Where do we go from here?

Updated February 6, 2013

More than six years ago, I was invited to write a column in the Mercury. When I parted company with the paper in the fall of 2011, I had written more than 70 columns that were reflections of the civic political scene as seen by an independent taxpayer. Early in 2011, I started a blog on the Internet called guelphspeaks.ca. Since that time I have produced some 250 posts or articles on the website.

In general terms the content has been critical of the city administration. There is no shortage of issues to be revealed, examined and challenged. The city has been run by a majority of councilors who slavishly support Mayor Karen Farbridge’s policies and management.

I have been accused of lying, twisting the facts and have had my e-mail of nine years hacked not once, but twice this past year.

It’s the price paid by those who oppose a dictatorship. There is no other way to describe how our city is administered. The votes inevitably break down with seven against five. The truth is, the Mayor usually votes on every motion. She represents the eighth insurance vote to make sure her policies pass or are rejected by her majority. This exposes the supposed neutrality the Mayor should maintain to foster democratic discussion and action. That horse left the barn in 2007.

What should be troubling to taxpayers is that the five who attempt to represent their constituents are kept from committee chairmanships and other positions including the powerful governance committee chaired by the Mayor.

Frequently, when one of the opposition makes a motion that defies the majority rule, he or she is shot down

One of the most egregious incidents came when long-time Coun. Gloria Kovach was dumped from the Police Services board and replaced by Coun. Leanne Piper, a Farbridge cohort. It took some sneaky maneuvering to carry out this coup. Kovach had been unanimously elected in 2010 for four years to serve as a council representative on the board. The motive for this has never been revealed but it is safe to say that Ms. Piper receives additional pay to serve on the Police board.

Now to tighten control there is a proposal to prevent visiting non-member councilors to speak during committee meetings. In polite circles, this smacks of fascism.

Then there was the infamous case of the five councilors who made a Freedom of Information request to obtain public data when a staff member refused to give it to one of them.

The Mayor and her cohorts were outraged and claimed the group broke the council code of conduct. The integrity commissioner, a Caledon lawyer, was called into adjudicate. His report, that did not include interviewing the accused councilors, was pablum and cost $10,400.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in the way the city is being run.  Firings of experienced key personnel have cost taxpayers more than $500,000. The key position of Chief Financial Officer in a six-year period has seen four individuals in the job with one lasting one week. He retirement of the city clerk and city solicitor left a vacuum of experience and knowledge.

We have an Executive Director of the environmental services, engineering and planning, who has no degree in either planning or engineering. There is the Executive Director of human resources and legal services who is not a lawyer but is the gatekeeper of hiring outside legal assistance.

The Chief Operating Officer, Anne Pappert, was selected over ten other candidates even though she was a Director of Parks and Community Services. She also has no degree in financial management, an imperative for the position. The search cost taxpayers $40,000 to replace the previous incumbent who retired.

Why was she chosen? No executive experience running a $400 million corporation, no formal financial background and she has yet to move into the city that she commands.

Underneath this small sample of incompetence, duplicity lays a tableau of secrecy, absolute control and a perverted agenda.

The real problem is, who will stand up to stop the financial bleeding and help reform city governance to serve all the people and not the chosen few?

When one looks at the five councilors opposing the Farbridge administration, there is a high degree of frustration and combat fatigue.

Guelph needs these five councilors, Bob Bell, Jim Furfaro, Andy Van Hellemond, Cam Guthrie and Gloria Kovach to be the building blocks for the new reform council in 2015.

The task to repair the damage caused by the current administration will probably take more than four years. It will be daunting and painful to some.

So I appeal to citizens who will step up and run for city council, under the leadership of a new mayor dedicated to working with the whole council and bringing balance back to the table.

Guelph has a great future and can become a major research and development hub, open for business, serving the auto industry, agriculture and food, and biosciences at the University.

The choice is simple. Develop responsibly and within the means of the corporation or continue the irresponsible management of the past six years. And there are two more years to go before damage control can take over.


Filed under Between the Lines

12 responses to “Where do we go from here?

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    You are absolutely correct in stating that we need citizens to step forward and stand for mayor and council positions so that there is a clear choice between the past ineptitude of council (where too many are past their “best before date”) and an open, transparent, financially realistic future council. Only then will the voters “storm the Bastille” on election day and Guelph will have a future. The financial legacy of the current council will be a plague on the Guelph taxpayers for some years to come.

  2. geo

    Excellent column Gerry!
    A focus on persuading more then 30% of eligible voters to come out on election day would go a long way toward unseating this current group as well.

  3. joseph paul phelan

    It would appear, Gerry that the less one knows about a position with the city of Guelph the better qualified one is for the position…..especially if you scratch the mayor’s back and kiss her but and rally to her support. God bless the 5 councillors who do their best to help this city. For the councillors who appear to sit in Dictator Farbridge’s pocket….shame on you for supporting and curtailing to the whims of a misguided egotistical woman who has the nerve to assume she knows how to run a city. In my opinion it would keep our current mayor hopping to know how to run a toaster…..

  4. Jerry

    Now….if she learned how to run a toaster what would Kathy Downer do.

  5. geo

    No Karen, push it down.

  6. rla

    Lord, give us strength to survive the present Mayor and her cohorts.

    • joseph paul phelan

      Lord please find a place in heaven for the present mayor and her cohorts….p.s. Can ya make it real soon????????????

  7. R

    Jerry, I’ll be as happy as anyone to see some new faces and new ideas in council and in the Mayor’s office next term, but your column couldn’t have more incorrect “facts” if you tried.
    Ask one or more of the five “good” councillors you listed about the Police Services board fiasco or about the selection and suitability of Ann Pappert as CAO.
    Because I have, in private and off the record, and I can tell you they have very different opinions from yours.
    It’s comical how often the words like ‘undemocratic’ and ‘dictatorship’ are used by those who hold a minority ideological viewpoint in a majority-will democracy.

    • joseph paul phelan

      Dear R…..Jerry does not hold a minority ideological viewpoint in a majority-will democracy; Jerry simply calls a spade a spade. It is more than obvious that the goings on at city hall are far from democratic and yes Farbridge does run things like a dictator…..I’m glad you find humor in the goings on at city hall…..if you had Guelph’s interest at heart you would not write such drivel.

    • R:Just to let you sleep at night, I’m not running for council. Sorry you don’t agree with my analysis of the way our city is being mismanaged. In the past 10 years I have been made aware of how the Farbridge defenders operate. Number one is don’t reveal your identity. Number two is refuting my writing and content by using unnamed sources that are off the record. Isn’t that a hallmark of the Farbridge administration? Using secrecy, obfuscation and a pious belief they are doing a great job. R, by the way, my name is Gerry, with a G.

    • joseph paul phelan

      Well put Gerry with a G. from Paul Phelan with two P’s.

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