Posted July 18, 2014
On one side of the political canyon that separates the right from the left we find the Farbridge warriors. On the right side are the Hudak remnants regurgitating the good old days of Bill Davis.
At the bottom of the great divide are the people, those huddled masses trying to figure out which side of the canyon should they climb?
Karen Farbridge is like the Cheshire cat, remember the Alice in Wonderland character who could disappear at will? When dropped from a three-story walk-up, lands adroitly on her feet and fades to black. In her first term as Mayor, Ms. Farbridge got tangled in two issues. One was the deal made with Nustadia to run the new downtown arena. That one cost the madding crowd some $4 million.
Details? Few remember now.
The other crisis facing the community leader of the time was the wet/dry plant that her nemesis, Mayor Kate Quarrie had to shut down. That resulted in the city having to pay a $40,000 fine by the provincial Ministry of the Environment and the firing of the manager of the Farbridge inspired facility.
Despite this, our current mayor, with the help of some 190 dedicated volunteers, demolished the Quarrie council in 2006.
The stunning victory laid the groundwork for unrestricted spending of the city treasure. It brought on a flourish of projects the vast majority of those citizens did not support. Thereby it created a legacy of financial mismanagement that will not soon be forgotten.
But does a financial faux pas like losing the Urbacon $19 million wrongful dismissal lawsuit faze our untouchable political Cheshire cat? Hell no. She’s running again.
Karen Farbridge has the people spooked. Many don’t believe she can lose. Not because of the great job her supporters keep braying about, but because she is a wily political animal impervious to internal disasters.
And friends, there are a bunch of them that our mayor seems to circumvent, stepping her way out of trouble to the tune of ABBA’s Dancing Queen.
The basic problem in Guelph is that people give up too easily when it comes to municipal politics. In the last civic election, just 33 per cent of eligible voters bothered to cast their ballot.
Here’s how it works. The Farbridge forces want it that way because they know that if the sleeping giant of majority voters troop to the polls next October 27, they are dead in the water.
The Farbridge team ensures its minority base of supporters gets to the polls on Election Day. Even if an additional 5,000 voters turn up to vote next October, Mayor Farbridge and some of her elected cohorts are toast.
Her administration talks about making it easier for people to vote but it’s mere lip service. The strategy is to convince people that the administration is doing a good job. They spent eight years buying support with taxpayer money.
The Mayor’s real margin of victory in 2010 was just some 2,000 votes. Today, her task to be re-elected is immeasurably more difficult.
You cannot square away the exponential rising costs of just living in Guelph. Consider the litany of rising property taxes, galloping water and hydro charges, soaring user fees. This is coupled to a failure to attract industrial and commercial businesses to help lighten the load of taxes paid by residential owners.
How can anything change when the University of Guelph pays no taxes on its 700-plus acres now situated in the centre of the city? It’s an institution that has prospered by selling and leasing back those lands to a variety of commercial and residential enterprises along the Stone Road corridor.
Oh, they will argue that they pay $75 per student in lieu of property taxes. It’s a thoroughly unfair arrangement concocted in 1987 by the former Liberal government headed by David Peterson. And the rate hasn’t changed in 27 years. Even when factoring the growth of the Consumer Price Index, the university should be paying a minimum of $150 per student today.
And to think the majority of voters in the provincial riding of Guelph just re-elected Liz Sandals, Minister of Education.
It remains a dismaying distrust of both the provincial and municipal government that fail to serve the people who pay its bills. No wonder that voter turnout in recent elections has declined so precipitously.
The Farbridge administration has played footsie with the university allowing this unfair property tax rate to continue. This is exacerbated with a couple of her fellow councillors working for the university and two others including the Mayor being formerly associated.
Our trouble is we have no tea to dump into Guelph Lake to protest this absurd and abusive arrangement.
Yes, Karen Farbridge and her seven dwarfs can be defeated.
The people’s 2014 rallying call will be: Remember the Urbacon!