How do we get off the Bike Bandwagon?

By Gerry Barker

January 21, 2019

Opinion

The other night council received its first blush of the $87.37 million capital spending budget. Here’s where it will be spent providing that council and lobby groups don’t add to the total. That’s what usually happens during the budget process every year.

It is an unnatural opportunity for councillors to impress and placate their constituents. It is far too tempting with the power to spend the public’s money on projects to patronize the various special interest groups and individuals.

For starters, here’s the list of Capital spending projects produced by the staff:

  • $3.325 million for contaminated site-related projects.
  • $8.361 million for corporate projects, including planning studies, vehicles and equipment and facility renewal and expansion. This figures includes planning and strategic initiatives of Baker District and the beginning of the city’s Official Plan review.
  • $4.96 million for emergency services. The majority being directed at the expansion of paramedic services.
  • $7.916 million for open spaces, recreation, culture and library. This includes renewal of equipment and facilities and additional funds to progress the South End Community Centre project.
  • $3.107 million for solid waste. Includes planning and construction for a public drop-off scale.
  • $4.683 million for stormwater management. Including repair, renewal and replacement of assets.
  • $14.502 million for transportation services. Including bridges, culverts, roads and parking.
  • $13.104 million for wastewater services.
  • $27.445 million for water services. Includes water testing and studies at two new wells potentially to be used for city expansion.

More than 63 per cent of this proposed $55.051 million capital budget is being spent on three vital services all involving potable water, treating wastewater and building wells.

I’d be the last guy to complain about spending money on our vital use of clean water and developing new supplies to meet the needs of a growing population. With the 2016 census, Guelph has grown to 131,000 residents. Recent increase in newcomers is in the 10,000 per person range that the 2016 census reported for Guelph.

That means that by 2021 Guelph’s population will be 142,000 if the rate of growth remains the same as the previous census period.

I agree with the staff recommendation, water is the top priority.

That total water spending proposal does not include $4.683 million for storm water management that is in the capital budget. But property owners are already paying a special levy of one per cent for storwater maintenance. It used to be part of the operating budget but was transferred to the citizens for payment, monthly, through their Hydro bill.

Let’s talk about demands by the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation. Translation: The tiny minority of cyclists who feel it is their right to travel the streets and be protected from those dirty, stinky and loud vehicles. They take it upon themselves to chiefly be responsible to support climate change by banning the use of fossil fuels.

But here’s the rub

Operators of motor vehicles pay taxes, licences and user fees to use the roads. In fact the City of Guelph, receives a gas tax rebated from the senior governments of more than $5 million annually. It’s rebated to the city not the people who previously paid for it at the pump. This results in the very people using fossil fueled vehicles end up subsidizing more bike lanes.

How much do the active transporters pay? They are not licensed, pay no taxes, are not insured, no mandatory bike inspection, no tests for ability to safely use the streets and know the rules of the Highway Traffic Act.

And yet, one Yvette Tendick, speaking for the Coalition, laid out their demands to be included in the 2019 Capital Budget.

The Guelph Mercury published the following profile of Yvette Tendick who joined the community editorial board in 2015.

Yvette Tendick is a primary school teacher with a bachelor of environmental studies degree. She has always had a strong interest in environmental issues. Over the years, her environmental focus has morphed from sustainability of natural ecosystems to sustainability and resilience of cities.

She is interested in the steps citizens might undertake to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels while simultaneously increasing our quality of life. She believes one way to achieve this lofty goal is through active transportation, which she engages in during her commute to work by bike or on foot.

She also has a keen interest in getting the next generation physically active, and is rather certain that city design and infrastructure are crucial to nudging all of our citizens to get moving.

Getting to the root of the deal

Now here is what she is proposing city council to do to improve cycling, aka active transportation.

  1. January 16, she told council that the city should clear up some of the trees and roots. These are putting pressure on the existing retaining wall along what will one day become a multi-use trail at Speedvale, including a proposed underpass.
  2. “So before even considering tearing down this retaining wall in a few years, a quick fix of removing the trees ASAP seems to be the first logical step in increasing the longevity of the current wall.”
  3. “Separated bike lanes are needed on Gordon from Kortright all the way to Wellington, and also on Woolwich from Woodlawn all the way to downtown,” she said.

