Category Archives: Between the Lines

Gerry Barker Between the Lines

Is the Dark State ruling Guelph?

By Gerry Barker

May 23, 2017

Yes, who is running our city? Why have there been so many closed session meetings of council? Whose reputation is being protected?  Why is the public’s right to know being consistently thwarted?

In a letter to the editor in the Toronto Star, Pat Biondi, takes umbrage over an editorial in the paper entitled: Long live the deep state in Washington – May 19.

Biondi’s opening paragraph set the stage for a blistering criticism saying, “I could not believe the Toronto Star, the self-proclaimed bastion of democracy, would stoop to such a level.”

At this point, I should reveal the headline of the letter: “Civil servants subvert the will of the people.” Such headlines are designed to capsulate the content of the letter but also to attract the reader.

It sure got my attention.

Biondi went on to say, “that in a democracy, it is the elected officials empowered by virtue of the ballot box. It is those same politicians who are held accountable for their actions the next time the electorate is asked to pass judgment on their performance while in office.”

That has a familiar ring about it when it is applied to Guelph governance. Looking back, the electorate in Guelph responded in October 2014 to defeat the mayor and two of her council supporters plus two others who chose not to run.

Biondi continues: “A deep state (i.e. civil servants) working in the shadows is the antithesis of what democracy is all about. The notion that a few unelected and unaccountable career civil servants can subvert the will of the people expressed in a free election is absurd and dangerous in the extreme.”

Starting to see what the letter writer is talking about as it’s applied to the unelected senior management of the City of Guelph in the past 10 years?

It’s no secret there has been an inordinate amount of turmoil in the past two years not only among the senior staff but also with the hardworking rank and file who carry out their orders. Look no further than the lawsuit by a fired 30-year veteran of the city Building Department, Bruce Poole, who performed as Chief Building Inspector for the past 20 years.

Mr. Poole sued for $1 million for wrongful dismissal by former Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert.

Follow a mysterious dump of some 53,000 emails sent to Poole’s lawyer containing hundreds of confidential and personal information, the case was promptly settled by the city. It was a legacy left by the former top civil servant for the citizens to pay.

Here is another statement by Biondi. “ When a society is governed by a deep state, democracy crumbles and anarchy ensues.”

Isn’t this the accurate description of how Guelph has been controlled by a two-term autocratic mayor and equally pervasive senior civil servants? They were really running the city with the support of a council that rolled over in their sworn responsibilities to the public.

The examples of that eight-year domination of Guelph governance have been well documented. Millions were wasted on social engineering projects under the guise of world leadership. This included making the city into a world-class leader in the environment, reduction of greenhouse gases, and restriction of vehicular traffic routes to accommodate bicycle lanes and waste management.

What really occurred in that time period, was increased property taxes by a compounded 36.7 per cent; the cost of basic civic services such as electricity and water soared; waste management’s so-called innovation racked up millions in operations and capital and it mostly occurred in secret sessions of council.

Autocratic senior managers and members of council, almost all who have left the city, for a variety of reasons, have left a legacy of alleged corruption and financial mismanagement. Yet, the disastrous policies of the previous administration continue to be supported by the majority of the current council.

Any evidence of city council working together to solve the tattered legacy of the previous administration has not happened in three years. The majority of council is known as the Bloc of Seven as they frequently vote as a bloc thereby dominating the 13-member council.

Regardless, some pluses have occurred, including revelation of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMH. This wholly owned subsidiary of the city is the most costly failure by the previous administration. Chaired by the mayor, this functioned under the Community Energy Initiative, with former CAO Pappert as Chief Executive Officer of GMHI for four years.

Losses to date are $26.6 million plus a $60 million impaired loan from Guelph Hydro that has no collateral in GMHI to even pay the interest. That loan now sits on the city books as a declining asset.

Are you starting get the picture? In my opinion, this is why there is a concerted effort to sell Guelph Hydro, wholly owned by the city, to cover up the huge liability of GMHI.

Ms. Pappert left the city in May 2016, following publication of the provincial Sunshine List in March 2016 of those earning more than $100,000. It reported that she had received an annual salary of $237, 501. This was received even though she only worked five months in 2016. Her increase, along with three other senior managers, was approved in a closed-session meeting of council December 10, 2015. The public was made aware of the $98,202 awarded to four top managers in March when the Sunshine list revealed the increases.

In view of this, why does the mayor continue to endorse Ann Pappert who is seeking a new job? Mr. Guthrie is mentioned twice endorsing Ms. Pappert in her lengthy new profile posted on LinkedIn

It’s all part of the culture of entitlement that pervades the senior management of our city from civil servants to elected councillors. Both share responsibility with one glaring exception: Every four years, councillors must face their constituents and explain their performance. Meanwhile, the hired staff is free to carry on as if there was no election.

