Posted November 4, 2013
A GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) colleague was recently interviewed on CFRU radio, located at the University of Guelph.
The interview revealed the counter-measures being taken by the surrogates of the Farbridge Municipal Party (FMP) to discredit the new citizen’s action group. Being non-partisan, GRG is opposed to the seven-year track record of FMP managing the city, its finances and operations.
It is well known that the Guelph mayor who heads FMP, rarely speaks in public and never takes questions unless the audience is certified as friendly. When criticized she uses surrogates to defend her actions and the administration.
This was revealed when the mayor called a meeting of citizens to study the “Wellbeing” initiative at the River Run Theatre. At the outset, the mayor told the sizable gathering that there would be no questions, despite the presence of the consulting firm hired to sell the program. Then it was revealed that the administration had “salted” the crowd with city employees. At one table in the breakout session, there were seven people composed of six staffers and one civilian.
Let’s face it, we have a mayor who appears terminally shy about meeting her constituents and not only that but rarely replies to complaints she considers not worthy of her time or energy.
For seven years, the mayor and her cohorts on council have been able to do what they want with little opposition.
The result is soaring debt caused chiefly by excessive spending on projects without consulting the citizens.
Property taxes have shot up by more than 30% during a period when inflation averaged 1.7 per cent per year, or 15 per cent in seven years. At the same time the population has grown by only 5.8 per cent.
Try that on with the growth of city staff of more than 400 in seven years.
Add in the increases in user fees such as charges for water and sewage processing. Since 2006, water use costs have jumped by 77 per cent despite the decline in water usage throughout the community.
The process of a business or development company to do business in Guelph has driven away potential job-creating projects because of the numbing bureaucratic procedures of getting projects approved.
Two consultants were hired by the city administration to examine why there was little growth in the industrial/commercial areas. Both came up, separately, with the same conclusion: That Guelph had a reputation of being a tough place in which to do business. Since then, there has been little movement to streamline and encourage new business.
Since the mayor was elected in 2006, there has been no increase in the assessment ratio of industrial commercial of 16 per cent. What little increase there has been has been offset by increases in residential development. This means that residential properties pay 84 per cent of the total tax revenue of the city. Experts say that at a minimum, the ratio should be 40 per cent industrial/commercial assessment to 60 per cent for residential.
The problem rests with a moribund economic development program that is merely a service operation. It handles anything that falls onto its desk. But the department is not aggressive in developing business contacts and seeking candidates to consider establishing in Guelph.
Instead, citizens get a steady stream of social engineering projects such as the “wellbeing” project with a price tag of $1 million.
Capital spending is literally out of control with $53 million spent of waste management, a proposed $34 million addition to police headquarters; $16 million spent on renovating the Loretto convent for a civic museum, to name a few.
In order to pay for the council projects, the mayor attempted to convince council to sell Guelph Hydro and she failed. Barely taking a breath, the mayor succeeded in calling a loan of $30 million from Hydro. This went to help pay for the city’s share of the Federal/ Provincial stimulus program. The original amount was $66 million with each level of government paying a third of the total. Guelph however added another $8 million to its share of $22 million. Result? $30 million cost to taxpayers.
And yet, the mayor promised in her 2006 election campaign to build a new downtown library. That has not happened nor will it in the near future. It’s because there is no available method to finance it because the city’s debt level is too high and cash flow is insufficient.
This is what happens when your government overspends, caters to politically friendly special interests and does it behind closed doors.
Only one organization in Guelph is working to change this downward spiral of mismanagement. GrassRoots Guelph is a citizen’s organization composed of non- partisan members. Join this grassroots group and effect change in 2014. Look for details on the GRG website GrassRootsGuelph.com.