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Discussions Set To Begin On Red Deer’s 2017 Operating Budget

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5 minute read

By Sheldon Spackman

Red Deer City Council is set to consider the 2017  Operating Budget. Presentations and discussions begin at City Hall starting at 1:00 pm on January 10th.

After the approval of the 2017 Capital Budget and Ten Year Capital Plan on November 23rd, Council will now turn it’s attention to the $357 million Operating Budget which aims to focus on sustainability for both people and services by keeping tax increases to a minimum while maintaining core services.

Currently, the proposed Operating Budget calls for a 2.51 percent property tax rate increase in 2017, the number City Council will try to wittle down once deliberations begin. The two and a half percent property tax rate increase being proposed represents a $3.2 million increase to the Operating Budget, which includes a 1 percent increase for Capital amenities and growth. City officials say this would translate to a roughly $50 increase per year in the municipal portion of a property tax bill on a Red Deer home assessed at $325,000.

In regards to the 2.51 percent starting point for Council, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says “This is the lowest recommended operational budget in about 15 years of City history, Council’s recognition of the current state of our economy.” Veer adds however that despite the lower than normal property tax rate increase being proposed, “there may very well be movement anticipated in that recommended percentage as well.” Veer also points out that in Council’s guidelines regarding the Operating Budget, the currently proposed property tax rate increase of two and a half percent is close to inflation and maintains a Capital Savings Program to relieve the City from having to Debt finance.

City Manager Craig Curtis says “This is the most challenging Budget I’ve worked on since returning to the City. There are huge challenges financially because we’re seeing much less growth, which translates into less Revenue and as we see less Revenue, we’ve also seen a decline in the use of our Transit System and our Recreation, Parks and Culture facilities, so the Revenues from those have also affected this Budget.” As a result, Curtis says one of the key initiatives in the 2017 Operating Budget is to look after the social well-being of our community, so they are recommending that user fees for City facilities remains the same next year, the first time the City has recommended that in many years.

However, Mayor Tara Veer and City Manager Curtis also point out that they are both disappointed that the Province’s new three-year pilot program for a low-income transit pass subsidy for residents in Calgary and Edmonton, is currently not extended to other municipalities, making it unfair to Albertans in mid-sized cities such as Red Deer. Curtis says “This is a total inequity. The fact that they have a pilot project stemming from their Big City Charters, that invests millions of dollars in their Transit subsidies, is not fair to those who operate Transit Systems in the middle sized cities.” Mayor Veer adds to those sentiments by saying the mid-sized cities represent close to 900,000 Alberta residents, which means they are being treated inequitably from those in the two larger centres by being less able to participate in their communities or access things like employment and educational opportunities, as well as other community and government resources.

Manager Curtis says their latest survey results indicate roughly 15 percent of Red Deer’s population currently lives below the poverty line, with residents having identified Crime, Transportation and General Municipal Government Services as their top priorities for this Budget. He says it’s important to note that this recommended Budget makes investments in Crime Prevention, Safety and Homelessness, a recognition of some of the Social challenges Red Deer is facing.

Many local organizations including the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce however, are hoping for a zero or minimal tax rate increase this year.

Operating Budget discussions will continue on January 11th – 13th and on January 16th, 17th and 18th if needed.

(Thumbnail provided by the City of Red Deer)

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Former GOP Republican Presidential Candidate Buys Activist Stake In Left-Wing Outlet

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By JASON COHEN

 

Former Republican presidential candidate and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy purchased an activist stake in BuzzFeed, according to a May Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Ramaswamy purchased a 7.7% stake consisting of 2.7 million shares between March 14 and May 21 at costs ranging from $1.47 to $2.51 per share, according to the filing. The businessman asserted in the filing that he feels the company’s shares are “undervalued and represent an attractive investment opportunity.”

Ramaswamy “will seek to engage in a dialogue with the Issuer’s Board of Directors (the “Board”) and/or management about numerous operational and strategic opportunities to maximize shareholder value, including a shift in the Company’s strategy,” according to the filing.

Buzzfeed has been laying off employees since late 2022 as it has struggled with digital advertising, according to The Associated Press. The company closed down its BuzzFeed News in early 2023.

The company also recently reported a loss of $35.7 million in the first quarter of 2024 as advertising revenue plunged 22%, according to the AP.

“It’s an interesting bet,” an individual who is close to Ramaswamy told Mediaite. “Vivek, the anti-woke warrior, buying a material stake in one of America’s most woke media entities would signal to this long time investor that he intends to make it a free speech platform … If he turns it around financially, he would have serious street cred for another conservative political move.”

Ramaswamy in January suspended his presidential campaign and endorsed former President Donald Trump as the 2024 Republican nominee. The businessman also recently visited Trump at the New York courthouse where he is currently on trial.

“The most remarkable part was the one thing you get from being in that courtroom is a sense of the depressing atmosphere, which matches the depressing nature of what’s happening in there. It’s sort of like a concrete poem for the decline of America, actually. You get like a third-world visual, atmospheric courtroom, open wires sticking out, temperature regulation nonexistent, stuffy air a thick scent. And in the same place is happening. It’s not just third-world atmospherics, but a third-world proceeding,” Ramaswamy told the Daily Caller.

Online news outlet The Messenger shut down in January after less than a year of operations; the outlet started out with $50 million in May 2023, but it was hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars while only taking in about $3 million in revenue last year. The Washington Post planned to eliminate roughly 240 jobs as of December 2023 amid its financial struggles and NPR has similarly been laying off workers since 2022.