A clear example was the reorganization of the top senior staff in November 2014. CAO Ann Pappert conducted the reorganization during the lame-duck period between the changes of administrations. Mr. Guthrie took over December 1, 2014. The new council never had the opportunity to approve the new management arrangement because it was not in charge at the time.

It only took 13 months for the top four managers to receive hefty increases and the public was never informed until March 2016.

I realize that some GS readers are critical of the constant reporting of this event.

It states truth to power and the perpetrators got away with it and now only one is left, CAO Derrick Thomson.

Judge for yourself; is this a responsible and honourable way to run our city of 131,000?

Only if a resolute, informed and politically centrist group of councillors are elected in 2018, can necessary true reform and change occur.

 

I would be interested in hearing from readers about their feelings, good, bad or indifferent. Send your comments to guelphspeaks.ca or email gerrybarker76@gmail.com. Your identity will be protected if requested. Thank you.

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The high cost of departed senior City of Guelph managers

By Gerry Barker

May 18, 2017

We learned this week that former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ann Pappert is looking for a job according to an extensive online Linkedin profile. Ms. Pappert left the city last May 26 for a new position as Assistant Deputy Minister in the Tourism, Culture and Sport Ministry.

That position lasted from October 2016 to February 2017. For whatever reason, she left prior to expiry of her six months probation. The 2016 Ontario Sunshine List shows Ms. Pappert received $263,757 from the city of Guelph although she only worked barely five months. The question is: What were the other benefits to which she could have been entitled? What were the terms of her contract? Such benefits could include pension, car allowance, unused vacation and/or sick time, travel expenses and insurance.

We do know that part of her package awarded in December 10, 2016, during a closed session by council, was reimbursement of unused vacation time, and a $28,000 retroactive performance bonus. Much has been written about that closed session but there has been no official acknowledgement or explanation why Ms. Pappert, Al Horseman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi were given such high increases.

The kicker is not one person in the entire Guelph administration said a word about those increases until the Sunshine List was published in March 2016.

The revelation ignited a wave of the four senior manager’s departures. Pappert left in May, Thomson resigned shortly after the Sunshine list announcement to take a job with the Town of Caledon, Al Horsman left in August 2015, and Mark Amorosi left the city last February.

These four executives were handsomely rewarded by a gob-struck city council, in secret, not having the guts to tell the people who pay the bills. To this day the minutes of that closed session are locked up. I know, I tried to get them released. Turns out the special “Closed Session Investigator,” a city paid consultant from London took four months to even reply to my request. Their opinion is that the city acted according to the rules of the Ontario Municipal Act.

The thing that citizen’s should take away from all this behind closed-door handling of the public’s business is that our Mayor, Cam Guthrie, went along with it.

Today only Mr. Thomson remains the last of four top senior managers who, after resigning, was hired last June to take over the CAO’s job. Why wouldn’t he? His first year on the job will earn him $245,000 including a $9,900 car allowance. To his credit he went public with his salary.

There were some astonishing inclusions and exclusions.

According to the 2016 Provincial Sunshine list, former CAO, Ann Pappert, was paid $263,757.32 in 2016. Now you would assume that was for the year but Ms. Pappert left the city May 26, 2016, Seems like a lot of money for less than five months work. Why did she earn a $28,000 performance bonus? People earning performance bonuses don’t plan to leave, so why did she leave Guelph?

Checking the 2015 Provincial Sunshine list it showed Ms. Pappert was paid $226,060.96.

The only possible conclusion was that Ann Pappert was paid $489,818.26 for 17 months work as CAO, from January 1, 2015 to May 26, 2016. That works out to a monthly salary of $28,812.

At those rates, why did she resign when the Sunshine List revealed her increase onMarch 2016?

So while her provincial government job did not pan out there are still many unanswered questions about that December 10, 2015 closed council meeting. A total of $98,202 salary increases was awarded to Ms. Pappert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer’s (DCAO) Al Horsman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi.

But there is more:

Former Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, left the city in August 2015. Today his name shows up receiving $188,999 in the Sunshine 2015 report, the equivalent of a full year on the job. Not bad for eight months work … in 2015. The question is, why did Horsman leave? He was deposed as CFO in the November 2014 reorganization of the senior management and switched to the Waste Management, Environmental Services and Engineering portfolio.

Former CAO Ann Pappert supervised that reorganization, following the 2014 civic election.

Horsman discovered the debacle of the deal made with the Rizzo brothers of Detroit to recycle material shipped from the motor city. The deal fell apart and was reported to have cost Guelph some $2.5 million. In December 2015, Solid Waste General Manager Dean Wyman, who was involved in the Detroit deal, left for a similar job in Edmonton.

