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: firstname.lastname@example.org