Tax notices came out about ten days ago. As one might expect, people are unhappy. Of course, no one is ever happy about getting their tax bill, and to make the situation even less pleasant, this year we had an increase. Although I expected backlash, I am quite surprised at the apoplectic reactions I’ve witnessed. So I shall commence to be frank and earnest, right after I offer the disclaimer that this is my PERSONAL blog space, and I am not speaking on behalf of the Town. Feel free to express yourself to me PERSONALLY on this PERSONAL commentary, but I must ask you not to consider anything in this post to be municipal communication.
So first, the earnest part: I used to work for the Town. It was a decent job. I actually quit that job so that I could run for Council (one cannot work for the muni and sit on Council). Why did I do that? Why quit a job to become a “politician”? Corny as this may sound, I did it because I love this town. I am so passionate about supporting this town and providing leadership to see it become the best it can be – and it holds SO much potential that the possibilities are virtually endless! But so, it often seems, are the challenges. The 96% residential tax base is probably the biggest hurdle we have to overcome. I’m working with our Economic Development Committee to see that change – we’re working our cans off to attract business to this community. Because of the Multiplex, we now have the regional high school coming. Because of that, we now have business interest in our community. It takes time, but things are happening!
I’m in my second term on Council. It’s been interesting, enlightening and rewarding. I love this town more than ever and I am so proud of all that we have accomplished, though I admit sometimes the obstacles and challenges have been very personally taxing (sorry, bad choice of words!). My motives have always been and will continue to be to see this great community thrive and prosper and be a joy for all citizens.
And now here’s the frank part. I’m actually a bit embarrased to report what some folks are up to… I would hate to give anyone a bad impression of my town. Mostly, people here are awesome. I don’t know what comes over people when it comes to taxes, but it isn’t good.
Here’s some Facebook text: “Penhold sucks… The town loves to spend money… and you know where they spend it? around council members homes… you know the only businesses they support and grow? Companies owned or related to by council members. We pay another great percentage to fund and operate the multiplex, yet we as residents pay the same as non-local people for the services. When we display our frustrations on a public forum on the Penhold page, they get deleted and told it is for public notifications only. When we put up signs in protest to the irrisponsible budget, we are asked to take them down or face bylaw infractions. ……”
We’ve received emails calling us “losers”, “thieves”, “robbers”, “cowards” and more. I’m afraid we may lose staff because they bear the brunt of so much abuse. This is the first time in three years we’ve had to raise taxes, and when one removes the school portion of the bill, the municipal hike amounts to approximately 2.5%. Council asked for detailed information to go out to citizens with the notices in an effort to bring clarity and bring illumination. The prolific spreading of misinformation aside, what I really cannot understand are the personal attacks.
I’ve made many mistakes as a Councillor, learned a lot, but will likely make more, and hopefully learn from those too. As much as I still love my community and will continue to serve it (at least until October 2013), at the moment I am most discouraged.
So, this: if you would like things in Penhold to be different, you have a number of options. Run for Council, join the Economic Development Committee, work to promote the town and attract development. Express your concerns, give your input, share your ideas. Ask lots of questions and get factual information. But the torch and pitchfork brigade never solved anything. A toxic environment where name-calling and character assassinations rule the roost will simply mean that no one will want to step up and provide leadership.
I don’t know what I’ll do next fall at election time but I can tell you that whether or not I run again, my conscience will be clear. I have served this community earnestly and with the best of intentions at all times. Whatever happens, I’ll continue to let Frank and Earnest guide the way.