Community web page flooded with “tax waste” comments on ‘Oshawa’ sign built and funded by City staff

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Published March 11, 2024 at 6:53 pm

Oshawa sign
A staff built and funded Oshawa sign at City Hall. Photo Rick Kerr

A wise woman once said much of Oshawa’s image problem was self-inflicted.

“We are often our own worst enemy,” said long-time Economic Development Director Cindy Simmons-Milroy nearly 20 years ago.

If the comments this weekend about an 8’ x 4’ sign at City Hall built and funded on the dime and time of operations staff  are any indication, some residents still haven’t got the message.

“Who is paying for that?”

“Is this coming out of my taxes?”

“I didn’t hear about this and I’m not paying for it!”

These comments and dozens of others clogged up a thread on the Downtown Oshawa Facebook page Friday – on Oshawa’s 100th birthday as a city – forcing site administrator Robert Bell, a local realtor and community volunteer to purge some of the less family-friendly comments.

Photo Dot McFarland

Downtown Oshawa councillor Rick Kerr then waded in to let residents know the sign was an initiative of staff, who donated their own time and materials as a gift for the City’s centennial celebration. His comments were echoed by fellow councillor Brian Nicholson, who confirmed that the cost of the sign “did not come from public funds in any manner. City staff donated all the materials for the sign and constructed it and placed it as their contribution to Oshawa’s 100th anniversary.”

That should have stopped the flow of negativity but that was not the case:

Wonderful but I feel the money could have gone to feeding the underprivileged.”

Other commentors gave grudging thanks but couldn’t help adding a backhanded jab:

Perhaps that should have been made known when this was first posted. The reception would have been a lot more positive with that.

When people are struggling and the times are tight, people are going to be upset with expenditures like this, even with the sign looking great. Especially when people are being lectured and told to cut back on non-essentials and then see this.

That prompted one wag to chime in with a seagull analogy that seemed appropriate.

“Some people, if they’re not squawking, they’re crapping on people.”

Not everyone was negative, of course, with plenty of residents praising staff for their efforts to beautify the city during the centennial celebrations.

Looks great, no matter what the price. Oshawa needs more things like this. Having some pride in our community!”

I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe the responses. I hope people take the time to go to the next city council community meetings going forward to raise their concerns if they’re THIS disgruntled over a sign.

It really shouldn’t matter people will complain no matter what! They need to go get a hobby or go find something to do.”

Wonder why someone just couldn’t look at something posted that shows pride in our city and say,job well done” and thank you for your effort to make our home better.

Bell said he had to remove several negative comments from the thread, noting that he likes “constructive discussions” on the Downtown Oshawa page but doesn’t see the point of “negativism for its own sake.”

“It is sad that some do not take the time to get informed before they start complaining, or that no matter what the topic, try to turn it to a forum to complain about their favourite issue,” he said. “We need to work together to make things better. City staff understand this – they worked together and we have a fantastic sign due to their efforts and generosity.”

Bell called the sign a “fitting marker for our Centennial.”

“That it was donated by staff makes it all the more special,” he said. “Oshawa is blessed to have an excellent group of employees and this sign shows their dedication to our city. They saw something that needed to be done and decided the best way to see it was done and done right was to do it and pay for it themselves. We owe them our thanks.”

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter at the Centennial kick-off at the Regent Theatre Friday. Photo Robert Bell

The dust had not yet settled on the sign debate when negativity reared its unlovely head once more: this time over the centennial celebration kick-off Friday at the downtown Regent Theatre.

The Ontario Tech University-owned theatre, which holds about 600 people, was packed for the event, which had speeches from Mayor Dan Carter and other dignitaries, as well as dancers and other cultural events to welcome a year of festivities to mark Oshawa’s birthday.

The front rows were set aside for VIPs but most of the hall was filled with residents who took advantage of free tickets advertised on the City’s website.

Many residents – including some of the people who had complained about the sign being a “waste of tax dollars” – let the City (through Bell’s Downtown Oshawa page) know they weren’t aware of the event advertised on the City of Oshawa website and why wasn’t it even bigger?

Wow, you guys had a party for all the suits, during the hours everyone was at work, so you could pat yourselves on the back. Good job. Anything planned for the public?” said one disgruntled resident. “Events, parade, concerts, family things? Or just all of City Hall praising themselves, and a lightup sign?

“Any other town or city would have some pretty massive public events for something as special as its 100th birthday,” said another. “This appears to be an event poorly advertised to the public for a bunch of suits, to sit and watch performers and speeches gloating about how good they’re doing.”

Others went to the defence of the City and the event (which was live streamed on Rogers Durham and on the city’s website), with one calling it a “well planned” anniversary celebration that highlighted some of the best of Oshawa’s history.

Just because you didn’t know about it doesn’t mean it was poorly advertised. By the tone of your comment you wouldn’t be interested anyway,” noted one resident. “They said it will be a year long celebration. But I assume you’ll be upset your tax dollars will be used for such festivities.”

Oshawa has also been installing new signage commemorating the city’s upcoming centenary on welcome signs around the city, with the reproductions replacing the now retired ‘Prepare to be Amazed’ logo.

The City decided not to go to the trouble of coming up with a new slogan as it would be “too expensive.”

For the record, the staff created-and-installed sign measures 8-feet by four-feet, with colour changes fading in and out on three sides. All in, the sign cost under $2,000 and not a dime of tax dollars.

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