DCAO Scott Stewart is now engaged in a rationalization procedure to discover and fix why the Waste management operating costs are losing $270.000 a year.

With Horsman gone, it left just three Senior managers, CAO Ann Pappert, DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson.

The revelation of the large increase awarded by council to the remaining three top managers in March 2016, triggered the resignation of Mr. Thomson who said he was taking a job with the Town of Caledon. In April, Ms. Pappert announced she was resigning. But Mr. Thmson came back.

Along with her duties as CAO, Ms. Pappert was also Chief Executive Officer CEO) of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI), for four years. As CEO she signed off, along with her successor at GMHI, Pankaj Sardana. They jointly presented the report to council, acting as shareholders, May 16, 2016. It revealed that the city-owned GMHI was broke and had lost $26.6 million. Ten days later she left her job.

The unfolding story of GMHI leaves many questions to be answered.

Was Ann Pappert paid two salaries for her two senior responsibilities as CAO of Guelph and CEO of GMHI?

Why did two Councillors, June Hofland and Karl Wetstein, both appointed to the GMHI board, not report to council about operations? The chair, former Mayor Farbridge, appointed them. Did they not realize that appointment carried specific fiduciary responsibilities to the public?

What was the role of Guelph Hydro in the Community Energy Initiative program?

How much did Guelph Hydro invest in GMHI in four years?

Why did Guelph Hydro loan GMHI $65 million without any collateral or expectation of repayment?

How can GMHI give the city $9 million over four years in dividends and lose $26.6 million in the same period?

Were the GMHI financial books audited, if so by whom and when?

What was the impact of Guelph Hydro bills to residents during the five year period, 2011 to 2015?

Will the city reveal the total wind-up costs of GMHI and when?

How do GMHI’s financial costs and losses impact the sale of Guelph Hydro?

Is the potential Guelph Hydro sale to pay off these GMHI losses and clear the city books of the debt?

This is the result of misuse of political power and mismanagement of city resources.

The closed session meetings, regardless of what the staff says, are nothing short of secret manipulation of events and decisions. Much of it is political because the city has been held hostage for the past ten years by the political left, supported by the powerful labour movement.

If the majority of citizens don’t complain and demand answers from their elected representatives, then nothing will change. Property taxes will continue to grow exponentially annually. The same will happen with user fees.

The fall-out is that we allowed a CAO to leave this city after receiving more than a million dollars after just over five years on the job.

We can only blame ourselves for allowing it to happen.

Our only chance for electing responsible and experienced councillors next year, to clean up the financial mess the city is in to reduce the operating overhead, restore the reserves and demand performance of the professional staff.

 

 

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When it comes to managing city finances we are sheep without a shepherd

By Gerry Barker

May 15, 2017

Having lived in Guelph for 14 years, I cannot understand how a city of 131,000 people has not had an independent Chief Financial Officer for 30 months. Here’s the scorecard since the able David Kennedy was dismissed in 2007: There have been seven individuals acting as CFO in the past ten years.

The seventh is Tara Baker, a senior analyst in the Finance Department who is coming off maternity leave to take the reins over from James Krauter, the current acting General Manager of Finance.

In that 30-month period, the city lost key senior management personnel. That’s about how long it took the secret Manhattan project to detonate the world’s first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert in 1945.

Here is a partial list of the departed:

Operations Chief Derek McCaughan;

Chief of environmental services and engineering, Janet Laird;

Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman;

Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert;

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi;

City Solicitor, Donna Jaques;

General Manager of Solid Waste, Dean Wyman;

General Manager and Treasurer, Janice Sheehy;

General Manager and Treasurer, Katrina Power;

Deputy City Engineer, Don Kudo;

Fire Chief, Shawn Armstrong.

Operating the city efficiently and responsibly, these 11 senior employees represented various city departments. Nevertheless, it remains an abdication by the council failing to maintain a senior management staff.

So, what happened? What were the reasons for some to leave that were earning top rated salaries, some exceeding $200,000 per year? Who would walk away from a job like that with security, great benefits and working conditions?

It is easy to assume that the majority of elected members of the administration, commonly known as the Bloc of Seven, were responsible for the dissatisfied defections.

Or, was it influenced by the defeat of former Mayor Karen Farbridge in October 2014?

When it comes to finger pointing, the underlying reason is too much city business is conducted behind closed doors.

The discovery of what’s going wrong lies with a few reporters and bloggers who try to pry back the lid of cover-ups, to report what is going on in the management of our city. I can assure you, it is not easy and I have the experience to know the high cost of defending details of secret meetings and information that I discovered.