Well, that’s a tall order.

I think after reading this report, she is asking the council to add $30,000 to the capital budget for her short term plan A to make it easier for cyclists to use the trail to downtown. Trouble is the location of this on Speedvale, some eight kilometers long, is not identified in the article. Which retaining wall? Which trees and roots? Where on Speedvale?

This is a game of assumptions that leave the rest of the citizens out of the loop.

City council, since 2007, has spent millions on developing bike lanes, reducing vehicle lanes on major routes to accommodate them.

Ms. Tendick’s profile is clear but misguided. Does she really believe that the so-called active transportation theory will work and vehicles using fossil fuels will disappear in her lifetime?

How many citizens depend on bicycles 12 months of the year?

It’s a known fact that the city has zero documentation of the number of residents using bicycles on Guelph streets and roads 12 months of the year.

The groups of environmental activists, who ride bicycles, resemble a cult bonded by the belief that they can change the way we transport ourselves while at the same time clean up the atmosphere.

I think of Kevin Costner in the movie, A Field of Dreams, in which the punch line is ‘if we build it, they will come.’

This group is the whiniest, pushy and provocateurs of social engineering for which we have already paid to placate their cause.

It is if they want to roll back society more than 150 years or, as my wife is fond of saying ‘I loved the good old days.’ Neither of us has ridden a bicycle since we were 16.

We are not alone.

How can the proponents of active bicycle transportation be so narrowly focused on the environment when most citizens cannot and never will use bicycles to get out and about?

Think of riding a bicycle to perform simple tasks such as getting groceries and needed drugs, or going to the hospital or doctor’s offices, going to the library, visiting family and friends, going to the cottage or vacation, getting to places of worship, volunteering and going to the park, theatre or your granddaughter’s recital.

Especially when it’s raining, snowing or just damned cold. It’s not a time for the Mary Poppins trick of flying under her umbrella.

Stop and think of children, seniors, the disabled, and all those outside the active transportation groups’ demographic of ages 18 to 40.

I think the expense of expanding or spending more money accommodating the cyclist group should be frozen. That is until we get the handle on our basic infrastructure needs and financial shortfall of some $450 million increasing at a rate of $20 million a year.

Has anyone calculated how much fossil fuel as been reduced as a result of building this network of bicycle lanes in the past 18 years?

We would rather be able to flush our toilet and enjoy a glass of water from the tap than paying for more bike lanes.

Are the demands of the minority greater than repairing the infrastructure of our city that serves everyone? Transportation technology is moving ahead at warp speed. Bicycles are not part of the transition.

It’s time for council to get off the Bike Bandwagon.

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It only cost Mike Schreiner $119,864 to buy a seat in the Ontario Legislature

By Gerry Barker

January 14, 2019

Opinion

Taking a look at the numbers of the recent provincial election submitted by Green Party Leader, Michael Schreiner, as reported to Elections Ontario.

All it took was a tsunami of cash for Mr. Schreiner to trample all of the other candidates in last June’s provincial election, using a boatload of money. According to Elections Ontario, the Schreiner campaign reported receiving income of $152,677.71

As reported in Guelph Today, Schreiner spent $119,864.14 to win the Guelph seat in the Ontario Legislature. He was the only Green Party candidate elected as a member to Queen’s Park. It is reported that the Green Party received some 285,000 votes across the province. It appears that Mr. Schreiner’s vote of some 29,000 in Guelph is ten per cent of the total Green Party vote cast in the province. That is impressive.

One cannot suggest that this was a stunning victory for the Greens. All he needs now are seven more Green Party candidates to attain the status of an official party in the Legislature to be recognized by the Speaker. Recently, he was quoted that he had developed friendships with an undisclosed number of PC members suggesting they may switch parties.

You have to ask the question: “ What’s in it for them?”

