Let’s start by saying there are a lot of smart people who run our city.
The problem is that the political ruling class – the council gang of eight – has dominated and controlled public business. This has been the case for the past five years.
Under the leadership of Mayor Karen Farbridge, programs of grandiose schemes and social engineering policies has brought the city to a state of dangerous financial condition.
There is little disposable cash to meet the growing demands of the city. Assessment is only increasing at a rate of 1.5 per cent per year. Taxes are increasing exponentially at a rate of 3.5 per cent per year. The city has one of the highest per capita debt rates in the entire country.
Spending is out of control as major projects initiated by this council have failed to meet budgets or performance.
So what do we do about it?
1. Demand that council reduce spending by reducing staff in all areas of public employees including police, fire and EMS. Freeze all hiring across the board including part-timers and occasional staff. Specifically, demand all departments to reduce staff in two stages: Three percent in the first six months of 2012 and four percent in the last six months of the year. Total 105 employees.
2. Instruct legal staff to negotiate outstanding legal suits to bring to a conclusion.
3. Do not hire consultants for 12 months. Close out current contracts.
4. Instruct all departments to reduce non-staff costs by 3 per cent in 2012.
5. Have a staff report to the status of all stimulus projects and future cash flow required.
6. Cut city advertising and public affairs budgets by 50 per cent.
7. Require River Run Centre and Sleeman Centre to be self-sustaining within six months.
8. Cancel all financial support to community groups. If you have a cause support it, do not expect taxpayers to do it.
9. Get aggressive with the provincial government to increase the property tax deal enjoyed for 29 years by the University of Guelph to help meet the city’s 2012 financial needs.
10. Review all donations to organizations to reduce spending.
11. Pass a by law to cut the number of councillors to six in 2015 and make the job a fulltime position with appropriate remuneration.
12. Abolish the executive director system. Replace it with department heads reporting directly to the CAO.
13. Curtail all travel and associated expenses. Cancel all staff credit cards.
14. Appoint a cost czar to review all accounts and claims.
15. Appoint a citizen’s committee under the leadership of a qualified and respected library expert to study and recommend a public private partnership for a new downtown library.
16. Form a task force composed of citizens and staff to study a public and private partnership to build the south end recreation centre.
17. Get aggressive to collect taxes in arrears and uncollected traffic fines.
18. Take action to encourage a large grocery chain to establish in the east end of the city.
19. Hold a conference with property developers and builders to explore ways and means to increase assessment through careful planning.
20. Speed up the approval process for developers and new businesses.
21. Provide budget support and incentives to the staff commercial and industrial development team to seek business and encourage candidates to settle in Guelph.
22. Renegotiate the deal with Maple Reinders re operation of the wet waste plant.
23. Invoke a sunshine bylaw that opens all council meetings to the public. Cancel all in camera council meetings held before the public council meeting. Exceptions would be negotiations regarding real estate and problems associated with employees. Council would have to explain to the public why such an in camera meeting was necessary.
24. Invoke a bylaw to publish dates and times of committee meetings with ten days notice on the Internet and public media.
25. Have the Mayor give a monthly status report on the city with an overview of finances and status of major projects. It should be real news oriented and not propaganda.
26. A customer service team should be set up to answer public questions and complaints. This group would follow-up to ensure the query was handled promptly by the affected department.
27. Abolish the present security system at city hall so that any person can enter and access council and staff at any time. This is a public building owned by the taxpayers.
28. Amalgamate the response teams for police, fire and EMS to a singular call centre.
29. Review the operations of the fire department to reduce operations that are often duplicated by other public safety services.
30. Review all bylaws with the city legal team to reduce the obfuscation and redundancy of current business practices.