This week, two incidents made me once again question the financial and economic acumen of Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi. The first was a brief exchanger he and I had on Twitter after someone else had challenged him about spending at City Hall. I questioned whether, considering that many Calgarians in the private sector were either losing their jobs or taking pay cuts whether the same thing would be happening in the city bureaucracy. Nenshi’s response was “Why would we do that? Just to be mean?”
No you fool – to CUT costs. Some Calgarians may be entering a situation where paychecks are shrinking, if not disappearing, and taxes are harder to pay. Shouldn’t those governing the city see this and be looking VERY hard at where the City spends money?
I thought it was a one off, until Councillor Demong proposed that the city freeze spending on public art (defined as 1% of capital spending by city by-law) until the economy improves. Nenshi’s response was to say “The declining price of oil has the square root of zero to do with our public arts budget, there is no relationship whatsoever.” REALLY? The declining price of oil has a lot to do with the declining price of houses in Calgary, and with the employment rate, and with real wages in the private sector. These are things that drive REVENUE for the City of Calgary. But I guess Nenshi’s attitude is that the taxpayer doesn’t matter. He just wants more money from the province and the feds to buy more public art (much of which is overpriced, ugly and is primarily a source of jokes).
Perhaps if Nenshi had ever worked in the private sector (i.e. the part of the economy that actual MAKES the money he wants to spend) he would have a better understanding. But he’d rather worry about whether alcohol is served in City Hall or at City events than worry about taxpayer’s dollars.
Calgarians need City Hall to cut spending, both capital and operating, while we figure out how bad this downturn is going to be. The province has to do it, and the feds have been controlling some spending. He needs to do the same and fast.