The City of Summerside is making good on its promise to disclose spending figures to the public.
Several months ago, it released the travel expenses for the first half of 2013 and will continue to compile these numbers for future disclosures.
This week, the city publicized the money spent on hospitality and entertainment for the first six months of 2013.
The total came to $33,788.70 for the first six months of the year and two areas that jump out are the costs of the skyboxes at Credit Union Place and the money spent on refreshments and meals for city council and committee meetings.
Many of the other expenditures were for tickets in support of a variety of organizations and causes throughout the period and annual events such as the mayor’s New Year’s Levee, associations business mixers and many other things that all municipalities are involved in.
Then there are the unexpected events. The visit of the Yorktown cruise ship and the reception for Olympic gold medal winner Heather Moyse, which will be reflected in the 2014 disclosure, that have to be addressed.
A city needs to be hospitable to attract new investment. One of the biggest attractions Summerside has is Credit Union Place. It is a facility where potential investors can be entertained, whether it is at a hockey game, a concert or, last year, a basketball game. It also showcases Summerside as a place that has much to offer.
It only makes sense to use this facility as a selling point to potential investors. The money spent could come back two or threefold.
As for the money spent on meals and refreshments for council and committee meetings, there is one point the public has to realize. Being a city councillor in Summerside is a 24/7 job. Councillors are never off the job. They get stopped and questioned in grocery stores, in coffee shops on street corners. They get telephone calls at home day and night. And these councillors respond. Many have full-time jobs and oftentimes go directly from the workplace to the council chambers – not going home and not spending time with their families.
Deputy Mayor Bruce MacDougall put it this way: “Sometimes I’m at work at 7 a.m. and I go right from work to a city council meeting that night. Would I prefer to be home having dinner with my wife? Yes.”
There are issues that go before city council that cannot wait and need to be addressed and the majority of these deal with economic development and the growth of the city.
The amount spent on hospitality is small considering the city is dealing with a $44 million annual budget. Money spent in the area is an investment not an expense.
Kudos to the city for being progressive in getting this information out to the public. A check with the City of Charlottetown revealed that the Island capital has no such disclosure to its citizens.
Score one for Summerside.