Swift Current City Council candidate Chris Garner is raising a series of questions about city spending as he begins his campaign to become one of Swift Current’s next six city councillors.
“With property tax increases generating an increase of $7 million over the last five years and very little increases to services that benefit our community, I’m left scratching my head in confusion,” Garner stated while announcing his campaign last week. He noted his family relocated to Swift Current in 2010 because of affordable housing and low property taxes.
He would like to reprioritize where the increase in city tax revenue is allocated, noting that people don’t have an issue paying property tax but rather where the money is being spent.
“For me, and many voices in the community, the issue is the aggressive approach to growing our city has left us with questionable decisions around spending, resulting in large debt. It appears that many of the infrastructure projects are cosmetic rather than of structural importance.”
He argued that the completion of the intersection upgrade at Battleford Trail and Central Avenue was simply cosmetic.
“The city sold us on the idea that the intersection of Battleford Trail and Central Avenue would be corrected and realigned. In the end, the upgrade looks beautiful, but the change was very minimal.”
Garner believes that with the strong partnerships in the Southwest, along with the provincial and federal governments, the city should pursue securing infrastructure grants for the development of a railway overpass/underpass on Highway #4 South.
“Quite honestly, I don’t understand how in a city this size we have a congested area on a main highway. A main highway that leads to the hospital. A main highway for transportation.”
Garner believes attracting business and industry comes from completing structural projects that benefit the city as a whole and removing the congestion will help.
“Developing residential lots for people not here ‘yet’ is putting the cart before the horse. The key to growing a city is not to build for people; it’s to attract business and industry and cosmetic projects may hinder the process. We need to emphasize projects that appeal to industry and with that, people will come.” Garner also suggested the city should allow for private developers to lead the charge when it comes to land development. “If the market demands it, private enterprise can provide it.”
By reprioritizing city spending, Garner believes tax dollars should be allocated to maintaining what we already have or focus on services currently missing. He sites examples such as existing infrastructure that is in need of repair, services for the community such as a recycling pick up program or even garbage pick up downtown are more beneficial than developing land at the public’s expense.
“Storm sewers and water lines as well as utility upgrades are among many concerns I’ve heard people raise in the past few years, yet very little visible movement has been made to improve these services. It really boils down to spending on pressing or urgent needs rather than wants, and lately I feel our spending has been largely focused on ‘wants’.”
Garner additionally believes the city should also look to engage with the community’s youth.
“We are wanting Swift Current to continue to grow and part of that focus should be on making Swift Current attractive to our youth.”
Garner has looked to other cities that have implemented Youth Engagement Strategies focused on improving entertainment, volunteer opportunities, and engagement in the civic process.
“When voices are heard, people feel accepted. Our young families and youth are no different. We need to connect with young families and teens to create a more engaged atmosphere for those who may be struggling to find a place in the community.”
Garner believes the more connected we are to the community, the more likely we are to value and embrace our city.
“This is without doubt a beautiful and, for the most part, a safe place to raise a family. The potential for more is well within reach.”