Coun. James Gordon’s cockeyed view of running a city

By Gerry Barker

Posted March11, 2016

In a letter to the editor, Ward 2 councillor James Gordon explains why paying taxes is a good thing, while complaining about high taxes is a bad thing.

Such silly statements as: “ I seldom hear people say, I moved to Guelph because I was looking for lower taxes,” begins the downhill slide of a thesis that is filled with false premises and unattributed evidence.

It’s like the wonderful world of Garp.

Let’s look at some more words of wisdom from the world according to Gordon. You remember Gordon; he was the mastermind of the first Farbridge victory in 2006. He was also the founder of the Guelph Civic League that played a major role in the three elections of the past 12 years.

“In fact, our taxes are totally in line with other cities our size in Ontario.” James, that’s your first Pinocchio moment. If what he says is true, how does he explain that Guelph’s operational and capital spending is 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge? Those are documented comparisons, extracted from the Financial Information Reports (FIR) that each municipality is obligated to send to the province annually.

Gordon, a man who obviously has his ear to the ground, when he’s in town that is, opines: “For most of us who are community-minded, we understand that to keep the quality of life we need to contribute as taxpayers and as good neighbours to maintain that high standard we are now known for.”

Again, another assumption on Gordon’s part that denigrates more than half the population of the city who do not agree with the aggressive spending policies of the former administration. Nor its surviving rump of seven of the present council determined to continue those policies.

The proof of this is in the election of mayor in 2014, when Cam Guthrie received more than 5,000 votes than the incumbent. Mayor Guthrie is the only member of council who was elected by all city voters, as opposed to those councillors who ran in the wards.

As a representative of Ward 2, James, and a council rookie, perhaps you should do some homework and understand the financial management of the city whose costs have soared out of control. Skip all the buzzwords of your beliefs about our city. When taxpayers are faced with a two per cent special tax levy for ten years, to pay for an aged infrastructure, it comes down to choices.

Does council approve more bicycle lanes; higher subsidization of a transit system designed to serve the population of the University of Guelph; more on a community energy policy that will cost millions to execute?

Why aren’t bicycle riders using the road regulated?

Speaking of bike lanes. Coun. Gordon supported the motion to spend $14 million to widen Speedvale Avenue to allow bicycle land between Woolwich and Manhattan Court. The response from citizens in the area was overwhelmingly against the proposal but lost.

Is this a man obsessed with a point of view that is neither rational nor responsible?

James, tell us about how much has been spent on affordable housing in Guelph in the past nine years? How many units have been created and where?

What has been done to attract business to Guelph to strengthen the tax base? The ratio of industrial/commercial assessment has not budged since 2006. The taxpayer portion of property tax assessment remains at 84 per cent. FYI the Ontario average is 60 per cent residential and 40 per cent industrials/commercial.

Attracting business, Gordon says, enables our city to grow our economy and keep our taxes affordable. The key word here is “our” and Gordon seems to believe that his way, or that of those like-minded cohorts, is the only way to make Guelph better. Didn’t that approximate the slogan in Mayor Guthrie’s campaign, “For a Better Guelph.”

James now you are plumping for a new downtown library. Karen Farbridge. in her first term as mayor. promised that would happen 15 years ago. Libraries have morphed big time since then and the last figure I recalled was to spend $64 million on the project.

Old library projects never die, they just fade away

Your bent economic theory that a new downtown library will pay for itself quickly lacks any economic basis. I cannot recall any municipal operation in the city that has ever paid for itself and the capital spent. A great example is the Sleeman Centre whose main customer is the Guelph Storm. It cost millions when a deal was struck with Nustadia to operate the arena during the first Farbridge administration. Today, there is a paid staff of more than 100 to run the place. Tell me, how much business did that bring downtown?

And another example is the Civic Museum. The council has never revealed the operating costs of that $16 million, built on land the city doesn’t own. Has it paid back the capital it took to renovate the pre-Confederation convent on the hill?

Here’s another example of irresponsible spending. The Organic Waste Processing Facility that cost $34 million and was built exceeding the needs of the city of Guelph for 20 years. Today, to keep it running, wet waste comes from outside sources to maintain the function of the operation. We have yet to learn how much compost is manufactured and where it is sold.

Mr. Gordon’s political views are well established. His claim that: “A small minority but vocal minority who would sacrifice service cuts, cut back programs, widen our income gap and turn their backs on investing in the future.”

