Monthly Archives: October 2016

Since 2008, here’s why two Guelph administrations held so many closed meetings

By Gerry Barker

October 31, 2016

This is no Halloween prank.

Last Friday I complained to the Ontario Ombudsman’s office about that December 10, 2015 closed-session city council meeting that awarded $98,209 to three top staff managers for 2015. This decision was never reported or acknowledged by council until the provincial Sunshine List was published in March 2016.

You know how most of us felt when we found out the amounts given to former CAO Ann Pappert and DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson. Mr. Thomson had resigned to take a job with the Town of Caledon, where he resides, when the Sunshine List was published in March. He was quickly persuaded to return as CAO of our city to replace Ms. Pappert who resigned in May.

The Ombudsman’s office called me within two hours to say that they had no jurisdiction to handle the closed session complaint. It was because we had a council- appointed Closed Session Investigator

It turns out that back in January 1, 2008, the McGuinty Liberals ordered municipalities to hire their own Closed-Session Investigator to adjudicate whether councils had the right to discuss public business behind closed doors or not. In 2007, the Farbridge council voted to hire an outfit called Amberlea-Gravel Inc to be the city’s closed-session investigator.

At the time, it was legal and above board, according to the Ombudsman’s representative.

And almost nine years later, that outfit is still with us.

Checking out their website, we discover that there is an umbrella group called Local Authority Service (LAS) that is a subsidiary of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). The membership is composed of elected officials from across the Province and is supported by the Ontario government.

Prior to implementation of LAS, municipalities were told they had to hire a “Closed Session Investigator” to investigate complaints about councils, committees and boards. Such a selection had to be completed by January 1, 2008.

That’s why the Farbridge administration hired Amberlea-Gravel to be its closed- session investigator. For nine years, they have been paid an annual retainer, plus an hourly rate for the investigator when a complaint is made and expenses.

Since 2008, I could find only one investigation made in January 2016 regarding the alleged walkout of four councillors during a closed-session meeting. The complaint was dismissed following the investigation.

The main reason is that the people did not know that the city had retained a Closed-Session Investigator to which they could complain about closed-sessions city operations. The proof of this is the number of investigations conducted by Amberlea-Gravel. So far in nine tears it’s one.

Here’s the conundrum. The closed-session investigation company is hired by the council, how is it possible to remain impartial? There is a requirement for trust and integrity by both parties in the resolution of the complaint.

This is a successful attempt to shut down citizen’s complaints. Not informing the public of the existence if this city closed session investigator, demonstrates another method to not expose details of the two administration’s agenda. It is one that has wasted millions in the past nine years. Both administrations were determined to maintain the now familiar pattern of secrecy and non-exposure of the city corporation’s business and operations.

Now we know why city Clerk Stephen O’Brien tells us the minutes of that Dec. 10 closed session of council are not available because, “they are not part of the public record.”

Well, I am requesting a complaint form from the Clerk regarding that December 10 closed-session meeting that gave those large salary increases to three managers. This is the complaint procedure outlined by Amberlea-Gravel.

It is now apparent that very few citizens, except in the administration, knew the closed-session investigator services existed.

Does this closed-session investigation firm only act when council or the City Clerk requests it? And why would council allow its closed-session meetings to be investigated by its own appointed investigator?

I am asking Amberlea-Gravel to confirm the number of closed-session investigations it has conducted in the past nine years for the City of Guelph and complainants.

I am also asking for the fees they are being paid to perform this function.

I found only one investigation by Amberlea-Gravel reported on its Website. There may be more. It does appear odd, that the Farbridge administration conducted an untold number of closed-session meetings during its eight years in office, and yet there is no evidence of investigation of those meetings?

It took a judge to expose the wrongful dismissal of Urbacon, the general contractor of the new city hall. The judgment was open and available to all citizens. It led to the defeat of Mayor Farbridge because it was made public and not locked up behind closed doors.

It should be noted that there is always a closed-session meeting held, starting two hours before every open council meeting. But it’s the other meetings in which decisions were made, in camera, that affect the citizens and the public treasure.

The case for the LAS investigations being independent is suspect in view of the AMO connection including in its membership members of Guelph city council. This organization is a creature of the province whereas the Ontario Ombudsman is totally independent.

Now here is delicious irony. In 2013, the Farbridge administration hired a Toronto consultant to develop an Open and Transparent Government Plan. The cost later revealed was $500,000 and a lengthy report was developed to direct the city toward setting up an open and transparent government that promised accountability to the stakeholders, that’s us.

Well, an election happened in the fall of 2014 and Mayor Karen Farbridge was defeated plus four member of her council, two of who did not run and two who were defeated.

Then in July 2015, Andy Best, a Farbridge supporter, was hired as a contractor earning $92,000 a year to manage the Farbridge Open Government Initiative. Results to open up council business to the public have been, year to date, a futile exercise.

According to the Ombudsman’s office, that Amberlea- Gravel Closed-Session Investigation firm is still with us. The Ombudsman cannot help expose this closed meeting.

So, how does the Guthrie administration reconcile the city paying a half million dollars to open up our city government? How many citizen complaints have been made to the Clerk’s office since 2008? Is Mayor Guthrie even aware that this outfit is still employed by the city? Is he aware that the Ombudsman’s office cannot investigate a closed-session complaint by a citizen because the city has its own investigator?

Kind of reminds us of the Maytag repairman who never had anything to do because the machines were so well built.

Is this a case of the 12–member city communication staff incapable of informing citizens of their right to complain about closed-session meetings?

Do we need more evidence that this is a giant threat to our rights of free speech and freedoms as citizens? Unless of course, there are complaints lodged by citizens through the Clerk’s office demanding explanation.

There is only one solution. Dismiss Amberlea-Gravel and engage the Ombudsman’s office to represent the city as its closed-session investigator. Some 210 Ontario Municipalities have already done this. At least if a citizen asks for an investigation of a closed-session of council, there will be an independent investigation by the Ombudsman’s office and the decision will be made public.

As a public service, here is the list of exception subjects that the Ontario Municipal Act, 2001, permits to hold a legal closed-session meeting of council or any subsidiary board or committee.

Preamble: A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is:

*   (a) The security of the property of the municipality or local board;

* (b) Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;

*   (c) A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board;

*   (d) Labour relations or employer negotiations;

*   (e) Litigation or potential litigation, including matter before administrative tribunals affecting the municipality or local board;

*   (f) Advise that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;

*   (g) A matter in respect in which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (2).

