Monthly Archives: July 2018

Introducing a No Frills blueprint to change and control the people’s business

By Gerry Barker

July 16, 2018

The following is a detailed Action Plan to return power to the people that has been denied, covered up and mismanaged by successive councils and administrative staff.

Guelph Tomorrow is an organization created by concerned citizens to return democracy and accountability to the civic administration of the City of Guelph.

The people’s hope and expectation, following the election of Mayor Guthrie in October 2014, have been drowned in hypocrisy, blatant cover-ups, secrecy and disdain for the public trust.

The Guthrie record is clear. He capitulated authority of the public trust to the professional senior staff that perpetuated the failed policies of the two previous administrations.

Are you better off today after four years of this Guthrie administration? His record in just two instances, escalated property taxes by more than 3 per cent annually plus 2 per cent special levies. He gave Guelph Hydro, worth $228 million, away for peanuts. The value contained in the 2016 Guelph Hydro financial statement, is just the tangible assets, not including cash on hand or goodwill.

Now we learn of his “action plan” to elect friendly supporters to councillors positions to gain control of council and continue more of the same.

In my opinion, Cam Guthrie was like the month of March; “in like a lion and out like a lamb.” Don’t be deceived any longer. The city council needs an election enema to stop the political wrangling, control by individuals whose performance has been dismal.

Now it’s our chance to change the administration to serve the needs of ALL the people not the few who have controlled our city for 12 years. It’s a situation that mirrors the recent demise of the Ontario Liberal Party in the provincial election.

In Guelph, the disenchanted Liberals, disdained their own candidate and turned to electing a candidate with no election experience representing a Green party with no power. Mike Schreiner espoused the same policies that drove up the debt in Guelph under the previous administrations. Mike Shriener ran as the Green Party’s Ontario Leader. He is now the boss of a party of one, Mike Schreiner, MPP.

Small guess: Mike will be wooed by the Liberal seven-member cause that needs an eighth member to be recognized as an official party in the Ontario Legislature. That will make all those Guelph Liberals happier than Doug Ford cutting the gas tax.

Here’s’ the people’s No Frills Action Plan developed by a team of fellow citizens familiar with the tawdry history of 12 years of administrations.

Guelph Tomorrow

Presents

The No Frills Action Plan

No Frills means leadership, transparency, accountability and responsibility to all the people p

No Frills Priorities

No Frills means that the city auditor will complete a full audit of city finances before submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs

No Frills means halting capital spending until an audit of the city’s finances is completed

No Frills proposes a new senior management structure change to have a City Manager heading the staff, with directors leading the major departments

No Frills recommends that the he city administrative structure will include an Executive Management team composed of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, City Manager, City Clerk and Department Directors. The City Manager will act as chair

No Frills means making every effort to kill the Guelph Hydro-Alectra merger

No Frills means using common sense, arresting spending and encouraging public participation

No Frills means reviewing the status of all reserves and clarify each for its purpose

No Frills means evaluating policies involving all subsidies, donations, and employment contracts

No Frills means eliminating the Committee of the Whole system of conducting public meetings

No Frills on the advice of the city manager, restores the committees of council with appropriate honourariums for councillors serving on committees based on attendance.

No Frills means no closed-sessions council meetings unless there are legitimate legal reasons to do so

No Frills means a complete review by the Director of Finance and the internal auditor of purchasing and procurement systems

No Frills means freezing all salary and benefit increases pending review of pay systems

No Frills means ordering a staff rationalization review by an independent authority

No Frills means reviewing all bylaws to update and remove those not applicable

No Frills means Investigating areas of increasing revenue including the University of Guelph’s ‘bed tax’ deal in lieu of property taxes.

 

No Frills Proposed Communications Plan

No Frills means reporting a summary of the financial state of the city every three months

No Frills means freezing and reviewing all communications contracts and systems

No Frills means the general manager of communications will conduct a regular media briefing weekly

No Frills pledges publishing a monthly report of the administration’s hits and misses and introducing personality profiles of council members and staff using the Guelph Hydro mailing list to distribute

No Frills means that the mayor or designate following a closed-session must release a summary following the meeting within 24 hours

 

No Frills proposed fixes of Property Taxes & User fees

No Frills means limiting property taxes to a 3 per cent increase for 2019

No Frills means an immediate elimination of the 2 per cent infrastructure levy on property owners

No Frills means eliminating the storm water levy on hydro bills

No Frills means freezing all user fees until the financial review is completed

No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.

