Platform: Lower Taxes, Why Not?

As mayor of the City of Edmonton Gomberg will propose solutions to the proposed tax increases which result in no increase and, if aggressively embraced by a majority of council, actually reduce the tax burden. Tooker had the courage when as a city councillor to send back proposals for further review. One such action resulted in the E. L. Smith water treatment plant expansion being shelved in exchange for water conservation initiatives. This project alone is estimated as a saving of over $300M to the taxpayers and ratepayers of Edmonton.

1. A solution Gomberg proposes entails a repudiation of suburban sprawl. “Do we want to be a city like Los Angeles” asks Gomberg ” with all the inner city problems, smog, isolation and social decay?”

New subdivisions such as Lewis Farms and The Grange are not cost effective. Such developments cannot be justified on the amount of tax revenue they generate. Gomberg proposes that if such developments are to continue being constructed, then a “user pay” principle should be adopted. The infrastructure costs should be born by the new homebuyers and not the rest of the Edmonton populace.

Gomberg has uncovered plans for subdivision south of Mill Woods. This is not the solution to population growth. Such subdivisions are not cost effective when compared with using the same resources to create urban living space in existing, established neighborhoods. This type of planning will force the city to get even deeper into the freeway business as people are forced to travel ever further to work, school, shop or play. “The 114 Street paradox is small fry compared to the problems another Mill Woods will give us,” says Gomberg. Examples of expanded living space in existing places can be seen in such locations as Cloverdale and some high rise apartments in the downtown, which were formerly offices.

2. Progressive cities throughout the world are providing low cost accommodation to the artistic community as a means of bringing back the life of the downtown core. Such initiatives bring revenue to the cities involved by encouraging artists to live and work in a city that values their contribution to the cultural life of that city.

3. Gomberg will work with Council and the province to allow the city to tax directly and introduce a 2-cent per litre tax on gasoline. The resulting $20M will be used to directly fund a comprehensive LRT system and more than double the current 8.6% ridership.

An incremental increase of only 2-cents per litre (50-cents per fill) will not be noticed by most motorists but will provide an enormous revenue base for the rejuvenation of the public transportation system of Edmonton. Few, if any, motorists will go to the expense of driving to Sherwood Park or St. Albert to fill up as the cost and inconvenience will outweigh the savings. Edmonton will have a 21st century transportation system without burdening the taxpayers. Ridership will grow and relieve the burden on roads thus saving more expense on road widening and freeway construction. The accident toll will decrease with increased public transit use alleviating another major expense to the city.

4. Low cost inner city housing for the dispossessed. Currently the costs of treating the homeless through social agencies, extra policing and ambulance facilities far outweigh the minimal expense required for low cost housing. Many of the problems society must deal with are a result of inadequate housing for the poorest in our city. Gomberg advocates low cost accommodation with childcare facilities nearby to allow single parents the opportunity to escape the poverty trap.

5. Finance minister, Paul Martin has met with conservationists in an effort to get their ideas on a policy for the future “Tax the bads, not the goods”. Current taxation policies target practices that we value and need as we move toward a sustainable society. Gomberg advocates slowly moving the tax base from discouraging employment and encouraging pollution and waste to a more progressive system which will get the city on a favourable economic track again.

Bill Smith has never considered turning down a proposed development and that is why he has presided over two tax hikes in 3 years (of over 11%). Mayor Gomberg will face the reality of the 90’s, that we can’t afford unrestricted growth outwards forever. There are limits to growth and if we don’t address these issues now they will bankrupt the city.

Bill Smith does not understand the problems faced by those on the very lowest rungs on the economic ladder; he has never been there. Tooker Gomberg derives his major support from those most deeply affected by the economic downturn and restructuring of the last decade.

Gomberg understands the needs of a vibrant artistic community in one of Canada’s largest metropolises. Tooker knows that businesses, professionals and investors move to cities where the artistic sector is alive and well. We have the cultural infrastructure in Edmonton, we must encourage the personnel to relocate or stay here.

In the ’92 to ’95 administration, of which Gomberg was a part, there were no tax increases. In the ‘ 95 to ’98 administration there were two. Which mayoralty candidate is most likely to keep a promise of no tax increase?