When it comes to political piety, James Gordon should be Pope

By Gerry Barker

August 15, 2916

Dear James:

(In response to your letter to the editor of the Guelph Tribune August11, 2016)

What an unwarranted broadside against a citizen who dared to challenge the operations of the city under the stewardship of you and your six progressives on council.

Hardly know where to start but let’s reply to your vision of the city and the current culture. You state your job, as a councillor is to advocate for such vital issues as: “Housing, poverty, a living wage, food security, environmental sustainability and climate change. Stop there. Those items described as vital are not the responsibility of city council. You’ve taken them from the NDP national playbook, a party to which you belong.

Let me sketch it out for you. You are responsible for the city infrastructure, everything from fixing the sidewalks, potholes and underground services that have been neglected for eight years. In addition, keeping the traffic moving, public safety, recreation, adequate water supply and waste management, municipal bylaws and planning.

So much so, that this “efficient” staff you describe, (not sure which senior manager you are defending), proposed a 2 per cent, ten-year special property tax levy last December to repair and update the city infrastructure. If approved, it would generate $250 million in ten years. Provided past budgeting practices are followed, that will force an indexed property tax increase of more than 5 per cent per year. It does not include the effect of inflation and higher costs.

But that proposal was booted up to the 2017 budget discussions that start this fall. A similar situation happened when the 2015 budget was approved. This included spending $600,000 on new bicycle lanes on Woodlawn Road (Highway 7).

You see James, it makes people who know the basics of financial management, nervous when Coun. Mike Salisbury tells council that the $300,000 earmarked for bike lanes was not spent in 2014. So, so let’s double it. You and your progressive colleagues went along with it.

You deliberately duped the public without understanding that money not spent in the previous year cannot be rolled over. It’s because it affects the requirement that a municipality must report a balanced financial statement.

Where was Coun. June Hofland, Chair of Finance, when this was proposed? Or where was the Chief Financial Officer? Oh! Sorry I forgot we didn’t have one on staff. Not even the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer in charge of finance, Mark Amorosi, spoke up. Nor did Ann Pappert, Chiuef Administrative Officer, question the Salisbury motion.

When you start imposing policies and projects based on a political party’s objectives, then people say help! And James, more and more people are objecting to the way you and your leftist colleagues are perpetuating an agenda. Voters rejected that agenda in October 2014. It was the Farbridge agenda that caused many financial disasters in the past eight years.

If you and your colleagues understood the financial problems, then you should demand a forensic audit to clear the air. You have already received independent warnings from consultants that the reserves are being depleted and one stated the situation raises a “red flag.”

You claim that you and your colleagues in the Bloc of Seven “do not see too much gravy in the system.”

Let me help you to find more “gravy” that will help return the city to financial stability and reduce the burden on taxpayers.

* Reduce the cost of staff that is currently consuming 80 per cent of property tax revenue. Now I am aware of the close ties between staff and elected officials who depend on the staff when making decisions. That’s okay but in my opinion, the reverse has occurred with the elected officials, (the Bloc of Seven) telling the staff to follow their agenda and their policies.

* Shut down the District Energy project. Why you and your colleagues use the excuse that a money-losing project should be maintained that has already lost $37.1 million, is beyond belief. Especially when the CEO of GMHI estimates it will cost an additional $60 million to even get close to breaking even.

* The Wellbeing program should be shut down because the city cannot afford to give money away when the city must balance its books. For the past five years it did so by taking money from the reserves. James, that’s your “efficient staff” consistently overspending its own budget.

* The RiverRun theatre and the Sleeman Centre together are losing $780,000 a year. You say that no city in Canada makes a profit on its culture centres. Perhaps you might consider just managing to break even with proper management? So, you feel it’s okay for Guelph to heavily subsidize these sites?

Again James, look at your former council colleagues who allowed this to occur over the past five years according to figures released in 2014. Our new DCAO, Colleen Clack, previously was General Manager of Tourism and Culture and responsible for the two culture centres.

* The recent deal with the privately owned Guelph Storm Hockey Club was negotiated by Ms. Clack and approved by council. The new ten-year deal includes the city accepting a lower portion of the receipts. This has the effect of driving up the city subsidy of the Sleeman. Yet you claim that the money brought into the city by tourists and fans who spend on food and assorted items makes it worthwhile. And your statement that for every dollar spent on city-owned facilities, you get two bucks back. And your source for this is?