The only possible category that council last December10 could have used as a reason to hold a closed meeting is the category, “Labour relations and employee negotiations.”

Exception (d) is a razor thin reason to close the meeting to award those excessive increases to three senior managers. It was confirmation of a decision already baked in the decision.

It was not a negotiation, it was a naked grab of power exercised in secret without any public knowledge or input. It allowed CAO Ann Pappert to retire in late May 2016 having earned some $52,798: ($3,132 per month increase X 16 months plus 26 days $2.677 = $52,798). This was in addition to her 2014 base salary of $219,500 but not her contractual severance allowances or taxable benefits.

Now we know why this was done behind closed doors. To this day not one member of council has admitted voting for that increase. It’s obvious the majority attending the meeting did vote to award the increases.

So, why haven’t elected councillors spoken up? It’s because of a threat of breaking the Code of Conduct that prevents members of council to reveal anything said in closed session. This could lead to an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner and possible sanction of the offending member.

Isn’t this a great way to run the public’s business? You elect a councillor with the belief he or she will represent your interests only to discover they don’t. It is the essence of the Big Brother syndrome, the control of the many by the chosen few concentrated in power.

Here’s how that works: What they don’t know, won’t hurt them.

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Why do the top two senior staff managers choose not to live in Guelph?

By Gerry Barker

October 28, 2016

Let’s start by agreeing that it is not normal for any employer, public or private, to pay for traveling expenses from home to work. While accepting a senior management position, there are contractual benefits that go with the job. In Guelph’s case, details of those contracts are not released to the public. Although the terms may be secret the cost is born by the citizens of the city.

Let’s review what we do know about the current two top managers of the city, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Derrick Thomson and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), Mark Amorosi.

Each received salary increases in a closed meeting of city council December 10, 2015. Mr. Thomson received $33, 814 or 19 per cent. Mr. Amorosi received $26,868 or a 14 per cent increase. The former CAO, Ann Pappert, also received $37,591 and resigned in May 2016. Included in the Provincial Sunshine List for 2015, are the taxable benefits paid by the city covering a fixed amount of car expenses? Ms. Pappert received $6,508, Mr. Thomson, $6,472 and Mr. Amorosi $6,472.

None of those figures have been revealed by the City of Guelph administration. Nor have there been any supportive details of why the increases’ were approved by council in closed-session. Also, the administration has not revealed the salary increases to the four top managers for 2016, a period in which there were significant salary increases.

Deja vu? Looks like we’ll have to wait until March 2017 to discover what they are being paid in 2016.

I have learned that the taxable benefits are for a vehicle used by the employee paid by the city as a fixed cost.

Now here is where it gets murky.

Mr. Thomson lives in Caledon. Mr. Amorosi lives in Hamilton since joining the city staff in 2008. These two senior managers are in charge of creating the 2017 budget. Neither pays taxes in Guelph. You will recall that city council gave former CAO Ann Pappert $20,000 to relocate from Waterloo to Guelph.

Council was concerned about its senior manager living in the city and offered a hefty incentive to move 30 kilometres. Why isn’t the Guthrie administration insisting on the city’s present top managers to become residents of the city in which they are in charge of managing? Under Ontario employment law, an employer cannot dictate the residence of the employee without consent.

Wasn’t Mr. Amorosi, as head of Human Resources, involved in the Pappert decision and for that matter, responsible for negotiating management contracts of those employees not part of the unions?

Which brings us to how employees are reimbursed for work-related expenses such as travel, entertainment, accommodation and that old favourite, sundry.

Does Mark Amorosi travel home every night regardless of the time change, weather conditions and late night city meetings? The same question can be asked of Derrick Thomson who lives in the snow belt of Mid-Western Ontario.

Have either of these top managers had difficulty in the morning due to bad weather, traffic conditions to get to work on time?

While the Sunshine Lists reveals the salaries and taxable benefits paid to those earning more than $100,000 a year, it does not tell us about expense accounts.

This information is not available. The public has no idea of what their elected officials and non-union staff are receiving for expenses incurred doing their job. In fact, the guidelines for allowing work-related expense claims are also top secret.

The costs of commuting

Does Mr. Amorosi cover the operating cost of commuting more than 200 kilometres a day, five days a week, from his pocket? One way is approximately 100 kms, double it and the cost at 50 cents per kms is $100 every day. That works out to $500 a week times 48 weeks equals $24,000 a year. That does not include parking, emergency vehicle repairs, insurance or accommodation if necessary due to weather or late meetings. How often is he required to stay overnight and where does he stay?

Is Mr. Amorosi claiming these expenses as part of his employment contract?

It was his decision not to leave Hamilton and commute to his job in Guelph.

The same questions are asked of CAO Derrick Thomson whose commuting distance is slightly less.

Is this siuation a repeat of the cozy deal the former CAO Hans Loewig made with the Farbrodge administration? Loewig lived in Brantford and communted to work in Guelph. It was alleged that he often stayed overnight in Guelph at public expense. Also his deal, made just before Ms. Amorosi took over HR in 2008, is alleged to include 12 weeks of holidays at his winter home in Arizona. Loewig or the administration never acknowledged or denied this.

Who must approve staff expense account claims? Is it currently Mr. Amorosi as head of Finance? Or is it a surrogate in Finance? How do senior managers process their expense claims if they are responsible for maintaining fiduciary responsibility?

This takes us back to a letter I wrote April 2, 2012 to Mr. Amorosi:

Mr. Mark Amorosi

Executive director of Human Resources and Legal Services

The City of Guelph

1 Carden Street

Guelph, Ontario   N1H 3A1

April 2, 2012

Dear Sir:

I am a taxpaying resident of the City of Guelph and a retired professional journalist.

It has been brought to my attention that you informed a citizen that the city would no longer respond to requests for information from any personal “blog” website.

You further stated that the city interacts with legitimate media outlets that follow the Ethics Guidelines of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ).

Without defining “legitimate outlets,” the city has denied the rights of individuals and organizations that, under the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Municipal Act, have a rightful access to public information.

Nor is it established what a personal “blog” website is.

