October 16, 2014
The Ward Four contest epitomizes the angst of the Farbridge council candidates as they realize that this election is different from what they have experienced, because there is concentrated opposition.
It 2010, Mayor Farbridge squeaked through the election with a majority of council supporters to run the show. Among the Farbridge casualties were Vicki Beard and Mike Salisbury, both defeated, plus the retirement of Kathleen Ferrelly.
Salisbury despite being rejected in Ward Four in 2010 is running again. This time he is whining that the four candidates opposing him should not run in his ward because they don’t live there. Retiring Coun. Gloria Kovach called his complaints a red herring. She pointed out that you don’t have to live in a ward to represent the citizens. In her continuous service of 24 years she spent a lot of it not living in the ward and nobody complained. Her record speaks for itself.
Lets look at Salisbury’s one term as a councillor. He was the councillor who greeted and supported the Hanlon Business Park occupiers who were trespassing on city property. That occupation ended up costing the city more than $1 million, due in part to destruction of construction equipment, threats to the contractor. Among the occupiers were those arrested during the G20 riots in downtown Toronto. As an elected official, cavorting with anarchists is not a recipe for re-election.
His other claim to fame was joining with retiring Coun Ian Findlay, convincing council to send them to Edmonton to check out how that city coped with late night rowdyism and fouling of public streets. This was intended to find ways of stopping what was happening on downtown streets in Guelph after the bars closed. It is a problem that persists today.
The solution was to set up temporary portable toilets for men only for a six-week study in the fall when the University students were in town. The result was collecting 2,400 litres of urine that only proved there was a public-fouling problem.
Mr. Salisbury was a member of the 2008 Council when Urbacon Buildings Systems Corp., contractor of the new City Hall, was fired by the city. Collectively, that council denies it was involved in the decision.
The mystery continues
Who among the staff or council ordered the firing?
Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, who wasn’t CAO when it occurred, says former CAO, Hans Loewig, fired Urbacon. She claims that a council bylaw governing the responsibilities of a CAO gave him the authority to cancel the contract.
Hold on! There is unanimous agreement among members of the 2008 council that they were not consulted nor asked to revoke the contract. Mayor Farbridge has been stone silent on this important issue of who was responsible.
If the elected members of council, including the Mayor, were not informed or consulted about the immediate firing of Urbacon, as they claim, was council so out of control of its fiduciary responsibilities that it didn’t protect the public’s interests?
In this election, this is a key question. It is beyond belief that Hans Loewig acted on his own and terminated a $42 million contract. At the time of the firing, he was a contract employee and acting CAO.
Two months after the firing, he was awarded a four-year contract with a starting salary of $198,000, plus benefits, and the extraordinary perk of taking 12 weeks of unpaid leave during his employment. Who was running the city during those off-duty times?
Of course Urbacon sued the city for $19.2 million for wrongful dismissal and the city lost the suit and paid Urbacon $6.35 million as settlement. Trial and settlement has taken six years and there are several cost issues that the city has not reported that are yet to come. The city has admitted to over-run costs of the project of $57 million.
An Election decision
So why would voters elect the following Farbridge supporters who are directly responsible for the Urbacon multi-million dollar mistake in judgment without accepting responsibility?
In Ward three, there is ardent cyclist Coun. Maggie Laidlaw who said she was not going to run after the integrity commissioner suggested she should apologize to two city staffers who said she bullied them. She then changed her mind and is on the ballot in ward three.
Ward Three also has Coun. June Hofland who, without any financial credentials, has been chair of the council finance committee for four years. She votes in lockstep with the Farbridge agenda.
In Ward Four the aforementioned Mike Salisbury.
In Ward Five there is Coun. Leanne Piper the right hand of Mayor Farbridge. She has a couple of claims to fame both involving money. A strong advocate of professional development (at the expense of citizens), Ms. Piper travelled to Portland, Oregon, described as the greenest city in America, presumably on a fact-finding trip. She probably wasn’t aware that Portland has a serious problem with its 17,000 homeless and is the largest distribution centre of cheap Mexican heroin in the Pacific Northwest. And the purpose of this trip was? What did it cost and where is the report of her trip? If citizens paid for the trip they are entitled to a report on her findings.
This is why retiring Coun. Gloria Kovach asked council to require travelling staff and councillors to report all costs and expenses in detail. In eight years, council has not reported details of staff or council travel costs to the public.
Piper’s other maneuver was to arrange to terminate Coun. Gloria Kovach’s four-year appointment as council representative on the Guelph Police Services Board after serving only two years.. The mayor is automatically a member. The job carries an extra payment of $5,000 per year. Then, that same night in stage two of her maneuver, Ms. Piper was elected to succeed Ms. Kovach. It’s been referred to as “the night of the long knives.”
In Ward Six, there is Karl Wettstein seeking re-election. Another Farbridge loyalist supporter, Wettstein is a typical example of the “go along to get along” school of government. His record of representing the citizens of his ward is empty of accomplishment. He voted for eight years to raise taxes, in excess of the Consumer Price Index, while promising to build a South-end recreation centre.
The only way to bring change to our city government is to vote. The odds for change increase if more people vote because the Farbridge core of supporters is a minority compared to the total number of electors.
Read Thursday’s edition of the Guelph Tribune for Part Three of New Directions – Guelph. If you missed Parts One and Two, go to grassrootsguelph.com for details.