Grading Mayor Farbridge’s 2006 election promises, eight years later

Posted October 10, 2014

A copy of mayoralty candidate Karen Farbridge’s 2006 campaign brochure has been brought to our attention. Looking svelte and confidant, Ms. Farbridge promised “I will put Guelph back on track.”

Here is the guelphspeaks analysis grading candidate Karen Farbridge’s 2006 election promises, compared to her eight-year record as mayor in 2014. Enjoy!

* Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “Growth is proceeding at a pace faster than we can afford. It is costing you in taxes and quality of life. I will make growth pay for itself so we can build a prosperous well maintained and vibrant community.”

Guelphspeaks 2014: Let’s take her taxes comment. Since her election the Mayor has presided over a 38 per cent increase in property taxes, she has doubled development fees, increased water rates by 77 per cent and takes a $2.9 million “dividend” from Guelph Hydro. That’s your money. The sidewalks and potholes still aren’t fixed and more than 6,000 households still are not serviced by the city waste management department.

* Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “In Kate Quarrie’s city hall, decisions are driven by petty politics and personal agendas. I will restore trust and open communication. I will put our financial affairs back in order. I will close the back door to city hall and make it a fair process for everyone.”

Guelphspeaks 2014: Hardly know where to begin. The decision making process has not changed one iota. Her majority bloc of supporters has produced scores of self-serving projects. Council was rendered a dictatorship. Despite the Mayor’s promise to make it a fair process for everyone, the exact opposite occurred. Her government did exactly as they pleased and did it in secret beyond the public’s gaze. Today, the Farbridge message is manicured and massaged by a team of 13 full-time employees in her communications department. There was no such department in 2006.

But the biggest promise was her claim in 2006 to “put our financial affairs back in order”. Ask yourself, are you better off today than you were in 2006? The Consumer Price Index has averaged 1.9 per cent per year since 2007. The municipally-controlled cost of living in Guelph averaged 5.2 per cent. That does not include revenue received from senior governments.

Then there was that nasty business regarding the Nustadia deal in which a Calgary company was granted operational control of the new Woolwich Street arena now known as the Sleeman Centre. The operators failed to pay the mortgage as part of the agreement, and by the time the dust settled, the city was out $4 million. It all happened on Mayor Farbridge’s first term watch. That financial rock was handed to the Quarrie council in 2004 to be resolved.

Mayor Farbridge has not succeeded in putting Guelph back on track. She has derailed it instead.

* Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “Guelph is a difficult place to do business. While our neighbours attract new industry, our industrial base has dropped to its lowest point ever. I will streamline business approvals to attract jobs and offset high taxes.”

Guelphspeaks 2014: Hmmm, during your eight years as Mayor, two independent consultants, hired by your administration, told the city it was a difficult place to do business. Seems your 2006 pledge did not materialize. Today most people in town mock it as “The Guelph Factor,” or where did all those promised jobs go?

Karen, did you shift principles from your first tour as Mayor from 2000 to 2003? You remember, you and your council at the time, blocked the Wal-Mart application for a store on Woodlawn. The Quarrie council approved the store and the estimated delaying tactics cost the city more than $1 million, not to mention lost taxes for almost 11 years.

Your record of increasing the industrial assessment in Guelph is appalling. Worse it hasn’t changed in eight years. It has been stuck at 16 per cent since your were elected. So, how has that offset property taxes as you promised in 2006?

Your social engineering exercise restricting residential development to multiple-family condos built in greenfield enclaves has seriously skewed the city housing market. Last year your administration only issued 133 building permits for single-family homes. Well, you certainly succeeded in killing the so-called urban sprawl by removing choice for first time buyers.

* Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “Guelph is more than a collection of traffic lights, and sewers. As important as they are, my priority is to protect your city’s essential character and quality of life.”

Guelphspeaks 2014: That’s fatuous bullwinkle right out of urban planning 101. In eight years Mayor Farbridge has spent more time and money on policies and projects that most people didn’t vote for. These include the new civic museum costing, at last press release, some $16 million. The excessive spending in the downtown core include the Market Square/City Hall, the cost of which has an estimated overrun of some $20 million and counting.

But we failed to see a new downtown Library or the South End recreation centre, both promised by the Mayor in her first term of office

Calling a $30 million debt owed by Guelph Hydro funded much of this. Now through the Guelph Municipal Holdings Corporation, controlled by the mayor as chairperson, the corporation staff is studying the sale of the utility with a book value of $170 million.

People get upset when your administration proposed to paint coloured warning nstrips on broken or uneven sidewalks. They are also disturbed that your engineering staff failed to establish the height of the rail underpass to permit all trafic to pass under safely.

These are the bread and butter issues that form a city’s real character. Sorry, your administration is not very good at looking after the core issues.

Candidate Farbridge said in 2006: “Clean water, clean air and clean parks – these are my environmental goals. I will seek tested and cost effective practices to achieve them.”

Guelphspeaks 2014 : Well, you were handed clean water, clean air and clean parks in 2007. But we now know what your real environmental focus was. Your administration embarked on a multi-million dollar waste management plan to divert waste from the landfill.

The Waste Resources Innovation Centre on Dunlop Drive is a colossal failure when it addresses waste diversion. It was grossly overbuilt, is dependent on waste materials from outside Guelph and its organic processing facility has yet to reach planned capacity. It has become the most secretive project of the city because the citizens have no idea of the costs of operation. The mayor claims that more than 50 per cent of waste is now diverted from the landfill because of this operation.

Well, here are some flaws in the argument. More than 6,000 homes in the city send their unsorted waste to the landfill because the city cannot pick it up due to location and equipment challenges. The amount of compost processed by the organic facility is unknown or the price paid by third parties. Waste coming from other jurisdictions, Detroit, Regional of Waterloo, if not suitable for processing, is shipped to the landfill.

This whole operation was developed in secret, the public was never informed of the costs or operational details, such as contracts with Maple Reinders and its subsidiary, Aim Environmental that operates the organic plant.

Yes, we still have clean, albeit more expensive water. Little has changed when it comes to air quality over which the city has little control. The parks are pretty good except the intersection weeds don’t get trimmed. The floral clock’s days may be numbered, according to reports.

Now we are facing the fallout of miscalculation, mistakes, misinformation and unbridled spending that has occurred in the past eight years.

Are you sure you want more of this?

Drop into or for the latest election information. Also check out the Guelph Tribune each Thursday for the four-part GRG ad describing the New Directions – Guelph program.



Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “Grading Mayor Farbridge’s 2006 election promises, eight years later

  1. pegy powell

    I think that Mayor Farbridge gets a failing grade.

  2. Eugene

    Something needs to be done about ABSENTEE LANDLORDS in Guelph. They and their tennants are ruining our neighbourhoods with their run down houses, litter and constant parties.

    Safety for our children is also a concern as we don’t what type of people these are. I know for fact that some of these premises are essentially used as half-way houses and I am tired of it.

    I want the NEXT COUNCIL to do something about it!!!

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