* There is a full gravy boat in Guelph Transit where the employees have the highest overtime charges of any other department. It’s a system designed to serve the annual eight-month visitation of 20,000 undergraduates of the University of Guelph. Previous attempts to reduce service in the summer, weekends and statutory holidays, were rebuffed by your colleagues past and present. That’s an estimated $16 million annual subsidy.

* It’s time to suspend the bike lane program that costs $300,000 a year. Until we get our financial house in order, this program reeks of gravy. We can no longer afford it.

I’ve been writing about the city operations for many years. The personalities that have wasted millions on self-serving pet projects and esoteric efforts to change the world are using taxpayer’s money. You gloss over that residents have to pay provincial and federal income taxes, taxes on fuel, electricity, insurance, liquor and cigarettes, vehicle licenses, clothing, vehicles, maintenance and repairs to property, entertainment, camping, travel, to name a few. And, Starting in January, we will be paying HST on a new carbon tax added to our electricity bills. That James, is the ultimate progresssive outcome, slap a tax on the tax.

And you say you don’t like to pay property taxes over which you have direct control is a specious statement. This council in its first two years in office has jacked up property taxes by 6.96 per cent, water bills by 8.2 per cent. Your unelected colleagues at Guelph Hydro have increased the cost of electricity by 42 per cent in the past four years. Now we know where some of that money went, to GMHI.

So, is it any wonder that the total city assessment ratio is stuck at 16 per cent commercial and industrial and 84 per cent residential? Guelph is one of the most expensive cities in the country in which to live. If you keep it up, the city will follow the dive of property values in Alberta where your NDP coleagues are in charge.

That will result in depressed property values in Guelph as people leave and drastically reduce the city’s ability to pay its bills. We are already experiencing a provincial Liberal government whose spending and policies is continuing a massive deficit that has plagued the province’s finances for more than seven years.

The manufacturing base in Ontario has been decimated by the high costs of services. These include rising costs of electricity, taxation, soaring housing values in the major cities, a deteriating infrastructure, education, gridlock, all exacerbated by the growing carrying costs of debt and deficits. A situation in which more than half of all provincial revenue is used to pay interest on growing debt.

In 2007, the Guelph Community Energy Plan documents said that the co-generation projects would provide a platform to attract new business and industrial/commercial investment. But the needle has not moved in eight years. We are still stuck with one of the worst residential/commercial industrial ratios for a city this size in Ontario.

Does this justify this council and previous like-minded councils, to embark on energy and environmental schemes that were beyond the responsibility of a ward councillor in any city?

What excuse is there to see the growth of Full-time Eqivalent Employees (FTE’s) climb from 1,450 in 2010 ro more than 2.100 today? That’s a 33 per cent increase during a period when Guelph’s population increased by just 8.5 per cent. In just two years in office, your council has added 40 new FTE members to the staff.

Your soggy explanation of trying to justify your performance by dumping on a concerned citizen only points to the failed performance of you and your colleagues.

James, if you can’t stand the heat, then step away from the fireplace and serve your constituents that elected you. Do you ever talk to citizens about their concerns and I’m not just refering to those ward two voters who elected you?

On a final point, James, perhaps you should explain your role when the former civic museum property on Dublin Street was sold to private purchasers. You supported the proposal that claimed would provide cheap space to budding artists and computer developers. We both know that never happened and the property is now occupied by upscale tenants. The city manager of realty, Jim Stokes, resigned shortly after the deal was completed amid rumours there was a higher bid. Your thoughts?

The record shows there is no room for party politics in any municipality including Guelph.

I think you owe Bob Moore an apology.


Filed under Between the Lines

39 responses to “When it comes to political piety, James Gordon should be Pope

  1. Faye Raby

    Thanks for this. I was furious when I read that letter from James Gordon. Bob Moore was correct, I believe. I agree that James Gordon owes Bob Moore an apology.

    Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the TELUS network.

  2. joseph paul phelan

    perhaps a little man complex?

  3. Not only should there be an apology, James Gorden should explain all of the above. It is doubtful that he can or will.

  4. David T. Starr

    Gerry, I’m clapping my hands. Do you think the Tribune will publish this letter? I should know better than to even ask!

  5. joseph paul phelan

    Maybe James will get on his step stool (so we all can see him) and step up to the microphone and apologize!!!

