Chamber committee receives mixed reaction from city council

The Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce has received a mixed reaction to its request that a members of City Council sit on the Chamber’s newly formed Municipal Government Relations Committee. … 00793.html

Can anybody post a copy of the one page spreadsheet that M. Jackson presented?
Don’t all communities experience regular tax growth ( residential and commercial)? Maybe it’s the rate of growth compared to other communities, which is a tough comparison to nail down.

Perhaps the chamber of commerce, in a spirit of reaching out to the community at large, rather than just the business community and the city council, will post a copy of the Jackson analysis on their website so others can read it.

From what I understand the spreadsheet calculates levels of taxation per working person, using Statscan’s workforce numbers. That calculation apparently shows rising tax levels between 1996 and the last census in 2006. As councillor Gordon-Payne points out the analysis is out of date.

I think that the calculation is also a bit flawed. In a city that has lost a lot of jobs since 1996 calculating taxes per working person will no doubt show a rising trend and perhaps a dramatic increase.

The flaw in the calculation is that working people are not the only ones who pay city taxes. Senior citizens and retirees, incuding people who have left the workforce earlier than they’d hoped for because jobs disappeared, also pay taxes. People who are not working full-time or are unemployed also contribute to the tax base, either as homeowners or through paying rent to landlords who pay taxes. The chamber’s math seems to leave a lot of people out.

If a calculation was used that measured tax levels on a different basis, say per capita or compared to property values, I suspect that rather different numbers would emerge. I would imagine that the city has a handle on those kinds of numbers or could easily provide an alternate analysis. I don’t think that they should just accept the chamber’s numbers uncritically.

Also confusing is that some council members seem quite enthusiastic, even somewhat gushing about the idea of sitting on a chamber of commerce committee. Of course, any councillor is free to participate in any association they want, but the suggestion here seems to be that they would sit on the chamber’s committee as council members.

How would they reconcile that with their obligation to avoid conflicts of interest? The committee’s first loyalty is no doubt to the body that created it which would be the chamber executive and the membership, and that’s who the committee would take direction from. But the council members also have duties to the rest of us.

Council members are supposed to abstain from decisions when their duties to the city and its citizens conflict with their duties to employers and to associations that they belong to. It seems like some councillors are essentially talking about putting themselves in a conflict of interest. Would a council member who sits on the chamber committee later vote as a council member on a proposal made to the city by that same committee? I think that some council members are a bit confused.

The situation would be different, I would think, if the councillors agreed to meet with people, including the chamber, to talk about business issues. There is no conflict of interest when elected officials talk and listen to citizens or organizations. Participating in a forum with the chamber, which might also include other interested groups in the community, would not seem to present problems either.

Throughout all of this I notice that the word “community” seems to be used rather loosely, as if somehow the “business community” is the “community” at large, ie all of us. That simply is not how things are.

There are differences between businesses and residents, not least of because they pay different tax rates, which the council sets. And that’s at least part of what I think the chamber’s presentation is about. My read is that the chamber is looking for lower taxes from the city, not for everyone but for its members.

The money has to come from somewhere if that happens. The city either has to further cut community services or the council has to further increase residential taxes. Hopefully those councillors who are enthusiastic about sitting on a chamber committee will also be enthusiastic about talking to the rest of us about those possibilities before they start making decisions.