It’s tempting to blame city council for the $175-million infrastructure deficit announced this week. After all, thanks to some of their controversial decisions, they get blamed for all sorts of things.
Attaching this problem to the current council would be wrong, though. We can’t even really blame past councils, though they did contribute to it by cutting back on maintenance and choosing to stick to minimal or zero tax increases for five years.
Then too, the population of Penticton has to share in the blame for that five-year tax holiday. There were very few voices raised to complain about not paying more taxes, or argue we needed regular tax increases to keep up our infrastructure.
The problem has many, many sources from lack of population growth to senior governments downloading costs onto municipalities. Rather than abuse, the current city council and city staff deserves respect for acknowledging the deficit and trying to do something about it.
There are no easy answers to fixing the deficit; it will have to be a combination of solutions. One thing is sure, we can expect higher taxes, higher utility bills and higher charges all around.
But as the city looks for ways to increase the revenue side of the equation, it also needs to take care not to degrade the things that make Penticton a special place to live. Pay parking along Lakeshore Drive might seem like a great way to generate revenue, but ask first: higher taxes or pay parking? What kind of commercial developments might be acceptable in parks, if any?
Change is going to have to happen, that is as certain as there will be opposition. That doesn’t mean that opposition should be written off as uninformed dissenters: real communication with the population means listening as much as you tell, and being educated as much as you try to educate.