  6. Glen

    Gerry… once again you dig deep to expose the claptrap espoused by the charter members of the bloc of 7. As their social engineering visions fall from the sky burning up tax payers hard earned funds, James & his ilk blindly follow a tax & spend agenda. Do the Finance Chair or DCAO whose responsibilities include city finances have CA / CPA accounting designations? The downtown District Energy node should be sold to the Tricar 2 condo corporation for $1 and at the same the money pit Sleeman Centre & River Run Centre should be privatized.This would relieve the city of the financial burden of the 3 users of the District Energy downtown node.
    Why did none of the “progressives” on the previous and current council, including those put on the GMHI board, not ask the basic question of “why would Guelph undertake to generate electricity when the province is dumping it at a loss to the US”? Were technical, financial, and business illiteracy rampant among those wearing rose tinted social engineering glasses?
    Rather than attacking people like Bob Moore who raise valid concerns, Gordon & fellow bloc of 7 members should stop treating citizens like ATM’s.

  7. Guido

    Well said Gerry .I dare the Tribune and Guelph Today to publish your comments.

  8. John Carroll

    Especially since the majority of cyclists I see every day still ride in the sidewalk (even with a bike lane right beside them on the roadside).

  9. Mark

    I am a new resident these past 3 years and am gobsmacked by the reckless spending of the past councils. These decisions and their outcomes must be addressed and be made more evident to the taxpayers of Guelph. I do believe that many are unaware and in the dark.

  10. Chris Dawson

    “Hardly know where to start but let’s reply to your vision of the city and the current culture. You state your job, as a councillor is to advocate for such vital issues as: “Housing, poverty, a living wage, food security, environmental sustainability and climate change. Stop there. Those items described as vital are not the responsibility of city council. You’ve taken them from the NDP national playbook, a party to which you belong.”

    LOVED this part.
    The sooner these buffoons get this through their heads the better we all will be.
    Gordon didn’t win the MPP election, so he suddenly thinks this is his ticket to push his party politics.
    He has no business as a city Councillor, not to mention, no idea what his job actually entails.
    I for one am kind of angry that the residents of ward 2 voted for this phony, who bumbles around the city ,not actually doing what he was voted to do.

  11. bostoncollie

    So the solution to a budgeting error at the Waste Innovation Facility (oh the irony of that name) results in a fee/tax of $5 to make up $750,000…they’d never actually think to cutback on expenditures instead would they?

    It never ceases to chafe me when I drive along Stone Road and see cyclists riding their bikes on the sidewalk instead of the expensive bike lanes constructed for them. Saw it again this afternoon.

  12. joseph paul phelan

    I saw James Gordon on a step stool at an ATM earlier this week trying to get some money out.

    • Ward 2 Constituent

      Joseph…..there are real and very serious issues surrounding the current council…..and your comments about James Gordon’s ‘stature’ don’t do anything to help the perception of this blog. 3 comments in one string? Really? Gerry’s post is spot on…..don’t take away from it by taking potshots that don’t move the ball in the direction it needs to go…..

    • joseph paul phelan

      didn’t mean to belittle him

  13. Tony

    Leanne Piper Ward 5 ‏@ward5guelph · Aug 12

    Bang on @thatjamesgordon. There is no room for solutions or shared values in divisive politics. #caringcommunity http://ow.ly/kQxt303bTOI

    Jason S. Dodge ‏@JasonDodgeWard3 · Aug 13

    @thatjamesgordon you question a man’s religious beliefs/practices in an attempt to discredit him publicly? @ward5guelph condones it? #Shame

    James Gordon ‏@thatjamesgordon · Aug 13

    @JasonDodgeWard3 @ward5guelph Not questioning beliefs. Just curious if deliberate divisiveness is actually consistent with those beliefs.

    Jason S. Dodge ‏@JasonDodgeWard3 · Aug 13

    @thatjamesgordon @ward5guelph So, promoting political divisiveness by bringing a new division (religion) into a debate. Make sense.

    James Gordon
    @JasonDodgeWard3 @ward5guelph Moore questioned my caring which is a big part of MY faith. Apologies if it seemed like I questioned HIS.