As a non-journalist, before using the CAJ as your excuse for not revealing public information, I suggest you read the Ethics document published (online) by the CAJ. Two elements are pertinent to the city’s decision to ban access.

Definitions: “News organizations – including newspapers, websites, magazines, radio and television – provide forums for the free interchange of information and opinion. As such we (CAJ) seek to include views from all segments of the populations.”

“Personal online activity, including emails and social networking should generally be regarded as public and not private.”

Under the circumstances outlined by you, one may believe that the city is muzzling sources of nominally public news that is not always friendly to the administration.

Accordingly, I am requesting that the travel expense reports for all members of council and senior staff since January 1, 2011, be made available to the public. Specifically, I request that my blog – guelphspeaks.ca – receive this information. It can be emailed to gerrybarker76@gmail.com.

With respect, given the circumstances, I suggest that in the public interest it would be useful to reverse this decision and allow residents full disclosure.

I would be interested if the city is an associate member of the CAJ and therefore subject to its bylaws and more specifically, its Ethics document. If it is not a member, then perhaps that Association may be interested in how the organization is being used to stifle legitimate news and comment by the City of Guelph.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Gerry Barker

Editor

guelphspeaks.ca

 

Mr. Amorosi was good to his word and never replied to my request. It revealed that the city was not going to respond to requests for public information including expense accounts.

It was the early start of a pattern to restrict public information involving decisions, high cost public projects, executive payments and Human Resoures issues by the Farbridge administration.

Is Mr. Amorosi right to deny public information to the citizens, even when a respectful request is made?

Perhaps he has good reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The day Mayor Cam Guthrie blinked and lost credibility over Salary-Gate

By Gerry Barker

October 26, 2016

There are many questions concerning that December 10, 2015 closed-session city council meeting. It was called by the Mayor to approve large 2015 salary increases for three senior staff managers, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert, ($37,591) Deputy Chief Administrative Officers Mark Amorosi, ($26.868) and Derrick Thomson, ($33,814).

It’s unlikely any elected official will answer these questions because they were directly involved in that closed meeting and are covering up to protect their standing under the council’s “Code of Conduct.” This was created by the former Farbridge administration when it hired an Integrity Commissioner to adjudicate any breaches of the Code and recommend sanctions if necessary.

Its real purpose was to shut down the closed-door council leaks that were occurring. Ask yourself, why would the Farbridge administration, with a solid majority of council, need to spend your money to stop information that they didn’t want you know or understand? They made it official by hiring an Integrity Commissioner to police and deal with suspected breaches of the Code of Conduct. The Guthrie administration recently renewed this contract.

Funny, the Commissioner must have missed Coun. Mike Salisbury’s confessed leaking to a friendly blogger of confidential information as to why five members of his caucus walked out of another closed-door meeting last January. It appears there is a double standard when it comes to investigating alleged breaking of the code of conduct by city councillors.

Here are some questions citizens should ask their councillors about that Salary-Gate issue and why was it kept a secret for almost four months?

* Why did the Mayor believe it was necessary to convene a closed session to approve the 2015 top management increases when the fiscal year was almost over?

* Did the Mayor receive information about the senior staff increases prior to the meeting?

* Were these increases included in the 2015 budget, approved by council in March 2015?

* Besides the Mayor, who initiated this closed meeting and why on the 12th month of the year, approved the 2016 city budget?

*   Is it not Provincial policy to reveal the name, salary, taxable benefits and job title for every public employee earning $100,000 or more in Ontario?

* What were the substantive reasons causing council to award these increases that took each of the three staffers’ salaries to well over $200,000, knowing full well the Provincial Sunshine List would publish the salaries in March 2016?

*   When the minutes of that closed meeting were requested, did the city clerk reply that closed-session meetings are “not on the public record and therefore not available?”

* Does this mean that whenever the Mayor convenes a closed session, for any reason, the public is denied access, forever?

*   What was the legal reason for calling a closed session under the Ontario Municipal Act rules, governing such meetings?

*   Did city council understand that by conducting the public’s business in closed session they were, in effect, concealing these senior staff increases, in direct violation of Provincial policy?

*   Which councillors voted for approving the increases in the closed session?

Did Mayor Guthrie vote to approve the increases

*   Did councillorrs realize that they shut down any possible public objection because the results wouldn’t be known until three months into 2016?

*   Was council informed of the rationale that determined how much each of the senior managers was to receive?

*   Were any of the three senior managers involved in conducting performance and market reviews of their peers to determine who gets how much and when?

*   Who informed council of the request for the increases?

*   Did the three managers hire a consultant to advise how much they should receive? If so, who was the consultant and the cost of his/her involvement?

*   Did Mayor Guthrie consult the city solicitor about the legality of conducting the closed-session meeting and was it in accordance with the Ontario Municipal Act guidelines?

*   How many, and which staff people were involved in this closed-session and were they sworn to secrecy?

*   Is it true that this meeting was held so as not to interfere with the final approval of the 2016 budget?

*   Did Corporate Services DCAO Mark Amorosi mislead Coun. Mike Salisbury, who asked for the reason for the $37,581 increase to CAO Ann Pappert? Was it because she did not request an increase in 2014 from the Human Resources department, according to Mr. Amorosi?

*   Is it not true that Ms. Pappert received a $5,005 increase according to the 2014 Sunshine List?

Conclusion

Council, including the Mayor, duped the public by concealing these three senior staff increases to avoid public reaction that would have stalled the conclusion of the 2016 budget.

Ms. Pappert resigned in May 2016 following more than five years on the job.

Al Horsman, the last Chief Financial Officer the city employed, resigned in August 2015 before council approved the 2015 salary increases. He is now CAO of the city of Sault Ste Marie.

Derrick Thomson resigned last April to take a job with the Town of Caledon. He was later persuaded to return to Guelph and was named CAO.

Janice Sheehy, former General Manager of Finance and City Treasurer, resigned last March to take a job with the Region of Peel.

Colleen Clack, General Manager of Tourism and Culture, was promoted to DCAO in charge of Operations, formally held by Mr. Thomson.

DCAO Mark Amorosi, following a three-month search using a professional headhunting firm to replace Ms. Sheehy, appointed Tara Baker, an analyst in the Finance Department. She was named Chief Financial Officer, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. Ms. Baker is currently on maternity leave and will not be available until next year.

What do you think? Was all this a calm transition of power that has lead to a “Better Guelph?”