Wanted: A new shepherd to run our finances

That’s because the elected majority of council believe we are sheep to be sheared every year to pay for the past mismanagement of our business and its cost to citizens. There are many citizens who try to stand up to the administration. At this time, there is no underlying civic activist umbrella organization to support and work to change the policies of a cadre of city managers and councillors. The politicization of some senior staff is perpetuating policies of a former administration that was responsible for wasting millions.

That’s why we need an independent, experienced Chief Financial Officer to put on the brakes of spending and reform financial management.

Sometimes GS is criticized for being negative and beating the same drum repeatedly.

But I’m a taxpayer and have to right to comment and criticize. The law in Ontario is very clear that authorities cannot suppress public participation in public business by taking legal action against any citizen to stop their right to speak up.

Guelph City Council took another step in late 2015 to suppress resident’s critical commentary and objections to political action by passing the Indemnification Bylaw 19995. It guarantees reimbursement of any legal costs as a result of a citizen taking legal action against any member of the administration including elected officials.

Summarizing this action: If you initiate legal action against anyone in the administration, that individual has his/her legal expenses paid by … you, the complainant! Last February, CAO Derrick Thomson stated that this bylaw covers all former employees who are involved in a legal procedure with a citizen or corporation.

The only case I can recall was Bruce Poole’s million-dollar suit against the city for wrongful dismissal. It was settled quickly following the accidental release of 53,000 emails by the city to Poole’s lawyer that had little to do with the lawsuit.

Is the city paying Mr. Poole’s legal expenses? After all, he was a former employee and presumably entitled.

Killing online voting for the wrong reasons

But it gets better. Recently city council voted against allowing online voting in the 2018 election. Only six members voted to allow online voting, Mayor Cam Guthrie, Councillors Christine Billings, Cathy Downer, Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond and Mark MacKinnon. The motion was defeated despite the pleas by citizens to allow it so that the elderly, informed and disabled citizens could vote.

This is another suppression of the rights for all citizens to participate and vote in civic elections. The City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien, informed council that online voting was used in the 2014 civic election advance poll. More than 12 600 votes were cast and no reports of voter fraud or problems. There are some 90 Ontario municipalities using online voting.

Now do you see us as sheep being herded around without recourse or little ability to express ourselves?

I for one refuse to believe I am a sheep to be shorn by hypocrisy, lies and ineptitude. I have paid a price for my opinions and reporting of facts. Remember, we sheep changed the city administration big time in the 2014 civic election. The regressives were shocked and, in my opinion, are seeking revenge.

It’s time to put the flock back together again and defeat the Bloc of Seven regressive councillors in their own bailiwick, and take back our city.

Baaaa, Baaaa, Baaaa

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What happened to those dedicated reserve funds totaling $77,782,000 in 2011?

By Gerry Barker

May 11, 2017

It’s the stuff that happened six years ago that we soon forget. What stuff? Let’s start with the annual 2011 financial sitrep (situation report).

A check of the GS archives produced a column reporting the December 31 city financial data. It included a status of the city’s reserve, all 97 dedicated cash resources that totaled $77,782,000. Stating in the now defunct Mercury, Coun. Leanne Piper chided those naysayers who opposed the budget. She went on to say, nothing to worry about here because the city had $83 million in reserves. Yep! Nothing to worry about here.

This cavalier attitude was reported in the Mercury by former city hall beat reporter Scott Tracey. He said there was nothing new about using reserve funds to reduce the impact of property taxes on the budget. Okay, which of the 97 reserve funds was to be tapped to reduce property taxes?

Well, it turned out the tax stabilization reserve fund only had $1,383,000 in December 2011. That is a drop in the bucket to stabilize a budget in which the city had a major $2,571,000 negative budget variance in 2011. Five budgets later, in 2015, the negative budget shortfall was $1,143,123. In that five year period there was only 2014, election year, where the city declared a surplus of $1,O85,153. You will recall that year was the first in which the property tax rate was, for the first time, below 3 per cent.

Regardless, that was the years Mayor Karen Farbridge was defeated by Coun. Cam Guthrie.

In 2011, the accounting firm, auditing the city’s finances, stated that it was “a poor way to run the corporation.” It went on to say that using dedicated reserve funds to balance a budget is like borrowing an your credit card at 22 per cent. The effect is the same.

Sadly, nothing has changed except that there are only 26 reserve funds today with an estimated value of $11,000,000. In just a little over six years, the destruction and mismanagement of the city’s finances has cost millions of the public money. Those who are accountable are gone and there is no recourse available to the public.

As Chief Financial Officer, Derrick Thomson, put it, any attempt to commence a legal action against city employees or elected officials, akkdefendants’ legal expenses will be paid by the city. This indemnification bylaw also extends to former employees or elected officials.

This bylaw is nothing short of suppression of the rights of the public to take appropriate legal action against some 2,100 city officials from top to bottom.

