Gerry Barker’s “Between the Lines” previous columns can be found in the Previous Columns category.
Previous columns are archived starting in November 2006 to the present. Most were printed in the Guelph Mercury but there are a few than were never printed. The unpublished columns are marked so viewers can determine what what was written and not printed for a variety of reasons. The columns are a running commentary of Guelph’s political scene as well as the nation and province.
Here is the current column published in the Mercury January 4, 2011.
Between the Lines
By Gerry Barker
I still marvel at the capacity of the Left to totally control the city of Guelph. Their victory in 2006 earned them the right (bad pun) to do just about anything they wanted.
And they fulfilled most of their political wet dreams. Here are a couple of doozies.
A religious conversion occurred with council cutting a lease to take over the derelict convent adjacent to the Church of Our Lady. Now almost five years later, a new civic museum arises costing city taxpayers an estimated $9 million plus another $6 million from two senior governments. The final cost has yet to calculated.
The decision to build a new wet waste management plant on the same site as the condemned one on Watson Road, whistled through Council with barely any opposition. The bill for this enterprise has now escalated to an estimated $46 million. Bureaucrats have never confirmed the real operating costs. Preliminary estimates are more than triple current costs of $85 per tonne.
It was recently revealed by an independent analyst that Guelph had the ninth highest municipal property taxes in Canada. There were swift denials by the Mayor. Following council’s usual procedure, an outside consultant was hired to study the issue.
Wait! There’s more. The new council has been asked to approve a $10 million loan to continue development of the Hanlon Business Park. Prior to the election, the city announced that two companies indicated they would establish in the Park creating some 370 jobs. However, nothing had been signed. The interest cost of this loan is $31,000 a month.
More news. Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig informed council December 23, he will be away until January 18. Heir apparent, Mark Amorosi, assumes the CAO duties. Cost to taxpayers? Those 26 days off amounts to $14,674.
The balance of power around the council table has changed following the October election, so there is some hope that common sense will return to the table.
Four new councillors were elected. Councillor Gloria Kovach has consistently opposed the Left majority agenda for the past four years. The job of chairing the Police Services Board was dangled in front of her. But she was not appointed a committee chairman. It is indicative of Mayor Farbridge’s determination to cling to her agenda at any cost.
The Mayor has gone on the offensive. The “accidental” closing of the committee strike meeting, that was supposed to be open to the public, was labeled as miscommunication by the security guard who denied entry to the press. My information is that the decisions on who should be committee chairpersons was cut and dried before the closed meeting. New members of council plus Coun. Bob Bell, were not consulted or considered for committee chairperson positions.
Then Ms. Farbridge chastised Coun. Bell for remarks he made in the Mercury regarding the reliability of staff reports. She even threatened censure to Bell, as if that meant anything. The intention, of course, is to gag the newbies on council.
The irony is that the Left criticized the Quarrie council of being dysfunctional yet this new council is already rife with palpable distrust, arrogance and duplicity.
Don’t hold your breath Mayor, the opposition has teeth now and there is talent among them to ask the questions the public needs to know.
Carden Street is going to be most interesting in 2011.
Have a wonderful and prosperous New Year.
Gerry Barker is a Guelph resident. Contact him at email@example.com