Is Mayor Rob Ford’s conviction a harbinger for Guelph’s administration?

Posted November 27, 2012

The Mayor of Toronto impaled himself on his own sword when he pompously refused to listen to an order from the city’s integrity commissioner. Briefly, Ford used his office to solicit money from city lobbyists and friends for his football foundation. The commissioner warned him he couldn’t use city resources for soliciting money for his private foundation.

Instead Ford voted in council not to return the money and was challenged by a citizen activist for breach of the Ontario Municipal Act conflict of interest rules.

To top it off he was not contrite, testified he didn’t read the rules of conflict of interest and gave the presiding judge the impression he was right and everyone else was wrong.

He lost the case. He has 14 days to remain in office then he’s out. He’ll appeal and his stay at city hall will be extended if he wins a stay of the judgment.

What does this mean to citizens of Guelph?

Here we have a different situation. For the past six years, the Mayor and her close-knit supporters have controlled the city agenda. There has been little opposition in council to the actions of this dominating group.

And the fault rests with us, the taxpayers, who let it happen in the polling booths in 2006 and in 2010.

In this unhealthy political scenario, decisions are made behind closed doors of which the taxpayers have little response or control.

One of the more troubling situations is the relationship between the controlling Farbridge council and the University of Guelph. The Farbridge group, has among its eight members, three employees of the University plus the mayor who retains ties to the institution.

Let us assume that university employees Coun. Leanne Piper, Coun. Lise Burcher and Coun. Maggie Laidlaw, are members of the university employee pension and benefit plans. Is it a conflict of interest under the Municipal Act for them to vote on city labour relations issues, including employee benefits, wages and salaries?

If they have been voting in support of increased city staff salaries, wages and benefits in the past six years while serving as members of council, they could be in a conflict of interest according to the Act.

Further, in the past six years the university has been in a massive building program to educate its more than 123,000 students. This building program involves use of city services including water and sewer works, transit, large scale building projects requiring city staff, fire and emergency services.

This has nothing to do with private corporate employee labour costs. There are other members of council who are employed with private companies or are retired. The issue is using their personal power by voting to escalate salaries, wages and benefits for city employees while being members of another public institution’s organized labour group.

In Guelph’s case, the evidence is stark and real. City staff costs have reached a total of 89 per cent of the 2011 city tax levy. That represents a 68.1 per cent increase in Guelph’s staff costs in five years.

The conflict of interest legislation can be harsh on those serving as public trustees. Elected councillors have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to ensure that their interests are protected from outside influences, including the association with the University of Guelph.

While the city and the university are public institutions, only the city has elected councillors charged with the administration of the city and answerable to the taxpayers.

Unfortunately, voters only get a chance to elect councillors every four years. This places an even greater burden on those elected to maintain an open and transparent administration.

Those pious, self-congratulatory propaganda responses prepared by the Farbridge communications staff, is a study in news manipulation. In less polite circles it can be considered lying by omission. And the irony is that we pay for it.

For many citizens, change cannot come soon enough. With two more years of the Farbridge administration running the municipality, all citizens can do is organize and protest further erosion of the public purse.

As for those councillors serving as members of council and employed by the university, they would be wise to declare a conflict of interest and not vote on any issues involving their employer that may impact the taxpayers of Guelph.

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13 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

13 responses to “Is Mayor Rob Ford’s conviction a harbinger for Guelph’s administration?

  1. geo

    Farbridge has decided to return to the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph public health board, probably the last person on earth the county wants to deal with. Sounds like something Rob Ford would do.

    • geo: Never underestimate Mayor Farbridge. Comparing her to Rob Ford is like comparing a ballerina to a bulldozer. Unfortunately her dancing has become stale and predictable. Guess we’ll hear more Thursday, November 29 when the citizens have their say on the city budget.

  2. Jerry

    I thought i heard her say it was not a functioning board and she asked
    the province to disband it.
    Now farbridge wants to go back and play nice in the sand box.
    (sarcasm)I guess like the old saying goes if you can’t beat them (and lose a
    big chunk of tax payers money)you might as well join them and get paid
    for it.

    • Jerry: We still don’t know the cost of the city’s attempt to get out of the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph public health board. The legal case was thrown out. Kind of reminds you of a puppy who has just messed the broadloom madly wagging its tail looking for mercy. I hope the mayor is not expecting a rose garden from her county colleagues as the prodigal returns.

  3. I am a regular reader of this blog as well as others that concern the political climate in Guelph and I can’t help but notice that a lot of people are pissed. In Toronto, it is essentially one pissed off taxpayer who will be responsible for Ford’s demise and I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t possible here.

    Why wait until the next election? Can we not band together and force the current administration to the curb?

    Picture this: 25% of Guelph households refuse to pay their taxes while simultaneously putting their Christmas trees in the car and dropping them off at the front door of city hall. Don’t even get me started I how to protest the waste bins!

    Reading the budget highlights made me sick to my stomach. To compensate for mismanagemement of our money, they simply want more of it while providing less in return. A line in the budget calls for an increase in the already bloated payroll at city hall and my question is if less services are being delivered, why are 23 additional bodies required to deliver them? It is simply appalling that in a city of this size, taxpayers are funding the payroll for 1,450 people!

