BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Mixed messages

Bob Spiers voting against a budget is as predictable as Charlie Sheen doing something stupid.

In fact Spiers, even acknowledged his track record Monday when he opposed the 2011 financial plan, which includes a 0.24 per cent hike in property taxes.

“I’ve never seen a city budget yet that I’ve liked. We could have done better,” he said of his personal goal of something under zero.

But what Spiers did next certainly raised some eyebrows.

At the same time that he was reiterating his concerns about the process, he was openly encouraging the rest of council to approve the document because of the looming deadline to have a budget in  place under provincial legislation.

Not sure of what he had heard, Coun. Shawn Lee got Spiers to reiterate his position.

Lee, who has developed a reputation for being calm and controlled, was less than impressed.

“You can always vote against something when you know the rest of council is going to vote for it,” he told me in direct reference to Spiers.

Mayor Wayne Lippert was caught off guard by Spiers’ approach.

“It was an interesting take on things,” he said.

Ultimately, there was nothing wrong with Spiers opposing the budget, particularly if he believes some of the revenue figures aren’t accurate and more pencil sharpening could be done.

But how does he reconcile those views with the fact that he urged his colleagues to give final adoption to the financial plan?

If he truly was concerned about the financial implications on taxpayers, he would have thrown out a tabling motion, called for the budget to be reopened and the midnight oil burned to meet the legislative deadline of mid-May.

It’s unlikely a seconder would materialize for such a motion and the budget would have still received final blessing. But at least Spiers could claim he had done everything possible for taxpayers.

It would have been abundantly clear who voted to hike taxes — even if it’s 0.24 per cent and will only probably translate into a couple of extra bucks for the average home.

Instead, Spiers’ rallying of the troops behind the budget makes one wonder where he actually stands.

PR Effort In The Dark

Earth Hour wasn’t a huge hit in Vernon.

Despite publicity campaigns by the city, B.C. Hydro and others, energy consumption in Vernon climbed 0.95 per cent March 26.

That is a dramatic departure from the 0.9 per cent drop in electricity use in 2009 and the 0.2 per cent reduction in 2010.

“These results illustrate that throughout Vernon, there is a lack of awareness and/or a lack of interest in participating,” states a staff report to city council.

If there is a genuine lack of interest, I suspect it’s because many people consider such public relations campaigns as meaningless.

After all, as much as saving the environment is a motherhood issue, walking the talk is something different. We still drive despite knowing what greenhouse gases are doing to the atmosphere. Sprinklers run out of control although we’re constantly told water is in short supply.

In terms of Earth Hour, turning off the power may have interrupted Hockey Night in Canada or made it difficult to iron that pile of shirts that’s been giving birth in the laundry room.

I was out during Earth Hour and everyone did the politically correct thing at 8:30 p.m. by  dimming the lights and pulling out the candles.

But guess what happened when the hour was officially over — the lights were turned up full crank and life went on.

Richard Rolke is the senior reporter at The Morning Star. He writes a weekly column in the newspaper.