Monthly Archives: September 2013

When cops step over the line should the taxpayer’s pay?

Posted September 28, 2013

The case of Guelph Police Constable, Chris Panylo, has left citizens with a bad taste in their mouths. This officer was a member of the drug squad and used drugs while on duty and stole drugs for personal use. He was addicted, yet functioned apparently without the knowledge of his superiors.

Another officer, now under investigation, sold him steroids.

The question arises about the ability of senior officers, responsible for command and control, who were unable or unwilling to put a stop to this illegal activity within its own ranks.

Instead, the constable negotiated a deal through his lawyer and the police services board to allow him to continue on paid suspension for an additional seven months and then be dismissed from the service.

In case you are wondering, Panylo was a first class constable earning a base salary of $85,000 a year. The seven-month bonus will cost taxpayers $49,583. Presuming while still on the payroll that his benefits will continue including health care, pension and sick leave.

What’s wrong with this picture? Panylo has been on paid suspended leave since his arrest. Now this arrangement adds additional costs to the taxpayer with the apparent agreement of the Police Services Board of which Mayor Karen Farbridge and Coun. Leanne Piper are members.

Did they, elected representatives of the people, vote to agree to this deal?

This decision sends a terrible message to the public that police, sworn to uphold the laws of the land, are exempt from punishment endured by the average person caught up in similar circumstances.

This has the distinct odour of offering a second chance with rehab to a man who abused his authority by using illegal substances to assuage his personal problems.

In this case he threw trust out the window to satisfy his personal addiction.

Cut him loose before more damage is done to the public trust in its police services.

Police should always be held to a higher standard.

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Is the new Guelph Civic League any better than the old?

Posted September 27, 2013

The local daily thought enough of the new Guelph Civic League (GCL) that it devoted a long story on page three to the opening of its new website.

The story quoted the GCL spokesperson as saying that the new League would devote its energy to “educating”  and encouraging voters in a respectful and responsible manner.

Goodness! Is this the same organization that fire-bombed former Mayor Kate Quarrie with lies, misrepresentation and dirty tricks in 2006? Remember the tub-thumping about the “Big Pipe” that was supposed to bring water from Lake Erie and ruin the environment? Or mayoralty candidate Karen Farbridge pledging to put Guelph “back on track?”

But the big lie was the Farbridge promise to build a new downtown library.

Instead, we got a $52 million white elephant waste management processing plant and collection system that nobody voted for. The irony is the $15 million collection system doesn’t serve 6,400 residences. It’s because the city has refused to collect their garbage and the owners must pay private contractors to remove their unsorted waste. On top of that, they must pay for garage pick-up in their property taxes.

Added to that the administration spent $16 million renovating the derelict Loretto Convent building owned by the Diocese of Hamilton, converting it into a civic museum. The cost overruns on that project may never be known.

Is this the same GCL that obtained a Trillium Foundation grant of $135,000 toward an allied organization called 10 Carden Street? That incorporated entity happens to be located in the same address  — 10 Carden Street – as the GCL. Is that only coincidence? Or are the taxpayers of Ontario paying to support a left wing political action group?

The weakness of the new GCL is that they must now defend the sad sack administration of Mayor Farbridge. It’s a little different than in 2006 when they attacked the Quarrie Administration with hob-nailed boots.

Now it’s koombaya time? Don’t be misled.

This election is not about left wing or right wing politics as the new GCL said and, sadly some in the media would like you to believe it. It’s about policies that have created a financial disaster. Policies that have seen record spending on questionable social engineering projects that the taxpayers didn’t ask for or wanted.

It’s about seven years of a virtual dictatorship by the Farbridge dominated council.

There is one truly dedicated citizen’s organization that is growing daily and is not dependent of government or union handouts for financing. GrassRoots Guelph provides a home for those thinking citizens who realize the mess the city has become. It’s needed because of self-serving projects promoted by a group of elected and senior staff that has demonstrated incompetence in managing even picking up Christmas trees.

Civic politics is about fixing the potholes, making sure the water is potable and the waste is removed. It’s about meaningful support of Canadian culture, providing affordable housing and social services and doing it in the open where taxpayers can properly judge their performance. It’s about keeping taxes and user fees at a level that all taxpayers can afford.

Has that happened in the past seven years?

In the coming months, the tawdry record of this administration will be laid out for all to see and judge. Warning, the list will be long and not pretty.

But we can depend on the new GCL to deny, deflect and ignore the truth.

They have no other choice, as they soon will discover

Join GrassRoots Guelph today and learn the truth of how our city has been mismanaged financially, secretly and fatefully. It free and simple. Send your name, address, email address and telephone number to grassrootsguelph2014@gmail. com. Your personal data will be in a secure database and only used to communicate with members. GrassRoots Guelph is non-partisan, non-profit and incorporated.