The 2018 campaign has already started

Turning to an important aspect of how the Bloc of Seven is working hard to ensure their re-election next year.

The local weekly covered a meeting of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition (GNSC). The Guelph Civic League (GCL) organization founded 10 Carden Street, a community activist group. GCL supported former Mayor Karen Farbridge and a number of like-minded councillors in 2006. One of GCL founders is Coun. James Gordon.

GNSC is based in offices at 10 Carden Street across from city hall. Meanwhile, 10 Carden Street applied for a Trillium Foundation grant to operate a civic support group to promote greater participation in public affairs and elections. A few years ago the group received a $135,000 grant to promote greater public participation.

That was then. A couple of weeks ago, the majority of council voted not to allow online voting in the 2018 civic election. It does seem strange and awkward for the GNSC, a second cousin to 10 Carden Street, to be linked to the online voting ban. It further exposes the real purposes of 10 Carden Street and the GNSC. It is cloaked in the murky business of political action.

One would agree that the newspaper article pointed out some details of the work the Coalition does, providing food to children and the less fortunate. It appears it has grown sufficiently to build an activist organization consisting of 13 neighbourhood membership groups available to participate in the 2018 election.

There is little we know of the officers of GNS. What is its status as an organization, budget, staff, finances or mission statement. Besides the city and United Way are funding GNSC Carden along with unnamed grants. That does not exempt it from its links to the left’s political action group, the Guelph Civic League, which seems to resurrect itself prior to every election since 2006.

Bottom Line? There is no way this city can survive another four years maintaining the policies of the previous administrations. They willfully spent millions on self- serving, narrow gauged projects that often failed.

The time has come to stop the hardcore, ideological activists who have controlled our city for too long. This election has already started.

There will be more on this later.

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Student tells Mayor how his family had to move because of Guelph’s high taxes

By Gerry Barker

May 8, 2017

This student told the Mayor that his family was forced to move to Fergus because Guelph taxes and fees exceeded their ability to pay. For his part, Mayor Guthrie was sympathetic and wondered if his own children would be able to afford their own homes in Guelph.

It comes as no surprise that after ten years, three successive administrations have painted property owners into a corner with average annual tax increases of 3.5 per cent.

Starting this year, property owners will be facing a two per cent special levy to pay for infrastructure and a slush fund called “City Buildings.” Toss in the growth of compulsory user fees such as electricity, water, storm water, public transit, waste removal, and parking. Adding those essentials the cost of owning property and living in the Royal City is making it tough on pensioners, lower income folks, and young families just starting up.

Another factor influencing the rising cost of housing in the city is exacerbated by the demand of people escaping the soaring costs of housing in the GTA. Our problem is years of financial mismanagement resulting in the loss of millions, has added to our corporate debt, the reduction of reserves and an operational overhead that is 50 per cent greater than either Kitchener or Cambridge.

The city has received all kinds of advice from consultants and citizens to reduce spending and overhead. According to the latest Statistics Canada census, the population of Guelph increased by 9,000 in the past five years. That’s about 7.5 per cent or 1.5 per cent increase per year.

The mayor claims that the city is forced by the provincial “Places to Grow” demands for higher density residential development. Guelph’s PTG target is a population of 175,000 by 2031. That’s an arbitrary target of population increase of 45,000 that must be met within 14 years.

Whoa! Increasing our population by 9,000 in five years and maintaining that rate, the city will miss the target in 2031 by 20,000 new residents.

The frantic efforts of the two Farbridge terms in office has accelerated the number of homes by greater use of land, building complexes of low-rise condo buildings mixed in with strip housing. Very few single-family homes in comparison have been built in Guelph since 2007.

So, after ten years of almost killing single-family home construction, forcing builders to seek more friendly communities to develop housing, this great social engineering mission has failed its purpose. Purpose? To cram people into areas without front or back yards in most cases only benefits the builders and boosts assessment revenues to the city.

The City of Guelph has oodles of land, most of it owned by the University of Guelph, to develop properties that are calm, open and beautiful residences. These are the real places to grow. Such development gives character and convenience to those folks who don’t want to live in the crammed ghettos, the hallmark of an administration that fails to understand the need for personal space as a part of living.

The high-density developments in the south end between Victoria and Gordon, on Eastview orchestrated by the administrations has created a new kind of sprawl in which traffic increases, access is limited for emergency and city service vehicles.

Now that we put two and two together, the Farbridge plan was to plan a new city on the reformatory lands owned by the province. It is now revealed that city staff was used to plan the new city where vehicles would be banned except for deliveries, businesses would locate allowing workers to walk or ride their bikes to work, shop or play tennis.

This was the plan to meet the provincial Places to Go population targets.