    More crossing guards and a coordinator for the crossing guard program at a cost of $142,500? Are they kidding??

    Most of the tax increase will be going to the library board. Libraries are basically extinct and they might as well put this money towards preserving woolly mammoths in the Guelph rain forests! You get the point.

    Since moving to Guelph, Christmas is one of the few things that give me joy anymore so goddamnit, you had better pick up my tree when I’m done with it! I suspect the result of them trying to save $22grand will result in trees being dumped here, there and everywhere, requiring paid city staff to go out and round them up … But will that cost less?

    So they have forced waste bins on us in spite of most not wanting them. Not only that, if we don’t like the size we can trade it in for $35. Get your freaking hands out of my pocket Karen!

    I shovel my own snow as do most of my neighbours, but there are people who don’t and it makes walking around the neighbourhood a challenge. Maggie Laidlaw’s comments about how cancelling this service would be good at creating entrepreneurial opportunities for teenagers are idiotic, which is okay because she’s an idiot. But really people, take a look around at the teenagers – how many entrepreneurs do you see?

    I guess at the end we will all continue to piss and moan on blogs and then we will bend over and take what they give us. It’s the wrong approach though and it’s time the taxpayers in this town got serious about being pissed off. We don’t have to wait until the next election to get rid of these morons. Lets do it now.

    • jaymophoto: A great summary of how the Farbridge administration operates our city. The irony is they believe they are doing a wonderful job.
      One issue you didn’t discuss is the smelly purchase of the publicly-owned former civic museum. The property was originally listed by the city realty department for $949,000. There was sporadic interest until June of this year. A proposal was made to council to convert the Dublin street property into a culture centre in which artists could rent space and become the creative arts centre of the City.
      Meanwhile there was another bidder who was believed to offer $900,000 for the property. Enter James Gordon,Farbridge friend and architect of the Mayor’s 2006 victory, who supported the sale to a couple to buy the building and convert it into an arts centre for local artists.
      Jim Stokes, manager of realty services for the city refused to reveal the price the couple offered. Council approved the sale which was to have closed in July. Two other extensions were granted and it is apparently closing November 30.
      But here’s the rub. The city has granted permission for the purchasers to enter the building before the closing and start making renovations.What’s the old saying? Possession is nine-tenths of the law?
      The price paid is still unknown. However, the Municipal Act requires that public property being disposed of must go to the highest bidder.
      If council has not conducted a formal and open public offering for this property then it is in violation of the Act. The fact that the bidder’s price is kept secret is yet another example of how the Farbridge crew works on our behalf. Rumour has the sale at $675,000 that’s a $274,000 reduction from the original asking price.
      Once again the taxpayers have been hoodwinked and citizens end up subsidizing a privately owned arts centre.
      Is it any wonder that citizens are ticked off. The Farbridge gang think we’re stupid, wrong!

  4. Jerry

    I agree the bin system and robotic arm garbage trucks are just a waste of
    money.I saw two robotic arm garbage trucks on the same side of the street,
    hop scotching between driveways picking up garbage.And not one picking
    up green and the other blue just the opposite.
    No wonder they can’t afford to put water in the pool and splash pads,
    sidewalk snow removal.The money got to go and pay for the garbage
    removal.
    Just to let you know,the old system did not require two garbage trucks
    going down the same road to remove garbage.
    (Country Club drive is where i saw this and yes i wish i had a camera).

  5. Jeff Burke

    Put everything in the clear bag/ landfill bin accomplishes a big thing— they have less stuff to sort and compost, therefore lower costs to the taxpayers— dumping is a fraction the cost of recycling… and when do you think they will ever get hip enough to WEIGH your garbage— apparently there will be cameras to monitor content of bins buwahaha.

    • Jeff Burke and Jerry: The next election will be known as the “Bin election.” The city waste management has already spent thousands producing brochures and a glossy calendar delivered to every household. That includes mine where the city refuses to pick-up our waste. By the time the full rollout of the bins is complete, the citizens will be in full anger mode. At least in Winnipeg they rolled out the bins all at once following a small test. They are still getting complaints and protest. Where do I buy shares in the bin making business? This remains a $15 million mistake.

  6. Jerry

    Hi Gerry
    I agree but i think it is going to the bin/recycling recovery plant/new library/
    civic museum/lawsuits/pool,splashpad/snow removal election.
    I guess last night at the meeting all you would hear is the air whistling
    between the ears of the councillors.

    • Jerry: Stay tuned. I hear there is a movement or two composed of citizens who share our concern about the way this city is being managed. As soon as I get solid information, I will pass it along so everyone can join the party to bring responsible governance to Guelph.

  7. geo

    After reading this blog and others and watching last night’s meeting I believe the outrage being expressed by Guelphites is genuine and growing.
    I think that after the next election Her Royal Highness and followers will be voted so far out of office even a G.P.S. won’t help them find their way back.
    The question is who replaces them? I do not want to see my municipal taxes continue to spiral out of control because we’ve elected another group of navel gazing morons.

    • geo: The time is coming to organize a citizens’ political action group to end the Farbridge monopoly running our city. I’ve heard rumors and will report any movement toward this goal. The only way to stop this bunch is citizen action. Perhaps they might then realize, we’re not kidding.

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