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.