Citizens are asking: Who is in charge of our city?

Posted February 5, 2015

For eight years our city was controlled by an administration that basically operated in secret.

By secret we mean city staff senior managers made recommendations that pleased the majority of council and executed the ideology that has dominated the entire administration from top to bottom.

Let’s discuss some examples. And, away we go!

Were the citizens consulted in 2007 when the former administration cut a deal with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton to lease the decrepit Loretto convent on Catholic hill and turn it into a civic museum?

It was promoted by Coun. Leanne Piper, former chair of the Guelph Heritage organization. The final cost of designing and resurrecting this pre-confederation building has never been revealed. The problems encountered in this misguided adventure turned out to be monumental and the cost soared above the original estimates of $12.7 million.

Were the citizens asked for input, when the administration decided to spend more than $56 million on an organic waste processing plant and collection system? It is a system that fails to collect waste from more than 6,400 households in the city.

Were the citizens asked or consulted when the administration decided to revitalize the downtown? The downtown is still abused by an element that makes the night scene a deplorable place, unworthy of our city

What happened when the railway underpass on Wyndham Street was constructed to restrict large commercial vehicles from using it? When citizens raised the issue, the result was a classic defensive move. The city engineers installed warning signsinstead of fixing the problem.

Were the citizens consulted when the Guelph Police Services Board hired its own consultant to back up its plan to renovate the downtown police headquarters for $34 million? The former mayor and Coun. Piper voted to support that project. One is gone, the other is still around.

Was there a case for increases in property taxes and user fees that every year outstripped the Consumer Price Index, not by a smidge but by a country mile. Property taxes alone increased over eight years by a compounded 38 per cent. That’s an average of more than 4 per cent per year. Did your pay grow by that much each year

Are citizens asked about Guelph Transit? We are now on route plan D, but whose counting, to cut the wait time on “spine routes’ to ten minutes. What we need are pull-off zones for buses loading and unloading passengers. Also, more bus shelters on routes. Why not use smaller buses on routes that are not being used by passengers in off times?

The Urbacon decision in 2008 that saw the city fire the new City Hall contractor, was the straw that broke the former administration’s back. The courts ruled against the city and the final costs of this decision are yet to be revealed. Try an estimated $21 million.

Why is this new council still holding council meetings behind closed doors? The Ontario Municipal Act is clear about the allowed reasons to hold a closed meeting. To discuss terms of pending contracts, i.e. labour negotiations: employee contracts performance; and sensitive legal matters.

What has occurred in recent years are these categories tht are broadened to block real public debate. This is partly due to public apathy and abuse of power. Ombudsman of Ontario, Andre Marin, has stated that abuse of the public’s right to know and the growing trend among municipalities to operate from the public view will be a target for investigation by his agency.

Guelph just went through eight years of this, as citizens were kept in the dark about the administration’s operation of the public business.

Instead, like the ghost of Christmas past, the senior Guelph staff reorganized AFTER the election, cutting their ranks from five to three. The survivors were given new assignments and named Deputy Chief Administrative Officers. Did they also receive an increase in salary for their added responsibilities? This administration is not telling, despite the Ontario Sunshine list of those earning more than $100,000.

Guess we’ll have to wait until the spring to find out how much these three will be making as senior stewards of our municipality.

So, who is in charge of our $450 million citizen-owned corporation?

Citizens voted to change the way Guelph was being managed last October. If the staff department heads misunderstood that and appear to be advancing 2015 budget proposals that fail to reflect the new order of things, then why did we hold an election?













Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “Citizens are asking: Who is in charge of our city?

  1. Everybody says get smaller buses but there is a problem. It will cost MORE to maintain 2 different types of buses than having 1 type. So you guys want to spend MORE money? I’m confused.

    • Fix Guelph: Doesn’t more than one type of bus already exist in the system? The cost of operating large urban buses in low ridership routes does not make sense. Smaller buses are easier to maintain and cheaper to operate. The entire system would benefit. It’s not about wasting money, it’s about spending wisely to give better service at a lower cost. Thanks for your comment.

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