Coun. Harvey Smith has provided yet one more example why city councillors have too much discretionary money to spend.
The councillor says he spent $1,600 of taxpayers' money to erect a series of street signs in back lanes in his inner-city ward last month to draw attention to their poor condition. The signs were named after the mayor and six other members of executive policy committee.
Coun. Smith says the expenditure was advertising, which is allowed under the terms of council's ward representation allowance, which this year rose to $114,000 from $74,000. In fact, the signs were just a political gimmick that probably played well in his ward, but which should not be funded by taxpayers.
Mr. Smith says he has referred the expenditure to council's governance committee, of which he is a member, for adjudication, but the committee has no authority to overturn expenses under $5,000. Ultimately, it will be up to the city auditor to pass judgment on the expense, but the councillor should do the right thing and cover it out of his own pocket.
Coun. Grant Nordman, council speaker and chairman of the governance committee, says he will be recommending more stringent regulations on how councillors can spend their cash. He said the increase in funding was intended for research, policy development and better staff, but many councillors have found other purposes, including doling out generous grants to community groups.
Council should rescind the increase in their ward budgets until a third party reviews the process and determines what they really need to serve the public. This should also be done before next year's fall election, so the public can cast the final vote on the subject.