Monthly Archives: March 2013

When will it ever stop?

Posted March 3, 2013

Once again the city administration has a new concept to make the city, particularly the downtown, more likeable and livable. It has hired a New York-based outfit called Project for Public Spaces (PPS). Its task is to revitalize public spaces and, facilitate the workshop. Its code name is “placemaking”.

Wednesday March 6 there is a walkabout scheduled in the downtown area to study plans to improve livability, etc.

It’s not really a good time. Why not do it Friday night around 11 pm when the nightlife is ablaze with 33 drinking establishments going full blast? That should provide some interesting insights for the placemaking study.

This is yet another social engineering move by the Mayor and her cohorts that’s right up there with the recent “wellness” campaign. There is a growing sense of urgency here to build a case for re-election of this controlling group of councillors. The objective is to force-feed the unsuspecting electorate with programs, strategies and workshops they don’t want and frequently don’t understand. But they pay for it anyway.

One commentator suggested that the Mayor must have a long list of consulting and legal firms. If you listen to the first group, it is suggested, that a lawyer will be hired to get you out of trouble. The lengthy list of legal issues facing the city is testimony to that.

Further, why so many hiring of consultants to provide so-called “expert input”? Is the city staff incapable of meeting the wishes of council? It’s like citizens are paying twice to resolve the growing wish list of projects that are outsourced.

The administration’s penchant for hiring consultants has been described as being “consultant reliant”.

Trouble is consultant reports are rarely revealed to the taxpayers and this lack of transparency dishonours the rights of citizens to know and understand how their city is being administered.

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Not even Terry Bradshaw could save this stinker

Posted March 1, 2013

The Guelph administration dropped back, scrambled, pump-faked and was sacked.

That’s the judgment of Maclean’s magazine in selecting the Farbridge administration decision to hire NFL all-star great Terry Bradshaw to extol the city of Guelph in a video that featured, the Mayor!

The $24,500 production was described in a story titled “99 stupid things your government did with your money” in 2012. Guelph made the list twice.

The Maclean’s January edition called the video “foolish, wasteful and blatantly stupid.”

Holy halfback madam mayor, that sounds like a criticism.

The Bradshaw production was originally sold to we peasants as the city being selected for news coverage. That was first pump-fake. Turns out the city had to pay for the production that morphed into a paid commercial and a bad one at that. But the Mayor sure looked good.

The second pump-fake followed a recent scramble by the message meisters at city hall. Out comes Chief Administration Officer Ann Pappert, with a memo proclaiming that more than 5.5 million households “may” have been reached in North America. It is alleged that the video was telecast on the Business News Network in Canada and the Travel Channel in the U.S. Wonder how many decision-makers saw the program in the off hours? Plus, the CAO’s memo claims that 14,389 views have been seen on YouTube.

Okay, let’s separate the footballs from the soccer balls.

The purpose of this exercise was to score, right? So madam CAO, as a direct result of this Bradshaw production, how many enquiries did the city receive in the past year about doing business with Guelph, visiting as tourists or even requesting non-related information? Further, if you don’t tabulate and source enquiries, how do you know if your marketing plan is working? … if there is a marketing plan.

Best guess? Not one. If there had been, two decisions had to be made before releasing the memo. Either there were no enquires or there were so few that it must have been embarrassing. In that case football strategy is to fall back and punt.

It reminds me of the old saying: “When no one knows the truth it’s easy to get away with lying.” In this case it appears to be lying by omission.

So when Marty Williams, executive director of the downtown business association describes the game as a “red herring” he is looking through CAO coloured glasses.

The base problem is a crew of hustlers took the city. And they used the age-old tactic of telling the client what a great job they are doing. The city was had by experts who dangled a premise that was irristable to the city hall decision-makers.

Those responsible for approving the project probably don’t know a marketing plan from a crow bar.

And that sports fans is how you lose the game.

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Did anything go right?

Posted March 1, 2013

More than six years ago, the voters of Guelph elected a city council dominated by candidates who believed that the city should be taken in a new direction. Their leader was Mayor Karen Farbridge.

It was the beginning of transforming small town thinking into a new city.

The Farbridge supporters were ecstatic and the Mayor quickly reset the city agenda to meet her plans to turn the city into an environmental and heritage showcase. It became an obsession and most taxpayers had little knowledge or appreciation of neither what the “new order” agenda meant nor how it would impact the city’s ability to pay for the impending capital spending.

Almost immediately following the 2006 election, the council approved spending $6.7 million to restore the derelict Loretto Convent to become a new civic museum. The city entered a contract with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, owner’s of the pre 1867 building. Details of that contract have never been revealed. This was followed by Federal and Provincial grants totaling $6 million. It took four years to complete.

There is no doubt the museum and its artifacts of the past are better situated in the restored building. Unfortunately, at a cost of some $15 million, it was done in the name of saving a heritage building located on land not owned by the city.

In the middle of the first term, the world economy collapsed. As a result the Federal and Provincial governments offered to pay two thirds of “shovel ready” infrastructure projects as part of a nationwide stimulus package. In Guelph’s case, the city received approval for $66 million of which it had to provide $22 million. This $66 million ballooned to $72 with added projects that were the city’s responsibility.

So what was the source of the $22 million plus $6 million?

The Mayor proposed selling Guelph Hydro to a consortium of power companies including Hamilton and St. Catharines. There was public outrage at this proposal and, rarely, even some of the Mayor’s cohorts, voted against the deal. It was defeated.

But that’s not the end of the story. Guelph Hydro, owed $30 million to the city. That note was called and some of the proceeds were used to pay the various stimulus projects.

If anything that major infrastructure restoration was probably the greatest achievement of the Farbridge administration. How it was paid for is questionable. Nevertheless, with a couple of exceptions, it improved the city’s ailing infrastructure.

The real jewel in the Farbridge administration’s crown is the organic waste management plant on Watson Road. What started out as more environmentally processing of wet waste, turned out to be a bonanza for the designer and contractor of the $37 million plant. Not only did contractor Maple Reinders build the plant but also a subsidiary company, Aim Environmental, would run it and sell the excess capacity.

This turned out to be the tip of the iceberg as the city decided to scrap its pre-sort three plastic garbage system. Despite the Ministry of Environment ruling that plastic bags were allowed in the new plant, the city decided to spend another $15 million to install a bin system that required expensive new collector trucks to make it all work.

Now to a number of citizen’s this huge capital expense was a waste of the taxpayer’s money. Then it was discovered that some material destined to be processed in the new plant was still going to the landfills.

The process to get this operation running as designed, took more than a year to test, adjust and meet the emission standards that the nearby neighbourhoods demanded.

The major chunk of capacity of the plant was sold to the Region of Waterloo who is paying less than the operating costs of the plant — $141 per tonne versus operating cost estimated at up to $342 a tonne. The reason the figure is estimated is because the city will not reveal the operating costs. The Guelph Waste Management Coalition has researched the cost per tonne and it is much higher than the deal struck with the Region of Waterloo.

Meanwhile, there is no new downtown library, no South-end Recreation Centre, a downtown parking crisis. Plus, 13 ongoing lawsuits involving litigation, some 19 Ontario Municipal Board hearings and a number of issues involving public liability expected to be covered by insurance when settled.

This cannot go on or our grandchildren will be paying for it and possibly, their children.

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