If a Vancouver-based production company decides to shoot a documentary on taxation in Brandon, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst says she won’t be endorsing it.
The mayor said it would be an “abdication of our responsibility to the people of Brandon” to get behind such a documentary.
“The nature of reality television is that they need drama,” Decter Hirst said. “It’s an entertaining and amusing vehicle, but those aren’t adjectives that we want to apply to our budgeting process. Professional, thoughtful, calm, rational … is what we’re looking for.”
Force Four Entertainment is investigating whether to come to Brandon to shoot the documentary on alternatives to municipal taxes.
As the Brandon Sun reported earlier this week, Nicole Lawson of Force Four Entertainment said research led her to explore taxation because it was a topic everyone could relate to.
“Often we do these socially transformative series because we hear Canadians from coast-to-coast are frustrated with how tax dollars are being spent and sometimes it’s all of our fantasy to think about how we would run the show if we could spend the money,” Lawson said.
Research about Brandon’s 2011-12 budget led Force Four to consider filming in the Wheat City if there were enthusiastic participants willing to try ideas on how taxes could be decreased. Lawson said approximately 25 families in a certain area would be needed for the idea to be feasible.
While Lawson said a national network has asked her firm to explore the possibility of turning this idea into a television show, she would not disclose which network made the request.
Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond) said he thought the documentary would be an interesting exercise.
“With the outrage over the budget last year and the way citizens mobilized to voice their displeasure, I think you see people engaged to a new level,” Montague said. “I think it’s a great idea if they chose to come here to do this ... I’m sure they will find a lot of people with a lot of great ideas.”
Montague said there are ideas that could lower tax bills, such as having community volunteers tend to boulevard gardens along major streets in the same fashion as the riverbank cleanup crews that currently volunteer their time.
Decter Hirst said she was contacted a few months ago by the film producer, and after some discussion it became clear “that it wasn’t going to be a vehicle for looking at the budget and property taxes that would serve the community well.”
The idea to take a group of citizens “off the grid” for a period of time, left Decter Hirst with many questions.
“What does that mean in terms of emergency services? That we wouldn’t respond to a fire or a crime in progress?” Decter Hirst said. “Obviously no, we would continue to provide those services … Conversely, we wouldn’t allow them on the walking paths?”
Decter Hirst said the producer’s understanding of what the city’s budget encompasses, “very much is focused on an antiquated idea of the kinds of services that we do deliver in the community.”
City staff is already far along into the 2013 budgeting process.
“We have a lot of staff resources committed to this budgeting process that we’re not going to pull away so that they can work on a TV show,” she said. “I don’t want Brandon to look like we’re part of ‘Honey Boo Boo.’ I don’t think that’s how I would want Brandon to be perceived on a national scale.”
Decter Hirst said city council has been chosen by the community to fulfill the budgeting responsibility.
“At the end of the day, if folks don’t like what our priorities are, that they think they can do a better job, then we encourage them to be a part of the democratic process and not to look at our budgeting process as cheap Hollywood thrill,” she said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 3, 2012