Fact checking Mayor Farbridge’s “You deserve the truth” full-page ad

Posted October 22, 2014

In the Tuesday Guelph Tribune, there was a full-page ad by Mayor Karen Farbridge in which she dsiplayed her version of the truth in five areas of municipal management. These are her words and they leave gaping holes when it comes to the truth and credibility.

Let’s start with her explanation of the Urbacon lawsuit that was number five on her list of truths but must be addressed first. It is important that her explanation dovetails with another truth category in which she states, “The city is being run very well.”

Regarding the Urbacon mess, the mayor says: “The truth is there was a problem and we fixed it.”

Fact check: Completion of this $42,000,000 contract was delayed because the Farbridge administration ordered more than 300 change orders. This affected the renovation of the old city hall because of the new city hall change orders. A bitter and toxic atmosphere developed between the city, the architects and Urbacon. The finger pointing was monumental, as Urbacon could not get straight answers to accommodate all the changes it was being asked to perform.

Fact check: The new city hall was 95 per cent completed when Urbacon Buildings Systems Corp. without warning, was literally thrown off the job in September 2008 with police present.

Fact check: The city hired two outside construction firms to finish the new city hall and renovate the old city hall into a provincial offenses court. That work was all part of the original $42 million Urbacon contract. The Farbridge administration has never revealed the extra costs as a result of its decision.

The Mayor’s truth statement: “Costs were rising – to regain control of the project, city administration cancelled the contract.”

Fact check: Costs were rising because the city administration was demanding changes that required not only coordination but also communication. The Farbridge administration was using proxies such as Murray McRae, the city manager in charge of the project, and the architects, Moriyama and Teshima, who were the go-between the city and the contractor.

Fact check: In his judgment citing the city for wrongfully dismissing Urbacon, Justice Donald MacKenzie made it clear that there was a serious breakdown in communications that led to the firing of Urbacon. He further said that the testimony of Murray McRae was contradictory.

The fallout: To this day, the mayor has not accepted responsibility for this $15 million cost over run that is increasing due to other costs that have not been reported. Instead, her Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, laid the responsibility on former CAO Hans Loewig. Both Loewig and McRae are no longer employees.

The facts are that this was the most costly mistake any Guelph Mayor and council have ever made. To slough it off in an ad saying she fixed the problem is an egregious insult to the citizens of Guelph.

To compound the error in judgment, she says the $15 million payout won’t affect the property taxes. The city is taking the money from three reserve funds, none of which are connected to legal settlements. This is nothing but stealing from Peter to pay Paul. Only it’s your money and now Farbridge wants to replenish the depleted reserves with more of your money over the next five years. Remember, she claims all this won’t affect property taxes. It’s this kind of financial manuipulation that has been going on for eight years.

In her Truth message she speaks of lowering taxes.

Fact check: In eight years her administration has increased property taxes by 38 per cent compounded. The Consumer Price Index rose by 17 per cent in the same period. She produces a chart showing the decline of taxes since 2005. The 2014 budget increased taxes by 2.38 per cent. In 2013 it was 1.97 per cent. In both cases, the increase failed to account for the increases in assessment of Guelph properties. That automatically increases property taxes. The real increase this year is 4.37 per cent. What’s the old story? Figures lie and liars figure?

Fact check: Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, is on record saying the increase in property taxes for 2015 could be 6 per cent. How does that square with the Mayor’s Truth statement that ”the 2015 target is two per cent?

In her Truth statement the mayor calls “Guelph a great place to do business.”

Fact check: There have been two independent consultant reports commissioned by the city that say the exact opposite. Despite the mayor’s truth claims, our city is a tough place to do business. The proof lies in the ratio of assessment between residential (84 per cent) and industrial/commercial (16 per cent). It has not budged in eight years of Farbridge management.

Fact check: If what the mayor’s truth ad says is true, that “more than 8,000 new jobs” have been created, where are they, how many jobs disappeared, and how many were public sector jobs compared to the private sector?

Fact check: If Guelph is such a great place to do business, why does the mayor want to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board, the provincial board of sober second thought? Why did she challenge the province in the courts to allow Guelph to withdraw from the Wellington, Dufferin Guelph Public Health organization? She lost that one too.

Sorry Madame Mayor, your version of the truth flies in the face of the facts. It’s laden with supposition without basis of fact or background. When your record of performance is up against the wall, it’s about the only course you can take.

But it’s still an abuse of the truth.

Join the GrassRoots Guelph gathering Election Night at the Guelph Country Club. Cash bar and nibbles. Watch the returns starting after the polls close at 8 p.m. on the big screen TV’s.

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5 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

5 responses to “Fact checking Mayor Farbridge’s “You deserve the truth” full-page ad

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    The problem with the “Urbacon queen” will be “fixed” on election day by voters desiring a change!

  2. CW

    Farbridge Slogan: You deserve the truth – when it’s politically convenient
    Farbridge Slogan: You deserve the truth, but only after everyone is already hopping mad about our spin

  3. Ken

    Don’t forget that the 300 changes were also extra’s to the contract. Extras have to be paid for and at usually a much higher margin than if they were in the original tender. What were these changes and how much did they cost us complete with the increased fees to the consultants???? The number has to be much, much higher!!

    • Ken: We share the same view. This Urbacon fiasco is nothing but a cover-up of the truth about what the Market Square Farbridge monument has really cost the citizens. Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert has a responsibility to report the financial details to ALL members of council. It turns out, council was as much in the dark as the citizens. Ms. Pappert should be dusting off the resume as her record of responsibility is non existent. The buck has to stop with the Mayor, and she won’t accept the responsibility for firing the new city hall contractor. Now we know part of the cost of that stupid and arrogant decision. There is more to come and only a new council, responsible to the people, can discover the real financial mess the Urbacon decision has caused our city and its citizens.

  4. Will

    Open and accountable means just that. I would like to know the true cost of Carden Street along with the Wyndham Street train bridge and let us not forget Victoria Rd, Speedvale Ave etc. The list goes on. I will not resort to name calling but Farbridge really pisses me off.

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