The Garden City Refugee

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The SCDA and the Real World

March 15, 2023

This week, the annual report for the St. Catharines Downtown Association came across my feed. So out of curiosity, I decided to peruse the document. A document that, interestingly, they don’t let you download. And after doing so, let’s just say I’m glad I’m not one of those downtown business owners being taxed up the wazoo to keep propping up that organization.

The report was little more than self-serving fluff. Crowing about all their so-called “accomplishments.” Surpassing 10,000 followers on Instagram. Getting 143,000 views on their website. One third of the emails they send out are opened, and 2.9% actually click on something they read (oh boy!). They spent $75,000 on beautification projects, including 14 pollinator gardens (won’t Dawn Dodge love that!). Hosted the Holi Festival of Color and Fam Jam. Removed three phone booths from downtown (how exactly is that an accomplishment?). And they hired a sustainability director (huh?).

They also brag about the 22 new members they got. The 13 they lost, well, they just got shoved under the rug as a footnote on the bottom of the page.

Reading it, you’d think our downtown was booming. A real happening place.

But as they say in the Hertz commercials, not exactly.

I get that the bureaucrats want to paint a rosy picture. After all, they’ve got to do something to justify their own jobs. But maybe they should take a walk around their catchment area. It’s not pretty. There are many storefronts which have been empty since my arrival in this part of the world. And those that were there are closing. Plywood lines St. Paul Street now. The core area is little more than a gathering place for street people these days.

It would be grossly unfair to suggest the SCDA is responsible for the sorry state of our downtown. But it would be equally unfair to suggest that they’re doing anything significant to improve it either. Certainly not enough to justify the levies taxes they collect for compulsory membership. The value on the members’ dollar, already stretched perilously thin, is virtually nonexistent.

Were I an involuntary member, I’d find it especially galling to see where my levy tax money is going. More than half of it is going to human resources, administration and general administration. Yes, they list administration and general administration separately. A comical ploy to make the numbers look less bad.

It’s high time the downtown business owners banded together and petitioned city council to get rid of the SCDA. Or at the very least, make membership voluntary.

Time to make these bureaucrats start earning their keep. Or be forced to look for another job. The way it works in the real world.

Not in the Utopian fantasy world of government-funded bureaucracies.

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