Or, is it a contrived attempt to retain power by the Bloc of Seven?

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The Guelph Tribune rejected this ad on the grounds it was “Inflammatory”

By Gerry Barker

October 24, 2016

Definition: Inflammatory adj – rousing or likely to arouse excitement, anger, violence, rioting, etc, as a speech. Webster’s Dictionary.

To use this word, inflammatory, is to suggest the ad will cause civic unrest, derision, violence and rioting because of its content, is a supercilious reason not to publish it.

Is this a case where those Guelph citizens who disagree with the administration are being compared to those French citizens who overturned the monarchy of the rulers of France? Under the Guthrie administration, are we being reduced to peasants with no rights or support? If you believe this, then I’m Guelph’s Jean Val Jean and “aux barricades, mes Amies.”

This isn’t just suppression of a different point of view but overt repression of the facts.

The paper’s decision not to publish a paid ad followed its refusal to publish Pat Fung’s analysis in the op-ed page as a service to its readers. The Editor said Mr. Fung had to reduce a 2,800-word document, with explanation charts, to 400 words. He further added that the material was too political. Having given that excuse, how does he justify shortly afterwards running a column by defeated councillor Maggie Laidlaw, praising the work of defeated Mayor Karen Farbridge? He now knows how readers responded to that “community editorial.”

Is there a double standard here?

When reading this ad copy do you believe it promotes violence and rioting?

I agree it will promote and arouse anger among citizens who have experienced the eight Farbridge years when millions were misspent, based on poor managerial judgment and the willful misuse of power.

So, when it comes to the people trying to present facts based on the city’s own audited statements, The Guelph Mercury Tribune, refuses to even accept a paid ad to express a legal opinion on the management of the administration.

In my opinion, it is journalistic suppression of fair comment and opposing opinion of the operations of an administration. Under Mayor Guthrie it is an administration that is hyper secretive and distrustful of the public trust and criticism.

The Guthrie administration has control of the Guelph Tribune by virtue of the “City News” ads that run in every edition of the paper, paid with your money. The annual cost to taxpayers is estimated to be more than $400,000. The paper has a monopoly where there is no print competition.

With this decision to ban legitimate news and response to thousands of citizens, the newspaper loses credibility and becomes what its out-of-town owners want, money, regardless of public political sentiment. Using its controlled distribution system, delivering the paper to most households in the city whether the owner wants it or not, gives the administration almost total control of the media in Guelph.

All except www.guelphspeaks.ca that has a proven track record of exposing the weaknesses and mismanagement of two city administrations. My wife and I have tried to overcome this abuse of the public trust for ten years. We have had success in contributing and exposing the waste and secrecy that are the trademarks of both the Farbridge and Guthrie administrations. And there is more to come.

The support of the people has been amazing and satisfying. GS would not have survived all this time without your support and information. We are just ordinary citizens and taxpayers who have been around long enough to understand what is happening to our city. Our only regret is the failure to balance the council with reform candidates and losing the bid in 2014 when June Hofland edged out Craig Chamberlain by five votes.

The Tribune’s rejection is an example of how the administration is using your money to control the print media in Guelph.

What’s the next step, suppressing potential violence, rioting by the citizens because of an ad that opposes the administration? That’s what this newspaper stated and it is grounded in fear of losing revenue.

Today is the first step in fighting back. GS and its supporters are planning to publish two posts seeking retribution for the blocking by the Tribune of a legitimate and important news story. One that the Editor refused to assign a reporter to even interview Mr. Fung.

Accordingly, we’d like to hear from you either through commenting on the blog or emailing gerrybarker76@gmail.com. If you wish to remain anonymous, please indicate and your comments will be protected using a nom de plume. This is necessary because the reactionary trolls will respond.

A city in crisis

By Gerry Barker, editor of http://www.guelphspeaks.ca with Pat Fung, CPA, CA

September 29, 2016

A stirring wake-up call by Guelph resident, Pat Fung, CPA, CA, analyzes the financial state of the Guelph’s administrative mismanagement of our city that is exacerbated by a bloated bureaucracy and dysfunctional council.

It has now reached a crisis of misspent treasure and lack of confidence by the public in past and present administrations. It is expressed in annual property taxes, and user fee increases. The crisis includes secret deals made with certain developers to induce special treatment by reduction of development fees and taxes. City reserves have been plundered without public knowledge to cover up mistakes.

Reality and responsibility is non-existent as the staff management continues to claim the city is in “sound financial condition,” according to Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi.

Since 2008, Mark Amorosi has allegedly been one of senior staff overseeing the soaring cost of living in Guelph. He was hired in 2008 as head of Human Resources. Since then, he has grown in influence becoming a DCAO of Corporate Services, the man in charge of not only HR but also the controller of city finances since the senior staff reorganization following the 2014 civic election.

What Amorosi’s “sound financial condition” claim is compared below to the analysis done by Mr. Fung, an individual with an accredited financial background. The sources of his analysis are contained in the annual audited statements of the City of Guelph and the recent report of management consultants BMA.

Here is a chart, part of Pat Fung’s analysis

Guelph’s Operating Costs 2008 to 2015 (source: audited financial statements)

($ thousands) 2015 2014 2008 $ Change 08 to 15 % Change

’08 to ‘15

General government 27,070 25,136 18,891 8,179 +43.3%
Protection services 79,550 75,506 51,855 27,695 +53.4%
Transportation services 60,381 57,405 43,380 17,001 +39.2%
Environmental services 76,238 72,697 35,035 41,203 +117.6%
Health services 29,180 27,522 18,524 10,656 +57.5%
Social and family services 43,601 52,280 51,183 -7,582 -14.8%
Social housing 21,372 20,444 n/a 21,372
Recreation and cultural services 40,906 39,481 23,947 16,959 +70.8%
Planning and development 7,313 6,155 3,986 3,327 +83.5%
Total Expenses 385,611 376,626 246,801 138,810 +56.2%
Consumer Price Index 126.6 125.2 114.1 12.5 +11.0%

 

Pat: Guelph should reduce its operating expenses by $20 million and freeze taxes and fees at current levels to fund the capital/infrastructure gap. We cannot continue to increase spending on operating costs on top of increasing spending of capital and infrastructure.