The Guelph Today report investigating the election finance’s story discovered that Premier Doug Ford spent $66,889.01 to get elected in the Lakeshore riding. His Progressive Conservative Party received more than 2.2 million votes, electing 73 members to the Legislature to form the government for four years.

Schreiner also spent more that Opposition Leader, Andrea Horwath, who reported spending $101,485.04 to retain her Hamilton seat and the NDP elected 40 members to the Legislature.

So, is there something wrong with this picture?

Let’s drill down into Mike Schreiner’s official financial report regarding his election submitted to Elections Ontario last September.

The Schreiner Reported Assets

His total campaign assets are $72,404.88. This is composed of cash, ($38,649.91), campaign reimbursement entitlement from 2014 civic election ($24,633.74), Accounts receivable ($1,739.90), inventory of campaign materials ($7,389.33)

Liabilities and Surplus

Accounts payable ($7,568.34), Surplus ($64,836.54 deficit). That balances with the Assets of $72,404.88.

Now here comes the interesting part under the title:

Statement of Income and Expenses from May 9 2018 to September 7, 2018

Income

Contributions                                              $58,090.43

Interest income                                                    $12.45

General Contributions at meetings                $10.00

Transfers received                                      $93,629.73

Sale of T-shirts                                                 $935.00

Total Income                                              $152,677.61

A peek at expenses

The summary of expenses includes spending $22,034.26 on salaries and benefits. Who were these paod staffers and what did they do? That’s slightly less than the total cost of the P.C. campagn supported by 14,000 votes.

Was this a case of Fort Knox against the madding crowd outside the moat, or an episode in the Game of Thrones?

Following the money, two figures catch my eye

First, the $58,090.41 in contributions does not name the contributors or the division between those donating more than $1,200 compared to those donating less. There is a specific rule about donations and contributions because some contributors do not want to be identified, but did all of them not want to be identified?

Did the campaign receive any ‘in kind’ contributions?’ This means supplying services instead of cash. Hypothetical examples could be supplying services such as courier, transporting personnel or being offered rooms or halls for for campaign meetings.

Second, the $93,629 listed as ‘Transfers Received,’ needs clarification in terms of large-scale funds transferred from where and from whom? It should be explained if for no other reason, than, to be transparent and open.

These are serious questions about financial statements such as Mr. Schreiner’s alleged association with Tides Canada. This is an environmental political action organization that has helped finance Green Party candidates in their bid to be elected to Canadian provincial governments, such as British Columbia. A province in which Tides Canada helped elect three Green Party members to the B.C. legislature.

When the grass grows, get out the lawn mower

The B.C. Green Party members hold the balance of power that supports the NDP ruling party. This has had a serious impact on the efforts of the environmental movement to halt reconstruction of the Trans-Mountain pipeline owned by the people of Canada. The renovation of the existing pipeline is to open the door to the Pacific markets for Canadian oil and natural gas.

Despite this, the environmentalists have successfully stalled the T-M construction paralyzing the process for one reason only: To halt production and export of Canadian fossil fuels to global markets.

Tides Canada is a subsidiary of Tides America that has a war chest of some $150 million to support a variety of environmental projects and sponsor political action.

Do you believe that funding of political parties and their candidates should be open and transparent? Mr. Schreiner spending $119,864 to get elected in Guelph completely smothered the financial spending of all the other candidates combined.

In my opinion, based on Mr. Schreiner’s election financial report, corporations or environmental political action committees may have helped finance the Schreiner campaign. What happens in B.C. has little relevance to the city or citizens of Guelph who are now represented by Mr. Schreiner.

But it did, as the Green party finally got a seat for the first time in the Ontario Legislative Assembly. It remains to be seen if Mr. Schreiner’s new role as a Guelph’s MPP will be beneficial to the 29,000 people who elected him.

Frankly, as a citizen, I believe Mr. Schreiner will be too busy beating his own drum to be an effective representative for Guelph.

