Fix or Shutter Poorly Subscribed Services
During these difficult times, Council needs to remain focused on sound fiscal management and its duty to deliver responsible government – government that is responsible to the majority of residents. Poorly subscribed services, which are only valued by a small group of residents, are just not affordable. After all the city is in the business of providing services to taxpayers who both define what those services should be and pay 100% of the cost of thos e services through their taxes and user fees. Council needs to protect taxpayers and not allow our municipal government to devolve into an oligarchy where small special interest groups overwhelmingly influence Council.
When it comes to ending poorly subscribed services Council owes it to the community to set aside their emotions and compassion and reduce, eliminate, or overhaul costly, poorly subscribed services. To achieve this Council must first identify the reasons why the service is not valued by residents and then introduce changes aimed at increasing usage.
Transit needs a dramatic overhaul to make it a valued service that residents can rely on. The current routes and service times are useless to most residents. If we want to get commuters out of their cars and riding transit then we need 15 minute service during communing times. As well we need East-West routes so a hospital worker, for example, living on the west hill can easily take the bus to their job at the hospital.
With workable routes and rapid rush hour service the city could negotiate a contract with school boards to move Owen Sound students about the city before and after school at no cost to the student. The school boards would save money in lower transportation costs, the city would make money with the school board contracts, and the busses would be filled. Alternatively, if you're not going to turn Transit into a viable, valuable service, then it must be shuttered, since in its current state it is not valued and it would be cheaper to give seniors taxi vouchers.
The cost of the Art Gallery needs to dramatically reduced by imposing a budget roll back to the cost of operations in 2018. It is unbelievable that Council approved huge annual budget increases for this cultural centre that is valued by less than 8% of residents. The Art Gallery functioned quite well on its $285,000 annual budget in 2018. Why now does it need $505,000 to provide the same service? As with Transit, Council needs to direct changes aimed at turning the Art Gallery into a cultural centre that is valued by at the very least 20% of residents. Otherwise we need to cut our losses and close it down, sell the art collection and repurpose or sell the building.
As we saw during the Airport debate, Council will need to grow a tough skin to endure the onslaught of the very vocal antagonists who will no doubt show up in numbers to oppose any move that threatens these sacred cows. On the bright side, by investing the proceeds from the sale of shuttered services, we can use the annual interest from these investments to address the real issues facing the community such as the homeless that are sleeping on our streets and camping in our parks.