    I do laugh when ever the old “divisive politics” phrase is used. It seems to be used quite a bit in this city. It especially comes up when the misdeeds of some are presented in open form. They call it trump politics or the republican way or the harper way. It’s been called many things in order to scare people into thinking that people that complain are the boogey man and the sky will fall if you listen to them.
    What I really love about this is this is right out of the KARL ROVE playbook. Don’t look at my record! Lets concentrate on the faults of the accuser. Look at him/her; there going to ruin this fine city with there “Crazy talk”. Don’t listen to them, they want to divide Guelph and turn it into a bad place to live. They then go on to glow about all the awards and honors that have been bestowed upon Guelph during there time in charge(Jerry you know all about this). Never mentioning any of the bad. If any of this sounds familiar it’s because this is the way George bush got a second term. HOW DID THAT WORK OUT!

    • Tony: Thanks for the recap of comments re James Gordon’s letter in the newspaper. It is predictable that Gordon would bring up Donald Trump, Karl Rove, and George W. Bush in response to the serious financial issues facing Guelph. It’s a familiar NDP tactic to deflect from its own shortcomings in managing a public institution. They cannot even replace their own National Leader who they unceremoniously booted out at their National Convention.

      Gordon accuses anyone of being divisive including those who point out the details of the nine-year failed management results in Guelph. Then he uses all the pejoratives of the U.S. right wing party to bolster his argument. One can only assume the NDP councillors in our city have clay feet.

      For example, why doesn’t Gordon explain what his party did right when it kicked out the general contractor of the new City Hall and it cost an additional $23 million to complete? Where was the award for that? The list of failed management continues to grow, as the failure to maintain continuity of financial management is self-evident.

      Why does he not explain his role in the sale of the former Civic Museum building on Dublin Street? He pitched the proposal of supporting budding artists and computer small businesses in boutique studios. The bidder was successful in obtaining the heritage property but never followed through on his promise that Gordon eloquently stated to city government. Not only was this transaction a charade, but also there was a second bidder on the property. Tell us James, what was in this for you?

      The Bloc of Seven who control the council and obstruct any attempt by the minority to reform today pratises the only divisive element in Guelph politics. Until there is more balance of representation on council and a spirit of reason and compromise is practised, the vast majority of people will watch helplessly as city management will reflect only the will of the leftist Bloc of Seven.

      Nine years of wasted resources and the imposition of failed management practices must end or come October 2018, there will be a revolt of the people and change will occur, bet on it. Remember James, it happened on October 2014 when the people rejected the former mayor and some members of her council.

  14. guelphspeaks reader

    Typically low blow from James Gordon, countering Bob Moore’s questioning of why council doesn’t care about the obvious problems surrounding them with potshots about religion, and tops off his pompous missive by not threatening, but promising that from now on he an any of his cronies on council will never support any of the “noble” causes Moore is associated with. Because Moore made baseless accusations? That is a subjective, self-interested assessment, James Gordon, because you won’t allow the public to have the information they need to decide for themselves what is baseless and what is not. To quote wise religious icon, the Church lady: “how convenient”, Now, Citizen James and his council friends have the perfect justification to focus exclusively on their own dear causes. That’s not divisive, is it? Is that how you and Councillor Piper see “shared values and caring communities”? You guys play innocent like someone actually believes your blameless social media pronouncements. Same as with your immature baiting of a ‘twitter feud’ with Dan Gibson. “oh, all a big misunderstanding” cries poor James Gordon. “I was truly anticipating the Mayor’s speech”. Cringe-worthy behaviour more appropriate to a two-year old than a city councillor. Guelph municipal government representatives like James Gordon should figure out what their job is, quit demanding apologies, threatening to sue, and blacklisting the growing numbers of citizens speaking out against how they conduct city business and squander taxpayer money. Bob is hardly the only one asking these questions, James Gordon. Why can’t we have answers? Don’t give us this total cop-out “answers would cost a million dollars so I prudently voted to not force that cost on taxpayers”. You have no problem forcing lots of costs on taxpayers. Instead of writing long-winded public take-downs of legitimate citizen concerns, why not take it seriously? Hence the commentary, James. These things don’t come from nowhere.

  15. Capricorn

    Well said guelphspeaksreader. The seven so-called progressives want us to believe we are evil if we ask for information on how so much money was lost and by whom. Councillor Salisbury calls it a witch hunt. Councillor Piper tries to makes us believe we are causing divisiveness when asking for information we are entitled to. Time we all keep asking, until we get the answers. If no one’ s held accountable, people like Farbridge and her followers will continue to take advantage of their ability to misuse tax dollars. After all, this isn’t from honest mistakes that have been made but from secretive, manipulative use of our money for legacy projects that didn’t work out because they were planned without proper oversight ,or ignoring proper business plans. Any private business or organization would seek out those people and reasons responsible for the losses.

