There was a sense of déjà vu all over again at last week’s budget meeting when Coun. Jason Farr tried to orchestrate a compromise that would see some cigarette butt litter money go towards wiping out the $18,000 a year the Hamilton Police Service insists must be paid by Hess Village entertainment establishments for extra policing costs during patio season. The annual levy is nothing compared to the tens of thousands that the Hess Street bar and restaurant owners had to cough up in the past when the city had fewer night spots. Times have changed and the restaurant scene has scattered throughout the city. But our point, made here before, is that the merchants should have never had to pay for policing. They already spend a lot of money on security staff, so its not as if they don’t recognize their responsibility to keep their patrons under control, in fact private security is the main reason the incidence of rowdyism in Hess Village is more or less yesterday’s news. Some councillors tried to compare the Hess-only tax to fall fairs and other special events where off duty paid policing is required, but the difference in our view is that the Hess Street establishments are a permanent part of the local economy, paying business taxes, liquor taxes, property taxes collecting thousands in HST and in addition create dozens of full and part time jobs. To put it another way, consider that there are wards in the city where the crime rate is significantly higher than in the rest of the city. We don’t need to do a Code Red study to know which wards they are. Using the logic that apparently applies to Hess Village, (and nowhere else in Canada we are told) maybe the residents of those wards should pay a surcharge for policing. It is petty to see our law enforcement agency nickel-and-diming the community. Now that the cost is down to $18,000 its time to close the books and absorb these costs into the overall police budget, which by the way, could do with a lot sharper scrutiny. Perhaps that is where our council members who sit on the Police Services Board should direct their attention.
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