Nine Cents – That’s Right, Just Nine Copper Pennies Left – in the Police Budget’s Reserves!
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted January 25th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
That’s right, only nine copper pennies left in reserves for a Niagara Regional Police Service with an annual operating budget exceeding $140 million a year.
Or since we don’t have pennies in Canada any longer, let’s round that out to one thin dime. And as the old song about being down and out on the streets of Broadway goes, “one thin dime won’t even shine your shoes.”
Nine cents was all that Niagara Regional Police (NRP) Chief Bryan MacCulloch and the new board of the Niagara Regional Police Force has found left over in a pot of reserve money – set aside for emergencies and unexpected expenses that turn up – that should hold at least few hundred thousand dollars, according to a January 25th report in The St. Catharines Standard.
As outrageous as that is, it is not really all that shocking given all of the concerns raised and reports we’ve heard about voodoo economics and the reserves being raided by members of the old police board, chaired over the past four years by Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Bob Gale – all with a mind to making overall annual budget increases for NRP look good, and to achieve that much ballyhooed zero per cent increase.
This is the same police board, which along with Gale, including then Port Colborne Regional Councillor David Barrick (now the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s “alleged” acting CAO) and then Niagara Regional Chair Al Caslin) that decided in favour of buying out then NRP Chief Jeff McGuire, who was well liked by many rank-and file police officers and was prepared to stay until his contract ended in 2020, with more than $870,000 of our tax money.
When at one Regional Council meeting last year, when a few councillors, including then-Thorold Regional Councillor Henry D’Angela (who was a police board member when Gary Burroughs was Niagara Regional Chair two terms ago), stood and questioned the McGuire buyout, Gale insisted that it was a “good business decision” and went on to treat the council and weary members of the public to a soliloquy about his board’s accomplishments that seemed to last longer than having a root canal on a diseased tooth.
Over and over again, we kept hearing from Gale and Barrick, right on up to Caslin, what a stellar job they were doing of managing the finances on that old board.
No wonder that this past December, after Niagara’s new Niagara Regional Council was sworn in, a good many tax paying citizens across Niagara shook their heads in disappointment and anger when a total of 14 members (almost half) of the Region’s new council, including Gale, voted to put Gale back on the police board for this four-year term.
Obviously, we have a critical mass of individuals on Niagara’s new Regional Council who never quite got some of the pieces of a message that a good number of voters delivered when they went to the polls during last October’s municipal elections – that they want an end to that kind of “management” of our public services and our money.
Isn’t it interesting, by the way, how politicians who identify as conservatives and good fiscal managers are so often the ones that end up leaving us in greater debt or with kitties with nothing or practically nothing left in them for services we need.
If you want a reminder of who on the new council voted in favour of returning Bob Gale to the police board, they are: St. Catharines Regional Councillors Sandie Bellows, George Darte and Tim Rigby, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Peter Nicholson, Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor Betty Disero, Niagara-on-the-Lake Regional Councillor Gary Zalepa, Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin, Thorold Regional Councillor Tim Whalen, Fort Erie Regional Councillor Tom Insinna, Wainfleet Mayor Kevin Gibson, Welland Regional Councillor Leanna Villella , and, of course, Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Bob Gale.
The other two members of Niagara Region’s Council elected to sit on the new police board were Port Colborne Mayor Bill Steele and Wainfleet Mayor Kevin Gibson.
Good luck to them and other members of the new police board, including members of the NRP’s staff , in their efforts to get Niagara’s police budget back in order without, hopefully, compromising the vital services the police force delivers.
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