Posted October 13, 2014
Nearing the final verdict by the people in two weeks, this election has polarized between the Farbridge coalition of labour, NDP, environmentalists, heritage advocates, and the rest of us, the great silent majority.
This is what elections are all about. To decide who is best suited to run our public affairs. At the municipal level, more so than any other contest, the electors are closer to the causes and effects of their daily lives. This is why this particular election is so vital to the future of our city. It is why voters should make every effort to cast their ballot.
After eight years of a city government totally dominated by Mayor Karen Farbridge and her close-knit council supporters, many questions exist of how our council has served the people of this city.
Of course, the most stunning misuse of power was the lawsuit filed by Urbacon Buildings Systems Corp for $19.2 million that found the city had wrongfully dismissed the new city hall contractor in 2008. To date, the Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, has stated the cost of the new city hall is $57 million. That’s $15 million more than the original contract price of $42 million.
But there are still missing pieces of this complex settlement. The city has not reported the cost of the two construction companies hired to complete the Urbacon contract. Also what is the outcome of the claims by the Lien Claimants/Bond Claimants? After six years, was there interest paid to the various parties and how much? What is the breakdown of the court and legal costs?
The muddled handling of the Urbacon file by the Farbridge administration is deliberate and measured to protect the Farbridge administration. It is a clumsy attempt to turn chicken feathers into chicken soup. Or so they would like you to believe.
The facts are that the 2007 Farbridge council decided that the original new city hall contract did not accommodate its needs including demanding certain environmental changes. In the following one and a half years, there were more than 300 change orders filed that obviously were of such a nature that the original contract and design was essentially changed. More importantly, it rolled back the completion dates.
The relationship between the city, the architects and Urbacon deteriorated rapidly during that period. It led to the construction company being ordered off the work site on September 19, 2008. It remains to be seen who actually ordered the termination. Council members at the time have claimed they were not consulted. If not them, then who did make the decision and on what authority?
Today, the city is telling the people that there are sufficient funds to cover the $6.35 million settlement with Urbacon. The sources are: The Capital Asset Renewal reserve, the Legal/OMB reserve and the Capital Tax Reserve fund.
All these reserves were originally funded by the citizens, but not for the purposes of settling a misguided adventure that has been mismanaged by the administration from the get-go in 2008.
The Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, says there will be no impact on the tax levy. It will take five years to replenish those reserves. Recently Mr. Horsman has been quoted as saying the 2015 property tax increase will be more than 6 per cent. Do you want fries with that?
This is where the city administration tries to cover-up and spin the greatest lawsuit loss in recent memory. The bottom line is that it was caused by the actions of the Farbridge administration including her council supporters. Yet they refuse to accept responsibility.
It’s about accountability, remorse and being truthful.
Yet when a citizens action group such as GrassRoots Guelph points this out, the daily Mercury states: “the advocacy of some third party politicking has been criticized as being bruising, fact challenged and attack focused. Propaganda opponents can often be found to be aggressive truth spinners in their own regard.”
Just exactly what is the Mercury’s point, using this kind of language? Where has GrassRoots Guelph failed the accountability test as the city administration has in the Urbacon case?
This editorial quotation is exactly why GrassRoots Guelph refused to participate in the Mercury story about third party advocacy groups and their impact on the election. Using such key words as “some third party” or “has been crititzed as being bruising” and “fact challenged and attack focussed.” These are unattributable statements contained in an unsigned editorial. And, this is not the first indication that the Mercury has shown its bias toward the Farbridge administration.
If the Mercury had been on top of covering the management of our city for the past eight years, there would have been no need for a GrassRoots Guelph. Instead, the staff produced fluffy features and copy frequently sourced from the city communications department communiqués. It was a rare occasion when the Mercury editorial department questioned Mayor Farbridge or her policies. Critical writing and investigative reporting about the city’s business was mostly absent on the news pages.
The real spirit of a newspaper in a democratic society is to represent the interests of all the people and not just the comfortable. Going along to get along in the media destroys its credibility.
Reporting the truth and accountability is part of that responsibility.
Look for New Directions – Guelph, Part Three, in the October 16 edition of the Guelph Tribune.