Want proof? In all the years I worked at the Toronto Star, I never witnessed a lead editorial promoting an individual candidate as the paper did before the election. It endorsed Mike Schreiner, stating the electors in Guelph could make history electing him. And it did, with possibly a little help from his friends from far away.

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Was this appointment part of the Hydro merger?

By Gerry Barker

January 7, 2019

Opinion

Well, that’s been a weird winter so far. One day the kids are sliding down the first fairway of the Guelph Country Club and a day later there is no snow.

Even stranger is the appointment of Hydro Chair Jane Armstrong as Guelph’s representative on the Board of Directors of Alectra Utilities.

If you missed the news Guelph Hydro is now dead and no longer our property. As of the beginning of the year, Alectra Utilities took over the city’s electricity distribution system.

So, who benefits from this disposal of a $228 million successful city-owned distribution system serving some 55,000 customers?

Well we now know of one person, Jane Armstrong, a 12-year Guelph Hydro Board member and more recently the chairperson. No doubt she is a seasoned, well-qualified individual to represent our interest of things, such as electricity and who is running the system?

Patience friends, remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will this takeover of our power distribution system and delivers promised services in a day.

This appointment is shrouded in secrecy. Who made the appointment of Ms. Armstrong? Was it council in secret session? Was it the board of directors of Guelph Hydro? In the release of the news in Guelph Today, there was no mention of just how she got the job.

It’s a juicy assignment reported to have a base salary of $25,000 plus travel expenses and payment for attending the Alectra board meetings.

Oh yes, it includes a four-year engagement.

But here is what bothers me. Ms. Armstrong was the co-chair of the Strategic Options Committee, (SOC) appointed by council, to investigate the sale. Merger or partnership of Guelph Hydro with another municipally-owned power distribution system.

In February 2017, Ms. Armstrong replaced Hydro CEO Panaj Sardana as co-chair of SOC along with Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson.

A closed-session of SOC detailing with SOC’s board personnel changes, also decided to take the option of selling Guelph Hydro off the table. This set the stage for a merger.

This information made public by Richard Puccini who was a member of the SOC board until replaced.

The rest of the story is that Alectra Utilities, in partnership with the Guthrie administration, convinced10 members of council to support the Alectra merger December 13, 2017. Three councillors voted against the merger, Phil Allt, James Gordon and Bob Bell.

Getting back to the Armstrong appointment. As the co-chair of the SOC that recommended the merger with Alectra Utilities, the perception exists that she was in a conflict of interest.

It should be noted that no elected official or city staff were eligible to take the job under the terms of the merger agreement.

Was there any attempt to advertise the position? Were other persons interviewed for the position?

Although public money is not involved in this appointment, she is representing the interests of the citizens.

Now about that $18.5 million “special dividend” the city will receive, it’s a sick joke. It is a return of cash from Guelph Hydro that is the property of the citizens.

There is nothing like closing a deal by paying us with our own money.

Here’s another observation. The low turnout last October in the civic election may be traced back to not only indifference but also failures of people to understand the Merger deal.

I believe that was by design by the Guthrie administration that was determined to merge Guelph Hydro. The only issue left out was what did the city receive for eclipsing Guelph Hydro?

Only in Guelph, you say?

 

 

 

 

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What’s New? How is the world treating you? Sung by Linda Ronstadt with the great Nelson Riddle band

By Gerry and Barbara Barker

January 2, 2019

And now here’s something a little different.

Both of us have spent the past 36 years together. Unusual in that we spent time some 25 years prior with other partners who passed away but are not forgotten.

The result has been an integrated family with adventures and events that have created a loving and interesting human experience.

Along the way we lost a daughter and witnessed the growth of six children and 12 grandchildren. The new wave is the arrival of eight great-grandchildren.

We have been fortunate to have traveled the world including an 80-day cruise around the world visiting 28 ports of call. We have walked the Great Wall of China, ridden on the Moscow Subway, cruised the Greek Islands, ridden a clog train up the Matterhorn and kissed the Blarney Stone.

