Spending any more time, let alone money, on an ersatz “sustainability coordinator” would be a clear case of Woolwich council jumping the shark, showing contempt for taxpayers and common sense.
The position would serve no purpose (virtue signalling is not a purpose). There will never be justification for wasting a minimum of $100,000 a year on a staff position, a rationale that hasn’t prevented the township from making such unnecessary hires in the past.
Yes, climate change is an issue. The township has taken some steps, particularly with very useful tree-planting projects, that make plenty of sense. Likewise, it has made moves that introduce energy savings in the likes of rehabilitating the deficiencies at the WMC and the conversion of street lighting to LED.
Given the cost savings involved in such moves, those technologies will be part of future projects as a matter of course. There’s no staff intervention required. Actual greening will happen across numerous sectors without any action on Woolwich’s part.
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Woolwich has declared a climate emergency and endorsed the likes of the 50×30 movement to reduce greenhouse gases. Those are essentially motherhood statements, but that doesn’t stop some elements from using them to “justify” wasteful spending. (Again, we’ve seen this disingenuous playbook in action on more than a few occasions.)
Coun. Eric Schwindt was on the right track when he asked what difference would the position make? While most councillors avoided rushing headlong into an ill-defined and ill-advised decision, there is already some angling to rush a report and push forward with a hire later this year. That future report will try to make the case for the position, which can’t be justified. Not, of course, that the right decision will ensue.
Worse still, there’s an effort to dig into the township’s greening reserve fund, the levy for which was introduced with the admonition it not be used for staff expenses.
Take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves. A somewhat shopworn admonition to the virtue of thrift, but the sentiment is true nonetheless.
It’s especially applicable to politicians, who are ever keen to spend all of the pennies, pounds, dollars, drachmas … whatever they can get their hands on.
We’ve certainly been witness to that during the municipal budget process. Woolwich councillors, currently in the midst of deliberating the 2023 budget, seem at times to be aware of the message, but equally intent on ignoring it.
Hardly the first group of councillors to make tweaks at the margins rather than getting to the heart of the matter, they have followed the usual course. Bad spending choices abound, yet they are never revisited – i.e. there’s no accountability. There’s no talk of what happened to the pennies, let alone the pounds.
It’s the same story that plays out for much of the budget process: some fiddling at the margins, but no review of overall spending. Even with talk of its infrastructure deficit and how there’s not enough money to deal with essentials, there’s no talk of prioritizing where the money goes. Tax relief is beyond the pale.
In the end, staffing is going to be a key issue. Labour costs make up more than 50 per cent of the budget – significant savings will come only with cuts here. There’s no need to be draconian, but wage and hiring freezes as well as attrition are likely to be required to get spending back in line.
Talking about increasing staff – spending on which has far outstripped growth in the township – makes little sense. Adding a position that will provide zero benefit should never be on the table.
At some point, local politicians will have hard decisions to make. In the long run, the system we’ve developed is untenable, but the crisis will come long before that.