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Look again, Campbell River city council told

Twenty-six people voiced their opinions on the tax increase in front of city council Tuesday night.

All but one woman condemned council for supporting a 13.6 per cent residential tax hike and urged councillors and city staff to go back and take another look at the budget.

“The people behind me know you’re putting forth your best efforts but please have another look on our behalf,” said Mark Sullivan,who ran for city councillor in last November’s election.

About 90 people filled the council chambers; spilling out onto chairs in the foyer attended the meeting.

A march from Robert Ostler Park to city hall, similar to the April 3 protest, was planned on Facebook but never materialized.  Only six people showed up at the longhouse in the park.

“Last (Tuesday) night it just didn’t happen,” said Philip Hicks, who organized the demonstration. “It was my feeling that having 100-150 people at the last one that we would have to have 3-to-400 people this time to be a success.

“So from the point of view of gathering momentum, it failed.”

Hicks would like to see people come out for next week’s meeting.

“If you don’t finish the game, there’s no point in even starting,” he said.

Instead of an organized march in the rain, people signed up before and during the meeting to say their piece.

Kevin Raftery, the first to speak, said the city could learn a lesson from its citizens. He explained how after retiring in 2004, his family’s income was split in half.

The solution was to change his lifestyle

“The sooner we adapt to living within our means, the better,” Raftery said. “We have the potential to become a great retirement community but we won’t attract residents if our taxes are too high for pensioners.”

Mary Raftery explained how a tax increase impacts her.

“To cover a tax increase in my household means a lot,” she said. “It’s a prescription not being filled, a tank of gas, or a pair of runners for my daughter at school.”

Don McDermid began his presentation to council with a bang.

“I’m going to pull a Judge Judy. Have you got your listening ears on?” he asked council. “I see a bunch of followers here on council and one or two leaders.”

McDermid claims he pays 30 per cent more in property taxes than when he lived in North Vancouver, where services such as garbage and recycling pick-up were more frequent.

He also questioned city spending.

“On Highway 19A we’ve had two crews replacing gravel. It might be a project worth doing if we were flush with money, but we’re not,” McDermid said.

Michele Murphy, a business owner, urged council to go back to the “drawing board” and re-consider the budget.

“I’m worried about all of you, what you’re getting in to,” Murphy said. “Mayor Jakeway, I voted for you because of your tax platform (zero increase). If you have to do a tax increase, don’t make it 13.6, that’s ridiculous. Just work with us.”

Norm Nalleweg said council should honour the mayor’s mandate.

“I strongly believe in a municipal election we vote for the mayor’s platform and his platform was to keep the taxes in line,” said Nalleweg, who moved to Campbell River just four months ago. “Had I known (about the tax increase) I might not have moved into the city limits.”

But not everyone was on the same page.

Carol Dwyer was the lone Campbell Riverite to speak in favour of the tax increase.

“I’m a pensioner on a fixed income, I cannot see Campbell River not having snow plows,” she said. “I think we need to keep the services we have and I applaud those who support the tax increase.”

Dwyer returned to her seat to a round of boos, which prompted Coun. Claire Moglove to ask the mayor to remind people to be respectful.

Jakeway also asked the gallery to refrain from applause, which seemed to fall on deaf ears as every other speaker was treated to cheering and clapping from the spectators.

Some who spoke against the tax increase, also called for council to work together.

Councillors are split on the tax increase, which passed by a 4-3 vote at a finance committee meeting March 27. The increase still has to go through a council meeting.

“Please no more four-on-three’s,” Sullivan said. “Get together, work together.”

Perhaps the most impassioned plea came from Manfred Kling.

“To best serve our city at this point in time, you must unite. You must let go of your individual positions no matter how much you believe you are right,” Kling said. “Neither the group of four or the group of three can afford to win this debate by a one vote margin.

“Such a win will not address the fiscal reality but will sow the seed of discontent. I therefore ask you to put your differences aside, rise above the melee and provide the leadership that only a unified council can provide.”

Kling acknowledged council is at a critical juncture that will set the tone for the city.

“I think it is with this issue, at this point in time, that this council will either rise to the challenge – and maybe even become a great council – or when you will collectively fail us,” Kling said. “It’s been my experience when people work with each other, their best is much, much better than when they work against each other.”

Jakeway, who put out the call three weeks ago for taxpayers to rise up and revolt against the tax increase, said he was pleased to see so many Campbell Riverites in attendance and welcomed all the input.

The budget will be up for discussion and first three readings by council next Tuesday and if all three readings pass, it could be adopted as soon as May 1.

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