What? Has Gordon now appointed himself as the spokesperson for the city administration? Again, he has no substantiation for this charge. How does he know the minority is small? Is that in numbers or stature?

Gordon, much like his fellow Farbridge travelers on council, knows how to spend other people’s money. The tight control of the former regime led us to a huge lawsuit defeat that cost taxpayers $23 million, or so the administration has admitted so far. To pay for this and a variety of projects, the reserves were raided to a point that replenishing them will take years and further burden the taxpayer.

So Mr. Gordon, as a member of council, perhaps you ought to seek more information about your colleague’s ambitious plans to build for the future without regard of the city’s ability to pay.

As for your demand for a new downtown library, look inwardly at your caucus. The $34 million approval to renovate the downtown police headquarters further pushed the library down the trail.

Even Gordon should get that.

What’ll you have? Cops or Readers?





Filed under Between the Lines

17 responses to “Coun. James Gordon’s cockeyed view of running a city

  1. joseph paul phelan

    Give that f…ken lil midget a guitar and he will sing for his own supper!!!!!

  2. Louis

    Still don’t understand why he should be on council and run hillside festival, in my eyes that is a conflict of interest. Dave MacDonald wasn’t allowed to newscast and run in Politics in KW so why should James Gordon be on council he should resign but leave it to the political left to bend the rules but when others do it they get harassed

    • Sue

      Fact checking – Mr. Gordon does not ‘run the Hillside Festival’. He was one of the founders 25 or 30 years ago, but hasn’t been involved in the on-going operation of the festival for many years now. No conflict of interest.

    • Sue: Mr Gordon has been associated with the Hillside Festival for years. He has been involved and I suggest still is. The problem now for him is that he is a member of council and the perception is that he and his organization have received public funds. This represents a potential conflict of interest. I stand by my post.

    • Sue

      Gerry – Not to get into more of a back-and-forth, but I’ve volunteered at the Hillside Festival for several years and worked with the people who are running it, including the directors, paid, and volunteer staff. James was not among them. He has occasionally been hired in his other capacity as a performer, but certainly not on a yearly basis.


    I am now totally convinced that James Gordon has been drinking his own cool aid. I don’t know how else to explain his cock eyed thinking.

    Sent from my iPad



    • Brent

      Well Rena…you may recall that Gordy during thr budget metting justified voting for adding a new FTE position because he liked the name of the position…it reminded him of a Disney character. That thinking force is consistent with the cerebral activity in this Tribune article.

  4. Gerry, we can add to the list the February Bruce Poole $1 million dollar lawsuit. This has tarnished Guelphs reputation, and exposed the poisoned work environment, bullying, nepotism and corrupt work practices.

  5. Bruce Poole has done the right thing by speaking up, and I wish him and his family all the best.

  6. bostoncollie

    Gordon’s novel, I mean letter, to the editor was as sleep inducing as his ramblings during council meetings. Too many lefties on council.

  7. wendy

    Councillor Gordon may presume that ‘nobody moves to Guelph because of low taxes’ however he neglects to account for people who already live here and should not have to leave on order to be able to afford to live a decent life.
    Not everyone has a job that allows tax increases of three, four, five, percent per year. Plus having to pay additional compulsory taxes/fees when services like storm water management, previously included in property taxes, are split off and charged separately on top of existing tax bills with the justification that it’s a fairer way to pay while there is no correspondending subtraction of fees for that service off tax bills, and yet more administration staff are added to manage this so-called money saving change.
    Then there is the “infrastructure gap” which will be put onto ratepayers in one way or another, whether it’s the staff-recommended “special levy” which would collect the amount they say is needed and far more by adding onto bills for the next.ten years. Then there is the new hospital.emergency department, which is another case for an added levy, when no alternative services to using emergency, like.urgent care clinics, are even on the table.
    And on top.of all.that, the continued insistance that without a brand new, seventy million dollar central library, will.fall to.pieces. A library that will “quickly pay for itself”? Come on. Get real.
    Councillor Gordon does not seem to appreciate that no “community minded” some people may be, and not resent paying taxes, their annual.wage increase is zero, or not.much more. What aboit the people who serve you your fair trade coffee, Councillor Gordon, or work the cash when you buy your organic groceries? The ones who are not in a union, who make 11 dollars an hour in shops and.restaurants, work at Tim Hortons, corner stores, department stores, work in factories where corporate bosses busted unions to reduce wages and benefits? What about independent cleaners, personal care workers, day care staff? If they are fortunate enough to somehow own a home? Do you think.they celebrate every tax increase as fantastic for the collective good? How, exactly, are increased taxes saving low paid workers from an increased pay gap?
    What about the 30 people thrown out of work at the Mercury? Do you think those who now work freelance are getting the same pay as before, plus regular cost of livng increases and more, which is what would be required to keep up with the steady incline of council approved hikes and new full time positions, never mind this library we can’t live without.
    It is time to get off this tired rhetoric about being happy to pay taxes, when those taxes are paying for the results of mismanagement generated lawsuits, mismanagement of planning basic infrastructure, and hiring a staff the city cannot afford.
    It may be time, in fact, to look at income based rate paying. Or the community you seem to think can just pull all these increases and added fees out of nowhere will have to sell their homes to someone who works in Toronto or KW, and move to North Bay. And then who is contributing to your community, Councillor Gordon?

