asked to raise ($35,000 now, then $68,000 and then, since no completion date is planned, who knows?) the horse should have been put before the cart.
First of all, initiate fact-finding from the entire community with a public forum and requests from groups who have firm ideas about what they need to feel secure. Special interest groups could submit ideas and propose programs that would help them meet social goals and police services lacking in our community. This is the usual procedure for determining community needs. Then and only then would a budget be produced.
That budget would be sent to the CRD for funding as a pilot project to prove ourselves able to conduct a successful program. One might wonder why the CRD does not have $35,000 somewher