Welcome aboard!

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Anatomy of the Farmer’s Market renovation cock-up

September 25, 2013

Thanks to an intrepid GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) operative, it reveals the back-story of the how the $500,000 Farmer’s Market renovation went so terribly wrong.

Let’s start with the City of Guelph website that contains a link to the Request For Proposal (RFP) that was issued in June. It is 147 pages long and is obviously a computerized standard RFP document in which the individual project details are filled in.

We did learn that BJC architects Inc., was hired to do specific design details as specified by the city staff. Not included was the basic requirement for exhaust fume hoods and ventilation or a sprinkler system.

There were many changes in the bid to reduce the cost to meet the limit of $500,000. It was apparent early on that staff wanted the main renovation funding to replace the floor. In fact they had a specific contractor chosen to do the job. They got their way.

Mario Petricevic, General Manager Corporate Building Maintenance and Rod Keller, General Manager of Public Works apparently oversaw the renovation specifications.  Chances are they were not alone, as we will discover. It should be common knowledge that a fire suppression system is a basic requirement in public buildings, particularly those in which the public has access.

So the renovated building is opened and certain vendors were told they had to cook outside. The reason given was the building was not up to the fire code. Keep in mind that before the city decided to renovate the Market, it allowed vendors to prepare hot food. It even granted the concession to one who cooked breakfast fare for early morning shoppers.  This time around, the single concession of the city was to install an oven, no cook top, in the vendor’s area.  Ever cook bacon and eggs in an oven?

Peter Avgoustis, Manager, Business Services Community and Social Services, replied to enquiries about this situation. His emails reveal how the project, initiated in mid-2012, became a bureaucratic maze of mistakes, bad judgment and ignorance of what the public needed.

Here is an email from Avgoustis responding to a resident: “You are correct in your assumption regarding, the food vendors as that is a fire code issue. With the recent events at the St Jacob’s Market, the province has stepped up enforcement of these facilities since our Market never had the proper fire suppression or ventilation system in place.”

If this is true, is it a lame excuse or dereliction of responsibility? For years the Market operated without such equipment and without any safety issues. To ignore modern building fire code regulations in a $500,000 retrofit is a dereliction of responsibility. If a wake up call was ever needed, the St. Jacob’s fire is a good example.

But these decisions were made long before the St. Jacob’s Market fire. Examining the specifications in the contract the fume ductwork was removed from the bid. It was one of several compromises made so the $500,000 maximum cost could be met.

But Mr. Avgoustis continues his explanatory email: “Were a hood and fire suppression system are required we are assisting the vendors in getting the appropriate design, pricing and permits in an effort to expedite the installation of this equipment should they WISH TO PURCHASE IT AND HAVE IT INSTALLED.”

So they are saying it’s not our fault there is no fire suppression system but regardless, you (vendors) can’t cook indoors … unless you pay for it.

This is nothing but sheer incompetence of those bureaucrats responsible for this exercise that has left the public completely out of the picture for three months and destroyed any credibility they may have salvaged.

The capper is they are holding a party Saturday, September 28 to celebrate the re-opening of the Guelph Farmer’s Market. Wonder if the Mayor will turn up?

But don’t expect bacon and eggs.

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How long-in-the-tooth governments lose their mojo

Posted September 24, 2013

Politicians never die they just fade away.

It’s an axiom that political fatigue increases with the length of time in office.

We don’t have to look too far to see how Guelph’s city government, tightly controlled by Mayor Karen Farbridge, is experiencing the elements of political fatigue.  Criticism of the administration’s policies is mounting as people question the left wing prerogatives of power.

In the past almost seven years, a sorry picture of crass use of power and incompetence has emerged.

Opposition to the Farbridge agenda has been limited because the media, for the most part, has declined to challenge the administration on some of its most egregious and costly ideas, schemes and management of projects.

MetroLand Publishing, a division of TorStar Corporation owns the two newspapers in the city. The publisher of both papers is located in Kitchener along with the editor in chief. Both publications must protect their franchise because they accept advertising from the city that spends upwards of $500,000 a year.

An example of this media lock-up by the city was a recent six part series on the waste management program. It was a syrupy collection of manufactured successes of the program leaving out the financial facts and processing details including the true 2012 tonnage diversion of waste to the landfill.

Not only is the Farbridge administration tired, cranky and careless with public funds, it is secretive about deals and contracts that have cost the city millions of taxpayer dollars.

For example, the huge cover-up is how the administration has hidden the real costs of some of its dubious enterprises such as the $33 million organics processing facility; the $15 million cart/bin collection system that fails to service some 6,400 households; more than $5 million on bicycle lanes on major thoroughfares.

