December 1, 2014
Mr. Mayor, welcome aboard! The people have spoken and they voted for change. Your campaign slogan of providing a Better Guelph now rests in the history of our City.
The hard work begins in earnest starting Tuesday, December 2.
You are already aware of the problems facing the city in the wake of the tax and spend Farbridge administration. What you don’t know at this stage is the actual state of the finances. Starting with revenues and expenses, what are the future liabilities the citizens face in the coming years? How to deal with major future capital expenditures? How to bring staff costs under control?
Will you be able keep your promise to keep property tax increases at the level of the Consumer Price Index?
Which brings us to the staff. You have inherited a thoroughly politicized senior staff. They, under the direction of former Mayor Farbridge, are the architects of the financial and managerial mess that people voted against. It wasn’t just the Urbacon lawsuit debacle but a number of so-called initiatives that have saddled the people with a huge amount of debt, more than $118 million.
The product of this eight-year management by a determined and controlling administration is the public rejection of these policies.
Just days after your election victory, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, announced a major restructuring of the senior staff. Was this coincidence or part of a strategy to maintain the failed policies and management of the Farbridge administration?
Of the four remaining senior staff managers, all were handpicked and hired by the Farbridge administration, i.e. Karen Farbridge. They include CAO, Pappert, Mark Amorosi, Al Horsman and Derrick Thomson.
It begs to wonder, when it required five executive directors to manage the city for three years before the election, why can the job now be accomplished with just three individuals plus CAO Pappert? Further, why are these three executive survivors now described as Deputy Chief Administration Officers? Who is really running the city? The optics of this decision are disturbing.
Well Mr. Mayor, to avoid what threatens to continue the domination of the Farbridge regime, you should put this so-called senior management reorganization on hold until you and your council can orient yourselves and discuss the alternatives.
This was a move to maintain power and that’s not what the people voted for.
Mr. Mayor,you were elected promising a Better Guelph by reorganizing the way the city conducts its business, and controls spending, tax and user fee increases.
These are meaningful issues but the big job is to change the culture at city hall toward operating an open and transparent government. It requires an end to the public isolation practised by the former administration. The power must rest with council with the support of the professional staff, and not the other way around. Bringing change to city hall includes hiring an Auditor General to oversee all city operations. This individual would report quarterly to the public.
It means opening council meetings and not debating the issues behind closed doors before regular meetings. It means dumping the electronic voting system that prevents citizens from knowing who voted for what?
It means revamping the communication department to respond to citizens’ questions in a timely fashion. It means holding a monthly media conference to explain the city’s direction and announcements.
It requires quarterly financial reports that summarize, in plain language, the financial status of the city. Copies may be distributed using the tax bills and to other city outlets including libraries and museums where the public congregates.
Mr. Mayor, it is going to require your skills and knowledge plus the fulfillment of promises made to the people, to return this city into a balanced and welcoming community. It is one that welcomes new enterprises and residents. It must be a city for all the people and not the self-serving clusters of special interests that have had their way for the past eight years.
While sustainability is important it cannot surmount the essential core responsibility of maintaining what we already have. Neglect of infrastructure and certain services must end.
Sir, your mandate is strong, your mission is transparent and you have the support of the majority of the people.
We all wish you success in truly creating a Better Guelph.