There are still questions remaining about the Pappert legacy

By Gerry Barker

Post #778 – May 28, 2016

When GuelphSpeaks broke the news Thursday afternoon that Ann Pappert was leaving her senior post as Chief Administrative Officer, the GS blog lit up like a Christmas tree.

The decision was a wise one on Ms. Pappert’s part because of the many questions about her stewardship that are still resonating. Council’s secret awarding of the $37,581 salary increase December 9, was the beginning of the end. More astonishing is they didn’t tell the public until the 2015 Provincial Sunshine List was published in March, 2016.

What were they thinking? By burying the increase for almost three months, did they think it would go away? The seven pro-Farbridge councillors who voted for the increase, betrayed Ms. Pappert by hiding the issue and then not apologizing to the public. We still don’t know who decided the amount of the 17.11 per cent increase.

It has been suggested that the increase was a planned political move to ensure that Ms.Pappert would remain CAO, manage the staff and do the Bloc of Seven’s bidding.

The five-year performance analysis of Ms. Pappert, emailed to Guelph residents, produced more public protest. The email documented performance failures by the CAO. It attracted a threat of legal action by Mayor Guthrie, who said council agreed with his decision. It resulted in a concentrated protest of Ms. Pappert’s record, as additional leaks of the closed meetings emerged and accelerated the public rejection of the CAO.

Why did her own supporters on council agree to threaten the author? They are either terminally stupid or they did it on purpose because the Pappert ‘Salary-Gate” issue was a threat to the Bloc of Seven. The mayor did not pursue his threat but why did he continue to support Ms. Pappert?

Just the other night, May 24, the Bloc of Seven council majority forced approval of a new program called the Guelph Energy Efficiency Retrofit Strategy (GEERS) to permit city funding of retrofitting private buildings. It included new windows, insulation, high efficiency furnaces fired by natural gas, solar panels to reduce dependence on the provincial power grid, and, a partridge in a pear tree.

As an aside, the acronym GEERS root description seems an unfortunate choice of words.

Here’s how it works. A citizen calls in a registered contractor to price installing new windows, insulation and a new furnace. The bid comes in at $22,000. Now a new team of city employees must vet the bid, make any changes deemed not applicable and instruct the owner that the city will finance the project. This step requires the applicant to establish ownership and provide a net worth statement, to back up the ability to repay the loan over 20 years, through the GEERS applicant’s property taxes.

Imagine that the city receiving 1.000 applications over the next two years. Where does the money come from? How does this program achieve a balanced financing without affecting capital spending on infrastructure or affordable housing?

The principal payments alone on this theoretical project amounts to $1,100 annually and does not include interest or other carrying charges, on top of the owner’s regular property tax increases.

The questions remain:

* Who is eligible for the program?

* What additional costs are factored in such as insurance, HST, legal costs?

* What happens if the house is sold before the loan is repaid?

* What is the interest rate charged on the retrofit loans?

* What happens when the homeowner cannot repay the loan?

* Does the city register its interest on the property title?

* When did the citizens vote to adopt this plan?

* Where is the city going to find the funding to implement this plan?

* Is this another Fbridger inspired plan to invoke her environmental polices?

* Why should property owners have to finance this plan?

* Did the staff, directed by Ms. Pappert prepare a business plan for the project?

* If so, was that plan approved by the finance department?

* Did the Bloc of Seven know those two days after approving the plan, that Ms. Pappert was leaving her job?

The overhanging drive to establish GEERS rests with former mayor Karen Farbrdge who remains a ghostly political force influencing the city government.

It’s another money-losing scheme done in the name of sustainability and fossil fueled use resulting in reducing Guelph’s contribution to climate change. A lofty goal but the Province of Ontario’s contribution of gases affecting climate change is 1 per cent of the total world carbon emissions.

Guelph’s portion of the Ontario carbon emission total is less than .00016 per cent.

It is yet another example of environmental projects that are adopted without an up-front analytical business plan to justify the cost. Most of these measures were adopted in by the Farbridge administration behind closed doors without public input.

So why is council turning the civic corporation into a bank to finance retrofitting a select number of properties? It ‘s another example of a misguided adventure orchestrated by a determined group of progressive adherents. In eight years, Farbridge managed to spend millions on energy-based projects, waste management and geo-thermal heating and cooling for a select number of office buildings and condos.