Pandering to special interests including Heritage Guelph, Guelph Community Sports, more than 50 community groups, the bicycle lobby, employee unions and associations all extract taxpayer money.  The handouts have become so bad that the city could not afford to cut the weeds from boulevards this summer citing budget cutbacks.

Legal costs paid to outside lawyers have soared because individual departments were hiring lawyers without going through the legal department. Such costs are historically about $400,000 annually. In 2012 they shot up to $850,000.  The costs in 2013 will be equally higher because of the new City Hall lawsuits’ trial last winter. Judgment is expected sometime this fall.

People are asking why the administration is spending so much money on legal cases that are often self-inflicted because of political differences.

A classic example was the city’s attempt to withdraw from the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health organization. The plan was to avoid paying its $10 million share of a $17 million new headquarters on Stone Road. The administration took the matter to court and lost. That legal bill has never been revealed

All this adds up to taxpayer abuse by those elected to represent them. Let’s be clear. There are five councillors who are exempt from this charge because they are not part of the Farbridge majority. Most try to stem the Farbridge steamroller but her supporters vote as a bloc defeating opposition changes in the administration’s agenda.

It is an unsavoury situation that only the voters can change in October 2014.

The silent majority is starting to wake up.

Become informed and participate in helping to bring change to 1 Carden Street. Join GrassRoots Guelph, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit group of fellow citizens and receive regular reports on how your city is being managed.

Sign on with your name, address, email address and telephone number at grassrootsguelph2014@gmail.com

Together we can make things happen.

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Heritage Group’s strategy: Paralysis then analysis

September 23, 2013

The recent editorial in the Tribune calls for the decision to demolish the shoddy, derelict property known as the Wilson Farmhouse, to be delayed for further consideration.

Let’s go slowly, the paper states. No rushing for judgment.

It’s the classic strategy used by politicians at every level of government.

It’s a replay of the 11-year battle to allow Walmart to set up shop in the city.

But what’s in it for the newspaper? Did they interview the people who live near the dilapidated structure for their views?

Heritage Guelph, the 12-member special interest group, is using the strategy to block destruction of a building in a new town park that is of questionable value to the community. In fact, the vast majority of residents living in the northern reaches of Ward Two are saying: “Tear that building down”.

Not so fast, says Ward Two Coun. Ian Findlay who gets a nosebleed if he has to go north of Speedvale in his ward. Findlay’s heart lies downtown where he operates a business some five kilometers south of the Wilson house.

Findlay, Coun. Lise Burcher, Coun. Leanne Piper, and Coun. Todd Dennis have joined the Heritage Guelph group to stop the destruction of the building. The heritage group wants the council to identify the house under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Tribune brought up the case of the Mitchell Farmhouse that was taken down seven years ago brick by brick and is now stored in city works yard.

The newspaper or the heritage group never talk about the destruction of the historic Carnegie Library by a previous city council. Now that was a legitimate heritage building and worthy of saving.

Instead, the zealots who populate the Heritage Guelph committee are determined to obstruct progress and interfere with private property owner’s rights.

The fine line between what is a legitimate heritage building and what a group of self-serving enthusiasts believe is of heritage value, results in more subjective than objective values. The suggestion to put the Wilson decision to the voters is silly and the heritage group may not like the outcome.

Besides when the cost is of no consequence, it’s perceived as a matter of principle.

This issue strikes at the heart of why most voters in the city are angry over how the special interests have seized control of the public purse. It’s why more and more people are joining GrassRoots Guelph to stop the wasteful spending by council on projects that serve the special interests but fail to support the public interests. Join today! grassrootsguelph2014@gmail.com

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How the wool was pulled over our eyes

Posted September 23, 2013

First, some background.

Our city entered a new phase in its development in 2006. That’s when the administration under Mayor Kate Quarrie was attacked and undermined by left wing supporters of former Mayor Karen Farbridge. The fall campaign was directed by members of the New Democratic Party and executed in part by the Guelph Civic League whose president was 2010 NDP candidate, James Gordon.

It was a thorough thumping of the Quarrie administration as 10 supporters of the re-elected Ms. Farbridge were elected to city council. It was an event that changed Guelph civic politics forever.

In almost seven years, the Farbridge dominated council has destroyed the basic elements of democratic governance. Here are some examples:

1. Removing transparency from the work of council and committees.

2. Making secret deals with third parties that will affect the city finances for many years.

3. Spending money on ill-defined social engineering policies of which there is little public benefit or input.

4. Spending millions of dollars on outside lawyers to defend or attack misguided legal adventures.

5. Increasing city staff by more than 440 along with boosting salaries, wages and total compensation.

6. For four years running, exceeding annual budgets by a total of $24,771,000.

7. With little public input, inflicting a $52 million waste management system on the city. It fails to serve all residents or effectively process and reduce waste materials destined for the landfill as predicted by management.

