Posted November 11. 2013
This is the second piece dissecting the recent state of the city speech, made by Mayor Karen Farbridge.
The mayor continues to beat the drum that Guelph’s destiny lies in its development of downtown. She and her council, dominated by her supporters, has spent millions on the city core at the expense of other needed projects outside the downtown area.
Costs soared with the new city hall and civic square over the original contract completed by the former council. There were scores of change orders that delayed the construction. As a result, the contractor was fired by the city because of completion delays. Today we are awaiting the judgment of the court that tried the 5-week civil suit last spring. The contractor sued the city for $19 million for breach of contract.
Add to that was the cost over-runs in relation to the renovation of the former Loretto convent into a civic museum. Throw in the sweetheart deals made with developers to build condominiums and rebuild the Gummer building. These include 10-year holidays from paying development fees or property taxes.
Why not address the number of new business and development proposals that have walked away from Guelph because of the bureaucratic snarls in the applications?
The mayor says: “we are changing the way we are organizing ourselves at city hall to create a platform for continued success.”
Apparently after seven years in office and two consultant reports that revealed the dysfunctional operation at city hall, the mayor says the city is “reorganizing and re-aligning the way we work”. The question is why now? Why is the mayor now proclaiming: “We believe municipal government can provide a coordinating set of policies, funding and services that can create opportunities for business”.
That kind of talk is cheap when the mayor’s administration is unable to engineer renovation of the Wyndham Street rail underpass to allow trucks to go through without ripping the tops off and damaging the bridge.
She then referred to parlaying “our significant expertise in water and waste eater management to help businesses demonstrate new technologies that opens new markets for them. Is that why Guelph’s water rates have gone up by 77 per cent since the mayor was elected?
Did anyone vote for this stuff in the last and previous election?
She referred to the Guelph Municipal Holdings Corporation that has sent a strong message that “we are serious about establishing a thermal utility and an entity to drive retrofits in the residential and light commercial sectors.”
Funny, I though this was a holding company for publicly owned property. Instead, we have learned that a $3.9 million dividend was extracted from GMHI last year and sent to the city’s general revenues. It did so despite a decline in income from its Guelph Hydro holding resulting in a 176 per cent payout ratio. What has that go to do with retrofitting residences to reduce energy usage?
That GMHI story is followed up by the mayor admitting, “we had to overcome our own internal silos. Believe it or not city hall doesn’t always find it easy to work with city hall”.
Eureka! At last an admission there is a serious dysfunctional operation going on right around the mayor’s suite at city hall. That’s refreshing.
Just when you think the mayor is leveling with us, she says: “ What is unique about Guelph is we are building a platform to incubate civic and economic innovation.”
There’s that word again, if you read her speech it is liberally sprinkled with “innovation” to perform miracles: “Here in Guelph we have a different kind of thought leadership,”
Do you think that this kind of language is spoken around city hall? If so, no wonder the staff is confused, uncertain and diving into their ‘silos’ to avoid thought leadership as it may give them acne.
This speech has to be the best piece of Farbridge fiction presented in along time.
More on this later. Her speech is a gold mine of material that outlines the thinking of our mayor and her dedication to making the rest of the world think we are the greatest city since they invented the ballot box.
But what has your city done for you lately to make your life a little easier and comfortable?
Tomorrow, Part 3 of this series on the Mayor’s State of The City speech – What was left out of the address.