Just last February the administration announced that it was pursuing ownership of the lands. The cash-strapped provincial government was not prepared to give the property away to the city and it was listed for sale.

But wait! Plan B called for attracting developers to participate buying the lands, because the city does not have the capital to do so. Here we are with a land use plan and detailed construction of mixed housing, commercial and industrial development.

There has been a lot of public money spent already on this project laying out detailed plans for development. Trouble is the city doesn’t own the lands that contain the former reformatory complex and potential available land for development at about 55 per cent.

Why is the administration even considering this? Now we know why. They need the property to meet the PTG target and control the design and elements of the lands.

I don’t know about you but combining the capital that has been misspent, blown on failed projects and draining the reserves, this social engineering project should be stopped. Stopped that is, until the city finances have been restored to be able to afford such enterprise.

The prices of housing will taper off but Guelph housing is already too costly for the average person.  The question is will the high-density residences hold their value?

We need development that serves the people and is broad in terms of variety, location and choice.

Today we don’t have that choice.

 

P.S. Today is my wife’s birthday, Barbara is the eternal goddess who has brought joy and all that other good stuff to our union. Happy 39th, honey.

 

 

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Here are the poster councillors who bugged out on online voting in 2018

By Gerry Barker

April 27, 2017

Last Monday night, by a slim one-vote majority. Council voted to not use online voting for the 2018 civic election. The seven rejecting online voting include: James Gordon, Phil Allt, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, Karl Wettstein and Leanne Piper and, surprise Bob Bell.

I’ve always has respect for the W1 councillor but this decision is doubly baffling.

His comment that: “The only valid argument for online voting that I have heard is the issue of accessibility for those that need it,” Coun. Bob Bell said. “For me, what’s important is that we protect the integrity of the process.”

Bob, did you have your hearing aids in? Did you not vote for online voting as a member of the Farbridge administration? Were you not re-elected in 2014? Were you not the beneficiary of online voting in that election? Or, maybe you didn’t know but check the 2014 advance poll results to see how many voted for you online.

Did you think at that time that online voting was an insecure method of casting a ballot?

In the straw vote conducted in the Committee of the Whole you voted to disallow online voting two weeks ago. This was before you heard the compelling arguments from Aleksander Essex, a professor from the University of Western Ontario. Does he live in Guelph? Is he familiar with the more than 97 Ontario municipalities who use online voting, including the City of Toronto and Ottawa?

The professor said: “We are in unchartered territory here. He continued: “There are insufficient advances in the technology to implement it (online voting) at this time.”

Gee, where was the professor three years ago to speculate on the lack of technology that was used by the city in 2014?

Did the Farbridge administration request an opinion from the professor in 2013 when online voting was being considered?

Were the two experts paid to make their presentations to council? If so, who paid for their attendance?

Former city councilor Maggie Laidlaw said council was “naive” when it gave the go-ahead to advanced online voting for the 2014 municipal election. Well that did not help her to be re-elected.

Naivety has nothing to do with it, fair and square the outcome was validated and Maggie, the Mayor and Todd Dennis were defeated. Two others did not run.

This is all about poitical risk management by denying people to register their opinions in a 21st century manner.

So here is what has to happen in 2018.

The citizens have to collectively register their opinions to reform our civic economy, already destroyed by secret spending of millions of public money.

The progressive candidates, no. read that regressive, need to be defeated. Let’s finish the job in 2018.

If I were Coun. Bob Bell, I would retire or he faces going to be hit with putting alleged online voting security ahead of those who are disabled and unable to vote.

That sounds like a losing platform.

This decision reeks of defensive political action to prevent election defeats that occurred in 2014 when the former mayor lost by more than 5,000 votes. It is facetious to blame online voting for the defeat. Just do the math. The total votes cast on Election Day was 45,000, more than half, 54 per cent went to Cam Guthrie. The overall breakdown result is self-evident. Guthrie won both the advanced poll and the Election Day vote, hands down.

Since 2014, the regressives tried to block the volunteer citizen’s group, GrassRoots Guelph, with a Susan Watson complaint that GRG could not donate money to a candidate. The Independent audit proved otherwise and her frivolous complaint cost the city $11,000 to process.

Then as chorus of the Fair Vote Canada Guelph chapter, MS Watson ‘s group expected to have the city reform the entire civic voting system by agreeing to allow proportional voting. That was turned down.

Now Ms. Watson and her dellow regressives have successfully stopped online voting in the city for 2018.

The grip that the regressives have on this council must end. We need responsible citizens to step forward and organize a reform movement to clean up the financial mess remaining three years after the former mayor has gone.

All you have to do is take a hard look at your property tax bills for the past three years and the user fees charged to use city facilities, to decide to help change the administration once and for all.

There is not a better time to start than now.

