Posted august 20, 2015
Former mayor Karen Farbridge controlled the city with an iron hand for eight years. She did it by having a majority of councillors support her field of dreams by turning our city into an environmental, political correctly haven, espoused by the New Democratic Party and the Liberal party.
This is a classic example of what happens when major political parties and their supporters gain control of municipal governments. It is an Axis of power that well meaning politically neutral residents, wishing to contribute, are shut out or shouted out.
In Guelph, our municipal government has been dominated by doctrinaire members of the New Democratic Party and of the Liberal party. You don’t have to look further than the strange robocall support of Liberal MP Frank Valeriotte of Karen Farbridge in the final stages of her civic election campaign.
The role of the Guelph Civic League in three municipal elections represents a quasi NDP-front organization, founded by James Gordon, who was elected in October to city council. Two former NDP candidates, Gordon and Phil Allt, in separate provincial elections, are now serving on Guelph city council.
The late NDP leader, Jack Layton, developed the plan to run NDP candidates in municipal elections. The idea was to provide two things: One to develop future candidates for the provincial and federal NDP campaigns; two, impose NDP national policies at the ground zero of politics, the municipalities.
An example of this is the effort of Susan Watson to represent the Guelph chapter of the Fair Vote organization, dedicated to promoting a proportional voting system to all levels of government. This system is in both the Liberal and NDP 2015 federal election platforms. The premise is if you fail to win a majority in provincial and national elections, change the voting system.
How the unions keep supporting the Left Axis
In Guelph, we have been governed by an Axis of the left who succeeded with the support of the municipal unions. Keep in mind that those unions represent more than 80 per cent of city employees. So, where do you think their loyalties and money reside?
As a result, the civic election last October was a repudiation of the Farbridge Axis coalition’s policies to create a dynamic socialists city. The mayor and four of her supporters were either defeated or quit.
When the dust settled, there remained seven councilors on the left and five, including Mayor Guthrie on the reform side, plus one uncommitted councillor to either side at the moment.
This one-vote margin could change. Actually, it is probably healthy and keeps everyone on his or her toes.
During the recent debate on budgeting, it was disturbing to see Coun. Allt reading from a prepared script. James Gordon also spoke from notes on his desk.
Admitting that both are rookies on council, the message they delivered ignored the case for zero-based budgeting. Or at least they could have agreed to create a rational starting point as espoused by the new President of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, Keitho Mawanza.
For almost two hours, council debated the budget planning without any agreeable conclusion, just the status quo.
Axis action plans that drove up taxes
Here are some examples of the Farbridge action plans, launched over eight years that cost millions while adopting a minor concern of fixing the infrastructure of a 200-year old city. Much of it is broken and needs fixing.
* The Urbacon lawsuit’s financial fallout, $14 million and counting. Not accounted for in the 2014 budget.
* The formation of the Guelph Municipal Holding Corporation and subsidiaries. One, Envida Corporation, is budgeted to spend $24 million on a geo-thermal heating and cooling system in the Hanlon Business Park and downtown Guelph. This corporation includes Guelph Hydro that pays a dividend to the city each year that has now reached $9 million since 2012. Is this a secondary tax on your electricity bill?
* The Downtown Secondary Plan – The costs are mostly hidden but the project to turn the downtown into a family oriented area, has failed miserably.
The war on cars and wild spending for bike lanes
* The ten-year $3 million bicycle lanes plan, referred to as the war on cars, goes on unabated as major roads lose lanes to create bicycle lanes. The 2015 budget included spending $600,000 on Woodlawn bike lanes and lane shrinkage. The watermain freeze up of last winter failed to warn council of the infrastructure problems facing the city.
* The $100 million Waste Management Innovation Complex that is causing the emission of toxic odours, plus a bin-type collection system that fails to pick up waste from an estimated 6,000 residences and businesses. It also has abnormally high maintenance costs of the special trucks needed in the system.
* The $4 million Wellbeing plan that is a smoke and mirrors project, the brainchild of a university professor.
* To pay for this, taxpayers have experienced an 85 per cent growth of property taxes plus user and development fees in the past ten years.
* The $34 million renovated police headquarters that was originally budgeted to cost $13 million.
* It has been a major failure to attract industrial and commercial business assessment to ease the burden on residential taxpayers. The ratio, 84 per cent residential and 16 per cent industrial commercial assessment has been unchanged for eight years.
* Subsidizing the transit system at an estimated cost of $15 million that only serves a minority of citizens. Its biggest customers are university students who are in the city for eight months. They pay $75 a semester for a Guelph Transit pass. While your property taxes increase annually, the University of Guelph, for the past 28 years, pays only $75 per student in lieu of property taxes. It is the largest landowner in the city.
* Giving tax breaks to downtown condo developers, exhausting a $32 million Brownfield remediation reserve fund.
* There has been a 50 per cent growth of city staff by 700 employees in eight years versus a 5.7 per cent increase in population. Today, 85.5 per cent of the property tax levy is spent on staff wages, salaries and benefits.
Financial manipulation obscures reality
The finances of this city have been manipulated to allow these leftist inspired plans. Very few people know and understand the actual financial picture. It is a mirage of shuffling money between reserve funds, mandatory revenues and creating debt.
The citizen’s activist group GrassRoots Guelph delivered a scathing report on glaring deficiencies in the city’s annual financial reports over four years, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The request for an audit was referred back to the GRG group and the city to sort it out. That never happened but the facts are as true today as they were before the Urbacon disaster unfolded.
Today Mayor Guthrie has been rendered powerless to fulfill his promises to bring change to Guelph. We strongly urge him to take the initiative and take his case to the very people who elected him. He can do it by holding town hall meetings to present his case to the people and by holding regular media conferences to explain his plan for change.
It’s called cranking up the volume.
By doing this he will bring pressure on his opponents on council to work as a team and not be influenced by party politics.