Recently I've been chatting with friends about how tax money is spent on city services. Torontonians expect the city to operate smoothly, and when glitches occur, we notice. Whether it's the efficiency of garbage pick-up, the quality of TTC service, the condition of our city streets, the presence of public libraries and public health services, or the cleanliness of our parks and attractions, we expect a lot from our city.
My husband and I own our home and the property taxes we pay are not insignificant. I understand the principles of give and take - living in the city is expensive, but we have beautiful parks, many public services for children, families and the elderly, a world-class public library system, and decent roads. The city water I drink is clean and tastes good. The TTC, for all its recent troubles, gets me to where I need to go. Those of us who commute by bike are fortunate to be able to do so fairly safely.
But of course, there is never enough money for everything. Specifically, not enough tax money is generated to support the wide range of city services we want and expect. You can see at a glance what I mean when you take a look at this chart illustrating city expenses vs. city revenues provided by the City of Toronto web site.
So, what's a city to do? The answer is, we must compromise. But how, and on what?
In upcoming weeks and months, the mayoral candidates will be ramping up their campaigns. When listening to the positions and promises from the candidates, consider framing their arguments through a different lens: rather than focusing on what you want from your city, consider what you'd be willing to give up.
In a world of limited resources, where are you willing to compromise? Would you trade improved TTC service in exchange for reduced health resources for families and seniors? Would you pay more for public child care in exchange for more frequent garbage pick-up? How do you compare the need for affordable housing with the demand for clean water?
I certainly don't have the answers, but it's a different way of thinking about the candidates, and it's a perspective I'm going to try. At the very least, it will provide me with a new way of evaluating the campaigns as we get closer to Election Day on October 25.