By Gerry Barker
December 12, 2016
To the people who manage our city – the senior staff and city council – last Wednesday’s 2017 budget discussion was just another day at the office.
Again we face increased taxes with little attempt to reduce the costs of living in Guelph that have substantially increased since the advent of the Farbridge dominated council in 2007.
The root cause is the cult of infallibility. It is a state of government that largely ignores the basic interests of the citizens. For eight years, there was no recourse for citizens to object or complain about the rising costs of living here.
Then along came Urbacon and the citizens reacted predictably by defeating the mayor and two of her loyalist councillors while two other decided not to run.
Yes, the only recourse a citizen has occurs every four years. There is no right to recall or dismiss elected officials. Nor is there any opportunity to question the management, the hired professionals, who, for ten years now, have continued the failed policies of the former Farbridge administration.
Nothing has changed since 2014. There are now eight councillors who continue to support the past record of mismanagement, that wasted millions on failed projects, and worst of all, lack the expertise or willingness to reform a broken government.
Now we know that the Group of Seven progressives, who have been in control of city council for ten years, believe they are infallible when it comes to running our city. At the same time the four realists on council face a difficult, if not impossible task of reforming the way the city is currently being managed. In the middle is Mayor Guthrie who walks a tightrope between the two factions in an attempt to maintain harmony and compromise.
It is now painfully apparent that the eight progressives’ stubbornly believe that they are infallible and know what’s best for the city and its residents. They are mostly ordinary folks with limited experience in overseeing a corporation worth more than $500 million. What they do have is the support of a senior management that essentially is running the city.
Citizens make their views known but are largely ignored.
Even when an experienced professional expert, Pat Fung CPA CA, presents a thorough eight-page analysis of four years plus, of city financial operations compared to other like-sized cities, the senior staff and Group of Seven progressives ignore the details and solid advice.
In fact they added ten new permanent employees to the staff. Four were Paramedics to serve Erin Township through an agreement with the township.
So while the weekly Guelph Pravda newspaper weighs in claiming that the new budget cuts the fat, somebody must have had a thumb of that scale.
The Fung report nails the root cause of our runaway taxes on all levels. Property taxes are up 10.08 per cent since the Mayor was elected. Remember? He promised to create a “Better Guelph” and keep property tax increases to the rate of inflation. How’s that working for you?
For some inexplicable reason, the senior staff fails to consider what each resident must pay to live in this city. They disregard the ever-growing cost of staff and liabilities, electricity, water, storm water maintenance, Wynne’s carbon tax and city services user fees. My complaint lies with the annual assessment increases that hit property owners every year. Each property valuation uptick adds revenue to the city.
Regardless, we still get stuck again with a budget increase of $3.13 per cent. Oh! We are told that a house assessed at $350,000 with the increase of 1 per cent, jokingly known as the “infrastructure levy,” that the increase will only amount to $120.
I had hopes that CAO Derrick Thomson would clean up the high cost of operations that are 50 per cent higher that either Kitchener or Cambridge. Despite the warning of the progressive, cutting overhead costs does not mean cutting public services. It’s a myth perpetrated annually. Thomson did not help when he warned last September that public services would not be cut in the 2017 budget but did not mention overhead.
Yep, the thumb is still on the scale and the people are stuck with it.
When they believe they are right and continue to tap the purses and wallets of the people, that’s because they believe they are infallible. There is only one guy I know that carries the rite of infallibility, and he lives in Rome.
The only way it can change is coming in October 2018 when we can elect responsible and experienced people to represent the people’s interests. When you have a councillor, Mark MacKinnon, says that because your home has increased in value, you can take out a reverse mortgage or refinance an existing mortgage or take out a second or third mortgage to pay your taxes. Spoken like a mortgage expert.