For many years we spent our winters in Sarasota, Florida visiting Gerry’s mother who lived for 101 years passing in 2001. Alas, we are unable to enjoy that aspect of our lives due in part to our advanced years.

When all is said and done, Guelph has been our favourite home for the past 15 years living in the city. Barbara was born here some 86 years ago.

Oh sure. There have been times of disagreement and disappointment, but our love for each other surmounts negativity. Barbara always says: “ Never go to bed angry.”

Well, it works most of the time.

Lately we have been filtering through our accumulated stuff. Barbara came across a poem she had written several years ago and submitted to a Poetry Publisher. She received a rave review from the organization but with all the moving and travel, it was lost until recently.

We thought you might enjoy her poem.

Trying Out My Wings

By Barbara MacDonald Barker

“We thought you might enjoy her poem.

“Trying out my wings

By Barbara MacDonald Barker

“I am trying out the wings of my mind

Testing the water cautiously

I’m frightened of things I might find

But need to live my life thoroughly

I’ll face each and every day

And learn to love and laugh again

I’ll watch the sunset’s orange rays

And walk on sand and smell the rain.”

Looking back over the past 36 years we can see the parts of our lives that are manifest in this poem.

In closing we want to tip the hat to our neighbourhood cat, Tuxedo. We are entertained by his travels around the ‘hood looking for chipmunks, the odd slow bird and the occasional bunny. He is rewarded along the way with the occasional saucer of milk and a stroke or two of his glistening coat.

Some Cat that Tuxedo!

We wish everyone a happy New Year, good health, prosperity and the company of good friends.

Life is good.

What’s new? Hope the world is treating you!

 

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Thoughts on the gradual death of print journalism in Guelph

By Gerry Barker

December 26, 2018

The Mercury Tribune has dropped its Tuesday edition. The paper is promising every Thursday “readers will find analysis, investigative stories, commentary and a variety of content written by our award-winning journalist.”

Also a;pended are about three pounds of advertising inserts, the bread and butter of the enterprise.

In just two years, Metroland Publishing, a division of the TorStar, proprietors of the Toronto Star, has shut down the daily Guelph Mercury and now the Tuesday edition of the Mercury Tribune.

Ah! But stay tuned. The company says it is providing online coverage 24/7 of the news and commentary. Readers must register in order to access the website. The paper is not demanding your first born but just the usual name, address, telephone number and email to access it.

Welcome to the cyber Age of Aquarius, the new electronic access to the news.

The following are important stories about Guelph that are rarely covered in depth by the eviscerated print media. Instead, when questioned, the newspaper says it doesn’t have the space or resources to dig into the stories that affect every citizen in Guelph.

Here’s a recent sample of lack of coverage:

* Explain the “Open Guelph,” a statement of about open government in relation to city council accountability and transparency. Why are they still conducting the public’s business by closed-sessions?

* Explain why Guelph property tax rates and user fees increase every year by far greater than the equivalent of the Consumer Price Index.

* Failure of the Economic Development staff to expand the industrial and commercial assessment to reduce costs to property owners and businesses.

* Guelph Hydro merger that will see the end of the city-owned electricity distribution system that closes at the end of January.

* How much is the city spending advertising in the Mercury Tribune?

* Explain why it has taken five years to renovate the downtown Police HQ that is not expected to be complete until December 2019?.

* Where does council spends the $10 million in gas tax rebates it receives from the Federal and Provincial government?

* How much, if any, do those rebates go toward creating more bike lanes and trails?

* How much of the gas tax rebates are used to expand downtown parking?

* What are the operating and capital costs of the Guelph Civic Museum since it opened?

* How does that figure square with the cost of subsidizing the downtown library?

* What is the status and costs of replacing the Niska bridge?

* Explain the source and details of the financial statements in “Financial Snapshot” section published in the city’s website called: “2017 Report to the Community?”

* What is the ratio of residents using bicycles on Guelph streets and roads compared to those using vehicles?

* Are cyclists subject to the regulations of the Highway Traffic Act? If so, why are they not licensed and carry insurance?