If you agree, send me your name and email to join our growing protest of this attempt to stifle our right to vote and participate in our civic affairs.

Contact: gerrybarker76@gmail.com.

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Just when you believed the influence of Karen Farbridge was over, read this

By Gerry Barker

April 24, 2017

How the worm turns.

Tonight is our last chance to support online voting next year

Before the 2014 civic election, council voted to allow online voting. This was a forward-looking approach to allow more voters to cast their ballot just like they did in Toronto and Ottawa. In fact, some 13,000 did use the system. There was no voter fraud, very few hitches; it exceeded all expectation by being available, fair and without problems.

Oh, there were naysayers. Today the majority of naysayers are all sitting on council with the majority voting to ban it. For some it is a classic flip-flop.

In a recent city council Committee of the Whole meeting, a non-binding vote was held to approve allowing online voting in the 2018 civic election. To the surprise of most people the following councillors voted to disallow online voting for the 2018 civic election.

Councillors opposed included Phil Allt, James Gordon, and Mike Salisbury, who were not members of the 2014 council that voted for online voting. So what’s their beef?

Then the following councillors who did vote for online voting in 2014, June Hofland, Leanne Piper, Karl Wettstein are now voting against online voting. Why? Other than adhering to a misguided ideological rationale, why the flip-flop? It seems silly in that all three benefited from online voting in their 2014 re-election.

How Coun. Bob Bell voted no to online voting this time is both baffling and not known how he voted when the former council approved online voting. He also benefited from it, winning re-election in 2014.

Coun. Cathy Downer was the only member of the progressive majority who voted to allow online voting next year. Coun. Mark MacKinnon also voted to allow the online voting system.

The future of online voting is now

Tonight, April 24, council will vote to allow online voting, or not. This is necessary because the original vote was conducted when the council was in the committee of the whole. I know, procedural bylaws can be confusing but tonight is the night for the final decision.

It will take two defections from the “no” side to let it proceed. Of course the risk the “no” faction faces is diminished chances of re-election next year.

So what influenced new councillors Gordon, Allt and Salisbury to vote against it?

Was it the influence of that ardent socialist Susan Watson who urged council to reject online voting? You remember Ms. Watson who, between she and her husband, donated thousands to elect former Mayor Farbridge and loyal supporters.

She will also be remembered as the social activist who persuaded the city to order an independent audit of former candidate Glen Tolhurst’s election financial report. It showed a donation of $400 from GrassRoots Guelph, an incorporated citizen’s activist group.

The auditor, William Molson of Toronto, said the donation was legal, however the $11,000 cost of this “frivolous and vexatious” exercise was not paid by Watson but by the citizens.

But you have to hand it to Watson. I so hope she decides to run for council. She is chairperson of the Fair Vote movement in Guelph. This is a New Democratic Party national organization to encourage voting reforms. They include proportional voting to replace the system of the first candidate past the post, winning the election. It’s system that has been in place since 1867.

The Trudeau Liberal government ran on reforming the Canadian voting system, recently walked away from it, much to the rage of the New Democrats.

So, now Ms. Watson is trying to convince council to suppress voting by not allowing online voting.

Words escape me to describe this two-faced attempt to force restrictive policies on the electorate by forcing reform of the voting system and at the same time, disallowing online voting.

The Farbridge legacy lives on

What it really illustrates is the collusion and conviction of the majority group of city council to carry on the leftists’ policies of the defunct Farbridge administration. It was one of failure not only at the polls, but resulted in millions being spent on the Mayor’s personal agenda to impose unwanted social and environmental projects.

In her eight years in office, the former mayor inveigled her supporters to tap into reserves to balance the city accounts due to excessive overspending of budgets. The assets of Guelph Hydro and wasting public funds on giveaways to developers to encourage high-density development were part of the Farbridge agenda to turn the city into a vibrant place for all citizens. How did that work for you?

It was the Farbridge plan to turn the city into an exciting urban downtown without the input6 from asking the residents. Earlier this year the Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson, announced the city was pursuing the Reformatory lands, owned by the province, to build a modern high-density complete community. The plans were to develop a community without cars, walking distance to shopping and jobs. Trouble is the city has spent millions planning an urban design for those lands but doesn’t have the money to buy the property.

You know, I keep thinking of Kevin Coster in the movie “A Field of Dreams” who believed converting a cornfield into a baseball stadium: “If you build it, they will come.” Trouble is, we don’t have a Shoeless Joe Jackson to seal the deal.

The real issue is where did the money go when the former mayor ran Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. GMHI for four years?

How does this affect online voting or visa-versa?