No Frills means freezing all residential planning until a full review is completed

 

No Frills action to fix procedures, bylaws and protocols

No Frills abolishes the Integrity Commissioner, cancels the Closed Session investigators, Amberlea Gravel of London

No Frills means freezing all consultant contracts until proven justified

No Frills means a complete review of the Council Code of Conduct

No Frills means banning any closed sessions involving political strategy issues

No Frills means staff accountability

No Frills means rewarding and encouraging staff performance and efficiency

No Frills means reporting regular financial performance with a clearly defined base line

No Frills means public accessibility to the people’s house and its services

Join the crusade for change at Guelph Tomorrow.ca.

 

 

 

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Sis, Boom Bah! Mayor enlists the Cam-ettes to help take control of council

By Gerry Barker

July 11, 2018

Recently, I have been pressed to run for Mayor of the City of Guelph

Supporters want to prevent another four-year term of Mayor Guthrie who, they feel, has failed to meet his promises made when elected in 2014.

I am still considering making a decision to tackle the job of changing and reforming the administration’s spending on failed projects. This has painted a political picture of the Mayor whose trust of the city staff is suffocating the public trust.

My wife and I voted for him in 2014, as did most people who voted in record numbers.

We all had such high hopes for the energetic new mayor to clean up the fiscal debris of the previous administration.

But that did not happen. Instead, in the first four months in office, his election promise of keeping property taxes pegged to the Consumer Price Index (1.99 per cent in 2014) failed. The 2015 property tax approved by the Guthrie Council in March 2015, peaked at 3.96 per cent.

I’m not going to pursue the mismanagement, pandering to the staff, giving away Guelph Hydro, and holding all those closed-session meetings to prevent the public knowing the conduct of its business.

No, I’ve exposed much of it and picked up a lawsuit, still not concluded, for my trouble.

Instead, it’s time to end Guelph’s reality show. The attempt by the Mayor and his supporters to stage a well-planned coup to take control of council has now been exposed.

Introducing the Cam-ettes

It started early this week with a meeting between two councillors and me.

The only thing I can reveal, as the meeting was off the record, was the enthusiasm expressed in describing the new candidates for council. One of the councillors said he had been working hard to recruit and consult with a group that he predicted would change the composition of council and get rid of the controlling socialist majority.

I was excited at the prospect of new, bright candidates to finally start the process of reform and the reduction of overhead of city operations.

What I did not tell them at the time, concerned a meeting the next night of folks wanting me to take on Mr. Guthrie. At that meeting, we discussed the pros and cons of my candidacy.

Then I told them of my meeting, the night before, and the proposal to introduce qualified candidates to eliminate the socialist majority on council. As much as I have been critical of this “Gang of Seven,” politically, all that was needed was to defeat just two, Coun. Wettstein and Coun. Hofland.

But then things don’t always work as planned.

Both these councillors were on the Board of Directors of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. for four years. In my opinion, both failed to carry out their sworn fiduciary responsibilities by not revealing the failed operations of GMHI that cost the citizens millions.

Now here is the Guthrie team plan

So far there are four Cam-ettes running: In Ward 6, Stacy Cooper and Dominique O’Rourke; in Ward 4 Indu Arora, friend of the Mayor’s wife; in Ward 1 Charlene Downey. All of these women were nominated May1st along with the Mayor. Fact checking indicates none have been elected to a municipal council.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but remains a strong indicates collusion. There’s nothing wrong with that except that these four have been groomed to support Cam Guthrie as dedicated councillors voting for the Guthrie agenda.

Here’s the rub. Any attempt to elect a majority to gain control results, in this case, of Cam Guthrie gaining a majority of councillors for the next four years.

I find that undemocratic and manipulative. No surprise there, considering Mayor Guthrie’s penchant to use people then discarding them when they are no longer useful.

The political world of Cam Guthrie

Here’s a sample of how the Mayor says one thing and conceals his real intent. In the recent provincial election, the Mayor denied he was a candidate representing the P.C.’s. Guelphspeaks announced in August 2017, he was the chosen candidate to represent Guelph throwing the P.C riding association into administrative chaos.

Candidates who indicated they would run had to be put aside while P.C. headquarters told the riding association that they had a candidate and not to pursue a nomination meeting. This all occurred following the Patrick Brown dismissal.

Bob Coole, the Guelph P.C. Association president, received a call from Cam Guthrie inviting him to lunch at a pizzeria on Stone Road. At that meeting, Guthrie said he was the P.C. headquarter’s choice as the candidate. Coole was told not to agree holding a nomination convention, as Guthrie wanted an acclamation. There were more delays and finally Doug Ford named Ray Ferraro the Guelph candidate.

The mayor’s back door interference created an organization nightmare of which the Association did not recover.

