Posted November 12, 2013
With her remarks addressed to the Guelph Chamber of Commerce last week the Mayor’s state of the city speech signaled a change is coming for Guelph.
Was this vision thing Mayor Karen Farbridge’s swan song? When asked if she intended to run again in 2014 she coyly suggested: “Wait and see”.
Aside from that, it was classic Farbridge containing a large measure of visionary policies that she alleges have led to a new Guelph. She describes it as our municipality moving upward into the heady atmosphere of becoming a world-class city. And, she reminds us, that she caused it to happen.
The fiscal state of the city was not addressed. This includes soaring debt, uncontrolled spending, exploding civic staff costs, high taxes and user fees eclipsing that of peer group cities. The stats are there and largely ignored or glossed over by her administration.
She remains long on vision and short on specifics,
She did admit that city hall has trouble dealing with city hall. One would think that is a fixable problem.
The city’s controversial environmental policy of diverting waste from the landfill was ignored. This self-serving adventure has cost taxpayers dearly, some $53 million so far in just hard facilities. The two major components are the $33 million wet waste organics processing plant and the $15 million cart-based collection system.
After two years, neither system has reached its projected service to the city. The organics facility has yet to reach it capacity of 30,000 tonnes. What does this mean to the taxpayer-funded operation? The city has refused to reveal the operating costs. But it has increased the annual cost of waste disposal to all taxpayers now at $465 per household, the highest waste collection charge comparable to any of its peer municipality group.
The kicker is the new cart pick-up system cannot service 6,400 Guelph households because the city refuses, due to alleged property restrictions where trucks cannot navigate. One would think that this would have been a consideration before signing the Cart/Automated Truck deal. One would think.
This multi-million dollar fiasco rests on Dr. Janet Laird, Executive Director of Environmental Services, Planning and Engineering. This person is also the senior staffer in charge of the Wyndham Street rail underpass renovation. That’s the one where, after two years of closure, the reconstruction prevents trucks from passing safely underneath. There have been four incidents where truck tops have been smashed and city installed crash bars damaged all because of a failure to estimate the clearances needed to accommodate commercial truck traffic.
This was a failure on the part of city engineers who report to Dr. Laird.
It signals a more pressing problem that this administration is unable or unwilling to control costs and the actions of its employees.
Nor does the mayor address how her administration favours certain special interest groups such as the bicycle lobby. Instead, the city announces a ten-year $13.3 million bicycle lane/trail development that serves a tiny portion of the population. Another example is the indoor soccer dome. Taxpayers are still on the hook to guarantee repayment of the $500,000 mortgage on the property. In a recent 15-year agreement with the operators, it was revealed that the turf in the dome and the dome itself must be replaced within eight years. The cost of this could reach another $500,000.
These decisions made today severely impact future councils and citizens.
The mayor’s track record in her first term reflects an attitude that the taxpayers are there to be milked and the Farbridge-controlled council will build the new city along the lines of its personal agenda.
Try asking your mayor a question and see what response you get. She rarely replies to written questions only if they are from friendly supporters. She never holds a press conference to explain her administration’s actions. She refuses to answer questions at the few public meetings she attends. A surrogate handles anything of a controversial nature requiring a reply.
But, man! Has she got vision and chutzpah.
That’s our Karen, the Teflon Mayor where nothing sticks.