Pat’s recommendation: Freezing revenues at 2016 levels and reducing expenses by $20 million, and holding expenses at $365 million for 20 years. City reserves would be built up to $200 million in 10 years. This would be reduced by whatever is spent in the interim on capital and infrastructure. This has the same financial effect as increasing taxes but is funded totally from within the current system of taxation and user fees.

Where did the money go? For example, note two categories: Social and Family services, a 14.8 per cent reduction and Social Housing, of which there was zero change in seven years. These are two key components of the leftist majority agenda on the present council. Yet during those eight years under the Farbridge regime, the categories were totally ignored.

But wait; let’s check out Environmental Services that enjoyed a 117.6 per cent increase. In fact more money was spent on the environment than Social and Family Services and Social Housing combined. Ask Coun. James Gordon about that as he says it’s his job to improve social services including affordable housing.

Here is another chart that captures the per person charges of Guelph’s selected expenditure categories compared to the Ontario Municipal Averages. These per person figures are from the City’s own consultant, BMA.

Selected areas from 2014 BMA report Guelph cost per person Ontario cost per person Excess spending relative to other Ontario Cities based on 120,000 population in Guelph
General government $229 $104 $15,000,000
Fire $185 $165 $ 2,400,000
Waste collection $29 $10 $ 2,280,000
Roads $244 $198 $ 5,520,000
Parks $77 $59 $ 2,160,000
Library $72 $50 $ 2,640,000
Total $836 $586 $30,000,000

According to the independent BMA consultant report, every person in the city pays $836 for the operational costs of these six defined areas. The average in Ontario is $586 per person. That’s a 42.66 per cent difference, or total excess spending by Guelph of $30 million per year.

 

Check this out:

Guelph Ontario

Waste collection $/tonne $137 $114 20%
Roads $/kilometre $27,617 $11,847 133%

* Why are waste collection costs 20% higher than average Ontario?

* Why are road costs 133% higher than average Ontario?

* Except for residential water/sewer usage, why are commercial and industrial     water/sewer costs 10% to 12% higher than average Ontario? Particularly when water consumption has declined by 16 per cent in the past six years.

* Why have Guelph Hydro rates increased by 42.5 per cent in the past four years?

According to the 2015 Sunshine List, the City has 92 middle managers carrying the title “manager,” in addition to senior and supervisory staff. The City must reduce these positions and flatten out the organization to make it more responsive and more cost effective. In our financial situation, we cannot afford this huge layer of middle management.

These soaring costs are one of the problems why Guelph has not achieved greater business and industrial development that increases revenue. The current assessment ratio between residential and commercial/industrial is a dismal 84 per cent to 16 per cent. It has not changed in ten years. The Ontario average ratio in many cities is 60/40. Neighbouring Milton is an example.

Now let’s take the General Government’s cost comparison. Guelph spends $229 per person in this category. The Ontario average cost per person is $104. The difference is a whopping 120 per cent additional cost to every resident of the city.

Further, General Government expense is not a service but overhead. Based on a per capita population, it can be reduced to meet needed operational expenses. This would bring the city government costs in line with what most Ontario municipalities are currently paying. Also, it’s an excellent place to start cutting operational costs.

This method does not affect service cuts to the public, the favourite excuse of the majority of council and the new Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson. He says the staff will not propose any service cuts in the 2017 budget.

The current acting CFO, DCAO, Mark Amoroso, doesn’t like to talk about the per capita cost to Guelph’s citizens. He says it’s irrelevant. Does he care? He lives in Hamilton.

Looking back nine years, how have your household costs affected you? Did the exploding cost of running a city overtake your income, an ability to pay your City taxes? You are not alone.

Only we the people can create change

This message was paid for by a group of Guelph citizens who care about their city. Now it’s your turn. The best way the people can influence change in the way your money is being managed, is to contact your councillor. Each member has received the Fung analysis. Demand answers from them over the excessive spending and mismanagement contained in this well-documented report. Pat Fung has provided indisputable evidence that this city is on the brink of financial disaster, compounded in the past nine years.

To help stop this recklessness, join the thousands of Guelph residents engaged in protest of the way their city is being mismanaged. Please donate to help finance the protest. Send your donation and comments to:

GrassRoots Guelph

Box 250 – 17A – 218 Silvercreek Pkwy, North,

Guelph ON N1H 8E8

Please make your cheques and money orders payable to GrassRoots Guelph. Sorry, we cannot accept credit card contributions, but cash in a sealed envelope is welcome. No contribution is considered too small. All funds received will be used exclusively for creating change in the way our city is being managed.

Both GrassRoots Guelph and http://www.guelphspeaks.ca are non-profit organizations and manned by volunteers. Thanks for participating, welcome to the cause and join the protest today supporting common sense management.

For a copy of Pat’s full analysis, go to: www.guelphspeaks.ca or email pat.fung@sympatico.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Salary Gate; The plot sickens

By Gerry Barker

October 21, 2016

When former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, left the top city staff job last May, she walked away, after more than five years employed by the city with a gold plated pension. Her final months gave her 70 per cent of her estimated last five years at a salary rate exceeding $200,000 per year.

When she was promoted to the CAO’s job in 2011, she was making the same as retiring CAO Hans Loewig, $199,000 a year. By 2014, she was making $219,000. Then came the big bump up in pay that gave her a new salary of $257,591 for 2015 and part of 2016.

She wasn’t alone. Two of her three subordinates also received hefty increases ranging from 14 to 19 per cent.

The trouble was that the public was not aware or informed of council’s approval that December 10th in closed session.

Why would Mayor Guthrie and council go along with this? Why would the Mayor not inform the residents of Guelph of this major decision? Will we ever know the rationale of this approval or why these increases were warranted?

These three top managers of the city staff, numbering more than 2,000 employees, were awarded these increases totaling $98,000 in a closed meeting held either before or after the second day of the open public meeting to create the 2016 budget.

These increases were not made public until March 2016 when the provincial Sunshine List let the cat out of the bag.

When this occurred, Pappert was leaving; Thomson had turned in his resignation to work elsewhere and Al Horsman left for a better job in August 2015 to become CAO for Sault Ste Marie. Only Mark Amorosi, head of HR, Legal Services and Finance remained.

In fairness, Mr. Horsman was not a party to this as he was removed as Chief Financial Officer in November 2014 to take over Waste Management and Environmental Services. He was not a city employee when the council approved the 2015 senior management increases in camera last December 10.

