I'm Going to Bore You With Numbers

Joel's Journal - January 4, 2018 - Volume 3 - Entry #4


I'm Going to Bore You With Numbers 

I got into journalism because I wanted to write. 

As a young skateboarder and snowboarder, I knew I would never have the guts and the lack of care for self-preservation that it would take to go pro in the sport (truth is, I probably wasn’t that good either), but I loved the sport and the culture and knew I wanted it to be part of my life. 

At the time, I loved to write and I devoured the magazines dedicated to snowboarding and skating: Thrasher, SBC, Transworld, I flipped through and read every square inch of those glossy pages. 

So, it was when I put together my love for writing and these magazines, I instantly had a career. 

Since high school that career path has evolved and shifted into news reporting and feature writing, which is fine by me. 

Along with my love for extreme sports, there was another aspect of my brain that had me thinking about a career in writing. 

My ongoing hatred for anything mathematics. 

Numbers just never made sense to me, and it was frustratingly the only subject in school I floundered in, much to my chagrin, and not for a lack of trying. Yet, when I passed Grade 11, applied math with a C, I burned all of my bridges (literally burning all of my books, my buddies and I used to do it on the edge of Lake Huron every summer at my friend’s cottage, it was a great time) and never looked back. 

In the eerie way that life tends to circulate though, once every year, those numbers come slinking back into my life, like some kind of cursed creature that must rise from the depths of hell on an annual basis in order to feed off my not-so-mathematically-inclined brains. 

I’m talking the City of Oshawa budget. 

As a city hall reporter, it’s nothing short of the largest story in the calendar year coming out of city hall, and it deserves a lot of attention. 

But, I don’t want to regale you with words about the budget, if you live locally, you can check out most of my coverage at the OshawaExpress.ca. My department-by-department breakdown of the city spending can be found right here. However, I do want to regale you with why these numbers are important, and why you should care, and this goes for whatever city you live in. They obviously all have budgets filled with your money. 

Yes, and here’s the thing that pisses me off the most. 

People pay very little attention to municipal politics, like it’s the ugly cousin compared to the big successes that are provincial and federal politics (as if). 

What people don’t seem to grasp is that the municipal level is what affects your life the most, and those people you cast your ballot for every four years, are making decisions using your money

Your money. They may as well be taking it right from your wallet, because that’s what they do come tax time. 

That tax bills gets pulled in by the city, and chopped up. 

In the case of Oshawa, they get to keep only 41 per cent of that tax dollar. Being a lower-tier municipality, another 41 per cent goes to the Region of Durham (who in return handle different services on behalf of Oshawa and the other municipalities that make up the region), and the remaining 18 per cent of the dollar goes to the school boards. 

So you see, by not caring about what your politicians are doing, you’re really, in effect, not caring about what happens with your money. 

And don’t give me the “Oh I rent, so I don’t pay taxes”. 

Landlords pays taxes, and whose money do you think they use to do that? It may be more indirect, but eventually, some of your money funnels directly from your bank account, to whatever municipality you choose to live in. 

I apologize that this turned into a bit of a rant, but honestly people, wherever you live, keep an eye on things, because it’s hard at times to know what’s going on, or if the right decisions are being made. 

In one of my favourite movies, All the President’s Men, Robert Redford, playing investigative reporter Bob Woodward, is talking to “Deep Throat”, his anonymous source inside the administration at the White House, helping him uncover the Watergate Scandal. 

At one point, as Woodward tries to puzzle out a reason for the whole thing, Deep Throat says something about the White House that stands very true in a lot of politics, and perhaps the municipal level at times. 

“Frankly, these are not very bright guys.”


With that out of the way, the day is wrapping up, and I’ve got a couple beers and the Toronto Maple Leafs waiting for me. Until tomorrow everyone, 



Thanks for reading!



Joel Wittnebel