By Gerry Barker
August 5, 2018
Contained in a new glossy addition labeled “Working Together” that can be found on the city’s website, we discover the omnipotent presence of the former mayor circa 2007 to 2014.
The following outlines some of the projects and policies of the former mayor. In fact there is a large presence on this new section of the city’s website. Today, we only address some of the topics of interest and concern of citizens in Guelph. There will be more coverage in the next few weeks, exclusively in guelphspeaks.ca.
So you thought when Karen Farbridge was defeated in 2014 the voters rejected her and her policies.
Nope. She’s still present and on the record according to the Guelph city website’s “Working Together” a new remake featuring the Guthrie years as Mayor
Any presumption in early 2015, that new Mayor, Cam Guthrie, would keep his word to end the so-called “Guelph Factor” and keep property tax increase no greater than to the Consumer Price Index. That flew out the window March 2015 when city council passed a property tax increase of 3.96 per cent. The CPI rate at the time was reported to be 1.99 per cent.
It was the beginning of an administration headed by a Mayor who is now described as Farbridge ‘Lite’, and with good reason.
In December 2015, the administration’s greatest test however fell upon the administrative professional staff. Four top city managers were granted, in closed session, huge increases totaling $98,202. Within four months, CAO Ann Pappert, Al Horsman and Derrick Thomson had resigned. Only Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Mark Amorosi remained.
The senior management was gutted and the city council struggled to maintain some form of leadership. CAO Pappert left May 26, 2016. Former senior manager Derrick Thomson resigned in January 2016 to take a job in his town of residence. He was recalled and took command of the professional staff in June 2016. Former Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman left in August 2015 for the CAO’s job in Sault Ste Marie.
The Sunshine List showed that Ms. Pappert received $263,000 for five months work and Mr. Horsman received $181,000 for his eight months tenure in 2015.
The lady remains a featured player in the Grand Royal City Opera
After reading the details on the city website, one would believe that former Mayor Karen Farbridge was still in charge. Even though she has been gone for almost four years, her imprint remains on the official city website. Yikes!
This can only be described as the current city councillors giving the middle finger salute to the people they work for and are responsible to.
The following is on the city’s website today:
“In November 2008, Mayor Karen Farbridge and Guelph City Council committed to the development of a new ten-year Economic Development and Tourism Strategy for Guelph — Prosperity 2020.
Prosperity 2020 will support the City of Guelph’s vision of being “the city that makes a difference”, and the strategic goal of having “a diverse and prosperous local economy.”
The Phase 2 Economic Development & Tourism Strategy will provide direction, priorities and performance measures for the transformation of Guelph’s economy over the next decade and beyond.
Here are the members of the Mayor’s Prosperity 2020 task force.
Karen Farbridge, Mayor, City of Guelph
Frank Valeriote, Member of Parliament, Guelph
Liz Sandals, Member of Provincial Parliament, Guelph
Dr. Alastair Summerlee, President, University of Guelph
Mark Goldberg, President, GlobalTox International Consultants Inc.
Mike Bouk, Executive Director, Ag-Energy Co-operative
Lloyd Longfield, President, Guelph Chamber of Commerce
Kevin Hall, Vice President (Research), University of Guelph
Dave Smardon, President/Director, BioEnterprise Corporation
Don Drone, Director of Education & CEO, Wellington Catholic District School Board
Kathy Bardswick, President & CEO, The Co-operators Group Limited
Michael Annable, Industry Representative.”
Let’s update the ten-year program titled “Prosperity 2020.”
What did the task force accomplish in those ten years? Also where are most of them now? Are we better off today?
Well, it’s what they didn’t accomplish is the real question. It’s fair game for citizens to question why this is still posted on the city website’s new feature presentation ‘Working Together.’
So let’s review how ‘Prosperity 2020’ has affected the quality of life in our city in the past ten years.
First, economic development means creating jobs, increasing industrial and business assessment and creating a balance of property tax revenue between residential, industrial and commercial expansion.
That has not changed in 12 years under two Farbridge and one Guthrie Administration. At a ratio of 84 per cent residential and only 16 for industrial and commercial assessment, it has not altered since 2001 when Karen Farbridge was first elected Mayor.
By any measure that does not mirror economic development. Instead, the load keeps falling on the shoulders of those property-taxed owners who have experienced huge increase in taxes on their properties.
The average assessment ratio in Ontario is 60 per cent residential and 40 per cent industrial and commercial.
Think about this: If the ratio increased from the present industrial/commercial figure of 16 per cent to 30 per cent, the effect would be less dependence on the residential assessment. But three administrations, in 18 years, failed to accomplish anything to correct the imbalance.
Just look at why the city administration failed to increase the economic development revenue ratio. The city website remains a mortuary of the Farbridge administrations that has cost we citizens millions.
Taking a trip down memory lane
* Remember the $23 million Urbacon cost overruns?
* The $15 million GMHI? District Energy and geo-thermal plants?
* Natural gas generating plants that were never built?
* Waste management debacles including buying trucks for auto pick-up of bins??
* Spending $5 million to buy two buildings on Wyndham Street to turn the space into enlarging the Baker Street parking lot?
* Overbuilt organic wet waste processing facility costing $34 million?
* The Detroit recyclable fiasco?
* Closing lanes on major roads to allow bicycle lanes?
* Intensification of residential complexes with little open space and parking?
* The lack of parking downtown?
* Failure to clean up the downtown possessed by druggies, drunkenness, panhandlers and the homeless?
* Failing to build affordable housing for the less fortunate working poor?
* The renovated railway bridge on Wyndham Street that had large trucks crashing into it.
And don’t forget the high increases annual taxes paid by the residential owner and user fees charged for city services. The city is so desperate for revenue that it inflicted a one per cent levy on property taxes allegedly to pay down the $500 million infrastructure deficit. Then Council approved an additional one per cent levy on properties for “City Buildings.”
Truth to tell it was a move to start funding the $63 million South-end Recreation Centre. The two counncillors sponsoring the motion were Mark MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein. Both represent Ward Six. Some $3.5 Million has already been spent on plans for the $63 million recreation centre in Ward Six.
Until citizens realize that their 2014 vote was wasted when the new mayor capitulated to the demands of the seven-member progressive bloc who are dedicated to preserving the Farbridge legacy.
Otherwise, what more proof do you want that if anything there is a ton of Farbridge’s ill-conceived and executed action plans that have left an indelible historical imprint on the history of our city.
This study of the Farbridge unabridged legacy is far from over, more to come.
Perhaps a website content purge is in order.