Was there fear of recrimination or loss of reputation among this group who hid their substantial salary increases behind an ill-advised code of silence?

When I asked city Clerk Stephen O’Brien for the minutes of the closed session held December 10, I was informed closed session meetings are “not part of the public record” and are not available.

The hidden benefit

While you may think those increases were out of line without substantial performance evaluations to back them up, there was another hidden benefit that no one, especially the recipients, want to talk about.

In my opinion, Ann Pappert walked away from this city as a millionaire . For more than five years her base gross salary exceeded more than $1,073,979. That did not include annual taxable benefits or the $20,000 “moving allowance” she received as incentive to move to Guelph or the taxable benefits she received over those 56.5 months as CAO.

The real benefits story lies in her pension. Following more than five years employed by the City of Guelph, her pension is 70 per cent of the average of her previous five years plus 4.5 months in 2016. Upon retirment, that gives her a lifetime pension of $150,300 a year, indexed, plus paid health and dental coverage, any accumulated unused sick leave or vacation time and a severance allowance that was part of her employment contract. Details of these management contracts are not made public. Often called the golden handshake, these termination costs can range from a few months to multiple years of the employee’s former salaries. Throw in unused sick leave credits and or vacation and it adds up.

If Ms. Pappert had resigned in 2015 before her five-year anniversary of being CAO, and without that huge 2015 increase, her pension would have dropped to an estimated $144,120 per year. Ms. Pappert is a relatively young woman and has years to live on a very comfortable income for the rest of her life when she starts drawing it.

But that’s the tip of the iceberg. Excluding Mr. Horsman who did not avail himself of the Salary-Gate exercise, the two remaining participants will also see their pension benefits take a giant leap forward. While Mr. Thomson was employed by the city for a very short time, he is now CAO. He joined the staff in 2013 with a salary of $172,000 and is now making north of $220,000 as CAO. That’s an estimated $48,000 salary increase in not quite three years. Of course his job responsibilities increased substantially. Mr. Amorosi is still chugging along with a salary of $209,000 as the man in charge of Human Resources. City Finances and Legal Services.

The bottom line is Ms. Pappert is not the only winner in Salary-Gate. Both Mr. Thomson and Mr. Amorosi will also benefit, not only receiving 2015’s large salary increases but also growing enhanced pensions while still employed.

But here’s the underlying problem that citizens face regarding these awards to senior managers.

The growing retirement liabilities facing Guelph

The city’s annual audited financial report states that there are two staff retirement liabilities on its books: One is $14,519,000 connected to 1,944 city employees who are members of the Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement System (OMERS). This liability grew by $2,087,000 between 2014 and 2015. The total city reserve fund to cover this liability is $1,799,000. OMERS is currently underfunded by $7 billion. This means that the citizens of Guelph must guarantee payment of those defined pensions for the life of the retired employees.

Here’s more. There is another staff retirement liability on the city books is $16,850,000 covering other non-OMERS employees. It is backed up by a reserve fund of $1,147,000.

These two liabilities total $31,369,000 for 2015 and aregrowing. Adding younger workers exacerbates the rising costs because people are living longer. Also, awarding excessive remuneration to all levels of city staff pushes the liabiltiies beyond the projected rate of inflation. Last year the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 1.1 per cent.

In the case of the OMERS employees the liability increased by 15.5 per cent from 2014 to 2015. Projecting that growth rate forward for 10 years and the OMERS employee group liability is estimated to exceed $36 million.

This is clearly not sustainable given the current operational Fund and Capital Fund growth pattern of the last 10 years. The present administration appears unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to correct this growing cost problem.

There is a solution on the table

Guelph citizen Pat Fung, CPA, CA, prepared a thorough analysis of the audited city financial statements as published by the corporation that was ridiculed and ignored by senior city staff, Mayor Guthrie and a majority of council. The Guelph Merciry Tribune also refused to us the Fing report and denied placement of a full-page ad onnthe grounds it was not documented, too political and was inflamatory.

Fortunately, many people in the city have read and understand the Fung analysis and his recommendations to halt the bleeding caused by mismanagement. How many Urbacons, GMHI’s and secret meetings have to occur before council wakes up and takes action?

Salary-Gate is the epitome of three member of senior management self-serving their own interests and not that of the public. What kind of message does this send to all employees and the citizens?

The fact remains to this day, there has been no explanation of why the increases were awarded, or why it was withheld from the public for four months? It has already resulted in total destruction of the public trust.

If we allow this betrayal of trust and confidence then it’s a sure thing that in five years that Retirement Liability will grow to more than $5 million.

An unrelated footnote: According to the city Financial Report, the total fines made in the Provincial Offences Court in the old city hall for 2015, was $14,337,000. Of that, $8,022,000 has been considered to be uncollectable. That means that 55.9 per cent got away without paying.

What does this say about our justice system administered by the City of Guelph?

 

 

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A saga of senior management’s protected indulgence in secrecy

By Gerry Barker

October 17, 2016

This week I asked City Clerk Stephen O’Brien to see the minutes of the closed session of council that approved the 2015 increases to four members of the senior staff December 10, 2015.

He replied: “Thank you for your email. Closed meeting minutes are not open public records and therefore I cannot share such minutes with you.”

It was not an unexpected reply. But, how can public business be discussed in closed session and not be part of the public record? This is a threat to the right for citizens to have access to public information. If abused, it sets the stage for illegal and corruptive action on the part of the participants.

There is no public input in these closed sessions. The perfect example of abuse is the salary increases given to four senior managers in camera, December 10, and concealed until the Provincial Sunshine List for 2015 published them last March. How can the citizens trust its elected officials and staff to not deliberately hide information that concerns the public interest and public trust?

The only recourse for citizens is to commence a Freedom of Information request to obtain the details. The risk is what is redacted (blackened out), how long will the request take and be refused again?

Except, we already know the outcome of that closed session, thanks to the Provincial Sunshine List blowing the cover of those oversized increases. What’s more important is what was the methodology of determining Ms. Pappert’s increase of 17.11 per cent or $37,581 for 2015?

That particular increase was the only one to which Mr. Amorosi responded. To paraphrase his comment: ‘Ann did not receive an increase in 2014 because she did not request one from HR.’