* What are the stats of bicycle and vehicle collisions in 2017 and 2018? What are the injuries to cyclists and drivers? What are the charges brought by Police Services Board and the rationale?

* How much money has been given away or loaned by the city? Aso, explain whar taxparer’s finds are being used to support the Kazoo Festival?

* How much is it costing the city staff services to support the University of Guelph and Conestoga College?

* * * *

Every example listed here costs those citizens who own or rent property and pay user fees.

It’s your money and you have the right to know how it is being spent.

Happy New Year! May good health and prosperity come to you and yours in 2019.

Gerry and Barbara

 

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The stealthy shadow of civic corruption that hangs over Guelph

By Gerry Barker

December 17, 2018

Opinion

In a recent letter to the media by Kevin Bowman, we learned there are three levels of denial employed by the administration to suppress public access to view the reason and results of all closed-council meetings.

Mr. Bowman expressed concern about the administration’s shutting down a complaint about the Clair Maltby Secondary Plan that was discussed in closed-session by council in June 2018.

A decision was made five months later in November, made by the inner sanctum of the outgoing city council, absolved itself and the staff of any wrong doing citing conformity with the Ontario Municipal Act rules concerning closed-session meetings.

The excuse supplied said the city’s procedural bylaw laid out the rules of conducting a closed-session meeting.

Let’s stop for a minute. How many of you out there are familiar with the city’s “procedural bylaw?”

Mr. Bowman did his homework and his following comment is clear and right: “Everything done in the name of the public … should be public.”

Otherwise, denying the right of the public to be able to access closed-sessions conducted by council, elected to represent the people of its business, could well be described a cover-up or, worse still, civic corruption?

Reading this post there is a number that will popup throughout the piece, 84, that’s the number of closed meetings conducted by council in the first two years un office by the Guthrie administration.

As it has now turned out, these 13 councillors were all complicit denying the right of legal public participation in the business of the city. But we’ll never know the result of those 84 votes.

One of the most important aspects of this denial, not only the purpose of the meeting, the discussion or the result of the vote, it’s today the blatant disrespect of the people’s interests in such a disgraceful undemocratic manner. Remember, there were 84 closed-session meetings in 24 months.

Now here’s where this council tramples on your rights

Attempting to obtain the results of Clair Maltby close-session meeting, Mr. Bowman revealed there were two levels of special investigation committees to determine if the information denied to the public could be revealed.

The first was to advise the staff, called the Technical Advisory Group or TAG. The second committee was the Community Working Group or CWG for the Clair Maltby Plan. The identity of the two committee’s personnel, their expertise, their pay or how they were selected is not known.

So instead of involving the public, two faceless, unelected committees with no authority, are deciding whether to allow a citizen’s complaint to be made public.

But wait! There’s more. Super-imposed over this issue are the real hired guns to have the final say in whether you allow the results of a closed-session meeting of council to be made public. It’s called Amberlea Gravel that is on retainer with the city to investigate closed-session meetings of council.

This outfit, retained by the city since 2008, had investigated just four complaints by Guelph citizens. The record to date is just four, all denied. I was one of the four and it took four months to learn of their decision denying the minutes of the December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting.

Thanks to Mr. Bowman, I no longer feel alone.

Pretend you are a judge. Would you accept the argument that the people are not entitled to closed-session meeting details?  Remember those 84 closed-session meetings in 24 months.

Is there reasonable doubt that council is using closed-session meetings to suppress public interests?

The evidence is clear that the Closed-Session Investigator, Amberlea Gravel, only received four requests for information about specific meetings in 10 years tells me there are a lot of secret meetings going on. With respect, that thwarts the meaning of the Ontario Municipal Act. I believe that it is a deliberate policy to deny the public‘s business to, well be public about it.

In my opinion, it’s a corruptive practice and should be investigated by the authorities.

I refuse to believe that the Municipal Act intended to allow municipalities to wander off the reservation rules for conducting closed-session meetings and set up the so-called procedural bylaws serving only the interest of the administrations.

