By Gerry Barker
October 2, 2017
How council sabotaged the property tax infrastructure levy
Last fall when the council was finalizing the 2017 city budgets, the staff proposed a one per cent special levy on properties. The levy was to pay for the backlog in needed infrastructure repairs and replacement.
Well, Councillors Mark MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein proposed that the levy be increased to two per cent with one per cent being used for “City Buildings.” Council in its wisdom, decided to postpone spending $700,000 for new parking meter heads downtown until this year’s 2018 budget, with negotiations starting next month.
Instead, those funds were diverted to help pay an estimated $3.5 million for the designing process of the proposed South End Recreation Centre projected to cost $63 million. So instead of installing the meters this year, it would have alleviated the downtown parking problems and generated an estimated $650,000 annually. They went ahead and approved preliminary funding for a major project without any prospect in the ten-year capital budget to pay for it. This is the budget that CAO Derrick Thomson admits is currently $170 million in the hole.
It is yet another case of “kicking the can down the road” with a net result that nobody wins. The city does not have $63 million for this project but MacKinnon and Wettstein have successfully committed the city to build it. Or so they may think. Isn’t this an election year coming up?
Yet this council approved spending $20 million to build the Wilson Street Parking garage that will be mostly used by city hall employees using monthly passes. Toss in the $34 million police headquarters renovation and the financial cup runneth over.
The financial hole keeps getting deeper and deeper.
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Go Figure department: Trump fiddles with the NFL while Puerto Rico perishes
Wrapping his toga around his Imperial rotunda, Donald “Nero” Trump takes on the National Football League calling the players “Sons of Bitches” who protest disrespect by certain police officers towards people of colour. His Romanesque rants came on Twitter two days after the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico was flattened by two Hurricanes. He hardly mentioned the fact that 3.411 million Americans were desperate for the basic needs of life.
This malignant narcissist billionaire demonstrated yet again that he doesn’t care about people. Besides he said that the governor of Puerto Rico was delighted with his government’s support as was the Mayor of San Juan. Wrong! Nine days after the second of two hurricanes hit the Island, they were pleading for more help and news reporters on the scene confirmed this was a disaster of historic proportions.
Last week was a lousy one for the Trumpster. The third attempt by the Republican Congress to repeal Obama Care and replace it with a cobbled-together bill never came to a vote in the U.S. Senate. The independent Congressional Budget Office said if the bill passed, “millions” would immediately lose their health care plans. In the end, it was not even brought to a vote in the U.S. Senate because three Republican Senators said they would vote against it. In 255 days in office, Trump has failed to advance any of his campaign promises for congressional approval.
But he found time last weekend to sharpen up his golf game at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. His current approval rating is 36 per cent according to the Gallup Poll.
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Surprise! The storm water levy revenues exceed projections
Back in July, council said it favoured rebate to taxpayers who are charged a monthly fee to maintain the city storm water system. Last year, the city Engineer, Kealy Dedman, presented a detailed plan to service the city’s storm water system. The revenue projection was exceeded in 2017’s Q2 by $600, 000.
This report prompted council to seek a rebate to customers. If any clear thinking councillor thought this out, the administrative cost to carry out the proposal could cost more than any increase in revenue.
While expectation of increased revenue makes most of us shudder because we know it is another boo-boo in forecasting budgets. Better it’s a surplus and not a deficit.
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We lose $2.5 million in recycling waste and the investigation will take nine months
The failure to reduce waste processing costs. The waste management service review report is delayed until next March.
The previous administration spent millions on collecting and processing waste to protect our environment. At the same time, the management disregarded areas in the city that did not receive the waste collection and disposal. The reasons are varied, including bad planning by the city, union work rules, incompetent financial management, terrible contracts and intransigence to fix it.
The estimated 6,000 households and businesses were forced to pay private contractors to collect and dispose of their garbage but still pay for the service through their property taxes.
Will someone explain why we spent $34 million on an organic waste processing facility seven years ago to serve the needs of Waterloo and Simcoe County? The compost produced by the plant is not available to the people who built and financed the facility.
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Trashing the city 101
The University of Guelph Homecoming Weekend resulted in students and assorted drunks trashing the city with garbage, lewd behaviour and disregard of public property standards including the right to live in a safe and clean city.
The Guelph police admitted they could not cope with the calls by citizens to put a stop to the behaviour and carnage in many residential areas where there is student housing.
Now it’s ironic that the Guelph Police Services announced its two-month “Safe Semester” program to maintain, we assume, law and order. Instead, much of the city was treated like Animal House complete with intoxication, lewd behaviour and property trashing including the University’s permanent residences.
The U of G President apologized, as did Mayor Cam Guthrie.
The questions remaining: Who was responsible, how many carousers were arrested, who cleaned it up? If the city staff had to do it, send the bill to the University.
After all these years of Homecoming Weekends and St. Patrick’s day celebrations, one would think that the Safe Semester programs in the future should include the resources to prevent such a civic transgression as this was. It calls for strict and severe penalties for carrying open carry of alcohol and use of cannabis or any other drug. It also needs a strong police presence with equipment to arrest revelers who get out of line.
The message from the top should be, this will never be tolerated again and those who ignore the law and rules of behavior will be charged and spend the night in jail.
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Don’t mess with Tuxedo, our neighbourhood cat
We live in an enclave of 22 homes where we know each other and enjoy our secluded collective lifestyle.
And we are blessed with a very unusual cat named Tuxedo. He is black and prowls the neighbourhood checking any infiltrators and gratefully enjoying the odd saucer of milk.
Tuxedo maintains a route every day to keep the chipmunk and bunny population to a minimum. He is the Great Black Hunter who wants to make his human boss proud and never hungry. Look what the cat dragged in!
This is one cat with personality. He’s our cop on the beat and the subject of many conversations driven by neighbour’s sightings and reports.
Tux is no ordinary mouser. He dropped by the other day for a lactose-free milk snack and I asked him who would win the first game of the NHL season Wednesday night: Toronto or Winnipeg?
He thought for a moment and said: “Toronto has depth but it will be close. Toronto 4-2 with Marner getting an empty-netter with 33 seconds left on the clock.”
Igasped. Where did that come from? Tux hopped down from the table and was gone.
If you are ever in our neighbourhood, look for Tuxedo. If you don’t see him he’s either sleeping off that last saucer of milk, busy stalking a squirrel or studying the Vegas odds sheets for the Sunday NFL games
This cat’s work is never done.