Why you don’t always get what you vote for

Posted July 22, 2015

Monday night was an example of the council bullies taking over the important case for budget reform

In almost two hours the majority of the former Farbridge supporters and some new faces on council added to their team, bludgeoned any attempt to change the way the city budgets.

Who are these people? Four stand out: Karl Wettstein, Phil Allt, Mike Salisbury and Mark MacKinnon. They dominated the discourse with all kinds of reasons why there should not be any guidelines.

Their domination followed a presentation by Kithio Mwanzia, president of the 900-member Guelph Chamber of Commerce. He urged council to adopt using the Consumer Price Index (CPI), plus the annual MPAC assessment increases on properties as a primary starting point in developing the 2016 budget.

That set the stage for a number of long-winded responses from the leftist coalition.

Coun. Wettstein, started the ball rolling by saying that adopting the Chamber approach would give the public the impression that was the end game. It took him ten minutes to explain why he wouldn’t support it.

When did Wettstein ever give a reason why he was concerned about what the public may think? In 14 years, Wettstein has failed to convince his council colleagues to build a south-end recreation centre in the ward that he represents.

If there was ever a councillor who was all hat and no horse, Karl fits the bill.

Then Bob Bell attempted to make a compromise. Coun. Phil Allt, who is the great pretender, read a prepared long speech denouncing the whole idea of pre-budget guidelines.

His bench mate Coun. James Gordon agreed as the leftist majority swung into high dudgeon.

It was a disgusting gangbang of political wills that ended up after several motions that council would do nothing. No guidelines for staff. Total control by staff of doing the number crunching and presenting it to council because, as Coun. MacKinnon put it: “Staff will give the numbers that are correct.”

Guess that guy wasn’t around for the Urbacon affair when the staff, with the compliance of the former council, blew more than $14 million of the people’s money spent on a lawsuit with the general contractor, subcontractors and two companies called in to finish the job of building the new city hall and renovating the old one into a provincial court.

Of course the Chamber President is right. So are Bob Bell, Christine Billings, Mayor Cam Guthrie, Andy Van Hellemond, Dan Gibson and the 19,000 folks who voted for change in Guelph.

But the left coalition is opposed to change and are determined to thwart any attempts to reform the way the city operates including a new deal on budgeting with guidelines.

On March 25, this group voted to increase property taxes by 3.55 per cent. It was later revised to accommodate the increase in assessment taking the real increase to 3.94 per cent. It was the largest increase since 2010.

In the same budget meeting, Coun. Wettstein moved to reduce the refunding of the three reserve funds used to pay the Urbacon settlement of $8.94 million. Ann Pappert, CAO, said the reserves would be replenished over five years in the amount of $900,000 per year. Wettstein moved that be reduced to $500,000 in 2015 and the staff would recommend a new repayment plan.

If we needed another example of the Mickey Mouse way some councillors handle your money, look no further that the mugging of council Monday night over reforming the budget methodology.

Mayor Guthrie is handcuffed with a recalcitrant majority who failed to understand their fiduciary responsibilities and don’t care what the citizens voted for last October. He strongly hinted that he might take his reform message to the people who elected him. That’s a smart move that involves the people and balances the playing field.

The degree of dysfunction on this divided council is palpable and the people should let them know things must change.

If not, the ghost of former mayor Karen Farbridge will haunt this council and city for the next three and one half years.


Filed under Between the Lines

6 responses to “Why you don’t always get what you vote for

  1. Faye Raby

    I have a copy of Oakville’s poperty tax information. The Town Council approved a 2.79 per cent increase to the town’s portion of the tax bill. It results in an overall propery tax increase of 1.7 per cent when combined with regional, police and education increases. They use performance-based, program-based budgeting, otherwise known as PB2 to ensure the efficiency of the money they spend. There is something wrong here in Guelph!

    Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the TELUS network.

    • Faye Raby: After witnessing that dreadful performance by a group of leftist councillors Monday night, there is no budget system just conversation by a majority of councillors who are financially illiterate. If they had half a clue they would, at the least, approve the staff’s budget guidelines. Instead, they want to play in the public’s financial sandbox.

      Most of these adherents of mushing along with their political agendas, are blocking any attempt to set responsible guidelines for creating a budget. The example of their hipocracy of ignoring basic accounting fundamentals has already inflicted long-term, multi-million dollar damages to the city. Examples: Urbacon, Waste Management and the Downtown Secondary Plan.

      This group of councillors were responsible for approving the 3.84 per cent property tax increase in this year’s budget. Then the city treasurer, Janice Sheehy, said that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario recommends that the tax rate just to maintain services should increase by 4.51 per cent. In addition another 3.84 per cent should be raised to address infrastructure. That comes to a total for 2016 of 8.41 per cent.

      As the late Johnny Carson would say: “That’s really scary stuff.”

      The solution is simple. Cut costs, programs and overhead items, adopt zero-based budgeting. Hire a Chief Financial Officer who knows how to manage the city finances in the interests of all citizens. Ask your councillor why Guelph does not have a CFO. One with the financial experience and responsibility to manage a $450 million corporation.

  2. Deanna

    Right you are! The ward six counsellors need a wake up call. Instead of blowing in the wind they need to pay attention to what their constituents want. Most voted for Mayor Guthries tax views not theirs so they both might be looking for new jobs after the next election. Trouble is they may do a lot of damage before then.

  3. Peggy Powell

    I think the only way for our Mayor to succeed is to do exactly what he threatened to do . Take it to the people ,Again and again and again, publicly, until the remaining Farbridge counsellors are forced to take notice. They are the ones who look like fools. It is to bad that they control OUR money. Don’t even get me started on the bike lane issue. Instead of the Three Stooges we are saddled with the SEVEN Stooges.

  4. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Well, as we all know even in the absence of Snow White, the 7 bloc voting leftist inclined councillors could be considered the 7 Dwarfs; however, even in fairy tales there can’t be 7 dwarfs all named Dopey.
    Recall one of Margaret Thatcher’s classic comments “Eventually socialists run out of other people’s money to spend” to figure out where Guelph will be financially with out a change in the tax & spend culture.

  5. louis

    It is failed liberal policies that screw cities over , the leftist councilors should have figured that out by now, look at places like California, Michigan, Baltimore, and eventually NYC the mayor there lost support from the police. Guthrie has to take it to the people like he did for the bike lanes. Or else these lefties are going to keep pushing failed liberal policies on everyone. My theory about the bike lanes is that the left leaning councilors were scared of loss of support from residents who voted for them , as they can be voted out as quickly as people voted them in which they realize despite the next municipal election is in 3 years

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