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 email@example.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
|Social and family services||43,601||52,280||51,183||-7,582||-14.8%|
|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%|
|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|
|Waste collection||$29||$10||$ 2,280,000|
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:
|Waste collection $/tonne||$137||$114||20%|
* 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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org