OK, print’s a bit smaller today as I feel like I should speak on this subject in hushed, whispered tones because no none else seems to really want to talk about it. At least, not out loud in the presence of mixed company. The walls, they do have ears.
Just looking at the breakdown of this year’s proposed operating budget and I can’t help noticing this really big, slightly cantankerous elephant in the room that is going unremarked on. With all the talk about budgetary shortfalls, cutbacks and sell-offs of municipal assets, why hasn’t there been so much as a peep of protest about the sizeable slice of the money pie being handed over to the Police Services Board?
According to this city issued chart I’ve been going over, of the $2427 property tax bill that a house assessed at $400+ K will have to pay in 2010, $607.38 of that would go to the Police Services Board. By my amazing powers of long division, that works out to just over 25%. Not including the $977 for education which is collected in a separate stream, we pay more for our policing than other city provided services. By a long shot. The much maligned TTC takes in just a 14.4% share while the equally vilified city council costs us a whopping .01%.
Yet all I’ve been hearing about is how we need to sort out the TTC from top to bottom, making it more efficient. Rocco Rossi pledges that if elected mayor he’ll cut his salary by 10% which by my calculations will save Toronto exactly… I don’t own a calculator that has room for that many zeroes after the decimal point. But nothing, is what I’m saying. A complete and utter empty gesture.
Yet the police budget continues to rise and—
Oops. Started shouting there. Hope no one was listening. Nothing but crickets from the council and candidates out on the hustings. Have we just decided that it is money well spent? The crime rate is low and continuing to drop and that’s because we keep increasing the police budget?
If this is so, then why don’t we apply the same logic to other municipal departments? Let’s jack up the spending on libraries, why don’t we. Raise literacy levels around town. Or following the same line of reasoning, if we spent more than the 7% of every $2427 property tax bill on Shelter Support and Housing Administration, we might actually put a dent in our homelessness blight.
I mean, if spending more on the police = less crime, why wouldn’t it work for other municipal departments? Why are we, at least, not even talking about it? To propose increased spending on the TTC is derogatorily categorized as simply throwing money at the problem while higher budgets at the Police Services is deemed prudent fiscal management. How come? If crime were to suddenly spike upward, we’ll then take money back from them, right? That’s what’s happened in the past, if memory serves. Crime rate goes up, all right thinking folks demand we start giving the police less money.
For a bunch of tough hombres, the likes of Mssrs. Smitherman, Rossi, Mammoliti and Ford sure purr like a pack of pussycats when talking about Toronto’s EMS especially Police Services. On that score, they’re not alone. Everyone who’s talking about out-of-control spending on the part of our municipal government, from politicians to journalists and outraged citizens, seems to exclude the police, fire department and EMS from their Things To Cut list. So much so that it’s not even a topic of discussion. Why is that, is all I’m asking. If everyone’s expected to make sacrifices during tough economic times, shouldn’t that really mean everyone?