    • joseph paul phelan

      James is a little out of touch with reality and has been eating granola laced with something!!!!

    • Wendy: Well done! As an aside, isn’t Susan Watson’s husband, Dr. Ian Digby, the head of the Guelph General emergency department? And didn’t he and Susan donate thousands to former Mayor Karen Farbridge’s 2014 campaign plus the campaigns of her supporters running for office? Did not James Gordon receive funding from the couple? Just asking.

    • I believe you are correct about those political donations, Gerry.
      What attracts me to your blog is how you use real numbers to support critiques of how local government is operating.
      Calling such examinations overly negative is the same old whitewash, or greenwash, commonly seen by those who don’t like their justifications being challenged. I’m not sure how an infrastructure deficit of multiple hundreds of millions of dollars is good news, yet supporters of the rose coloured glasses approach think we should be grateful and pushing ahead with a seventy million dollar library while there are no dollars in the coffers to pay for it. Blame anything you like for the situation-downloading costs seems to be one common excuse–and you still have the same situation. Reserves that were set up are being depleted and not replaced. The heritage fund has been bled dry, for instance. What’s going to happen when the next worthy project comes along? There’s no reserves left to raid. The panic light certainly seems to be on concerning infrastructure, so I’m not sure where the positive psychology contingent fall on that one, other than “just buck up, be grateful and pay”. I think there’s now a fee to take yard waste to the “waste innovation centre”, and pay parking is being implemented downtown. With the new storm water management fee, plus the proposed levies to be added on for extended periods of time, it seems like saying something’s wrong with “the big picture” is hardly petty griping.
      Councillor Gordon should have to provide hard numbers about how increased taxes functions to decrease the widening pay gap, if he’s going to make that claim. He should also give numbers on where the library money is coming from and how it will “quickly pay for itself”. And your point about affordable housing is apt, given Sue’s claim that taxers paid help the economically disadvantaged. Sure, some taxes go to programs but things like ODSP and OW are far from providing the means for an equitable existence. And while plans for a new emergency room haven’t been talked about much, they are well underway as are questions about how it will be funded. yet I have heard nothing about creating alternatives when it’s well known emergency rooms are overused. And there’s not one urgent care clinic in Guelph. That’s not very innovative.

  8. Wendy, Thank you for your excellent March 13 post. I agree with your point of view.

  9. Sue

    The issue of taxation is a complicated one, because there’s only one taxpayer, and that taxpayer must support the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. Tax cuts at the top (i.e. federal) get passed along to the provinces and then to the municipalities, where the ‘downloading’ stops, even though the need to provide services continues. Personally, as a homeowner, I find increasing hydro prices harder to accept than property tax increases. Wendy, you’ve made some good points, but lower-income residents also derive benefit from the taxes we all pay which provide a variety of services for everyone. I completely agree that it is frustrating to see tax money going toward losing lawsuits instead of toward infrastructure or other beneficial purposes – but in the big picture, Guelph is a prosperous city with a lot to offer its residents (low unemployment, healthy real estate market, culture, environmental awareness, etc.) and recognized as such – though generally not by the people who post here. The perspective of this blog seems to be that everything in Guelph is terrible and we’re headed for catastrophe because of the local government … it’s unrelentingly, negatively one-sided. Guelph may not be not perfect, but is it really that bad a place to live? Or an overly expensive place to live? I’d like to know the actual comparative taxes for 2015 for a $300,000 detached home in Guelph, Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge.

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