EDITORIAL: AAP a flawed but necessary process

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
January 14th, 2010

The defeat of the alternate approval process (AAP) by local residents for the garbage services and the electrical truck in Grand Forks has had serious repercussions that make one wonder if the people who fought against the proposal completely understood what they were doing. A similar movement is underway right now with people collecting signatures to prevent low cost financing for the trails project. By defeating an AAP, all residents are doing is causing higher costs for council which will hit us where it hurts – in the pocket.

When the AAP for the garbage and electrical truck purchases was defeated it caused the city to get a high interest, short-term loan for the truck. Along with the high interest, the city will need to come up with funds to buy out the loan at the end of the term. Who won? Banks. Cities can access loans with lower interest rates through the municipal finance authority. But for certain high levels of financing they are required to go to the public for approval. That can be done through a costly referendum or a low-cost AAP. The problem with an AAP is that a small percentage of people can stop the financing and hurt everyone. As Councillor Chris Moslin pointed out at the last meeting, 335 people stopped the financing. And about 3700 people didn’t get to vote.

An AAP is not about whether or not you like a project the city is considering. It is about financing. By blocking financing, yes, you can block a project, but not necessarily. The council can then get other financing options and continue on with the project. What does happen is that the taxpayers now get to foot the bill in a whole new way.

Consider this if you are thinking of blocking the trails financing. If you don’t like the project then let council know – not in an AAP but by letters, emails, and delegations at the council table. That’s how the garbage plan got postponed, not because of the AAP – but by the voices of concerned citizens.

The trails project has funding support from two other levels of government. Funding that doesn’t come around very often. Can we afford to not try to make something happen? Isn’t the state of our economy a large hint that we need to diversify locally so the next time forestry crashes we can stay afloat?

Perhaps the location the council is considering for trails is not the one you see – so tell them. Moslin has been part of developing trails in the area for many years. The overall plan for the community comes from a dedicated group who has been chipping away at their vision of a walkable community – sometimes with government support and sometimes just as a volunteer movement. Perhaps those with new ideas should work with those who developed the plans – suggestions are probably welcome.

But if this AAP for the trails funding, which by the way is not slated to impact personal income taxes, is defeated, everyone loses. There is no time for the council to hold a referendum and no one needs the cost.

To those few who are holding the rest of us hostage by preventing low-cost financing, think twice before you use your vote to block this project. Some of us in the 3700 want to see progress and change!

Categories: Op/Ed