Monthly Archives: August 2013

Join GrassRoots Guelph and become an agent for change

It’s free and simple. Drop me a note at gerrybarker76@gmail.com and I’ll forward your info to the membership team. Your personal information is kept in a cyber-secure database and used only to communicate with the members.

GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) is non-partisan, non-profit and incorporated under the laws of Ontario. It was founded by a group of concerned citizens and is growing rapidly.

Our goals include developing programs to increase the number of voters in the October 2014 municipal election. These programs include a regular newsletter for members keeping them informed of the issues. Also town hall meetings, led by neutral moderators, will invite the public to express its views on the city political scene.

Informing, educating and socializing with the citizens of our city is a priority for GRG.

Change does not come easily but GRG, armed with the truth and facts, can make it can happen.

Welcome aboard!

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Time to ask 20 questions of Mayor Karen Farbridge

Posted August 31, 2013

Welcome back, hope you enjoyed the August hiatus from doing the people’s business.

The TV program 20 Questions went to game show heaven many years ago but the structure of the program will help us understand the role of Mayor of our fair city. So here are 20 questions for Her Worship, answers that remain a mystery with taxpayers and possibly those at the provincial government.

1.Why do many citizens consider you the most litiganist Mayor in the city’s history? There are many lawsuits on tap plus Ontario Municipal Board hearings and legal cases involving insured claims against the city. The current litigation status report only tells half the story … what are the costs associated with these many legal matters?

2.Can you tell us how much outside legal assistance cost the taxpayers in 2012 and year to date?

3.How much did the city spend on hiring outside consultants in 2012 and year to date?

4.When will you reveal the operating cost per tonne of the Organic Waste Processing Facility?

5.As leader of the municipal government, why don’t you hold regular press conferences to allow the public/media to ask questions about your administration?

6.What is your plan to encourage residential hi-rise development downtown?

7.Why did the city decide to give a ten-year holiday to Tricar developments a city-imposed development charges to build a hi-rise condo downtown that is now mostly sold out?

8.How do you justify supporting the staff when the Farmer’s Market renovation costs jumped from $170,000 as approved by council in the 2013 budget, to the staff stating the costs would be $500,000?

9.Will those staff members responsible be held accountable?

10.Is it true that the downtown secondary plan calls for relocation and rebuilding of the Farmer’ Market?

11.Was Ann Pappert,your hand-picked Chief Administration Officer, in the loop when the Farmer’s Market project was planned and did she monitor progress during the past nine months?

12.What were the costs of the two construction companies hired to complete the old city hall renovation into a provincial court plus the new city hall?

13.Why did the 2013 property tax rate jump from the budgeted 2.96 per cent to 3.74 per cent?

14.What are the terms of leasing the Loretto Convent property for the civic museum?

15.What was the price paid for the old civic museum on Dublin Street?

16.How many bids were accepted on the Dublin Street museum site?

17.What are the terms of the contract to sell sewage sludge to the Lystek company?

18.Why has there been a significant increase in city staff that does not match the increase in population?

19.Why is it necessary to pay $100,000 to a Toronto consultant to develop an “open government plan” for the administration?

20.Are you a candidate again in 2014?

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Sightlines and the Church of our Lady

Posted August 29, 2013

In a recent editorial the daily newspaper suggested that the city skyline is changing and there is a possibility that 18-storey condominiums in the downtown area may disrupt the sightlines to the great church on the hill.

The editorial went on to say that this could change the identity of Guelph.

No doubt the Church on Catholic Hill is a beautiful landmark that is part of the city’s identity. Keep in mind this is a growing and changing community. It is essential that if the downtown area of the city is to undergo a renaissance, a place where all citizens may gather in safety and comfort, then you need people to live there. This will grow the downtown with new businesses and a bustling exciting core of our city.

It will grow because of private investment not public money that has been the case in recent years.

It’s starting to happen and in the next few years most folks in the city will be proud of their revitalized downtown.

The Church of Our Lady will remain as a prominent part of the cityscape.

To worry about sightlines to the church is an inconsequential exercise.

After all, one of the great Roman Catholic Cathedrals in North America in located in mid-town Manhattan and a jewel among the towering, surrounding skyscrapers.

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Say hello to:

GrassRoots Guelph

For the people, by the people

GrassRoots Guelph is a new organization in Guelph that is dedicated to increasing public participation in civic politics and presenting views on how to improve our city. GrassRoots Guelph is about encouraging City Hall to adopt policies that will result in:

• reducing debt
• making government more transparent, and
• applying common sense to municipal decision-making.

Basic stuff actually, but a growing necessity in Guelph.

GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) is non-partisan, non-profit and incorporated.

GRG is not beholden to any individual, union or corporation. It is an organization that will help Guelph taxpayers mobilize to effect change in the City of Guelph’s civic governance.

GRG founders come from all walks of life and all parts of the city, with a focused intent to bring transparency, clarity and cost control to the administration of our city.

The litany of events that have driven up our municipal taxes and debt is evidence enough to elect those who can return the city to an open and affordable community. It will not be an easy task for the next Mayor and City Council. But it will happen with the support of the people.

To join our movement, send your name and address, email address and telephone contact information to grassrootsguelph2014@gmail.com. Membership is free and entitles you to receive the regular GrassRoots Guelph e-newsletter plus a link to guelphspeaks.ca, the blog with the largest following in the city. Between the two sources, you will be up-to-date on what is going on in our city, and you will receive news and commentary that you won’t find in the traditional media.

Join today.

