Posted October 25, 2014
Two distinctive political solitudes are facing off in the 2014 civic election that concludes Monday night at 8 p.m. There is much at stake as the Farbridge administration has taken Guelph in a direction in the past eight years that has aroused a normally docile electorate to oppose.
There are a number of opposition organizations that have sprung up, not connected, but are making similar points of protest against a deeply-entrenched and financed Farbridge dominated administration.
Then, along came the Urbacon firing and lawsuit. The Farbridge administration was responsible, first for the termination of a legitimate construction contract and then six years later, found responsible for wrongfully dismissing Urbacon from the new city hall project.
Some of the details of this complicated lawsuit and the settlements with the various parties involved have trickled out of City Hall in a controlled and careful manner. There are still a number of obligations the city faces of which details have not been revealed.
Instead, Mayor Farbridge states: “That they had a problem and fixed it.”
By our estimate the real cost of this misadventure is more than $21 million, not the $15 million that CAO Ann Pappert claims is the cost of the overruns, involving the new city hall and renovation of the old one.
It does not explain the Farbridge team, at taxpayer’s expense, attempting to muzzle the damages portion of the trial until after the election. That legal move denied.
There is no doubt now in the public’s mind that not only was there a serious error in judgment by the Farbridge administration in 2008, kicking Urbacon off the job site, but resulting in a costly blunder six years later.
This is why there is outright resentment by citizens who must now pay for this series of errors, cover-ups and the administration’s failure of its fiduciary responsibility.
Public trust in this administration is shattered and lost through its own actions. It was parially driven by arrogance, inexperience and a sense of entitlement.
The other choice
In the fall of 2012, following a 12 month investigation, GrassRoots Guelph, a non-partisan citizen’s activist group, presented a documented petition to the then Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The Minister ordered her staff to meet with GRG and investigate the claims of financial malfeasance contained in the petition.
The outcome of the meeting with GRG was the Ministry officials, confirming that the figures and data in the petition were accurate. Despite her staff’s report, the minister refused to order an independent audit of the City of Guelph’s finances and operations. She described the matter as being “local” and to be resolved between the two parties. Despite GRG’s attempts to arrange such a meeting with the city, it did not happen.
To this day the facts contained in that petition are as accurate as they were two years ago. What later developed is the revelation that the city financial forecasting is unpredictable and a constantly moving target making analysis and accountability virtually impossible.
In the summer of 2011, a founding group of citizens agreed to inform and educate the electors to increase greater participation in civic elections. As analysis and investigation proceeded it became apparent there were many events and decisions made by the Farbridge administration that were covered up.
As GRG reported these events and the impact on citizens, the public trust in the Farbridge administration eroded. This began the polarization between the people and the Farbridge re-election campaign and her supporters.
The phony attacks by the Farbridge supporters on her chief rival, Coun. Cam Guthrie, have denigrated the reputation of the administration and its leader, Karen Farbridge.
The unsigned attack ad linked Mr. Guthrie with convicted robocall participant Michael Sona. It not only broke the Elections Act law about unattributed political advertising but also forced the mayor to admit her team published it. Then she went on a rant about how the campaign is toxic and there is bullying, particularly on the women candidates. She threatened to go on the attack.
What this means is there is a clear choice. Grassroots Guelph has named 12 qualified and experienced candidates for council. This strategy is deliberate because the root cause of the malaise that has infected the body politic of Guelph is because of the dominance of Farbridge councillors in the past eight years.
GRG feels that power must be vested in the members of council, not just the mayor or the staff. Change can only occur at the ballot box.
It’s really a simple decision on Monday. Do you want to support an administration that has cost citizens more than $21 million on just one project? Continue to see annual property taxes and user fees increase beyond the Consumer Price Index?
Or support the GRG candidates who are dedicated to returning power to the people and taking the city in a new direction, more responsible, operating an open and transparent government.
On Monday, whatever path you choose, and have not yet voted, make the effort to ensure your voice is heard. In this most important election the outcome will define Guelph for the next four years.
If you don’t vote, you don’t count.