Well, as it turned out, that wasn’t true. She did receive an increase of $5,500 in 2014 according to the 2014 Sunshine List. The truth is, the citizens of Guelph, who pay the bills, now have learned that the CAO of their administration received a total increase in her salary of some $43,000 in two years. That’s a 20 per cent increase and did not include taxpayer-funded taxable income..

It was not documented or explained in any way why she deserved that increase, or who conducted her performance review to substantiate the increase.

But the other three recipients, Al Horsman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi also received 2015 salary increases between 14 and 19 per cent.

The fallout came swiftly. Horsman was first to resign leaving in August 2015 because he knew what was coming. Derrick Thomson tendered his resignation to accept a job in the Town of Caledon. CAO Ann Pappert resigned in May 2016 two months after the Sunshine List revelation.

The last man standing, Mark Amorosi is still with us. Derrick Thomson was recalled to take over as CAO of the city.

The curious part of all this is why Mark Amorosi was passed over twice to become CAO? In each case he lost the job to staffers with less city experience than him. In 2011, he was a candidate for promotion to replace the retiring CAO Hans Loewig. Instead, Ann Pappert was selected.

Again this year Mr. Amorosi, the lone original senior manager with eight years experience, Derrick Thomson was selected as his new boss.

*            *            *            *

In 2008, the city administration, led by former mayor Karen Farbridge, hired Mark Amorosi to head up Human Resources. The new city hall general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group being fired off the job in September 2008, overshadowed his arrival. In the following five years, five lawsuits and an $8.96 million settlement to Urbacon occurred just prior to the 2014 civic election.

The blame game was played to the extent that in October 2014, Ms. Farbridge and two of her councillors were defeated. Two other council supporters declined to run. Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, later said her predecessor, Hans Loewig, kicked the contractor off the job. To this day, not one elected councillor at the time took any responsibility for the wrongful dismissal of Urbacon.

Four of them who were on that council are sitting as councillors today including June Hofland, Karl Wettstein, Leanne Piper and Mike Salisbury.

Mark Amorosi was rising through the senior management ranks to become Executive director of Human Resourses (HR) and Legal Services (LS) under the job title of Corporate Services.

Up to that point, he had served under two CAO’s Hans Loewig and Ann Pappert; two Chief Financial Officers, Margaret Neubaur and Al Horsman, plus a senior manager in the Finance department, Susan Arum who was acting CFO until she resigned. There was another man hired to be CFO but resigned after a week on the job.

But Mark Amorosi remained the constant in the senior management ranks.

His big opportunity came early in November 2014, just weeks after the civic election.

CAO Ann Pappert announced a senior management reorganization. The title Executive Director was dropped in favour of Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO). This was because Janet Laird, chief of Waste Management and Environmental Services, retired. Denis McCaughan, Chief of Operations, left his city job with no explanation.

There were three senior managers who gained that DCAO title, Al Horsman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi. They all received a $6,200 increase that same month of November to reflect their alleged new responsibilities.

As a result of this reorganization, Mr. Horsman, the CFO, was moved to replace Ms. Laird as DCAO of Waste Management and Environment Services. Derrick Thomson, who had been with the city for a little over a year, was named DCAO of Operations replacing Mr. McCaughan.

Mark Amorosi added finance to his responsibilities of HR and LS. Next to the CAO, he became the most powerful civil servant in the City of Guelph administration.

Lack of continuity of the financial staff

As the new head of finance, Mr. Amorosi has named four people to the job of General Manager of Finance and Treasurer in just 20 months. First there was Katrina Power, no longer with the city. Then Janice Sheehy arrived in March 2015 and left in March 2016. James Krauter as acting GM of Finance and Treasurer replaced her. He is currently on the job during the absence of the newly appointed GM of Finance and Treasurer who has the added title of Chief Financial Officer.

Last July, Mr. Amorosi announced that an analyst in the Finance Department, Tara Baker, was appointed as the new CFO, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. In doing so, Mr. Amorosi was aware that Ms. Baker was on maternity leave until next year.

In his current position, Mr. Amorosi has been the defacto CFO of Guelph for almost two years. In that time he has overseen two city budgets and is involved today in the 2017 budget. This is the man responsible for the finances of a $500 million Corporation that had a budget of $382 million in 2016.

Guelph resident Pat Fung, CPA, CA completed a financial analysis of the city and sent a copy to each member of council. Mr. Amorosi, hief Financial Officer in the administration, did not agree with the figures. The source of the facts in Mr. Fung’s analysis came from the city’s own audited Financial Information Reports filed with the Province for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. In addition, Mr. Fung used portions of the city’s own consultant’s, BMA Management’s report for 2014.

This information compared Guelph’s operating and capital spending with other similar sized Ontario cities. The results are devastating because Guelph’s operating costs are some 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge.

The per capita cost in each reflected how much more the city is spending compared to the sample cities.

Mr. Amorosi said that per capita costs comparison is irrelevant. He should know because he lives in Hamilton and has not paid Guelph taxes for eight years as a senior employee of the city.

Maybe it was because he said the per capita cost to the people to manage its affairs is irrelevant.

 

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Get ready for the 2017 budget dance that threatens civic enlightenment

By Gerry Barker

October 13, 2016

The city staff is busy these days to create the proposals for two main operational budgets for 2017.

There is the tax-supported budget that includes much of the operating expenses of the city including all city employees, as well as city, police, fire, and EMS. This cost consumes 80 percent of all property tax revenues. According to the analysis done by Pat Fung, CPA CA, in 2008, total city operating costs were $246.801 million. In 2015, the last full Financial Information Report (FIR) available, the city spent $385.611 million an increase of $138.810 million in eight (FIR) reporting years or an increase of 56.2 per cent.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), increased by just 11 per cent, the city population increased by 8 per cent in the same period. The non-taxable services including the cost of electricity, was increased by 42.5 per cent in just the past four years. Water as well, exponentially increasing by an average of 4 per cent every year since 2007 despite the reduction in consumption.

Now, the city is adding a levy to pay for maintaining the storm water sewer system to be paid through your hydro bill. Along comes Premier Wynne’s new carbon tax also being added to your hydro bill starting in January. Let’s not forget the $5 charge to dump your yard waste at the Waste Management centre on Dunlop road.

Property taxes are only the beginning of citizens’ costs to live here

So let’s get this straight. In 2017 citizens will face paying separately for five required services. Its just more user fees loaded onto residents who are already paying taxes through their property values.

