By Gerry Barker
July 29, 2918
Please Note: There is a lot of material in this lengthy piece. It is part of the long march of electors to voting day, October 22. Check out Guelph Tomorrow’s website opening in mid August for reliable updates and information.
This is composed of like-minded citizens who reject the policies of the past three councils that have conducted the people’s business chiefly behind closed doors. The city debt has never been higher. By taking development fees from other projects, public buildings have been financed outside the box of financial management. Millions have been lost on failed energy and environmental projects such as the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc’s failed projects.
The reserve funds have been depleted to a point that the administration will not reveal. In 2009, Coun. Leanne Piper was quoted that the city held $70 million in reserve funds. Would she care to update us on that one?
This occurred over the past 12 years because we the people let it happen. We elected ward councillors in the majority who collectively, were controlled by a mayor and professional staff. The former mayor who bragged that she was turning Guelph into a world-class leader in waste management and other environmental projects drove the agenda.
It’s time to elect and support individuals who are politically in the centre of the political spectrum. Guelph Tomorrow will assist those councillors running for the next four years to ensure that our municipal management must be conducted with transparency, with active accountability and open government.
This means shutting down the closed-session meetings of council that suppress public participation. It includes a quarterly summary of the financial status of city operations distributed through the Hydro mailing system.
Most important is to stop the annual property tax and user fees increases that are crippling the city and exceeding the inflation as set by the Consumer Price Index currently running at 2.5 per cent.
When was the last time you received a financial statement from the city?
For example, under the current Guthrie administration property taxes alone have increased by an estimated 17 per cent in four years.
To pay for all the mistakes, the Guthrie council approved giving away Guelph Hydro lock, poles, wires and most of the staff for a tiny dividend from the acquiring corporation.
It is a recipe for disaster, especially for lower income folks, those on fixed incomes and functioning below the poverty measurement.
In 12 years, the majority of a highly-organized political organization that operated below the public’s radar has shattered the public trust.
This group manipulated the agenda to promote their misguided and unreliable projects.
Let us count the legacy of political Action and its impact on the citizens.
Start with the Community Energy Innovation plan that was the mother ship of such leftist failed projects.
The Organic Waste Processing Facility cost $34 million and has yet to turn a profit. It imports wet garbage from Simcoe County and the Region of Waterloo, both of which are paying less per tonne than the basic operating costs.
Reason? The facility was overbuilt to the extent that its capacity was six times the needs of the City of Guelph. This is an example of a leftist dream that has resulted in the city having the highest waste collection and processing in the province.
The kicker? Don’t expect to get compost even though you paid for it
The $23 million over budget cost of the new City Hall complex took the end cost to $65 million. The settlement to the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group, was $8 million following judgment by a Superior Court judge.
The Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. built a district Energy scheme that included installing a geo-thermal piping system to supply hot and cold water to five nearby buildings. Coupled with other zany projects costing the citizens according to the KPMG audit some $60 million in shareholder equity.
The list of wasted funds is extensive. What it has accomplished is forcing Guelph taxpayers and citizens to pay for it. The result is the city has become one of their most expensive places to live in Ontario.
Guelph Tomorrow’s mission:
Transparency, Active Accountability and Open Government in all city operations.
The No Frills plan to reform and change our city to be less proactive and more reactive to measure and control management through the council and not the professional staff.
That’s why this election is so important.
Just recall the recent announcement that the city was entering a Public Private Plan to redevelop the Baker Street parking lot into a $350 million mixed-use project including a new downtown library of some 88,000 square feet.
Plans call for shovels in the groun in 2024 and occupation in 2028 barring any delays, heritage or environment problems. By just calculating the effect of inflation on the cost of the project over ten years is easily an estimated 30 per cent or more than $105 million.
Guelph Tomorrow is in favour of affordable development but not long-term schemes designed to ensure re-election of city councillors including the Mayor.
The attached No Frills reform package is necessary to halt spending on projects that bind future councils.
First, we have to clean up the mess and rebuild our city with fair taxes and fees we can all afford today but not tomorrow.
The No Frills Action Plan for the People by the People
Here is the Guelph Tomorrow No Frills Action Plan to return common sense and councillors’ fiduciary responsibility to the administration.
No Frills means hiring an Auditor General to supervise the internal auditors.
No Frills means the city auditor will complete a full audit of city finances before submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal h\Holdings Inc. and removing Guelph Hydro from GMHI returning it to the city as a separate department
No Frills means halting capital spending until the audit of the city finances is completed.
No Frills proposes a new senior management structure to change with a City Manager heading the staff with Directors in charge of major departments.
No Frills recommends that a reorganized administration will include an executive management team composed of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, City Manager, City Clerk, City Solicitor, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Public Services, Director of Environmental, Engineering and Planning. The City Manager acts as chair. Ex officio would include the Chief of Police, Fire Chief and Director of EMS.
No Frills recommends that the first responder departments, Police, Fire and EMS be amalgamated into the Public Safety Department. Chair would be rotated every two years between the three heads of divisions.
No Frills means stopping the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities.
No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. and removing Guelph Hydro from GMHI, returning it to the city as a separate department.
No Frills means Guelph Hydro board of three members will be elected for four years.
No Frills encourages public participation in all areas of the administration.
No Frills means that the status of finances in all reserve accounts and the purpose of each and be revealed to the people.
No Frills means evaluating all polices including NGO subsidies and donations.
No Frills recommends on the advice of the Executive Team to restore the committees of council with members receiving a stipend based on attendance.
No Frills means scrapping the protocol allowing closed-session meetings. Only those conditions for such a meeting are to be used according to the Ontario Municipal Act.
No Frills means a review of the purchasing and procurement system by the CFO and Internal Auditor filing their report to the Executive Team.
No Frills mean freezing all salary and benefits until the city audit is completed.
No Frills means ordering a staff rationalization review by an independent authority.
No Frills means reviewing all by laws by the City Solicitor and reporting finding to Council.
No Frills means investigating to change the University “B ed Tax” law in lieu of property taxes.
No Frills Communication Plan
No Frills means publishing a summary of the city’s financial status every three months including budget variances.
No Frills means freezing all communications, contracts and systems.
No Frills means the General Manager of Commications will conduct a weekly media news conference at City Hall.
No Frills means recognition of staffers for operational excellence as recommended by Department Directors.
No Frills means that any closed-session meeting conducted under the Ontario Municipal Act must be summarized by the Mayor or designate within 24 hours.
No Frills fixes of Property Taxes and User Fees
No Frills means freezing property taxes to 3 per cent for 2019 and 2020.
No Frills means immediate elimination of the 2 per cent property tax levy.
No Frills means eliminating the storm water levy on Hydro bills returning it to operational expenses.
No Frills means freezing all user fees pending a review by the CFO.
No Frills mean freezing all planning and development approvals pending a review by the Director of Environmental, Engineering and Planning.
No Frills steps to fix procedures, protocols, and governance issues
No Frills means dismissing the Integrity Commissioner.
No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal holdings Inc. andf removing Guelph Hydro from GMHI returning it to the city as a separate department
No Frills means dismissing the closed-session investigator Amberlea-Gravel of London. Replace with the Ontario Ombudsman’s services.
No Frills means review of the Council Code of Conduct.
No Frills means staff accountability at all levels.
No Frills means rewarding and encouraging staff performance and efficiency.
No Frills means courtesy and civility, at all levels of the administration, is required.
No Frills means that complaints by the public must be dealt with expeditiously.