Posted July 12, 2015
Bright and early last Monday, July 6, Andy Best started his new job at City hall as Program Manager for Open Government with a congratulatory comment from former Mayor Karen Farbridge.
Presumably Best’s job is to implement the Farbridge council’s last September 8 approval of the Open Government Action Plan (OGAP). After years of criticism by citizens about the closed-door operations of the Farbridge regime, it paid a Toronto consultant $100,000 to develop the OGAP.
Andy Best is a former president of the Guelph Civic League. During the election campaign, he was founder and editor of the Guelph Citizen, a pro-Farbridge blog purporting to be a neutral publication. It was far from being neutral. Best was not alone. There were a number of pro-Farbridge blogs and broadcasts pumping out the former mayor’s message.
In the end it was in vain as performance trumped propaganda. The lady lost.
Although she is no longer connected with city hall, her policies and supporters still are in charge. In eight years, the civic staff was stocked with FOF’s, Friends of Farbridge. Wonder how many members of the 2,100 fulltime city staff owe their job to Karen Farbridge?
The city lost a number of dedicated public servants who couldn’t work with the influx of FOF’s. Morale plummeted. In one case, a new Chief Financial Officer was hired from Waterloo, who quit after one week on the job. He was immediately rehired by Waterloo.
You can read the excruciating details on the city website if your stomach can stand it. It has to be the apex of the Farbridge years to implement this crazy quilt of incomprehensible gobbledygook (say that three times fast!) that purports to open our government to one and all forever and ever.
We’re not here to interpret but to warn that this AGAP is not in the public interest and not what it purports to be. Words such as council, citizens, and taxpayers are rarely mentioned. Here’s an out-take from the lengthy report:
“Form an Open Government Leadership Team – In addition to the dedicated human resource(s), a Leadership Team consisting of internal and external stakeholders is also recommended. The role of the Leadership Team is to ensure alignment and shared ownership with key community stakeholder groups, City departments and service areas at each phase of the Open Government Action Plan. The Leadership Team will outline systems and processes to ensure consistency across projects and departments and monitor a project plan that includes schedules, key milestones, budgets and results.”
There. Are you starting to wonder what this is really all about? For one thing, the OGAP is designed to serve the public online through a personalized MyGuelph access. No mention of speaking directly with any employee, just access to a number of databases.
On paper that sounds great but the key to an open and transparent government is personal access to staff and dialogue. Municipal politics is a touchy-feely experience. The constant use of the word “stakeholders” throughout the OGAP Action Plan helps to remove the role of the people and, possibly the council from the process.
Not every citizen can use or has access to a computer. This OGAP plan is geared for the cyber age before its time.
It’s a bureaucratic solution to control the agenda without having to bother dealing with the citizens who pay their salaries and benefits.
This was demonstrated March 25 when the 2015 budget was approved with a 3.94 per cent property tax increase.
Was Mr. Best’s position posted and advertised? What are the specifications for this position? What is his salary and benefit schedule? Is he a permanent employee or on contract? Who recruited him and who approved the hiring? Were there other applicants for the position? What are his qualifications for the position?
If these questions go unanswered, then the conclusion is this hiring has all the earmarks of favouritism and the elements of corporate corruption.
This isn’t what the majority of people meant when they voted for a more open and transparent government.