Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mayor Don Atchison stoops ‘to scare persons with disabilities… to get re-elected’; six year trail of deficits, tax increases, record spending and debt

Dark & Foreboding vs. Colourful & Vibrant

Without a doubt of the five mayoral candidates in this year’s civic election that have campaign websites incumbent Don Atchison’s is the worst. The two term mayor’s dark, foreboding homepage has about as much charm and appeal as a root canal.

In stark contrast is Lenore Swystun’s colourful and vibrant website. The community developer and former city councillor welcomes visitors to her site with all kinds of stuff to explore: platform, news releases, candidate questionnaires and links to her campaign blog and Facebook page.

Atchison’s website, on the other hand, offers little more than a few static pages containing his biography, experience and so-called successes. There’s no sign of a platform anywhere. What’s the man hiding?

Furthermore, whoever designed Atchison’s website did so in such a way that it’s nearly impossible to print from.

The three remaining mayoral candidates: Roger M. Chernoff, an ex-realtor and investor; Steve Lawrance, an unemployed singer; and, Johnny Melenchuk, a safety officer and shop foreman, don’t appear to have websites.

Atchison’s six year tenure as mayor has led to record spending, record debt, tax increases and at least three straight years of deficits. A letter to the editor from Saskatoon resident Barb Nankivell in the October 14, 2009, StarPhoenix details the sorry state of the city’s financial affairs:
“It concerns me when I read that Saskatoon is headed for its fourth straight year of deficits. With Don Atchison as mayor, the rainy day fund that city council uses to help balance the budget as required by law has run dry.

Under Atchison the city’s long-term debt has exploded from $23 million in 2004 to a projected $156 million by the end of this year. Saskatoon is borrowing so much money that city administration this fall will be asking the province to increase the city’s debt limit.

Since 2004 property taxes have gone up nearly 23 per cent and residents have seen the three biggest mill rate increases in a decade. The city’s operating budget has risen 53 per cent and capital spending has increased a whopping 251 per cent.

Thanks to city council’s ridiculous idea of moving the Mendel Art Gallery, the total cost of River Landing is now $135 million. The Mendel can be renovated for $24 million but the mayor would rather spend $58 million to build a new art gallery.

He didn’t bother to ask the people of Saskatoon or the Mendel family how they felt about it. Are we going to put up with this nonsense for another three years? I hope not. It’s time we elected a new mayor.”
Another Saskatoon resident, Georgie Davis, has submitted an op-ed to the StarPhoenix responding to some disturbing comments that Atchison made about curbside recycling and persons with disabilities in an article that was published on October 13, 2009. The text of that excellent piece is here:
“I can’t believe Mayor Don Atchison would stoop so low as to scare persons with disabilities and use them to get re-elected.

In the article ‘City eyes recycling plan: mayor’ (SP, Oct. 13) Atchison said a city-run blue-box curbside recycling program would mean a tax increase of a minimum $144 per year and SARCAN Recycling workers losing their jobs ending up “out on the street.” As someone that has a disability and uses a wheelchair I find the mayor’s comments preposterous and disturbing.

SARCAN is a fine organization that does good work. It has grown to support recycling efforts in 62 Saskatchewan communities made possible through 71 recycling depots. The agency’s most recent annual report states that 2008 was a record year for deposit container returns and is the forth consecutive year that return increases have exceeded 7 per cent per year. As Saskatoon grows there’s no reason why this success story can’t continue alongside a curbside recycling program.

SARCAN had 348,679,040 container returns last year with a total of 326,671,065 deposit containers recycled, returning over $35 million in deposit refunds to the public. With impressive numbers like that it seems unlikely that residents will abandon SARCAN and forego reclaiming deposits because of a blue box program. Our household, for example, makes at least one trip to SARCAN each month to return our pop bottles and cans. That won’t change if there’s a blue box program.

In the article, Atchison said the city is studying a “unique” subsidy program involving Saskatoon Curbside Recycling, a private for profit firm, which will likely require some sort of subsidization. This means taxpayers will still be footing the bill.

It’s interesting to note that the Saskatoon Curbside Recycling website says the cost of their service is $15 per household per month, plus GST. This works out to $189 per year, which is less than the $144 a month Atchison is trying to alarm people with.

Atchison said a tax increase would be a hard hit to struggling seniors. When it comes to issues of taxation Atchison has little credibility. In the 2003 civic election he campaigned on a tax freeze. However, in each of the six years that he’s been mayor there’s been a tax increase.

In 2003, Atchison said he wanted to contract out the entire special needs transit service to the taxi industry. He tried to scare people during that election, too, saying that operating it in-house would cost the taxpayers an additional million dollars and the service would suffer. This turned out to be false. Not only that, Atchison’s plan would have made the city ineligible to receive capital funding from the province for new buses but that didn’t seem to bother him.

Atchison boasts on his campaign website that he was once a member of the city’s special needs transportation advisory committee. He said the same thing during the 2006 civic election as well. I was on the committee and according to city records he attended only one meeting in early 2000. This is hardly something to brag about.”
Do Saskatonians really want three more years of this crap?


At 10:42 PM, Blogger XM301 said...

Stomping on the Mendel legacy to build his own on the public dime is the lowest any elected official could ever sink. I've seen Atchison at the 51st Street A & W more than I've seen him at the Mendel.

I am embarrassed to be from this city.


Post a Comment

<< Home