CITY VIEW – Our Teflon Mayor, nothing sticks to her

Posted June 30, 2013

The Farmer’s Market renovation project is yet another example of how our city administration can fumble a project so dismally.

Last fall city council approved a 2013 budget that included spending $170,000 on renovation the Farmer’s Market, a jewel in the downtown part of the city.

That initiative had to be investigated by someone prior to implementation. In our city nothing happens without the express approval of Mayor Karen Farbridge.

Was the city staff instructed to perform a renovation of the market including a two-month relocation to Exhibition Park? If so, was there staff planning that led to the approval by council of the $170,000 in 2013? If so, why did the cost almost triple later?

The public who patronized the market and its vendors, were never asked where the temporary location should be.

Out of the blue, the staff responsible for the renovation said it needed $500,000 to complete the job. This figure was never approved by council and the entire project tumbled into confusion, incompetence and misuse of the public trust.

So a crisis developed. Here we are eight months after initial approval of the market project and staff cannot find a contractor to do the work at the budgeted price before September 1.

And our Teflon Mayor, what does she say about all this? Nothing, nada. She adroitly shuffles the project out of her office offering no opinion as to what must happen to resolve the situation. That’s how the lady works. If a project goes wrong, she disappears into the closet. If it goes right, and few do, she claims credit through the press, her blog and in taxpayer-paid press releases.

Oh, she uses all the buzzwords such as innovation, robust, integrity, vibrant, streamline, ad nauseum.

This mayor is a closet mayor. She tightly controls city business so that there is manifest fear among staff members who are afraid to speak their minds. The mayor rarely appears to speak in public only in situations where questions are not asked. In almost seven years she has never held a press conference to allow the media to question her policies.

Back to the Farmer’s Market, staff now say they have cut the specifications on the project to reduce the cost. What specs were dropped?

Is this what happened with the overbuilt $34 million Organic Waste Processing Facility to accommodate waste from the Region of Waterloo? Is this the same facility that operated at less than 60 per cent of its planned capacity in 2012?

Is this another example of wasteful spending on paving bricks purchased in the U.S. that failed to be delivered on schedule unnecessarily tying up Carden Street for months?

It could be argued that waste management is an abstract thing in most citizen’s minds. But fool around with the Farmer’s Market and you have kicked over the bee hive of public anger and distrust.

Because of the Mayor’s close ties with the unions that comprise some 80 per cent of civic staff, don’t expect any heads to roll for this example of stunning incompetence.

When you compare Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who faced the media daily about the flooding of his city, to Guelph’s closeted mayor who ducks every time something goes wrong, it is to weep in anguish.

Her legacy as mayor, as an absent public persona, has been utterly discredited by a track record of wasteful spending, bungled operations, dysfunctional council and staff, record tax and user fee increases.

We deserve better.

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4 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

4 responses to “CITY VIEW – Our Teflon Mayor, nothing sticks to her

  1. joseph phelan

    F inds ways to hide from the press when it conveniently suits her
    A lways in the press when things “appear” to be good
    R arely answers direct questions even when you can track her down
    B ungled so many city projects
    R ude and arrogant
    I ndlulges in her self-importance
    D angerous to the citizens of Guelph
    G uelph needs to be rid of here
    E conomics.she asks,” Something to do with managing finances”?

  2. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Gerry:
    Once again you have peeled back several layers of the onion that is the Guelph civic administration. What, if any , due diligence as to the state of the market building was carried out prior to a $170, 000 price tag put on the renovation of an old facility? Is there anyone on staff with the engineering and project management capability to manage such a capital project? What caused the price to suddenly skyrocket to $500,000? Was the building in worse shape than anyone imagined? Media noted that parts of it will be delayed until the next fiscal year. What started out as a small project has morphed into a vast project that is being handled in a half vast manner. The question of competency of staff has to be addressed as does accountability for the mess by “raising the question of personnel”. Were councilors provided with sufficient information to make an informed decision with respect to the original project cost as well as the reason for the out of control escalation? Is this someone’s “pet” project that is being rammed through by the mayor and her tax and spend cohorts?

    • Glen N. Tolhurst: So many questions and no answers. It’s called the Great Canadian Clam-Up. Picture if you will, the finger pointing going on at One Carden Street over this latest debacle. One wonders whether this administration can manage a two-car funeral.

    • joseph phelan

      City staff can’t manage a cheeze roll.

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