This is when entitlement takes on a whole new meaning

Posted November 23, 2013

The local daily opines that the Guelph Police Services Board (GPSP) will not “blink” when push comes to shove in the board’s request to fund a $34 million addition to police headquarters.

The city’s Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsmen, countered not so fast. He requested a “rescope” of the Board’s plan in order to reduce the capital requirement that the city, not the police board, must provide for this to happen.

If neither side bends, city council will ultimately have to decide if it wants, or is able to finance the project.

Here’s where it gets sticky. Mayor Karen Farbridge and Coun. Leanne Piper are members of the Police Services Board. In fact, they are paid extra to serve on the GPSB. They also have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the interests of the taxpayers.

The Mayor is the elected head of the municipality, has been for seven years. Likewise, Coun. Piper is a two-term councillor who was instrumental in dumping Coun, Gloria Kovach from the Board and replacing her, with herself. It was the night of the long knives. Who says politics is not a blood sport?

So taxpayers have no idea at this point where Farbridge and Piper stand on this multi-million dollar expenditure.

The mayor is a proponent of long range planning, particularly when it comes to capital spending. Every time one turns around there is a new 10-or 20-year plan that considers planning, capital spending and, my favourite, well-being.

In view of this background, why, in seven years, was there no attempt to address the situation of the aging police headquarters?  Why did the GPSB, a year ago, suggest that the improvements would cost $13.3 million and then escalate the cost to $34 million?

Who and what was included in this $20 million increase? Further, the city built the Taj Mahal of emergency services building on Clair Road and there was no consideration, one can presume now, of a police headquarters upgrade?

It is presumptuous now for the chief of police to dig in and argue that the updated facility is necessary. In defence of the chief, he has only had the job for a short time. But the police board has remained constant in the past seven years.

The underlying problem is that incompetent elected officials and staff management have run our city for the past seven years.

It’s no secret that choices were made to spend millions on waste management, downtown development, bicycle lanes, and heritage projects at the expense of more pressing public and cultural projects.

Further, there is now evidence of entitlement that has pervaded many city departments and operations that drove up the costs.

There is only so much money to go around. Regardless, city council’s spending on personal pet projects and minority self-interest groups has all but emptied the cookie jar.

The sad outcome of this is that the Police Services Board will probably get its way because law and order issues are top priorities in the voter’s mind. It’s sad because Guelph taxpayers will have been saddled with crushing debt that will bind the future growth of the city for years to come.

It boils down to an administration that has wasted money and staff energy on its own self-interests.  And the blame goes right to the top of management and elected councillors.

The only way to change this upward spiral of debt is at the polls next October 27th.

In the interim, taxpayers should keep council’s feet to the fire by objecting to excessive spending that Guelph can no longer afford.

A good start would be next Thursday evening when the one and only public hearing on the 2014 city budget will be held in the council chambers at city hall. Anyone can make a presentation provided they notify the Clerk’s office 48 hours before the meeting.

Can’t make it? You are invited to join GrassRoots Guelph, the non-partisan, non-profit citizen’s group dedicated to informing voters and inviting participation in the next election. If you don’t participate, you don’t count. Contact GRG:



Filed under Between the Lines

4 responses to “This is when entitlement takes on a whole new meaning

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Gerry, that was a rather humourous line wherein you mentioned that “the mayor is a proponent of long range planning, particularly when it comes to capital spending”. Have you forgotten that it was stated in the local paper that she found the whole capital budget process to be a black box? And that was after the better part of a decade on council. In that time a studious person could have earned an advanced degree or two or even learned a tad about capital budgeting, if they were so inclined.
    Let’s clear the deck with all the verbiage being batted about concerning a new police headquarters. The photo in the Tribune of the overflowing property room speaks volumes about people who don’t care how stuff is put away and about derelict leadership that permits that situation to occur. If a child had a closet as messy as that, they would be grounded. Perhaps the chief should take time to learn about a Lean initiative called “5S”. Before another cent is spent on new GPS HQ planning, let’s recognize the reality that crime rates have been dropping for a decade and the cost and size of the subsequently smaller police presence must be recognized irrespective of Harper’s “tough on crime” dogma. It’s way past time to look at amalgamating the police service, the fire department, and ambulance service under one chief. Part of this amalgamation would include rationalizing the facilities required. Apparently the main fire hall /HQ is staffed by only 8 or 10 personnel now that the Clair Road facility is on line.
    Empty it and sell the property.
    Before any money is spent on refurbishing existing or building new facilities make sure the taxpayer funded services are both effective (doing the right something) and efficient (doing something right).
    Council should rise up on its hind feet and stop any consideration of a new GPS HQ until amalgamation has taken place. Will they? If not, after the next civic election, will the new council?

    • Glen N. Tolhurst: If it has taken seven years to rebuild police headquarters why did it only take three years to spend $33 million on an organics processing facility? That’s what happens when self-serving thinking transcends pragmatism. I agree that the three emergency services should be amalgamated to eliminate duplicated operations and establish transparency. I’m reminded of the old saying: “A cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind.” Mine excepted of course!

  2. John C.

    I don’t agree, Gerry, that the only way to stop the city’s spending spiral is at the polls in October 2014. In fact, judging from other elections, this is another pipe dream. Nor do I think one can register to speak at next Thursday’s budget meeting up to 48 hours before the event. Personally, I registered about a week ago, and was informed that the deadline was yesterday, the 22nd.
    In any event, you say if one doesn’t participate, one doesn’t count. My question then is: Will any representatives of GUELPH SPEAKS or GRASS ROOTS GUELPH be making a presentation and, if not, why not??

  3. Guido Sartor

    Hi Gerry: I am currently holidaying on St. Petersburg Florida, this city is currently planning a new Police Services Building. They are trying to decide between a 92,000 Sq Ft building at 40 Million or a 100,000 sq. ft building at 50 Million. How can our City justify 34 million for a reno.

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