More short takes

Posted February 23, 2013

Stick handling around the edges

So Mayor Farbridge reacted negatively and got “prickly” when it was suggested that the city tourism staff and job should be outsourced. Is that the same Mayor who starred in the $25,000 Guelph promotional video that was hosted by former NFL Quarterback Terry Bradshaw? How did that work out?

Are the big banks getting fat on student loans?

There was an interesting study done in the U.S. regarding the ratio of College students who graduate and the number who leave school for whatever reason with student loans. The smaller and lesser-known universities and colleges appear to have fewer students graduating in a class than those who take out student loans to attend college.

The question arises here of applying this study’s findings to publicly-funded Canadian universities and community colleges plus those for-profit institutions in the private sector. I suspect the graduation levels are higher than the U.S. but the key is the ratio between those who graduate and the number of outstanding student loans. Regardless it is time to get the banks out of the student loan business in which the loans are guaranteed by the provincial government. There is no escaping this obligation.

Does anybody have any poker sense at city hall?

Did Loblaws pull the wool over the eyes of the city administration? A letter in the local daily pointed out that an opportunity was missed when Loblaws requested permission to enlarge an existing store on Eramosa Road. With the dire need for a full-service grocery on land in the east end of the city owned by Loblaws, no one in the administration suggested that the Eramosa project was leverage to get the needed store in the East end. That need has now existed for seven years and hundreds of homes have been built in the interim. Talk about dropping the ball!

The tail is wagging the dog … again

One has to be amused by the latest report on bicycles sharing the road with vehicles. In a cross-country survey conducted by alleged researchers, it was determined that “simple” infrastructure changes and lower vehicle speeds would reduce bicycle accidents. In Guelph, fewer than 1,500 adult regular bicycle users have ardent advocates on council demanding more bike lanes to be built. The latest is spending $750,000 to create more lanes. Well, if the last grand project to build dedicated bike lanes on Stone Road is any example, it only cost $2 million. Now that’s a simple solution!

Late breaking news

One of our operatives questioned authorities at a Guelph primary school about the number of students who used bicycles to come to school. The reply was: “we do not recommend students using bicycles”. Is this a contradiction of city policy regarding bicycle lanes? Just what is the reason to spend taxpayer funds on more bicycle lanes when young people are being discouraged? Just asking.

What really happened before the city fired the contractor?

It seems there were numerous “change directives” issued by the city during the 18-month construction of the new city hall that was abruptly terminated by the city in September 2008. What is interesting is the description. When does a “change directive” become a “change order”? It is assumed that the executive word here is “change”. Each “change represents a deviation from the original approved design of the building.  The contractor bid on that design of the building. Now testimony in the civil trials between the city, Rubicon Buildings Group, architects Moriyama and Teshima, Aviva, the performance bond issuer, and subcontractors points to a root problem in the source of these changes that slowed completion of the new city hall.

When is former Chief Administration Officer Hans Loewig going to testify as to his role in the firing of Urbacon? Was he only following orders or was he complicit in the decision?  Were all these changes made for the benefit of the taxpayers or to embellish the needs of the staff who would occupy the new building? These are questions that must be explored by the court to determine cause and effect.

Water use drops. Rates go up.

Will someone explain why water consumption has steadily declined in Guelph but the rates keep going up? It’s classic user fee principle. If you use it, you pay for it. The exception here is that everyone must use water and wastewater must be treated.

Does that same principle apply to Guelph Transit where only some 13 per cent of taxpayers use the system but subsidize it by more than $14 million? Does it apply when the city spends $2 million on bicycle lanes of Stone Road? Cyclists pay nothing toward the capital costs of bicycle lanes although some are taxpayers. The latest council move is to spend another $750,000 on more dedicated bike lanes.

The downtown parking dilemma

When the city gives its employees free downtown parking who pays for it? Well, Revenue Canada says it’s a taxable benefit and the city has already handed out more than $400,000 (of taxpayer expense) with more to be paid because the administration failed to deduct the necessary tax for the freebie. It also exacerbates the downtown parking problem when some 1,300 civic employees have the potential of locking up precious spaces. It has always been a thorn in the side with non-public workers and shoppers who cannot find parking spaces.

As always, your comments are welcome.

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5 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

5 responses to “More short takes

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    The water works is obviously over staffed and in light of declining usage, keeps jacking up rates to cover the typical bloated bureaucracy.
    You failed to connect the dots between free parking for city hall employees and bicycle paths. Simply replace the parking spots for the city employees with bike racks, wherein 1 parking spot could handle 6-8 bikes. Start with councilors’ parking . A real “no brainer” but then the civic administration, from council on down, is not reputed for “street smarts”.

  2. geo

    Why does the City take money out of the road’s budget to build bike lanes when Guelph is supposed to see unprecedented growth in the next few years?
    I have been cut off three times in the last two weeks on Woodlawn Road by drivers who grow impatient while trying to turn left out of the Harvey’s Plaza. As well there is a level crossing at Woodlawn and Edinburgh that trains use to switch tracks. When this happens traffic is backed up for miles through multiple traffic lights.
    The City appears to be preparing for a population decrease rather then an increase.
    I now I should be more creative but the decision makers in these matters appear to be fools.

    • Geo: I believe that cyclists and drivers can co-exist. But it requires a remake of the laws governing the use of public roads. Both users should respect each other. Cyclist should have a license that registers their bike plus some training on how to operate safe;y on the streets of the city. Police should enforce the Highway Traffic Act with vehicle operators to create understanding and respect in sharing the road.

  3. Jerry

    I am a avid bike rider and do enjoy riding the trails and roads around
    Guelph.In saying this i would rather it go back to the olden days were the
    cyclist were required to get bicycle licenses thru the police station.In the
    price you would have to go thru a bit of a training exercise for safety.
    This solved many problems……
    First,your bike would be registered if it was stolen.
    Second,it gave you some safety tips for road travelling.
    Third,it could help pay for new trails,bike lanes and such.
    (now,i am not saying it will cover everything but it will help)

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