Sunday, November 13, 2011

Q: who should be the lamp lighter? A: taxpayers

The City of Guelph is run like a conglomeration of companies all working to provide city services in exchange for tax dollars. If you haven't heard, the city of Guelph is a little short on cash lately and is looking for new ways to fund some capitol projects.

Council has the bright idea to sell off the city's street lights to Guelph Hydro, the electrical provider. Currently, the street lights are owned by the citizens of Guelph, and their upkeep is paid for by tax dollars.  Under the proposed system, the City of Guelph would sell the lights which would free up approximately $10 million dollars in the operating budget. Guelph Hydro would control the street lights, and the cost of maintenance would be included in the electrical bills. So what seems to be the problem?

The City of Guelph owns Guelph Hydro. No new money is actually being created, and tax payers are still forced to bear burden of new capitol projects. This is a complex legal shell game used by city hall to move funds around.

Selling off the street lights would give city hall a big bag of money to put towards things like a new downtown library, the Wilson Street Parkade, a skatepark (maybe), and a south end recreation centre (not likely). In the future, I imagine municipalities selling off most of their infrastructure and utilities to private enterprises (I don't necessarily agree with this, Im just continuing with the trend). This street light issue is the continuation of municipalities slowly selling themselves off to private firms; its a drop in the ocean given the larger context. Toronto sold off its street lights in 2005 for $60 million dollars... Toronto will now pay over $420 million over the next 30 years to rent them back. It doesn't seem wise to echo the same actions taken by Toronto, in Guelph.