Monthly Archives: August 2011

Giving the Three Stooges a bad name

The city backed off its threat to sue a small businessman for calling the city staff responsible for supervising construction of Carden Street as Larry, Curly and Moe, aka the Three Stooges.

What on earth prompted the administration to even consider such a move?

Would the city brain trust have been more comfortable calling those staffers responsible nobs, henchmen, yobs, and jerks? Hell no, I think the Three Stooges description got it right. It certainly got the attention of the city leaders.

These planners, I use the term loosely, have managed to go home every night without remorse and a hefty pay packet. They have no concern abut cash flow, customers, and access to a business or dealing with the bankers. They have the luxury of walking away every night without concern about the impact of their decisions on taxpayers. It’s called the job with no consequences.

And that lame duck windbag, Chief Administration Officer Hans Loewig has the audacity to demand an apology. At the same time the city announced it would not proceed with a libel suit. Did I mention he’s leaving?

Where was the Mayor when the city legal department was issuing notices of libel?

Did she sanction the threats to these downtrodden business folks to shut up or we will sue you?

How thin are their skins.

The senior city staff should wake up and smell the coffee. Through years of uninterrupted construction, the city has brought a number of these small businesses to their financial knees. Sloppy planning, irresponsible coordination of contractors and their subs and determination to create a “Market Square” that is another monument to a Farbridge dominated council.

This remains an example of mindless ambition, disregard of the needs of citizens and consequences. Indeed the description fits those staff persons who have turned the city into a nightmare of traffic chaos.

Tell council that we are mad as hell and won’t take it any more. Demand they stop the arrogance and rationally deal with the problems the city’s citizens face. The staff must be reshuffled eliminating the fog of disorganization and focus on meeting the needs of the citizens.

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A letter to Uncle Dan about Guelph

Dear Uncle Dan:

It’s been a while since I wrote you about what’s happening in Guelph.

The picture is confusing. People are realizing there are serious financial problems caused by some dubious decisions by staff and council. Just this week the Mayor said that the starting point for the 2012 tax increase is three per cent. Yikes! That seems to be the order of the day at City Hall, spend or you won’t get re-elected.

The usual suspects toe the Mayor’s line so she holds a slim majority of adherents. There are some crossovers. The big surprise is how the Mayor wooed rookie councillor Todd Dennis, who ran on reducing taxes, to her side. It tipped the balance in her favour in most votes.

Uncle Dan the real problem the city faces is one that no one wants to address. It’s the enormous growth in staff across all departments and the rich contracts and salaries that have been awarded.

One area is the redundancy in administration of police and fire units.

New Councillor Cam Guthrie suggested that an outside consultant be hired to review all city operations. The majority of council quickly shot down that proposal as they don’t want the operational warts revealed, especially by an outsider. Shades of the Cuff report in 2004!

Let’s look at the fire services. The actual number of fires they fight is way down due to advances in construction and safety devices. But the number of firemen keeps increasing. More than 90 per cent of fire calls are for non-fire occurrences. Does it make sense to have fire fighters answer a call for a heart attack or someone in a car collision? Every time that fire truck leaves the station costs soar.

More than half of fire calls are medical responses that the emergency medical service should be attending. Yet the two services often arrive at the same occurrence. Duplicate staff, dispatchers and costly equipment make the system expensive.

Shouldn’t fire and medical emergency services be merged and reduce overall operating costs with one administration and budget? What politician has the cojones to propose that? At least Cam Guthrie took a stab at it.

The recent announcement that Guelph had the lowest crime rate in specific crimes in the Country was followed with a request for two additional officers next year. If crime is dramatically lower than just a few years ago, why is the force being expanded?

I’d be interested Uncle Dan, in learning just what the police do to keep law and order. One thing is clear there are a number of fire and police personnel who are making more than $100,000 a year. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. When you factor in overtime, sick leave and paid duties the cost of policing and fire protection there is need of a stringent review.

Uncle Dan, I know these employees are folk heroes who, on occasion, face life and death situations.  Their leadership will argue that merging these two departments will result in unintended circumstances such as someone needlessly dying.

The bottom line Uncle Dan, there is a huge administrative redundancy between Fire, Police and EMS services. They all want to retain their cachet and run their own show, but is it in the best interests of their employers, the taxpayers?

Uncle Dan, here’s another example of how money gets foolishly spent.

Executive Director Mark Amorosi, in charge of human resources and legal services, told the governance committee of Council (chaired by the Mayor) that the new Chief Administration Officer should be offered a salary level in the 60 percentile range. Translated Uncle Dan that means our new guy is going to be offered a base salary higher than the Ontario average salary for that job. The Committee said no and reduced it to 55 per cent. Big deal.

Hey! It gets more interesting. The city hires a headhunter (HH) to search for Hans Loewig’s replacement, spending between $40,000 and $45,000. That does not include extra costs such as advertising and other expenses incurred by the HH.

Uncle Dan, I have to wonder why any qualified management person would want to join the poor morale atmosphere at 1 Carden Street. There is dissension in the ranks. The majority of staff with union contracts sits back and waits for the next contract and those without, churn with resentment.

Hans Loewig, the absentee landlord earning $212,000 a year, is sticking around, but with his spotty attendance record, are we sure?

Now the staff has announced that it needs $80,000 to renovate the new City Hall to accommodate additional staff. The guy in charge says he hopes it will come under that figure but neglects to mention that the cost of furnishing the workstations is not included.

Gotta close uncle Dan.  It’s not yet Guelphageddon but stay tuned.

Say hello to cousin Vinny.

Your nephew, parsimonious Phil

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Taming the bicycle revolution

I live in a house on a long hill. Without regard to pedestrians or vehicles, cyclist’s speed down the hill every day. As it is a dead end private road, there is concern that if there is an accident, the Homeowners Association could be liable.

If a car pulled out of the driveway, there is no way a cyclist travelling at a high rate of speed could avoid a collision.

Many city cyclists have an enlarged sense of entitlement that manifests itself in scooting through stop signs and red lights using sidewalks to bypass traffic and rarely signaling their intentions.

Cyclists roaring up from behind unsuspecting pedestrians on sidewalks without warning are a growing problem.

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act dictates that a bicycle is a vehicle. Operators of cars and trucks are required to hold a licence that reflects their ability to drive, operate with functioning brake lights, directional signals and headlights, and maintain insurance to cover a variety of events.

Bicyclists are not required to adhere to any of those rules. Anyone can ride a bicycle wherever they want at any time of the day or night with no lights, no insurance and no licence to operate on public streets.

There have been some charges laid by police to cyclists using the sidewalk or ignoring traffic signals. But police do not have the resources to control the growing number of erratic and irresponsible operators on bicycles.

The obvious solution is to license cyclists with an operator’s permit and plate on each bicycle. Along with a mandatory helmet rule, each rider must carry insurance to cover accidents and other forms of liability. The bicycle should be equipped with proper lights and signal devices including a bell or horn.

Until the Ministry of Transport mandates rules there will be the never-ending battle between licensed vehicle operators and cyclists.

The consequences will be predictable as cyclists battle the motorists on our streets.

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