By Gerry Barker
July 20, 2917
Turning a parking lot into a parkade may benefit the few at the expense of the many
It’s a project long overdue, the Wilson Street parking garage next door to city hall. The five-storey building will contain 496 spaces and will be completed in mid-2019. Of that total 70 per cent or 347 will be allocated to monthly permit holders. The city already has applications for more than 400 monthly permits.
Monthly permits holders are not downtown shoppers. The fact that there is now a line-up for monthly permits indicates that the chief users of the garage will be downtown workers mostly concentrated next door to the City Hall. As the council just announced the details of the project,, it would appear that city staffers had the inside track on applying for the monthly permits.
So the new proposal could be construed as chiefly designed for those city employees. But there are still 149 spots available for short-term parking. That’s a little more than the present Wilson Street parking lot has now. This revised plan is going to cost $20.5 million or $8.5 million more than the original estimate. Funding will be done by adding debt and using reserves.
Perhaps staff should reconsider the ratio of short-term spots and monthly permit holders if for no other reason than public perception of the plan that city staff has first dibs at the majority of spaces.
There will be provision for two parking spots for charging electric vehicles with rough-ins for 80 more. Then there is a storage room for bicycles complete with lockers.
What these facts show is that vehicles far outnumber cyclists using the facility by a ratio of 40 bikes to 496 motor vehicles. That’s 0.080 per cent. Projecting that staff recommendation forward, is it a mirror of the ratio of bicyclists using our streets and sidewalks to the numbers of vehicle use 24/7?
So, why is the city planning to spend more than $12 million on new bike lanes and paths over the next ten years? Toss in the year-round maintenance of $271,000 to service the additional 52 kilometers of trails and add another $2.71 million over the ten years to the total. Council, acting in the Committee of the Whole, approved the proposal but balked at the maintenance costs. Council will discuss the proposal soon before formally approving the project.
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With the majority of this council, the art of negotiating escapes them
Mayor Cam Guthrie is a business booster for Guelph. He recently announced that a “major national corporation” was considering moving to Guelph and being part of the Baker Street parking lot development. The Mayor did not reveal who it was.
This week, council asked questions. Not about the identity of the corporation but members insisted that a new downtown library be part of the development. The staff report stated the library “may” be part of the development. This irked some councillors who insisted it must be part of the development. The Mayor and staff indicated that negotiations can be complex and that going in, the demand for the library to be included could endanger the negotiations.
Here we go again. We just lost millions on the failed Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) misadventure into an electricity wonderland, and the spenders on council are in high dudgeon about spending millions on bike trails and a downtown library.
There is no free lunch as we have discovered considering losing $23 million on the New City hall project and the GMHI fiasco in which the combination of losses of some $163 million hangs heavily over the city‘s finances. And the full story of this operation and the final cost has yet to come.
One thing you can depend on is the city’s newfound transparency of its operations. It explains the well-publicized exercise to merge or sell Guelph Hydro. The Strategic Options Committee, in which not one elected official is a member, is currently shopping the utility. Of course, their activities are not public with only periodic reports to council.
Has nobody this city administration learned anything about closed session meetings denying public participation?
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Eye-opener -The Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth analysis
Recently, the Neptis Foundation did a study of the population growth between 2001 and 2031 of municipalities located in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The coverage stretches from Durham Region on the East to Simcoe County on the North, City of Waterloo on the West and wraps around to Niagara on the south.
This is the heartland of Ontario and the election battleground in 2018 in which the Liberals have the greatest number of ridings, including Guelph. Let’s look at the growth percentages:
The 30-year study declared The Region of York with the highest growth rate, 20 per cent. Next is The Region of Peel, 16 per cent; Toronto, 13 per cent; The Region of Durham, 12 per cent; The Region of Halton, 11 percent. Those are the municipalities with the higher population growth numbers.
Note that with the exception of York, the high growth pattern with waterfront, wraps around Lake Ontario from Durham to Halton regions.
The most startling statistic is that Guelph’s pattern of population growth is only 2 per cent. The rate is the same as Wellington County and The Region of Niagara. The city is surrounded by more robust growth rates such as Waterloo, 7 per cent; Halton; 11 per cent; Hamilton, 4 per cent. The most interesting stat is Simcoe County bordering on Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay and Lake Couchiching.
It must be something about the water.
So why hasn’t Guelph grown in the first 16 years of the study like the other municipalities on its border? Since 2001, a council controlled by former Mayor Karen Farbridge for 11 years has governed Guelph.
In that management time frame, the city taxes and user fees exploded. Reserve funds were depleted to pay for overspent annual budgets; severe development restrictions were imposed; there was no expansion of commercial and industrial assessment (16 per cent) compared to residential high-density development (84 per cent).
The cost of electricity, water treatment and emergency services soared. Cost overruns on city projects caused unexpected financial losses. City operational and capital spending budgets were frequently overspent. Independent consultants warned city council that Guelph was a difficult place in which to do business.
Obviously these events have led to the low growth of the city. It has not gone unnoticed.
Something to think about when it comes time to cast your ballot October 2018.
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The ongoing dilemma of supporting the leaders of Ontario’s political parties
Today when you lift up the hood to check the Ontario government’s power source, there are some surprises.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s numbers in the high teens have not budged, even after the Liberal budget promised everything from a $15 minimum wage to cutting Hydro rates by 25 per cent. And, don’t forget, the Libs claimed the provincial budget was balanced. If you believe that, I will sell you the Burlington Bridge.
Progressive Conservative Leader of the Opposition, Patrick Brown, is a man of many thoughts and diversions. But there is trouble in PC internals including alienating the PC core with a record of switching positions. In politics it’s called the pragmatic approach. One would believe there was nowhere to go for brown but up. His predecessor colleagues managed to say the wrong thing at the right time and paid the price. But at least one rose like the Phoenix and became Mayor of Toronto, the aptly named, John Tory.
The NDP’s Andrea Horwath is probably the most seasoned leader in the Legislature. But she is stuck with a national party that rejected its leader and has been groping ever since to establish its identity and a new leader.
There are two other minority parties, the Trillium Party an offshoot of the PC’s and the Green Party that has never gained traction in Ontario or, or for that matter, across the country.
Ladies and gentlemen: Start your engines.