Bt Gerry Barker
Posted January 29,2016
So, in the past 15 months, you believed that Karen Farbridge was no longer mayor.
Sorry, but it’s as if she never went away. Commitments made when she was Mayor are still alive and are being actively pursued by her Gang of Seven (GOS) majority on the new city council.
This week five members of that bloc went off the reservation by striking and refusing to rejoin their colleagues following an undocumented closed-door session of a regular Monday night council meeting.
Their deliberate obstruction of the people’s business forced Mayor Cam Guthrie to cancel the meeting because there weren’t sufficient members to make up a quorum. By way of explanation, the city bylaw requires a minimum of seven elected members out of 13 to be present for a public council meeting.
The result was the five members of the GOS attending the closed meeting, denied further discussion when the public meeting resumed. By refusing to participate in the open council meeting, that’s a strike by any definition.
It was the result of two councillors, Karl Wettstein and June Hofland, members of the Gang of Seven bloc, who did not attend the regular Monday night council meeting. No explanation for their absence was given. This removed the majority of the GOS councillors’ 7-6 edge, resulting in the remaining councillors holding the majority.
Coun. Phil Allt, the GOS spokesman, stated the the group refused to participate in the meeting to which they were elected, on the grounds that they “were protecting the integrity of the City Corporation and staff.”
He refused to say what was the nature of this protectionist action that resulted in a shutdown of the council meeting.
This Gang of Seven has made a mockery of cooperation and responsible discourse among all members of council since the 2014 election.
Most of the discussion between members of council is conducted in private before and during the public council meetings when council decides hold a private meeting off the floor.. The result is the stakeholders have no idea of the statements, positions or action of council until the vote is held and the bloc always votes 7 to 6, subsequently forcing their group decision on the citizens, who have no recourse.
This week, they were suddenly faced with being in the minority in the closed session because Wettstein and Hofland were not there. They reacted by walking away from their responsibilities that then shut down council for lack of a quorum.
What it really represents is the determination to continue the failed policies of the previous administration that the majority of voters soundly rejected in the 2014 civic election.
Space doesn’t permit examples of mismanagement and waste of taxpayer’s dollars by the previous administration. The people spoke and the result was just an extension of the failure of the previous administration.
For the record, here is a list of the future capital commitments made by the Farbridge administration that this Gang of Seven is still supporting.
The proposed, ten-year, 2 per cent property tax increase to repair an aged infrastructure will ultimately cost $250,000,000.
The Police headquarters renovation – $40,000,000 and counting.
The Community Energy initiative – estimated to be $150,000,000 but the actual cost has never been revealed.
The street light replacement with L.E.D. bulbs – $10,700,000.
Supporting the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc, a segregated corporation operating off the city books that lost $2.8 million in 2014.
The Transparent and Open Government Action Plan – $855,000.
Let’s take a closer look at that one. In 2012, The Farbridge administration commissioned a Toronto consultant to develop a Transparent and Open Government Action Plan.
This was the former administration’s answer to growing public complaints about the opaque and secret operations of their government. Jumping ahead, the citizen’s concerns grew to a point where the Farbridge administration was defeated in the civic election.
Since then more than $855,000 has been spent, including $267,000 in 2016 perpetuating a program that has utterly failed to open the secrecy of the administration. The city council majority voted in March 2015 budget, to hire Farbridge loyalist Andy Best last July. His 2015 salary was contracted for $92,000 for one year.
On December 10, the final day of the budget meetings, the GOS voted to spend another $267,000 to continue the program development. This produced a three year opportunity for Mr. Best and probably a full time job.
Trouble is, as it has turned out, the opaque and secret operations continues with Best turning out to be a shill for the administration by broadcasting city staff so-called success stories. And we are paying $855,000 for that?
A recent announcement said that Best was developing Internet applications for various city operations and functions. The big feature is citizens can customize their city news online. And we are spending $855,000 for a few politicized apps?
This group of councillors should be severely sanctioned for their strike.
Perhaps the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing should intervene in this case and investigate the operations of the city administration.