Let’s consider the second greatest cover-up of all

I take you back to December 10, 2015. It is close to approving the 2016 city budget. Council went into a closed-session to discuss, as it turned out, salary increases for four senior staff. There were never any details of that meeting revealed by the Guthrie Administration.

Fast forward to March 21, 2016 when the 2015 provincial Sunshine List was published. It identified every public servant in Ontario earning a salary of $100,000 or more.

Remember, the public was never told about the closed session meeting. So, like any reporter, I pulled up the 2014 Sunshine List and checked it against the 2015 figures for those four top staff managers. I discovered that the four, CAO Ann Pappert, Deputy Chief Administration Officers (DCAO) Derrick Thomson, Mark Amorosi, and Albert Horsman collectively split $98,202.

The dollars and percentages allotted of that pie were:

CAO Pappert, $37,591 (17.11 percent);

DCAO Thomson, $33,834 (19.48 per cent);

DCAO Mark Amorosi, $26,826, (14.7 per cent)

DCAO Albert Horsman. He left the city in August 2015 before the closed-session meeting of Dec. 10. The 2015 Sunshine list shows he was paid some $157,000. His share was never revealed.

Another revelation of Ms. Pappert’s departure

Here’s a wrinkle that has never been revealed in the media. When the 2016 Sunshine List was published the Former CAO was paid $263,000 and worked only five months of the year. Dividing the 263,000 by 12 equals a monthly payment of $21,916.

When Ms. Pappert resigned May 16, 2016, why was she paid $153,416 for the seven months when not employed?

Who authorized that excessive payout? Further, why didn’t the Guthrie Administration inform the public? The public never knew until 10 months later, after she resigned, when the 2016 Sunshine List was published in Match 2017.

Ask yourself; did you believe these increases were justified? Do you believe the drizzle of explanation from the administration was appropriate and responsible?

If so, why did they cover it up?

It was a concerted effort between a needy council and powerful senior staff.

The strangest part of this cover-up was that didn’t council approve these increases not realizing it would be reported when the 2015 Sunshine List was published? This was an ill-informed and awkward decision by the very people elected to represent the people.

In my opinion it is a perfect example of civic corruption.

Of the four senior staffers or beneficiaries, only Mr. Thomson remains as Chief Administrative Officer of the city. One remains unconvinced that this party is still in play and operating with impunity and rare public scrutiny.

Here’s an example. When appointed CAO in June 2016, Mr. Thomson announced he would reveal his salary. The figure he used was that he signed a three-year contract of $230,00 plus an $11,000 taxable benefit. Well the 2017 Sunshine List reported him earning $263,000 plus taxable benefit.

He did not announce that but it was in the Sunshine List reporting the salaries for 2017.

Do we need to keep supporting these senior manager’s practices without recourse or accountability?

The recent re-election of city council returned the same individuals who participated in all those closed-session meetings. The only tool the public can rely on for accuracy are the provincial Sunshine Lists.

Is this anyway to run a railroad? Or, are we the people getting railroaded?

Oscar Wilde was once quoted: “The only way to get rid of temptation is to give in.”

Unfortunately, given the result of the recent civic election it epitomizes that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Breaking news

The Guelph Mercury tribune is asking readers to register to obtain the stories and features online.

Having operated a controlled distribution newspaper in my career, I know what’s going on.

First, the advertisers want proof of the circulation numbers, where the paper is being delivered and confirmation of delivery.

Second, it is an apparent innocent appeal to invite folks to register that is a potential prelude to converting to paid circulation.

In my opinion, if the management decides to go that route, they will have to beef up their editorial coverage to not be reliant on city press releases puff pieces and the police incident records.

I am reminded of a comment made by Tribune Editor Doug Coxson in a Globe and Mail feature on the Guelph media two years ago. He was quoted as saying that the Tribune was planning to do more investigative reporting.

I’ve been covering the Guelph political beat for 12 years and have yet to read one investigative story in the paper.