The irony is the Guthrie interference in the process was accompanied by the Mayor’s crocodile tears that he loved Guelph and would be a candidate for re-election in October.

There is no nice way to put this but Cam Guthrie’s behind the scenes duplicity in sabotaging the Guelph P.C. campaign reflects the blind ambition and self-absorbed character of our mayor.

Let’s move on

Don’t you think that 12 years of the domination of council, by the extremist left that controlled our city administration could deter re-election of some of the incumbents? Social engineering projects wasted millions on waste management, staff salaries and benefits, the new city hall complex, GMHI failure to impose energy policies that didn’t work and now the giveaway of Guelph Hydro.

If all four of the Cam-ette newbie’s are elected, they will join incumbent Guthrie councillors, Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond, Christine Billings and the Mayor. That would give the Mayor complete control of council.

Then there are the wild cards

In Ward 6, Mark MacKinnon has the advantage of being an incumbent. I would be the last to support him as he stated that paying taxes is the price of living in Guelph. He further opined that because your house increased in value, you should borrow money to pay your property taxes.

Bob Bell, the veteran councillor in Ward 1 has yet to declare. I’m told that his business of building bicycle accessories has created opportunities in China and The Czech Republic.

Incumbent members of the “Gang of Seven” who are running again include James Gordon, Phil Allt, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, Cathy Downer, and Leanne Piper. Karl Wettstein, the seventh member, has not filed his papers. In Ward 6, former Farbridge councillor, Lise Burcher ,is attempting a comeback.

Who is vulnerable in this group? In my opinion, I’d pick June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, James Gordon. Mark MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein if he runs.

On paper it looks that Mayor Guthrie, so far unopposed, will have a comfortable majority in the next council.

As for me, I have the support of a seasoned campaign team, plus a platform that is extensive and is described in detail in the No Frills Action Plan to be published next week.

My inclination is to run but the task is great and there are serious mitigating facts to be considered.

Predicted surprises will occur before the close of nominations July 27 at 2 p.m.

In the meantime, pencil me in.

 

 

 

 

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Its time to clean up the Guthrie administration’s inherited train wreck

By Gerry Barker

July 9, 2018

In 2006, some 12 years ago, the Mayor elect, Karen Farbridge, campaigned on the slogan “She will put Guelph back on track.”

Well, eight years with Karen Farbridge and four years of Cam Guthrie, has created the train wreck that is the legacy of three election cycles being dominated by the successive council’s being stymied by the leftist majority In the case of the Guthrie administration the leftist majority driving up debt and escalating property taxes and user fees.

After monitoring and writing this for those 12 years it is not rocket science to know what has happened to successive administrations. Three councils all made promises they never kept. But the two Farbridge administrations set the the downward glide of excessive spending and mismanagement.

Remember the new downtown main library? A promise made by then Mayor Farbridger and not kept. Cam Guthrie made that same promise. We still have no new downtown library.

Remember the Urbacon disaster in which the Farbridge administration wasted more than $23 million to complete the new city hall complex that was originally contracted to cost $42 million?

It cost Farbridge and four of her councillors their jobs in 2014.

The doozy of bad deals occurred December 13, 2017 when by a 10-3 cote, council approved the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra utilities in which there was no payment by Alectra for the estimated $300 million Guelph Hydro distribution system.

That agreement is now before the Ontario Energy Board and some citizens have been approved to intervene when the hearing is held.

Turning to Mayor Cam Guthrie’s performance, his penchant to hold closed-session meetings of council led to the infamous secret increases to four senior managers in December 2010. The cost came to $98,202 with Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, receiving more than $37,000 most of it was a $27,000 retroactive performance bonus.

Pappert resigned four months later but stuck around until May 26, 2016 then left. The provincial 2016 Sunshine List revealed she was paid $263,000 for five months work.

Couple that with the seven months performed in 2016 by her successor, Derrick Thomson, and the cost of paying the two CAO’s in 2016 was $397,166 not including taxable benefits. In Mr. Thomson’s case, his taxable benefit was an additional $11,000.

This all happened under the leadership of Mayor Guthrie. Aside from the Finance department and members of council, 99 per cent of citizens would never know how much that December 10, 2015 closed-session would impact the citizens. That is until guelphspeaks.ca revealed it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, Council by an 8-5 vote approved increasing the Mayor’s salary from $122,000 to 152,000. The 12 city councillors were also given an addition $5,000 increase.

These increases were made to maintain the take-home pay of all councillors because the Federal government has cancelled the one-third portion of their income that used to be tax-free.

Now here’s what happened.