Don’t forget those bicycle lanes that have caused growing traffic congestion because vehicle lanes were reduced on major roads to permit wider bike lanes. The tiny minority of adults using bicycles for basic transportation does not contribute money for the road changes and maintenance. The irony is that cyclists do not pay for these road changes or contribute to the maintenance. In fact, Guelph’s cost of maintaining roads in the municipality is $28,000 per kilometer. The provincial average is $11,000 per kilometer. When it is suggested that cyclists should be licensed there is uproar from their lobbyists.

Their sponsor progressives regard these projects as investments. Trouble is, any investment has to have a return in order to qualify. We’ve already experienced that these so-called investments are great users of the public’s capital without the payback.

In their misguided view, the payback is reducing climate change that benefits all citizens. It’s a mindless theory for reasons we have already mentioned. Guelph is a miniscule contributor to global warming. When the progressives fail to build a new downtown library, a needed south end recreational centre or provide affordable housing or rebuild an ailing infrastructure, their version of investments pales by comparison.

Instead, starting with the 2017 budget, the staff wants to levy more capital to pay for badly needed, often critical, infrastructure retrofitting that affects all citizens. The proposal calls for two per cent special levy over ten years to rebuild the infrastructure. It is estimated that the contribution will net more than $250 million. That figure comes from the Associated Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

One member of Council who attends the AMO meetings mentioned the cost of fixing our infrastructure. It is peculiar that Leanne Piper, a stalwart supporter of the former mayor, would bring this up to council and staff. She voted to support GEERS two days before Ms. Pappert quit. Her supporting vote contradicted her admonishing fixing the infrastructure that has been mostly neglected in the past eight years.

The people have reacted twice in the past 17 months and were successful in removing senior progressive leaders.

It is a lesson, that the people do have the power and are not afraid to use it.

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15 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

15 responses to “There are still questions remaining about the Pappert legacy

  1. fairpensions09

    What was Pappert’s severance worth ?

    • fairpensions09: There has been no announcement but you can be sure there was a deal cut. It was negotiated only between the city lawyers and the lawyer hired by Ms.Pappert. That settlement should be made public ASAP.

  2. rena

    The GEERS program is yet another accident in waiting. Once more an attempt by the group of 7 to foist a terrible idea on the taxpayers of Guelph. The only cure is a frontal lobotomy for the group of 7.

    • Guido Sartor

      What are we doing in the energy business, subsidizing home owners ? The province’s master plan is the wean all home owners of gas, and heat with electricity. We do not need to be pioneers on everything that is environmental. GEERS will simply put us more into debt. It is clearly a move without a sound business plan.

  3. Laura

    I don’t necessarily object to the GEERs program but one wonders about how the city is prioritizing the use of our tax dollars? The city has a $29 million dollar infrastructure gap already that must be funded somehow. It is interesting to note that this is 6 million dollars higher than what was estimated by Don Kudo originally to Council one wonders how $6 million could be underestimated?

    • Laura: The question of GEERS by a 13-0 vote kast Tuesday, was referred back to the staff for more clarification of the cost of initiating the program. The staff will report back to council in October before the 2017 budget talks begin in earnest. I understand that Mr. Kudo is no longer with the city.

  4. C. Lewis

    Whoa!!! You said that “cyclists do not pay for these road changes or contribute to the maintenance.” Does that mean that cyclists don’t pay taxes?
    I’ve biked for years, can I get back all the tax dollars I paid??

    • C. Lewis: Again that old chestnut of an argument. I’m sure if you own property you pay property taxes. But so do motorists who in addition, pay fuel taxes, insurance, taxes on repairs to their vehicles, license fees for registration of the vehicle, air checks and driver’s licenses. Funny, I don’t see cyclists paying any of that to use public roads. Sorry, you make the choice of personal transportation and do not pay a proportionate portion of the cost of using those roads and streets.

  5. geo

    If Pappert’s contract runs out and is not renewed why is she entitled to severance?

    • Brent

      I wouldn’t be surprised if severance wasn’t written into the contract as another perk/reward by the vain Farbridge admin. Let’s face it we’ve been thoroughly fleeced by a local governance that cared conceptually more about the development of a “global” reputation for environmental correctness (eg the expensive to maintain window dressing of the green wall and roof at city hall) than the financial well being of the average citizen. In Guelph environmental elitism at any cost trumps(no pun intended) competent leadership and basic traditional infrastructure.

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