BuzzFeed and Ramaswamy did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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Julian Assange wins right to appeal extradition to US, remains in UK prison for now

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Julian Assange, Embassy Of Ecuador on May 19, 2017 in London, England.

From LifeSiteNews

By Frank Wright

On Monday Julian Assange won the right to appeal his extradition to the United States, where he would face espionage charges, on the grounds that he could not be guaranteed a defense under the First Amendment.

In a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice to decide his fate, imprisoned journalist Julian Assange has won the right to appeal his extradition to the United States.

The May 20 ruling means his transfer to the U.S. to face charges under the Espionage Act is delayed. He was granted the right to appeal, in his absence, on the grounds that he could not be guaranteed a defense under the First Amendment in the United States.

The move came despite assurances from U.S. lawyers and could see Assange face months more imprisonment whilst an appeal is prepared.

Leave to appeal welcomed

Assange’s lawyers have questioned assurances that he will not face the death penalty if extradited to the U.S. to face 18 charges claiming his publications through WikiLeaks damaged U.S. national security and endangered the lives of U.S. agents.

No agent has been harmed as a result of Assange’s disclosures.

The U.K.’s National Union of Journalists welcomed the move.

READ: Julian Assange’s show trial could determine the future of press freedom in the West

At this crucial juncture, this judgment serves as a positive step forward for Assange and for every journalist seeking to reveal truths through their reporting… We welcome today’s judgment and hope it is the first step in victory for Assange.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, appealed for Assange’s immediate release:

President Biden should do the right thing now and clear the way for Assange’s release.

Five years and counting

“The U.K. and U.S. are happy to talk about political prisoners abroad,” said Stella Assange, in a moving video account of Assange’s ordeal published on the morning of the hearing. “But they have created a political prisoner of their own.”

She points out that whilst war criminals such as former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair are free and very prosperous, Assange has been denied the right to appear at his own trials since 2021. What is more, she says, “Julian did nothing wrong. He exposed war crimes.”

She explained why he was imprisoned – as a punishment for revealing war crimes through his organization, WikiLeaks.

Julian is in prison because WikiLeaks is a publisher which specializes in the secrets that states keep the most hidden.

She went on:

Julian revealed war crimes committed by the superpower, the United States. That superpower has punished him.

She argues that the case extends the right of states to suppress press freedom beyond its own borders. This, she says, provides a precedent for critics of any regime worldwide to be targeted and silenced in the same way.

Stella Assange, a human rights lawyer, says evidence held by WikiLeaks shows that 30 former intelligence agents have said there was a plot to assassinate Assange by the CIA.

The plot was revealed in October 2021 and documented in a piece from the same month by Patrick Cockburn titled “The CIA plot to kidnap or kill Julian Assange in London is a story that is being mistakenly ignored.”

The beginning of the end?

The current head of WikiLeaks, the outlet formerly headed by Assange, branded the court’s decision as a win, according to Consortium News.

‘This was a watershed moment in this very long battle,’ said WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn at an event following the hearing. ‘Today marked the beginning of the end of the persecution. The signaling from the courts here in London was clear to the U.S. government: We don’t believe your guarantees, we don’t believe in your assurances.’

Keeping Assange ‘caged’

Yet independent journalist Glenn Greenwald saw a darker motive in the long, drawn-out process of Assange’s continuing confinement.

His post on X (formerly Twitter) referred to the initial removal of Assange from the London Embassy of Ecuador, in which he had taken refuge in 2012.

Following accusations now withdrawn, an arrest warrant had been issued for Assange in 2010. His retreat into the Ecuadorian embassy saw him confined there for seven years.

However, 24 hours after WikiLeaks published details of high-level corruption in Ecuador, he was handed over to British police on April 11, 2019. He has been in custody or prison ever since.

Greenwald added:

The real purpose of pressuring Ecuador to remove its asylum protection for Assange, and now Biden’s relentless extradition demands, is not to bring Assange to the US for trial – the [White House] does not want that – but to keep Assange caged and destroyed.

The United Nations has long condemned his treatment, saying the British government was “arbitrarily detaining” him without charge.

Responding to one X user who said the courts were simply “kicking the can” by postponing a judgement, Greenwald replied again:

Yes, but Assange quite reasonably views extradition to the US as the worst of all options, because if that happens, he will be disappeared into a dungeon, tried in E. Virginia with national security judges who convict everyone, and then will die in a US cage.

Appeals and hope for release

With this grim fate in mind, the Defend Assange Campaign released the following appeal for his immediate release on X:

Julian Assange will remain isolated, in a cell in the UK’s harshest prison for the foreseeable future, following today’s granting of an appeal by the UK high court[.]

For over 13 years detained in one form or another – it is time to bring this charade to an end…

Hopes that President Biden, seeking to reconcile his tarnished image with younger voters, would drop the charges against Assange seem to be fading.

What remains in this box is not hope, as with that of Pandora, but a man who dared expose the crimes of the rulers to the ruled.

His treatment is an example to us all, and it is one which speaks a dark truth about those who remain in power.

Former U.K. ambassador Craig Murray, a longtime supporter of Assange, spoke outside the courtroom following the news:

“We haven’t got Julian out just yet… But we are on the way… to victory in this battle,” he said.

Murray, who recalled the 12 years he has spent in supporting Assange, gave the crowd a resoundingly confident message:

And we are seeing at last an acknowledgement of the crucial importance of freedom of speech, freedom of information, and of the public’s right to know.

And those are the grounds on which we will win this case.

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