13 September 2009

Duff points out obvious: Keith Coombs has no cred on city finances

Okay, right off the bat there has to be the fairly obvious point:  the guy who oversaw the Mile One stadium money pit and has been known to talk about surpluses that turned into horrendous deficits is not a guy with a huge amount of credibility when it comes to numbers anyway. 

If Keith Coombs said one plus one is two, most people in St. John’s would run it through the calculator just to check.

Anyway, Shannie Duff is quite rightly pointing out that challenger Keith Coombs claim that there is a $44 million surplus in the municipal budget is “unsubstantiated”.

But here’s the thing Shannie:  Coomb’s claim is not irresponsible.  It is total typical Keith Coombs fiscal bullshit.

Call it what it is:  bullshit.  When people hear “Keith Coombs” they already think “crap” right away.  It’s Pavlovian. So don’t be coy and polite.  Call a spade a spade:  Keith Coombs is full of fiscal crap. People will cheer your unbridled honesty.

Anyway, here’s Duff’s version:

Duff says Coombs’ $44 Million Tax Claim Irresponsible

Deputy Mayor candidate Shannie Duff says her opponent's claim that the City of St. John's expects a total surplus of $44 million over the next four years is "unsubstantiated."  "Does it really exist?" asks Duff.

On Friday Ms. Duff met with the City's comptroller to discuss Keith Coomb's claim that the city expects annual tax surpluses of $11 million per year for the next four years.

Mr. Coombs has based a promise to vote against any increase in taxation, according to his website, "without impacting on the level of services offered."

"The forecast of a tax surplus appears to be based on an internal planning document which made several significant assumptions which Mr. Coombs has conveniently chosen to ignore" says Duff. "The internal document assumes the City's current level of expenditures remains constant, but we know there are negotiated payroll increases coming, we know all of the bids for our tenders are coming back in excess of the money we have budgeted, and we have to account for inflation" notes Duff.

The significant cost of curb side recycling program scheduled to be introduced next year is not part of the expenditure forecast in the internal document.  "What is Mr. Coombs going to do about that?  Cut it?" asks Duff.

Shannie Duff says Mr. Coombs' promise is "old politics at its worst.  For a candidate who keeps talking about going forward, Keith Coombs is campaigning like a relic from the past."

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Shannie's Statement from the Rogers Candidates Forum

I think most voters would agree that what a politician does is more important that what a politician says.

I am proud of my record at City Hall. Whether the issue has been protection of our environment, affordable housing, social justice, or support for neighbourhood groups I have been there.

I have also been a voice for a balanced approach to planning and development. We have to find a balance between growth and protecting the social, cultural, and heritage assets that make St. John's a creative and livable city.

What do I mean by balance?

I support good development that is appropriate for its location
I support change when it is in the public interest.
I support fairness in dealing with development applications.
I supported 1.6 billion dollars of development in St. John's since 2001.

There is a difference between my opponent and I. I don't want just any development. I want good development.

My opponent is also promising to give back to taxpayers $44 million over the next four years. Does this surplus really exist?

My opponent's claim is based on a preliminary internal document developed to assist staff with budget preparations.

The document's assumptions do not include any provision for a reduction of high property tax assessments if people appeal (as they will).

It does not include the start up costs for Robin Hood Bay or the new sewerage treatment plant.

There is no provision for inflation for providing our existing services, and we know all of our tenders have come back at prices over our estimates.

I think Council will cut the mill rate, but who ho has a crystal ball to predict a surplus four years out? City staff told Council that this forecast was very preliminary, based on some major assumptions, and not for public release. Perhaps if my opponent had attended any meetings of the Finance committee or the Internal Audit committee he would have known this.

My opponent isn't the first politician to promise to cut taxes during an election. It is easy to say.

I say, judge me on my record. Judge me on what I have done.

If you share my passion for this wonderful city of ours, then I ask you for your support, again, and I thank you.