The Remuneration Advisory Committee, appointed by council, recommended that 12 councillors should receive the increases but not the Mayor. Four days after that decision was published, council awarded the Mayor the increase in order to retain his take-home pay.

Then the Mayor voted to increase his new salary and that of the councillors.

The question, was this a conflict of interest? Five councillors who voted against the motion seemed to think it was. These council salary approvals are always a difficult decision. I happen to advocate that all elected position salary should be greater in order to attract qualified candidates but reflect the increasing workload as the city grows rapidly..

In the case of the Mayor he should have recused himself.

It reflects the deep-seated disregard of that business that is troubling and must change.

I don’t disagree with the increases to elected officials, just the way it was handled that leads to public mistrust. Something that’s not a good idea in an election year.

I do not agree with the method of choosing salary and benefit increases by senior management. Those salary and benefits of senior managers should be determined by an outside body to avoid further conflicts of interest.

Final example. When Mr. Thomson was appointed CAO in June 2016, he said his contract was for three years at a salary of $230,000 plus a taxable benefit of $11,000.

The 2017 Sunshine list revealed his salary was more than $260,000.

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How living in Guelph has become a stagnant pool of political mediocrity

By Gerry Barker

July 3, 2018

There was a report published recently that the mayor was not receiving a raise next year. In fact, his take-home pay, thanks to a change in the Federal income tax regulations starting in 2019, that denied the one-third tax-free portion of his gross civic salary of $122,724.

The irony is that the 12 members of council will receive $40,000 next year, an increase of $4,497. Councillors were paid $35,503 these past four years.

Now the initial report in the local bi-weekly was based on the recommendation of the Remuneration Advisory Committee. Names of those on the committee were not revealed.

By an 8-5 vote last Monday, council bumped the mayor’s pay from $122,724 to $152,oo, a 23.4 per cent increase. This decision was based on maintaining his current salary, about to be fully taxed take home pay. The same went for the 12 councillors who will receive $40,000 to maintain their take home pay.

Voting for the motion were Councillors Billings, Gibson, Downer, Hofland, MacKinnon, Piper and Mayor Guthrie. Voting against the motion were Councillors Allt, Bell, Gordon, Salisbury, Wettstein. Coun. Van Hellemond was absent.

It only took four days from the published report for council to perform an Olympic style back flip to ignore the Remuneration Advisory Board’s recommendation to stay any increase for he mayor’s pay for 2019.

This reversal by council is not only stunning in sheer alacrity to perform but presents an interesting split of the councillors rarely seen. Further, why is the mayor voting on an increase that involves histhe next mayor’s salary in 2019?

Here’s what one commentator posted on the Guelph Today website:

Gruntfutak – 18 hours ago – if you owned a business would you increase salaries for every increase in taxes? I doubt it. The Mayor and Councillors have had many years of reduced taxes (33% tax free salary). Let them join the rest of us. This is a tax and will be paid by all income brackets – some of the new minimum wage now goes to the city Mayor and Councillors.

Gruntfutak – 2 days later – If the federal government changes tax rules for the majority of workers those workers have to suffer the reduced income. Just because councilors and mayors have had their tax-free amount changed city tax payers have to pay the increase!!! City taxation has been increased with little or no discussion with the voters.

Without knowing who sits on the advisory committee, common sense was never a virtue of this council.

You have to wonder how city council can act so quickly to over-rule its own advisory committee regarding the salary for 2019 of the office of mayor.

A study in dealing with city hall.

The width of driveways in the east end of the city is being challenged by a bylaw that has ignited the anger of most residents. The fine for an infraction of widening your driveway is up to $600.

Coun. Dam Gibson has been meeting constituents and has filed a notice of motion to review the driveway bylaw. Council will discuss it July 23. If council agrees to debate that motion, it will occur sometime in September.

Council can move like lightning to secure its salaries but a pressing problem by citizens is swallowed by arcane procedure controls.

This is one of the reasons that the structure of council must clearly reflect the interests of all the people.

Here’s why ‘structure’ is not just a nine-letter word

People elect the mayor across the city. Each councillor represents a small minority of citizens in each ward. A mayoralty campaign can cost more than $80,000. Two councillors are elected in each of the six wards and the average election cost for each candidate is usually under $4,000. All cost estimates are based on the 2014 financial statements filed by each candidate.

Now here’s how that works. The progressives run and help finance more than 12 candidates. Dredging from memory, in 2014, the progressives (under Mayor Farbridge) ran some 20 loyal supporters in the wards. Costing that at an average of $3,000 per candidate the progressive regime spent an estimated $60,000 to elect seven progressive loyalists. That equals $8,571, the cost to the progressive organization for each successful candidate and control of council for four years.

