Posted October 24, 2013
It is gratifying for all citizens of Guelph to be told that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) will investigate details of the petition requesting an audit of the City of Guelph’s finances and operations.
That petition was presented to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on October 1, 2013 by GrassRoots Guelph (GRG), a non-partisan non-profit citizen’s organization. GRG’s steering group of 20 citizens formed the organization in the summer of 2012.
Announcing its existence in August 2013, GRG attached 162 signatures of Guelph taxpayers to the petition as required by the Municipal Affairs Act in which only 50 are needed. Today that number has climbed, as new members of GRG want to be included to sign the petition.
But the astonishing story is that GRG membership has grown to more than 500 since the middle of August. It is still growing as more and more people discover the administration’s mismanaged spending, waste of resources, extreme taxation and excessive debt.
To its credit, The Guelph Mercury contacted the MMAH asking about the status of the petition. What is baffling is that the story broke as the lead editorial in Wednesday’s paper. The editorial is an opinion piece. It is not a news story.
According to the editorial, the unnamed Ministry spokesperson says it wants to better understand the concerns that have given rise to this demand for an audit. Further the editorial says the Ministry wants to speak to the lead petitioner. That would probably be me as I signed the cover letter to the Minister on behalf of the organization. The failure of the paper to name the lead petitioner is puzzling.
I put my name on what I write. Was there some doubt at the paper about who was the “lead petitioner”? I am only one person of the 20 members of the GRG steering committee. It is not a one-man show as the newspaper suggests.
I have been a newspaperman all my life. I have worked as a reporter, reporter photographer, daily columnist, assignment editor, metro editor and assistant managing editor in the largest newspaper in the country, the Toronto Star. I know a little bit about the business.
I am retired and have written some 370 posts on my blog, guelphsepaks.ca. Additionally, I wrote a regular column in the Mercury from 2006 to 2011. That body of work questioned the actions of a council that was dominated by Mayor Farbridge and her supporters. Believe me, at times it was lonely out there as the two newspapers in town only paid lip service to their responsibility of reporting city news. Critical comment was rare as were follow-ups of city statements.
In all that time, I was never contacted by anyone in the administration to counter or dispute the content of my columns or posts.
As a courtesy, I will offer the electronic copies of all that body of work to the Ministry representative to better understand the concerns that caused this demand for an audit.
Here’s the skinny on what prompted this petition.
The Mercury editorial quotes the Mayor as saying the petition and GrassRoots Guelph are politically motivated. The paper added that’s it’s not difficult to regard that as fair comment given that GRG announced it’s intention to oppose the city hall administration in the next election.
That observation has the unmistaken stench of fear on the part of the Mayor and possibly the newspaper. It is a fear that finally, in Guelph, there is a growing opposition to what the Farbridge administration has done to our city. That’s fair comment.
There’s also a fear that an audit could be an embarrassment to the city administration. GRG believes that this political action is a win-win for the people of Guelph, regardless of the outcome. It will reveal the soft underbelly of the Farbridge administration that has mismanaged the Royal City in the last seven years.
But don’t take my word for it. We have lived here for almost 11 years. In that time, the city does not pick up our garbage. plow our street; pick up the leaves and yard waste, service the road or buried utility services. And for all this, our taxes have almost doubled in that time frame.
And we are only one of 6,400 property owners and renters that the city refuses to collect its garbage. Instead we all pay for a private contractor to do so.
Mayor Farbridge is concerned that there is real opposition to her cozy cabal of councillors. There’s a monsoon of discontent building in the city that her brand has worn out its welcome.
And she knows it better than I.
Citizen of the City of Guelph