Guelph CAO extols the virtues of open government, but is it merely a warm-up for the October election?

Posted June 6, 2014

Ann Pappert, Chief Administration Officer of the City of Guelph appears to be assuming the mantle of head of the community after reading her quarterly report to council.

While the lady talks about “really wanting to embrace transparency and accountability,” the city was slammed with a loss in a $19 million lawsuit when a judge ruled in favour of Urbacon, the contractor fired from building the new city hall.

The CAO outlined how there have been public meetings to discuss “open government” including two sessions with students at the university. The facts are that this administration has been super secret in its management of the city. It only exposes itself under strict conditions to friendly audiences.

To strengthen the argument, the CAO admits these “public” events fall under the Wellbeing initiative that the administration is using to donate funds to friendly community organizations.

Here are some of her reports to be made in the next quarter. The guelphspeaks comments appear in italics.

* 2013 investment report in April

GS – We presume this will include the ownership of the Guelph Junction railway and Guelph Hydro that the Mayor controls through the Guelph Municipal Investment Corporation.

* A tax-increment grant for 150 Wellington Street. East, the second Tricar development of the former Marsh Tire property in April.

GS – Again, why is the city spending public funds to redevelop a downtown site that will impact on future councils and the tax base?

* Housing strategy: Wellington County oversees affordable house but most of the housing is located in Guelph. The city is looking at affordable rental housing and a “backgrounder” report will come to council in April’

GS – Has the administration made up with the county after lawsuits were bandied about?

* Guelph Police Service Headquarters. Draft business case will go to Police Services Board in April and to council in May.

GS – There is nothing transparent or open about this procedure. Regardless, the decision has already been made by council to go ahead. This project should be shelved to allow the next council to decide about spending $34 million.

* Guelph innovation district in May

GS – Every time the word “Innovation” is used by this administration, most folks tighten the elastic band on their wallets.

* Wilson farmhouse report and staff recommendation comes to council in May.

GS – The staff has recommended demolishing it. Council agreed by a 9-2 vote.

* The South End Community Centre business case: In June. The city is currently doing a needs assessment and has posted a survey online for public comment.

GS – If one lived in the South End of the city, they would quickly see through this charade to placate the people. It has been more than ten years since Mayor Farbridge promised to build it in her first term, Today, the project isn’t even on the long-term capital plan. Sigh, there’s an election coming.

* 2013 audited consolidated financial statement. June.

GS – Another in a series of impenetrable four-pound documents that the average citizen cannot even lift let alone understand. The administration loves to tell the madding crowd that the finances are in great shape and they are audited, Yep, by a reputable accounting firm, Deloitte and Touche. What they don’t explain are the terms of the audit contract and how deep the auditors drill down for the details. Open government, eh?

* Integrated operations review annual report. June or July.

GS – Wonder if this report will do a follow-up on the $5 million costs revealed in the internal auditor’s damning report on excessive overtime spending by staff and management. Reports are that the staff is dysfunctional with a wide gap existing between the lower ranks and middle management and executive management.

* Solid Waste Master Management Plan. June.

GS – This is a revised 20-year plan that locks in the waste management and spending costs of a vital service to residents and businesses. Trouble is the administration has not revealed the actual costs of its foray into waste diversion. So much for open and transparent government. This garbage empire that fails to service 6,400 households, has cost $55 million, not counting the deals and construct of the dump on Dunlop drive. Only an independent audit could uncover the real costs of this monument to environmentalism cherished by the mayor and her cohorts.

* Water Supply Master Plan. June

GS – The question is why having water rates increased while usage has declined? Those charges for water are among the highest cash flow contributors to city revenues. It’s another sneaky way to use those funds for purposes other than running the waterworks.

Folks, the race is on to cram as much positive news into the agenda leading up to the October 27 election. By law, the administration has to stop, September 1st to spend money for anything except essentials such as salaries, wages and benefits, maintaining public safety services etc.

But now there are some damaging issues hanging over the Farbridge Administration.

These include the Urbacon lawsuit costs, the $34 million police headquarters, and most of all, stopping the rapid growth of staff and salaries, wages and benefits.

But it did manage to build an underpass on Wyndham Street beneath the CNR main line that large trucks couldn’t clear resulting in the bridge being smacked.




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