  16. Rena

    Once more one of the motley group of seven is showing how truly arrogant and ignorant they can be. Well done.

  17. Capricorn

    I’ve been reading the comments and tweets on the subject and have little hope that the group of seven will acknowledge wrong-doing let alone do anything to prevent it in future. Even with concrete examples of underhanded use of tax dollars, they refuse to even talk about it. Instead, they make accusations that those of us who want answers are being divisive. People on James Gordon’s facebook page support him by pointing out shortcomings in grammar, and James calls some of the responders trolls. Their arrogance knows no bounds. Their support and protection of Karen Farbridge is almost spiritual.Frightening.

  18. James Gorden is well versed in degrading those who dare to do no more than challange him. Somehow he feels he is above reproach. His arrogance does not belong around the horse shoe.

  19. bostoncollie

    I’m just shocked that June Hofland has 25 years experience in the banking industry. Who would have thought?

  20. June Hofland won with 5 votes at the last minutes of the election????? How is it that she controlls the final vote of the group of 7. Something wrong with the system.

  21. joseph paul phelan

    James should stick to what he knows best….pretending to be a musician/artist.

  22. guelphspeaks reader

    JPP, stop being so mean. James has legitimate skills. One of them is knowing how to get to guelphspeaks.wordpress.com.

  23. Glen

    So Hofland has 25 years experience in the “banking industry”. At what level was that? Was it bank teller, financial services representative,customer services representative, investment consultant,small business advisor, manager customer service,manager financial services, assistant branch manager, branch manager, mutual fund sales representative, district vice president, or group president, to name a few positions? In all those years did she earn any industry recognized designations such as: FICB,PFP, SFC,CFA, CA, or CPA?

  24. Capricorn

    Gerry, I wonder if you’d consider deleting the posts that serve no purpose other than to insult someone or comment on their appearance etc. It adds nothing to the discussion and reduces the credibility of this blog.

    • Capricorn: I believe that the writer of that offensive comment has apologized as urged by other commentators. As Guelph speaks is an open forum for people to comment, I am reluctant to start editing and/or deleting comments. The city communications department frequently bends the truth usually by lying by omission. I agree that offensive material must be monitored and removed depending on the content, ie foul language etc. Thanks for your support and comments.

  25. I totally agree with the above

  26. Capricorn

    Understood Gerry. What you say makes sense. Thanks for your response.

  27. Capricorn

    Still reading some of the comments and tweets. Leanne Piper likes to talk about working together but her arrogance regarding anyone who disagrees with her is shocking. She sent one tweet to James Gordon referring to responses to his letter as “Trump America”. She insults us like that and expects us to work with her. These people like to talk caring and kindness but have no limits when it comes to those who have an opinion they don’t like. How much more of this type of “progressive” attitude do we need to put up with?

  28. geo

    Thank you and please continue reporting on City Hall. The other “news” organizations in this City devote more time and space to roller derby then they do to what really matters.

  29. Fred

    Gerry, one of your bests columns ever.

  30. guelphspeaks reader

    I agree with Capricorn on how troubling it is to see how the “progressives” respond to anyone who disagrees with them. Talking about “Trumpism” is such a ridiculous response, because if anyone is acting like demagogues, it is them. This is not about climate change denial, or racism, or concealed carry rights. It is about politicians putting their personal agendas and ideology above the common good, draining city finances to do it, and now, arguing that they don’t have to answer for how it happened, or change rules to prevent it from happening again. Energy alternatives are really important. But ramming through projects enabled purely by secrecy rules, flimsy planning, and untendered contracts is not the kind of response climate change needs.

  31. Keith McEwen

    Gerry, Totally on board with you comments here. What a pompous ass James Gordon is.

    • geo

      Exactly and sitting right beside him is Phil Alt, from now on to be known as stuffed shirt.

    • joseph paul phelan

      Love your comments Gerry, and agree with Geo. Gordon is a pompous ass who appears to get entertainment and politics jumbled up. Not very good at either may I add.

  32. Louis

    Yea some woman didn’t want to chat with me or anyone because I was too critical of the mayor, someone named Susan Carey. Typical lefty shutting down a debate if it criticizes the left.

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