8. Increasing taxes on average of 3.72 per cent per year, far exceeding the average Canada Price Index of 1.7 per cent.

9. Through property taxes, subsidizing a public transit system by more than $15 million that is used by less than 13 per cent of the city population.

10. Failing to fulfill a 2006 election promise to build a new downtown library.

11. Spending more than $15 million in the name of heritage preservation, to renovate the derelict Loretto Convent on Catholic Hill into a civic museum.

12. Controlling city public communications that distort, obfuscate and are published in the local papers as paid advertising and rewrites of self–serving press releases.

In summary, the taxpaying public is blocked from learning how and where their money is being spent. Financial statements produced by the city are incomprehensible to the average person, long on content, short on detail and fail to translate the true picture of the municipality’s finances.

The growing public concern is manifested in revelations of financial manipulation and basic staff incompetence. An example is the renovation of the Farmer’s Market disaster in which $500,000 was spent on a new floor and little else. There are no fume exhausts for hot food preparation, no door handles or a sprinkler system. In fact, vendors are told they cannot cook in the building.

But it cannot all be laid on the city staff. The fault starts at the top with Mayor Farbridge and her seven cohort supporters on council. They are the people’s representatives but fail to maintain their responsibility. Instead they rely on senior staff to make decisions usually without question. This places the bulk of city staff in an awkward position of wanting to serve the public but stymied by a controlling senior management.

A dysfunctional management has lowered the morale of many city workers to an all time low.

It’s a situation that must be corrected. The costs associated with the Farbridge eight years in office will negatively reverberate for many years to come. Future councils will have to grapple with financial commitments made in the past over which they had no control.

Sadly, this will affect the willingness for knowledgeable and dedicated candidates to run for city council.

What our city needs are candidates prepared to clean up the mess with common sense and a determination to return financial stability to city government. It won’t be pretty and will call for drastic measures to give the city back to its citizens with transparency, clarity and accessibility.

It is impossible to measure the competence of this administration that reveals a budget shortfall of $2.4 million as of June and making it public in September.

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Short takes on the crazy quilt of Guelph politics

Posted September 18, 2013

Horse feathers

So they opened the renovated Farmer’s Market building in the old horse barns. Reports are there were no handles on the doors, no fume ventilation for those preparing food, no sprinkler system. Nice floor though. Was it worth $500,000? You be the judge.

Giving integrity a bad name

The great investigation into Coun. Maggie Laidlaw’s alleged abuse of city employees came to a grinding halt when there was an apology made to the plaintiffs. The case collapsed. The Integrity Commissioner sent a bill for $2,800 for a non-investigation. So, we’ll never know what Maggie said to upset the staffers. That’s what I call a bargain.

Turning derelict dump into a daycare centre

The heritage hawks flushed a person proposing to convert the old Wilson farmhouse into a daycare centre thereby saving this alleged priceless treasure of our past. The place has been vacant for eight years. Drifters and other individuals have used it as a hangout. The owners, you and I, have not lifted a finger to maintain it. In a word it’s an eyesore and a neglected dump in a designated park. What is that drives heritage hawks to use their influence to reclaim buildings with little historical significance or value to the community as a whole?

A house divided

Apparently city staff receives monthly financial updates but not members of council. Even the Mayor was surprised at this turn of events. A motion in committee demanded that council share the financial updates. Councillors must have read guelphspeaks to discover that going over budget $2.4 million, so far this year, is a common occurrence. So much so that the city has exceeded its budget every year for the past four years for an accumulated total deficit of $24 million. And how was that covered up? By tapping reserves and other accounting tricks. It’s only your money.

Soccer dome is doomed by sheer incompetence

It is now revealed Guelph Soccer; the main tenant has no assets and no prospect to offer as collateral to guarantee the original $900,000 mortgage on the indoor soccer dome. As a guarantor of the loan, Guelph Community Sports has already said it no longer can make the mortgages payments.. Which leaves taxpayers to carry the cost of servicing the mortgage with a remaining balance of $500,000. Question: If there is no air conditioning in the dome, is there heat supplied in the cooler months? Another Question: Why was this ever considered in the first place?

Your voice counts, join GrassRoots Guelph

GrassRoots Guelph is up and running with great response from citizens across the city. If you disagree with the policies of the current administration and haven’t had the opportunity to sign up, it’s really simple. Just send your address, email address and telephone number to gerrybarker76@gmail.com. Your membership will help return our city to responsible management and common sense. As a member you will receive alerts and the regular GrassRoots NOW newsletter.

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