By Gerry Barker
February 15, 2016
The city released the list of recipients who received public funding to carry out their plans and causes. An eight-person committee, in the name of a program called Community Wellbeing Grant Allocations, spent $101,000 in 2016.
The question arises, should the taxpayer be funding some 48 separate organizations targeting specific special interests? This largess appears to support fringe organizations that are politically oriented. They are assumed to be non-profit but there is no indication of this in the statements of recipients, issued by the city.
Let’s look at some of the grants that have been awarded, then you be the judge of whether those organization receiving public money are worthy of public funding.
To Kazoo or not to Kazoo?
My favourite is the “Kazoo Festival” that was given $5,000 to be used to enhance accessibility by expanding all-ages events. Is there a Kazoo parade in the offing?
Or, the “ED Video Media Arts Centre” awarded $13,000 to staff the centre; provide edit suites, workshops, exhibition programs, and support for local artists. Why are taxpayers funding this when there are ample opportunities in the community colleges that supply similar services?
The “Hillside Community Festival of Guelph” received $11,000. This event isn’t even held in the city. Founded by Coun. James Gordon, it sells tickets to attend and is a commercial operation that should not receive financial support of Guelph taxpayers. It is a Guelph event in name only.
Another music event is the “Guelph Jazz Festival” that received $14,000 to purchase a “large” tent, pay artist and production fees and fund an additional Friday night performance of “Jazz at Market Square.” I love jazz but this is another commercial event that features vendors selling products and should be considered as such.
Two other grants went to organizations that defy logic. The “Royal City Musical Productions” received $4,500 to pay rentals of faculty and equipment and wages for venue staff. The other is simply called ‘Silence” that received $5,000 to offer programming and space at low cost to residents and visitors in support of experimental music and sound art. Again, why are taxpayers paying to support commercial self-interest enterprises? This pair of recipients, sound (wrong word?) like they operate in somebody’s basement like Wayne’s World.
But wait! It gets better. Take the $13,000 grant to the “Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival,” This money will be used to offset programming, promotion and administration expenses associated with performance and outreach activities, including a variety of accessible affordable arts programs. Operationsl specifics appear to be absent.
Can we afforx to give away money?
This system of handing out public money was created by the former Farbridge administration. Instead of council having to ponder who gets what and how much, the council decided to adopt a program called “Wellbeing” that was billed as a contributor to the health and wellbeing of the community. A professor at the University of Waterloo developed the concept. Guelph purchased the methodology of the program, believed to cost more than $1 million.
To sell “Wellbeing” to the citizens, the city held a public meeting in the RiverRun Theatre. The crowd was chiefly composed of city staffers dragooned into attending. It was a charade nevertheless and council adopted “Wellbeing.”
A committee of eight individuals was formed but the members were never identified. Their credential and expertise was not given. Nor was there any indication of council oversight of their activities of funding, using public money.
Is it possib;e that “Wellbing” is a thinly disguised attempt to attract supporters to the future fortunes of the Farbridge agenda?
There are a number of organizations in the city that regularly support programs to enhance the ability of special interests groups to improve the core lifestyle of the city.
However, for the city to spend money supporting these groups, it goes beyond its basic responsibility. It is important to remember that the largest source of revenue of city revenues comes from property taxes and user fees.
The financial chickens are starting to return to roost. Already, the city senior staff is recommending a ten-year, 2 per cent special infrastructure levy on properties. Together, with the soaring costs of non-tax funded water supply (4.5 per cent increase this year) and a levy on storm water infrastructure, the ability to pay by taxpayers diminishes. (Non-tax funded, now, that’s an oxymoron because the citizen must pay it regardless,)
These financial gymnastics are coming from a staff that should know better and a council that is well, ill equipped to even understand the basic and ramifications of major financial management.
Case in point, the Urbacon lawsuit costing $23 million over original estimates.
This remains one of the many reasons why Guelph’s operational and capital costs are 50 per cent greater than Cambridge and Kitchener. And that tremendous gap rests squarely on the shoulders of those in the city who pay taxes and user fees, that’s you and me.
Perhaps someone in city management can explain why Guelph spends $28,000 per kilometer for road repair and maintenance, when the provincial average is $11,000.
When this city lacks affordable housing, with families in stress and hungry, plus serious, drug and alcohol problems, it’s time to reconsider. We have a city management that has neglected for nine years, the aging infrastructure of a 200-year old city; perhaps it’s time to re-assess its priorities and responsibilities.
The senior staff recommendation? Slap another 2 per cent tax of every property for ten years, to pay for its past neglect and mismanagement.
When does the light come on?
P.S. Would someone be kind enough to send this post to Councillors Leane Piper and June Hofland? They say they don’t read guelphspeaks.ca. Wouldn’t want them to miss it.