When you think about it, it’s paying a tax on a tax just to live in this city. We have to have electricity, water and waste removal. These are essential bread and butter costs to citizens.

Take this new Wynne carbon tax. If you own a car, motorcycle, motorized boat, snowmobile, gas-fired lawnmower, anything you own that uses fossil fuel including natural gas and oil-fired appliances; you are already paying a carbon tax on your usage of fossil fuels.

In the case of gasoline, the city receives a rebate on the federal gas tax that amounts to some $2.5 million. Now it appears that may be reversed as the Wynne carbon tax takes its place. Anyone wonder where that tax is going, the city or the province?

Regarding the Guelph 2017 budget, the elephant in the room is the huge bill to replace aging infrastructure, some of which may be 200 years old. The Association of Ontario Municipalities, (aka AMO), has estimated the cost of infrastructure repairs and replacement in Guelph is $205 million. That is a large chunk of change.

Last December, city council held a closed–session meeting, before the open public one, in which it decided to push a staff proposal of a 2 per cent, ten-year surcharge on property taxes into 2017. This staff proposal would increase Guelph property tax rates to more than 5 per cent for 2017.

Council agreed last December to kick the can down the road.

Looking back during the eight years of the Farbridge administration, there was little effort to tackle the aging infrastructure problem. But they managed to build more bike lanes, shrink major roads to provide more bike lanes. The administration concentrated on environmental services such a waste management, alternative energy sources, and downtown revitalization.

The single largest cost on the city books each year was for environmental services.

There are a lot of mistakes that were made managing this area including the deal made with a Detroit contractor to process recyclables in the Guelph recycling plant requiring an extra shift to do the work. The quality of material for recycling from Motor City created sorting problems and the deal fell apart leaving taxpayers with a bill of more than $1 million.

Then there is the decision to build an organic waste processing facility costing $34 million. The capacity was approved to process 30,000 tonnes of wet waste per year. Guelph only produced 10,000 tonnes per year so other sources were invited to send their wet waste to Guelph. Chief among them was the Region of Waterloo that committed to providing $10,000 tonnes paying less than the operating costs of the facility. Trouble was they couldn’t provide their contracted supply. Today, it is not known if the organic waste plant is running at capacity or not. If not, the city taxpayers are picking up the bill.

The financial costs of operating this facility have never been revealed. The plant is manned by employees of Aim Environmental, a subsidiary of Maple Reinders, builders of the plant. Another Maple Reinders subsidiary, Organix, sells the mulch produced from the wet garbage.

The people of Guelph get bupkiss from this deal except to pay the operating costs of the plant, forever.

Then along comes building a new Downtown Library, again

Preparing this 2017 budget is fraught with problems. In July, the Mayor managed to get council to pass a resolution to include the new downtown library in the 2017 portion of the capital budget.

What I don’t get is Chief Administrative officer (CAO) Derrick Thomson has already stated that the ten-year, capital-spending budget, is already under-funded by $170 million. So where is the money coming from? There is no attached source of funding for this project. The irony is that Karen Farbridge promised a new library 15 years ago in her first term in office. The estimates of paying for this ranges from $60 million to $93 million.

Let’s convince city council to build the library downtown

Perhaps there should be an organized public effort by the Friends of Library to engage in fundraising by approaching the service clubs, and other community organizations to show the city administration that they are ready to subsidize a new downtown library. Never mind these handouts through the wellbeing policy of the previous administration; the Library is a vital and important part of our social connections in our city. The numbers are there, so we must act. If citizens care enough to raise enough serious money to convince the council to stop stalling and build the new downtown Library, then what are we waiting for?

Why not start with the city including a $1 million annual commitment for the next five years toward the library project? Include it in the 2017 budget and not just a bookkeeping entry but cash deposited in a special segregated account. This should galvanize the citizens to build a beautiful downtown library to broaden the reach of our real sociability for young and old.

But folks, history has told us that we must take action now. The powers at 1 Carden Street will get it.

A modern Library is not just about books. It’s about connecting people to encourage cultural events, to hold conferences and workshops, even a snack stop … it’s a meeting place and keeper of who we are and who we can be.

The Farbridge administration, in its wisdom in 2007, spent some $16 million renovating a decrepit unused convent on Catholic Hill owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton.

Construction took five years to complete the project that was, by city admission, over budget by $3.3 million and has less than a tenth of the traffic of the outdated downtown library.

Trouble is, the heritage element of council, supported a decision that used the excuse that it was saving a pre-Confederation building that today has little resemblance to the original. And, It was taken and renovated on someone else’s property.

So Mayor Guthrie, why not tell us the whole story? Is this part of your legacy to create a 3P deal, a joint project of public and private investment, to combine the library with a redevelopment of the Baker Street parking lot?

If that happens, what does council do to replace all that lost parking spaces in the downtown where parking is already a serious problem?

With the record owned by the city in building major projects that had cost overruns and delayed completions, it is difficult to assume that anything will change within the present administration culture.

These star-crossed city managed projects include the Wyndham Street underpass; bike lanes that start nowhere and stop nowhere; the farmer’s market renovation; the Waste Management Innovation Centre; The new City Hall project; the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc attempts to install alternative energy solutions costing some $37.1 million; the civic museum (see above).

Managing cultural sites at a loss, is that why the city can’t build a new library?

The city management of two major cultural edifices, The Sleeman Centre and the RiverRun theatre complex is subsidized by $781,000 of taxpayer money every year.

This is not a credit to Guelph. Nor is it fair to the taxpayers.

We have people on council who believe that these two sites are investments. Those among us see it as a total failure of management. Particularly since the Mayor praised the recent ten-year contract between the privately-owned Guelph Storm Hockey Club that has reduced their rent by $50,000 a year taking the city subsidy of this facility to $299,000 a year or $5 million over 10 years.

There is a vacancy of clear thinking; judgment and basic understanding how the city works on the part of the majority of councillors.

We can’t do much about it now.

But think. In the next two years if citizens will band together and raise say $10 million, do you think those elected officials will go to the polls ignoring the debris of their basic functionality?

If they fail to support the downtown public library project and the role of citizens, they do so at their own peril in 2018.

Let’s do it Guelph! The politicians need to have their lamp ignited.

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