In 2010, shortly following the civic election, the Mayor informed council she was setting up GMHI to manage city assets. This was to be an independent, incorporated body operating separately from the city, although owned by the city. Here’s the organizational set up for GMHI as reported in a news release:

“GMHI is a holding company set up by Guelph City Council to manage select City of Guelph assets, which currently includes Guelph Hydro Incorporated and its subsidiaries, for the purpose of maximizing revenue potential and strengthening community prosperity. GMHI is governed by an eight-member Board of Directors including the Mayor as Chairperson, four City Councillors, the Guelph Hydro Incorporated Chair and two independent community members.”

The Board appointed Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert, as Chief Executive Officer of GMHI. Operations started in 2011. From the start, GMHI was the corporate vehicle to continue the mayor’s Community Energy Initiatives. In July 2013, GMHI filed an annual report as follows:

“Guelph, ON, July 10, 2013 – Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) held its second Annual General Meeting today to update shareholders on its 2012 accomplishments and 2013 future directions.

“A top priority for 2013 is addressing a recent Ontario Distribution Sector Review Panel recommendation that a number of local energy distributors, including Guelph Hydro, be consolidated into larger regional distributors. Given the possibility that this situation could be provincially mandated or driven by the regulator, the Ontario Energy Board, GMHI has endorsed a Guelph Hydro staff investigation of solutions that may include sharing services and resources, or more formal mergers and acquisitions. “Consolidation is a distinct possibility regardless of how it is achieved. We will continue to be well prepared to respond to all opportunities for lower energy costs for customers, improved efficiencies, better access to technology and sustainable solutions.” (Signed) Karen Farbridge, Chair of GMHI.

“An additional priority for GMHI this year is to pursue a new energy project designed to create a thermal (heating and cooling) distribution network – often referred to as District Energy – that will allow for flexible, efficient, competitive and secure local supply and delivery of thermal energy to Guelph in the future. About half of Guelph’s total energy demand is for thermal energy. The District Energy project represents a significant opportunity to ensure a reliable local supply a midst economic uncertainty and increasing climate change concerns.”

Part of those unfulfilled grandiose plans by GMHIL was to build two large natural gas generating plants, one in the Hanlon Business Park and the other on city owned land. These units were to make Guelph self-sufficient producing its own electricity.

The fallout of these schemes was loses of $26.6 million and being stuck with an impaired investment of some $69 million, borrowed from Guelph Hydro, as of 2015 in which GMHI has no revenues to even pay the interest. It’s held on the city books as an asset but that will be written down over time. The  reason is that GMHI has no income to even pay the interest on the loan.

Are you beginning to see the corporate anxiety to sell Guelph Hydro?

As a shareholder in the City of Guelph Corporation, I now understand why the GMHI annual report failed to contain the following important details that were in the public interest and ignored.

There is no operational financial information provided in the former mayor’s 2014 annual statement of GMHI including an audited balance sheet, a listing of expenses and revenue; The status of the annual $1.5 million dividend paid to the city by GMHI; a statement of the “accomplishments” reported by Chair Farbridge; no overall statement of operations and future plans of GMHI; No indication of taxes collected and paid; no identification of the auditor as appointed by the Board or evidence of an audit. These details are required under the provincial Corporations Act and are public documents.

The most interesting part of the Chair’s 2013 report was the long dissertation about how Guelph Hydro may be merged or sold if the province mandates it. Four years later, the correct council, through its Strategic Options Committee, is shopping Guelph Hydro. I know, they don’t like that description but that’s what the majority on council authorized it to do.

In almost seven years, the fallout from the GMHI operation has cost the city some $96 million. May 16, 2016, Pankaj Sardana, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of GMHI revealed much of the disastrous cost of this misadventure conducted at the taxpayer’s expense. He told council much of the details of an ill-planned project that was shrouded in secrecy and described as a project that should never have been started in the first place.

In July 2016, a staff report revealed additional information that was equally devastating. Ten days after the Sardana GMHI report, co-signer CAO Ann Pappert, left the city. The only remaining city councillors who were paid to serve on the GMHI board for four years, are Coun. June Hofland and Coun. Karl Wettstein. They both remain on council and are silent on their involvement.

It’s ironic that Ms. Hofland was chair of the council finance committee for those four years and failed to express concern about the downward financial spiral of GMHI and its management.

So why do these events worry the anti-online council majority? Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the GMHI debacle will be a major issue in the 2018 election. The memory lingers on the effect of online voting in the 2014 civic election in which mayor Farbridge and seven councillors were defeated or retired. The exception was Mayor Guthrie who moved from council representing W4 to the Mayor’s chair. Mike Salisbury took his seat.

The five-vote victory of June Holand in W3 gave the progressives the majority on council. So that’s why the left do not want online voting because of the fear it may lead to their defeat.

And that folks, would be a good thing

Let your councillors know before tonight’s meeting that you favour online voting.

 

 

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