Weeknote 7 2021

Monday at 10am begins the special meeting of City Council to deliberate on the 2021 Budget. For a proper breakdown, I strongly recommend reading Frazier Father’s post on what he found notable from it.

§1 When progress meant more money for education than police

There was a time in which the City of Windsor would publish Progress Reports. Here’s a chart from Windsor Ontario Reports 1967-1968 Pride in Progress [pdf].

Look how much our budget used to go towards education. Look how little towards police.

In this year’s proposed budget, the city no longer has to pay out $10 million dollars due to a provincial reduction of its Education Levy. This has been touted as good news for the City of Windsor budget, but this is still terrible news for our school systems which are already underfunded. I’m guessing this is the result of the Ford Government cutting the Business Education Tax in 2020.

In the proposed budget, while many other city departments have been asked to make cuts, the Windsor Police Board has been marked down for 1.9% increase in their budget.

For context, here’s how much the Windsor Police Services Budget has grown over the two terms of our Mayor. In 2014, the WPS budget was $20 million smaller.

§2 Why couldn’t residents make budget recommendations before it was drafted?

On Friday, a small group of us had a conversation that touched on the very matter above and I’m sorry but it wasn’t recorded so you are going to have to make my word from it that it was good and I learned a lot from it.

For this chat I made some slides for my own contribution to the conversation which was to ask the question of how we might have more resident participation in the budget:

§3 Windsor Works GO BRR

Sometime near the end of the marathon City Council session when the Windsor Works economic development plan was being presented and discussed, the Mayor said something very curious. He said that the city’s previous and contentious $50,000 sponsorship of the Belle Island Grand Prix should be seen as an investment in our economic development.

To my mind, the Mayor’s comments only lend to my fears that proposed funding of $550,000 for the Windsor Works strategy is not going to be used effectively. I’m also concerned that there are some sizable asks for capital funding ($500K in 2021, $1M in 2022, $1M 2023, $3M in 2030) for the strategy with no indication of what those capital funds will be for. Seriously, what is being funded here?

Oh and look at that. There is $200,000 for a City of Windsor Anti-Racism initiative. That should do it.

Has anyone else noticed how little new Central Library has been mentioned as of late? It wasn’t mentioned as an anchor for future activity in the downtown in the Windsor Works Strategy. WPL’s potential to help support economic development throughout the city was never recognized (other library systems like TPL do extensive work in this space). I haven’t scoured the budget documents to see where is the funding for new Central Branch of the Windsor Public Library but I haven’t found it yet 🙁

§4 Councillor Bortolin: Charting a Vision for our Recovery

On February 19th, City Councillor Rino Bortolin published a Facebook post that suggests where $500,000 in the budget could be better spent:

Here’s a brief excerpt:

You may read the comments above and wonder how I can support adding two outreach workers, a new transit line and money for climate change mitigation while not increasing taxes? The expenses noted above equate to roughly $500k. Keep in mind that the Mayor used the term “nice to haves” when describing why he couldn’t support the new transit line implementation. While these are considered ‘nice to haves’ the following items were included and funded in the budget and approved by administration:

– Windsor Police budget increase of $1.7M
– Windsor Works Ec Dev funding to be situated in the Mayor’s office of $550k
– Roseland Golf – New Clubhouse – $4.3M
– Previously approved Celestial Beacon Project – $7M
– Bright Lights Operating Budget – $600k

There are more examples of course but these are more than enough to illustrate the point I made in the opening paragraph. This budget isn’t about the final number, it’s about charting our priorities

I strongly support Councillor Bortolin’s recommendations and I commend him for putting this alternative forward for both council and public consideration before Monday.

§5 All the COVID-19 bad news in one chart