Remember: If you don’t participate, you don’t count.

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20 questions about Guelph’s Organic Waste Processing Facility

Posted August 27, 2013

The following questions remain unanswered by Mayor Farbridge’s administration despite many attempts to obtain the answers. This has occurred for good reasons, as the administration is too embarrassed to allow the truth to be told. From the get-go, this was a failed project that lacked a business plan, created by a naive management team and powered by a small group of elected ideologues. They were determined to use city money to meet their unrealistic goals to divert waste from the landfill.

Question:

1. Why did general contractor Maple Reinders tell an Ottawa construction convention that Guelph’s Organic Waste Processing Facility (OWPF) cost $28 million. The city claims it cost $31.6 million.

2. What happened to the $3.6 million difference?

3. Is there an operating contract between the city (owner of OWPF) and Maple Reinders and its subsidiary companies Aim Environmental (AE), Wellington Organix (WO)?

4. What are details of the legal obligation between the city and the Maple Reinders companies?

5. What are the details of financing the OWPF?

6. Does the city pay all debt servicing and maintenance costs?

7. Does AE/WO have exclusive rights to operate the OWPF plus sales of composted material?

8. If so, what are the terms of the contract, length of agreement, commissions, loss provision, depreciation, and operational subsidies?

9. What are the commissions paid to AE/WO on the sale of OWPF capacity?

10. Why is the Region of Waterloo failing to meet its contract to deliver 20,000 tonnes of feedstock to the OWPF?

11. Is the Region paying for the 20,000 tonnes regardless of whether they meet the contract to deliver?

12. Why is the city now offering, through its agent, to sell the unused Region of Waterloo to other communities?

13. Who pays for removal of rejected feedstock to the OWPF?
14. What are the operating costs per processed tonne of the OWPF?

15. What are the full operating costs of the OWPF including overhead, debt charges, commissions, bonuses, salaries and benefits, insurance, consultants, maintenance, modifications legal and accounting, engineering?

16. What is the 2013 estimated revenue from OWPF operations?

17. What was the profit (loss) position of the OWPF in 2012?

18. What did the “Arkona Farmer” pay for the 3,400 tonnes of compost produced by OWPF in 2012?

19. Did AE/WO negotiate that sale? Was there a commission paid for that transaction?

20. Why did the city build a plant to process its wet waste that is triple its ability to collect and supply feedstock? Particularly when the city refuses to collect waste from 6,400 condominium households that represent 13.6 per cent of total households in the city. Further, those residents must pay $1,433,600 to the city for NOT collecting its garbage. Instead they pay private contractors to remove their garbage that winds up, unprocessed, in the landfill.

* * * *

If this $52 million exercise was to divert waste from the landfill, unless proven otherwise, it is an expensive and colossal failure.

If the city lacks the capacity to feed wet waste into its organic composting plant, now or in the future, taxpayers must ask: “What were they thinking?”

Too late, we’re stuck with this gigantic white elephant that citizens will be paying for over the next 20 years.

And it was created by a few elected officials under the leadership of Mayor Karen Farbridge, who put their personal environmental views ahead of the city’s ability to process waste from all homes and pay for it.

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Now! There is a new citizens’ movement for change in the city

Posted August 26, 2013

By Gerry Barker

Citizens from all over the City of Guelph tell me there is a need for common sense, responsible financial management in our civic government.

A recent survey asked residents if they are better off today in Guelph than they were six years ago. The responses revealed widespread discontent. This was not a complex or expensive survey. It contained a simple question and asked for a direct answer.

Over the past seven years, as a columnist with the Mercury and now as the editor of guelphspeaks.ca, I have repeatedly pointed out that spending by the Farbridge regime is out of control and has created serious, long-term liabilities for Guelph taxpayers.

Today, I’m letting you know that several Guelph citizens and I have banded together to build an organization to seek change in October 2014. The name of this organization is “GrassRoots Guelph”. GRG’s goal is to encourage citizens to vote for change in the 2014 election. It will achieve this goal by informing people about what is happening in City Hall, exchanging views, and participating in the entire 2014 election process.

Remember, if you don’t participate, you don’t count.

Voting is a serious and important task that should reflect the will of the people, not the will of the minority that has held power for the past two terms of Guelph’s municipal politics.

The record of this minority is clear. Debt and operating costs, including employee salaries and benefits, have soared. In six years, five individuals have headed city financial management. Together with others in City administration, they have created a deficit of continuity in the systems that control the corporation’s spending and revenues.

You are invited to join GrassRoots Guelph, the one city-wide organization that will represent the interests of the majority of Guelph taxpayers, and not the special interests.

To join, send your name, address, telephone number and email address to: grassrootsguelph2014@gmail.com. We will put you on our mailing list and keep you informed frequently about the initiatives that are already underway and new initiatives that will be undertaken over the next few months. You will also be regularly kept up to date through the GrassRoots Guelph newsletter.

GrassRoots Guelph is an incorporated organization that is:
* non-partisan and non-profit
* dedicated to encouraging Guelph residents to vote in 2014 for restoring common sense and financial responsibility in our city government.

Join and participate. Let’s work together to achieve a better Guelph.

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Exciting new development coming Monday, August 26

Posted August 24, 2013

On behalf of many citizens, Guelphspeaks will make a major announcement on Monday, August 26, at 1 p.m. of importance to every Guelph taxpayer.

Check out the guelphspeaks blog and learn how citizens can participate in having their voices heard and influence events that affect their lifestyle and pocket book.

Check it out and tell your friends.

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