 

 

 

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Critical words denied by those sworn to allow it, our civic democracy is in peril

By Gerry Barker

December 10, 2018

I am a wordsmith, a lover of language and expression. In some 12 years I have been covering the politics of a city that is drenched in diversion and opacity. I have searched for truth and transparency in reporting some 200 columns in the former Mercury daily newspaper and 997 posts in my blog, guelphspeaks.ca.

I am not always right. It isn’t easy as one pursues the truth from a closed operation known as the City of Guelph. The city administration for those 12 years has been dominated and controlled by a pernicious movement controlled by a coalition of the labour movement environmentalists, the Green Gang and by NDP loyalists.

It is a highly organized group determined to change the way we transport ourselves, collect and process our waste, annually increases charge us for our water, incoming outgoing and storm runoff that now represents 33 per cent of my residential Guelph Hydro electricity monthly bill.

Hey! I’m just a taxpayer

This council has given away, (my words and opinion) our Hydro distribution system to a large corporation that has no connection with the 55,000 customers who were quite happy with the former Guelph Hydro.

That single exercise masked the truth and was not transparent. To this day I would like to hear from any member of council how much the city received for our system. Yes, words do matter but only when they are used to reveal the truthful interests of the public.

The control of this group rests with words. They publish the words that they want you to read and believe. There is little or no media investigation of the major mismanagement of the people’s business since 2007.

Their words are designed to block public participation in the politics of the city.

And In October, that strategy worked because for a lack of transparency and accountability, two thirds of those citizens eligible to vote, some 57,000 of them failed to turn up and vote.

Regretfully it is by design. It’s called the lullaby system. Without a vibrant and responsible media to force open an accountable government to inform people. They are the large group of eligible citizens who are not informed and then assume their vote is not important or needed.

Mushroom manipulation of the public’s business

Here’s what you’ll rarely read or view in the Guelph focused media. Critical news of the administration, particularly when it comes to financial news and development decisions. The exception is the Ontario Municipal Act that oversees the governance of the 445 municipalities in Ontario. That Ministry also published the annual Sunshine List of every public employee in the province earning more that $100,000.

This is an invaluable resource to track down who and how much Guelph employees whomake the list earn each year.

Yes, words, facts and figures do matter. The province gets it, why doesn’t Guelph?

That was a major break-through in discovering how city council, in December 10, 2015, in closed-session, approved $98,202 in salary increases to four top staff managers. Not one of the so-called media covered this, even when the 2015 Sunshine list revealed their salaries in March 2016.

I was interested in the numbers and checked their salaries in 2014 and discovered the size of the increases and to whom they were awarded. The city to this day has never admitted those increases that they covered up for more than three months. Did they believe that none of us would notice or question it?

I attempted in January 2016 to obtain the minutes of the Dec. 10th closed-session. It turned out three levels of consultants denied my request after four months. More on this to come later. It is a form of voter suppression that has been perfected for the past 12 years.

I wrote several posts critical of the silence that enveloped any official explanation or an apology. In addition, my posts aggravated the senior staff and certain members of council.

Yep! Words do matter, along with actions that blind public participation even when such a monumental mistake occurs under the administration’s watch.

Why the city administration wants to control the news

This is an example that words are important and matter in our modern society. Unfortunately, the City of Guelph administration has chosen to shut down public participation because the words do not fit their agenda.

Finally, here’s my point. If city council abuses the right of citizens to know and understand the administration’s operations, there is no better example than the numbers of closed-session meetings of council plus that of some of its non-elected committees.

In two years, 2015 and 2016, council conducted 84 closed-session meetings not including those conducted by other committees appointed by council.

The question is: These suppressive tactics to deny the right of the public’s right to know, are allowed to continue, nothing will change and we can only change it by organizing, and preparing for the next civic election in 2022. Only with political action by the voters can end it and return real democracy to our city.

I will do everything I can as long as I am able to help make this happen. More on this later.

Meanwhile, let’s get started. Let me know, if you are ready to join the coalition to change the way to stop our city being controlled by a group of self-serving people. Drop me a line at gerrybarker76@gmail.com. We can start by forming a steering group to set up an organization that will represent all parts of the city.

 

 

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