Posted January 23, 2014
In November 2006, Mayor-elect Karen Farbridge could hardly believe her good fortune. She and her professional advisors had conducted a campaign that delivered an absolute majority of her fellow supporters. The final result was the Farbridge Party elected 11 supporters to council and the opposition, two.
The description of the party depicts a voting bloc that slavishly follows the dictums of the leader and her advisors. All you have to do is examine the voting record of council in the four-year term when the count was chiefly 11 to 2.
There was one notable exception when the Farbridge coalition collapsed. That was the night the Mayor lost her only vote in seven years. It was the night council did not agree to sell Guelph Hydro, much against the Mayor’s pleading to approve.
It didn’t much matter. Because the Farbridge Party called a $30 million loan owed by Guelph Hydro which was used to finance the policies and plans of the ruling party. Where the money went or was spent, is still a mystery.
Then there was the firing of two seasoned and key staff executives. Chief Administration Officer, Larry Kotseff, and Chief Financial Officer David Kennedy, were dismissed without cause. The ruling party clammed up on the cost of firing them, but a year or so later it was revealed it was in excess of $500,000.
Since that dubious action, there have been two CAO’s and four CFO’s. There has been an avalanche of retirements, resignations and firings that resulted in the loss of talented and dedicated managers and employees.
It is apparent that staff morale was diminished as the ruling party dictated what it wanted and when. More significantly there was a removal of any checks or balances that the administration would accept.
This is how a dictatorship works. Remove the dissidents and replace them with those who support the ruling party agenda. Not only that, but hire new staff to fill jobs created by the ruling party’s self-serving agenda. By 2012, there were 2,065 employees.
That’s a 27 per cent increase over the total number of city employees in 2006. In the same period the population of Guelph grew by 5.8 per cent.
Again to recap, the staff costs escalated to a point where the most recent financial statements show us, those costs consume 80 per cent of the 2012 city budget of $183 million.
Now the Farbridge supporters maintain that the employee costs are only $146 million. But they leave out the total cost of employees plus the catacomb of benefits including the exacerbating rise in pension obligations.
The ruling party has an obligation. Some 80 per cent of all city employees are unionized or members of a staff association. Even the senior members of staff have their own association to negotiate salary and benefit increases. The man in charge of staff compensation and negotiations is Executive Director, Mark Amorosi.
Here is where the going gets rough. The unions are abject supporters of the Farbridge ruling party. The unions have largely financed the Mayor’s political campaigns, directly or indirectly, with funding or “in kind” support.
In the background is the Guelph Civic League that has now reveals itself as managing the Mayor’s re-election campaign. How else can you explain that it organized a meeting, in the people’s council chambers for the mayor to give a “state of the city” address?
Let’s talk about this organization; one that has received a $135,000 Trillium Foundation grant awarded to a subsidiary known as 10 Carden Street. It happens to be the address of the Guelph Civic League. Since last September, civic league leaders have been saying that this is the “new” Guelph Civic League. Turns out it’s the same old gaggle of ruling party supporters backing a tired and irresponsible party that is devoid of financial acumen.
Citizens of Guelph, only we have ourselves to blame as we elected this Farbridge ruling party. However, there is a tsunami of rejection roiling in the city, one that is ready to reject this coalition of minority interests, single-issue adherents and wasteful spenders.
Our Mayor has had the comfort of bringing together these forces that do not reflect the views of the majority. That hidden majority of citizens who are disgusted with the high taxes they are forced to pay, the excessive user fees, the reduction in services, the secrecy and the growing long-term debt the city faces.
Yes, there will be an election October 27 that will shape the future of this city for years to come. Re-electing the Mayor and her ruling party adherents will result in creating a city of high taxes, high debt and probably an exodus of residents who will move to other more rational and friendly municipalities.
Join GrassRoots Guelph, an organization of citizens dedicated to bringing rationale and common sense governance to the city. Drop into GrassRootsGuelph.com and join the hundreds who have already indicated support. Let’s work together toward making our city a model of efficiency, fair taxes, and growth of businesses to create jobs and opportunity.