Posted December 8, 2013
When Mayor Karen Farbridge took office in January 2007, she automatically became a member of the Guelph Police Services Board. That was seven years ago. As part of her civic remuneration the mayor receives an extra $5,000 stipend over and above her base salary.
Since her appointment, the mayor has sat on the board through the tenure of two police chiefs. Coun Leanne Piper, who also receives an extra stipend for her Police Services Board responsibilities, joins her
A taxpayer may ask why are they on that board? The Mayor and Coun. Piper have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the financial state of the municipality. That includes capital spending and financial management.
After seven years, did the mayor not know that conditions at police headquarters had become overtaxed and in dire need of renovation? Did she not know that the city was obligated to pay for any renovations to the aging building using taxpayer’s money?
So where was she for seven years? Did she miss some meetings? Did she not understand the shabby conditions in which we ask our police to carry out their important work? Was she too busy creating a waste management system that is seriously flawed?
Now she tells her council that the police can force the city to pay through legislation available to them to renovate the headquarters building.
Two weeks ago this writer predicted that the majority of council, over which the mayor is in control, would pass this $34 million project. The positive vote for the basic motion was 9 to 4.
It’s magic folks! On the one hand, supporting the project is dependent on a staff report on the “business case”. On the other hand the mayor says the city has no choice but to spend the $34 million. It’s not hard to figure out where this is going.
Now here are the optics of this mess.
The mayor is preparing to soften the public up with a number of 2014 pre-election promises and goodies. The 2.38 per cent property tax increase is a beginning. Then the subject of a “business case” burbled to the top in which $20.4 million was conditionally approved pending the outcome of the so called “business case”.
A further mystery was the role of the Police Chief, Bryan Larkin, in the past nine months as he went on a public relations exercise to convince the public of the need, after the price jumped from $13.3 million to $34 million. If he read the papers and the blogs he’d realize that the public was mad as hell about this project’s zooming costs.
Did anyone at police headquarters think that a business plan, to support this expenditure, might be useful when the time came for council to approve it?
Did our mayor, sit quietly in the corner, at police board meetings, and not inform them that such an increase was a public disaster and they had better justify it?
So it took council little time to ratify the project with the sham of demanding a “business case” before releasing the money.
And all it took was an unfounded threat by our mayor that the police could force the city to pay anyway. Why didn’t council request a confirmation of this claim?
Some people would call this exercise just politics. It is much bigger than that. It goes right to the heart of trust of those elected to represent us.
The irony remains that Coun. Maggie Laidlaw was the only one who opposed three subordinate clauses to the main motion. Was she the only councillor to see through this deal?
The odour of this shameless $34 million decision will hang around until next October.