A tale of two solitudes

Posted May 28, 2012

When the local media reports city council action it gives the impression of unanimous agreement. The truth is the five-member opposition rarely votes with the majority on most issues.

Only five you say?

For almost six years city council has been dominated by a majority of Farbridge supporters whose agenda blindly stumbles on, regardless of the cost or unintended consequences.

The result is a virtual dictatorship by a majority of councillors who doggedly vote as a bloc supporting the Farbridge agenda. This unbalanced council has caused a huge disservice to taxpayers.

There is no way this Farbridge led-juggernaut can be stopped with its wooly ideas on how to make this city into their image and legacy.

But perhaps in October 2014, election day.

Hard as they might, the five councillors who do not share the spendthrift ways of this council cannot stop the majority from doing almost whatever it pleases.

Until the Guelph electorate has decided it has had enough of the Farbridge focus on the downtown, heritage, the environment, legal litigation, waste management, growing the debt and committing future council to unfunded projects, it will not change in October 2014.

Municipal politics is the bottom feeders of politics. Voter turnout is abysmally low. In the 2010 Guelph election only 38 per cent of those eligible to vote turned up to vote.

The city rumour mill is speculating that Mayor Farbridge is stepping down. Also Coun. Maggie Laidlaw is reported to be calling it a day. Two supporters of the Farbridge dynasty, Todd Dennis and Karl Wettstein, are vulnerable in ward six, Ian Findlay the Farbridge downtown supporter will be a target in ward two.

Further the rumour mill has Coun. Leanne Piper running for mayor.

If true, the invincible Farbridge majority could crumble as fresh faces would create a new, more responsible administration.

Lurking in the background is a movement among the Farbridge majority to amend council representation in the 2014 election. In the works is a proposal to cut the ward-elected councillors to one, elect two at large councillors and a Mayor. This would result Guelph having nine full-time elected representatives. In contrast, only the Mayor is fulltime while the ward representatives are treated as part-timers.

This would increase the workload on all councillors but members would be compensated being paid as fulltime representatives.

The benefits include the secrecy policies of the Farbridge administration would evaporate bringing city business into the sunshine.

The cost of such an administration would increase but the payback would mean Guelph would have an elected body of fulltime employees. This will undoubtedly translate into attracting quality candidates who would not normally consider serving the city under the present organization.

Until that happens, citizens must endure the current oppressive administration.

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4 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

4 responses to “A tale of two solitudes

  1. geo

    Full time councillors are a great idea but not 11 of them. I am represented at the provincial and federal level by a single person and they represent far more people then a city councillor does. A mayor and then two councillors at the most; then you might find an electorate that can focus in on the candidates available and make an informed choice This would also make it a lot harder for one of three elected representatives to say one thing and then do another
    Please do not argue against this idea by bringing up the ward system unless you agree that it has to become law that you have to live in the ward you represent.

    • Geo: I agree that 11 full-time councillors is not workable nor useful to the taxpayers. The proposal is to reduce city council to nine members including the mayor.This would have one full-time councillor per ward (6), two full-time at large councillors, plus the Mayor who is already working full-time. The net cost would be greater but the effectiveness would increase immeasurably. It’s tough getting away from the ward system in a city this size. Citizens seem to be happy with the wards. What they are not happy about is the bloc of councillors dominating the people’s business.

  2. geo

    What purpose does an at large councillor serve?

  3. Gerry, thanks for this post and your blog. Would a mix of ward and city-wide councillors lead to the suggestion by some that the city-wide councillors’ voices should necessarily be heard over the others when it comes to more weighty issues of broader city impact? Are we essentially creating classes of councillors, where the city-wide and ward councillors make their respective cases as knowing best the will of the people? If so, how will that work in terms of a councillor collaboration?

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