And that friends, is the main reason for our city becoming one of the highest taxed municipalities out of the 445 in Ontario. Think about controlling everything before council. All it cost was $15,000 per year.

That’s a cheap way to gain and own power on Guelph city council.

So the power on council lies in the hands of 12 councillors elected in the wards. The current council has seven members in control. The mayor only has one vote and must rely on support of at least six members. The present Mayor can only count on four centrist councillors. One councillor is a ‘floater’ who frequently supports the majority bloc of seven.

Until this system changes the city is being used as a piggy bank to fund a number of failed experiments, indulging the interests of the few at the expense of the many.

Too harsh?

Lets cite a few examples. Start with waste management that has cost Guelph millions. The citizens paid the $34 million cost of the compost plant. The benefit is almost zero as truckloads of other municipalities’ wet garbage are delivered regularly. And it does not yet make a profit nor can the citizens obtain any of the finished compost.

Simply, the facility’s capacity was too great to handle just Guelph’s wet compostable material. It was a pet project of the former mayor who envirmental ambition exceeded the pocket books of citizen who financed it.

Then we go to the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc., a flawed operation and still costing millions. The shareholder’s equity in this failed corporation is $60 million. Yet the former mayor was chair of GMHI and at least four of her councillors sat on the board. But the citizens were never told about the operations, the contribution of Guelph Hydro and the bills still to be paid for the Direct Energy operations.

And the biggie that has occurred under Mayor Guthrie’s watch is the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities. Council voted to give Guelph Hydro away for a pack of promises and a tiny 4.36 per cent share of just 60 per cent of Alectra Utilities profit. If the Ontario Energy Board approves this merger 55,000 Guelph Hydro ratepayers will have been ripped off by some $300 million.

Here comes the punch line

The year 2016 was the nadir of council’s responsibility.

There were four top executives that, in a secret closed-session meeting of council December 10, 2015, were awarded $98,202 in salary increases. They ranged from 14 per cent to 19 per cent. The citizens discovered none of this until March 31, 2016 when the numbers were published in the provincial Sunshine list.

Of the four, only Derrick Thomson remains as Chief Administrative Officer of Guelph. He was rehired after resigning in January, and returned in June 2016.

He declared that he would reveal his salary and the term of his employment that turned out to be three years. Mr. Thomson said he agreed to a salary of $230,000 in each of the three-year term.

Well the 2017 Sunshine list showed that Mr. Thomson was paid $267,378.That’s a 15.25 per cent increase. In addition he has a taxable benefit of $11,236, the highest in the entire city staff.

What’s wrong with this picture? The Mayor, elected by the people, will receive a $30,000 increase next year to maintain his current take home pay.

Mr. Thomson has an ironclad contract. Mr. Guthrie, if elected, has a riskier position having to run to obtain approval of the electorate.

Okay, here’s another example of the dogs running the pound. In 2014, Mr. Thomson was making $177,000. That represents a 48.5 per cent salary boost from October 2014 to December 2017.

Here’s another one.

When Mr. Thomson was named CAO he immediately appointed Colleen Clack as head of the newly named Public Services. She was earning $142,000 in 2014 as head of Tourism and Culture.

Her salary in 2017 as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer was $208,109. That was an increase of $66,109 or 96.5 per cent from 2014 to December 2017.

In both these cases there was an increase in job responsibility. Nevertheless, they are only two examples of non-disclosure of staff salaries except for the Sunshine list. It all happens because council approves it in closed sessions.

This has to change and is deeply embedded in the administration’s operational and political culture of the city.

Only the voters can change it next October by electing candidates who are political centrists and not obligated to any political party and understand their fiduciary responsibility to the people who elected them.

The final award

It’s doubly ironic that when it comes to granting increases to councillors and the Mayor, an outside “Remuneration Advisory Board” performs it.

There is no measurement of performance, no revelation of expenses, payments by outside boards and no financial data provided to the public.

Now take the senior managers’ method of selecting salary increases.

They prepare a recommendation that is presented to council in closed-session. There is no evidence of who voted for the increases, no explanation substantiating the increases, no breakdown of travel and other expenses or changes in the contracts including details of severance settlements.

In my opinion, in Guelph there are two major pillars that control the flow of public information:

* Successive councils have ruthlessly abused the publics’ Right to Know;

* Those same councils have colluded with staff, secretly suppressing important details of the public’s business. Thereby having the exclusive franchise to choose the Need to Know option to suit their agenda.

“What we don’t tell them, they won’t know or care.”

 

 

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