Let the voters decide

Resident concerned about the plans for a new public art gallery

I had sworn off my letters to the press and mainly city hall because, as a friend once said about this,  “common sense is not well received and only encourages them.”

However, there have been articles published by the Vancouver Sun and The Morning Star, both extolling the virtues of their version of publicly funded facilities. What has made for interesting reading, are the approaches taken by each VAG (Vancouver/Vernon art gallery).

One expects the public to pay after their own substantial fund raising efforts have raised sufficient equity in their project and the other expects to have the public pay the bills. One has substantial guest visits and the other says they will have. Like so many other demands in our city, which do you think is the Vernon approach?

Once again, the taxpayers of this community are being requested to fund an amenity, which may make sense, if money were no object. That is, as we all know, not the case in these restrictive financial times.

If an art gallery is, as the proponents say, a draw to the community, then they need to have financial support proving this to the people who are funding it from taxpayer revenues. If you were to ask business to support this with an annual subsidy for debt retirement commitment out of their cash flows, would they do it not knowing their own business future?

And yet, in the next breath, the taxpayers are being requested to do so, as if they are in a better position to fund these and other facilities without any consideration for the overall tax burden for capital expenses and ongoing grants-in-aid for operating expenses.

If the proponents wish to have a, “build it and they will come attitude,” then fine, go build it but with your own money.

Vernon city council and the lobbyists for these facilities continuously seem to adopt the position that Vernon can be everything to everybody, without considering that they have not accomplished any economic generators to assist in the payment for these facilities.

So, if we all acknowledge this basic social and economic fact, we could move forward systematically, rather than proposing that the taxpayer can afford everything that is put to council and their electorate, who are expected to pay for them and subsidize them ad infinitum, just because it might be a worthy endeavor.

As I have dealt with galleries in the past with my own sculpting art work, not once did I ever believe that any gallery should be subsidized, to any extent, to display and sell my art. Not all  galleries are for-profit but I believe my point is taken when addressing public subsidies.

I have no family playing sports here in Vernon and yet, given the math and reality, compare the half-a-million annual user visits to the recreation complex or the enormous number of residents playing hockey, ringette, curling, etc. Adults, children and teens, all using and paying for twice, through taxes and their respective sports groups fees.

If there are limited funds available, then spend it where it is utilized to the maximum benefit and especially since they are paying for it in many different ways.

Paying taxes now for what might be is why this country, and many others, are in, at best, tenuous domestic and international positions.

Have publicly-funded requests prove their commitment and financial reserves to any given project before assuming that they will be successful and not a drain on the public coffers.

So what is “embarrassing,” as quoted in both your articles about the current gallery request, is that once again the taxpayer is being bullied into believing that this is a priority for the taxpayers of Vernon.

If council thinks that this proposal, along with water works upgrades that should have been addressed previously, a new museum, ice rinks and cost overruns on prior facilities are all acceptable to the public, then why don’t they roll the dice and put all of these, and any others you are contemplating, on one referendum and let democracy take its course?

 

Jeff Wuolle

Vernon