What was left out of the Mayor’s dreamy State of the City speech

Part three

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.

Not convinced?

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.



Filed under Between the Lines

8 responses to “What was left out of the Mayor’s dreamy State of the City speech

  1. Sean

    Before the bridge work was done, trucks could not go under either so I am not sure why everyone is complaining?

  2. Eugene Walsh

    I occasionally I visit the City of Guelph careers website to monitor spending on personnel, and every time I visit I am not disappointed. It amazes me to see the number of of $100k+ positions (90% of salaries are $70k+). You would think with all of the complaints being posted to the Guelph Tribune, etc. about high taxes the mayor would TRY to control spending and freeze hiring. Based on what I saw today, it hasn’t happened thus far… and I am sick to death of it!

    • Eugene Walsh: Look for a post to be published tomorrow on this very subject. The cost of city employees is the single biggest factor in why our property taxes are increased annually by an average of 3.5 per cent. That’s for the last seven years and 2014 doesn’t look like there is any relief. Good comment.

    • Jeff

      That’s what jobs with those qualifications cost, check out the private sector comparative jobs, they are making twice as much.

  3. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Yeah, one would “thimk” that some one on DJL’s staff would have the smarts to do a CAD based sanity check on truck heights and bridge clearance as part of the project planning before there was a shovel in the ground. Similarly who in DJL’s waste mismanagement group did a sanity check of capacity requirements prior to embarking on a $53 million boondoggle. Nothing may stick to her Teflon majesty, but it sure stinks!

  4. Sean

    Did you see what happened in Toronto with the flooding of the tunnel? Yeah same problem here, any deeper/steeper and would have been worse. There are many other locations that trucks can go and that has been done long before they replaced this 100 year old bridge.

  5. geo

    Excellent, excellent letter from the Trib. Describes this current administration perfectly. This letter also points out what a good municipal government should focus onTuesday, November, 19, 2013 – 10:10:14 AM
    City hall gets involved in issues it shouldn’t be
    Sometimes I see something and I wonder how many people put two and two together. In this case, it was the Nov. 7 Tribune edition where Coun. Karl Wettstein is talking about the need for the city to curtail spending (thanks, Karl). On page one was a story about Mayor Karen Farbridge’s State of the City address, showing new ways to unproductively spend money. Inappropriate city spending on areas like “energy, innovation and health” and “wellbeing.”
    Farbridge said that “we can no longer afford to wait for the county (in its role in providing social services, social housing and child care) or public health.” I say the taxpayers in this city can no longer afford to be all things to all people and to be the research and development department for Canada.
    The mayor seemed especially proud of the expensive Wellbeing program as being an accomplishment for helping to attract investment to the city. Well, I have participated in the Wellbeing initiative, and, as a person whose career is to globally lead innovation in the private sector, it couldn’t be further off the mark.
    The first step in executing innovation is to get approval of those who are paying for it. This was entirely skipped. The process that I witnessed was as wasteful and ineffective as I could imagine.
    No cost benefit, no prioritization and no clear definition of what they were trying to accomplish.
    As a person in the private sector, it is programs such as this that would repulse me away from investing in a city. Indeed, if asked if Guelph is a good location, I would say it is in most respects, except for our local government which is focused on overspending on feel-good and political-correctness projects.
    Let’s focus on getting our roads built and our traffic moving, affordable water, maintained infrastructure and reduced taxes, rather than yet another costly program to get another feather in her cap for the mayor’s political ambitions.
    John Kibbee

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