By Gerry Barker
Post #778 – May 28, 2016
When GuelphSpeaks broke the news Thursday afternoon that Ann Pappert was leaving her senior post as Chief Administrative Officer, the GS blog lit up like a Christmas tree.
The decision was a wise one on Ms. Pappert’s part because of the many questions about her stewardship that are still resonating. Council’s secret awarding of the $37,581 salary increase December 9, was the beginning of the end. More astonishing is they didn’t tell the public until the 2015 Provincial Sunshine List was published in March, 2016.
What were they thinking? By burying the increase for almost three months, did they think it would go away? The seven pro-Farbridge councillors who voted for the increase, betrayed Ms. Pappert by hiding the issue and then not apologizing to the public. We still don’t know who decided the amount of the 17.11 per cent increase.
It has been suggested that the increase was a planned political move to ensure that Ms.Pappert would remain CAO, manage the staff and do the Bloc of Seven’s bidding.
The five-year performance analysis of Ms. Pappert, emailed to Guelph residents, produced more public protest. The email documented performance failures by the CAO. It attracted a threat of legal action by Mayor Guthrie, who said council agreed with his decision. It resulted in a concentrated protest of Ms. Pappert’s record, as additional leaks of the closed meetings emerged and accelerated the public rejection of the CAO.
Why did her own supporters on council agree to threaten the author? They are either terminally stupid or they did it on purpose because the Pappert ‘Salary-Gate” issue was a threat to the Bloc of Seven. The mayor did not pursue his threat but why did he continue to support Ms. Pappert?
Just the other night, May 24, the Bloc of Seven council majority forced approval of a new program called the Guelph Energy Efficiency Retrofit Strategy (GEERS) to permit city funding of retrofitting private buildings. It included new windows, insulation, high efficiency furnaces fired by natural gas, solar panels to reduce dependence on the provincial power grid, and, a partridge in a pear tree.
As an aside, the acronym GEERS root description seems an unfortunate choice of words.
Here’s how it works. A citizen calls in a registered contractor to price installing new windows, insulation and a new furnace. The bid comes in at $22,000. Now a new team of city employees must vet the bid, make any changes deemed not applicable and instruct the owner that the city will finance the project. This step requires the applicant to establish ownership and provide a net worth statement, to back up the ability to repay the loan over 20 years, through the GEERS applicant’s property taxes.
Imagine that the city receiving 1.000 applications over the next two years. Where does the money come from? How does this program achieve a balanced financing without affecting capital spending on infrastructure or affordable housing?
The principal payments alone on this theoretical project amounts to $1,100 annually and does not include interest or other carrying charges, on top of the owner’s regular property tax increases.
The questions remain:
* Who is eligible for the program?
* What additional costs are factored in such as insurance, HST, legal costs?
* What happens if the house is sold before the loan is repaid?
* What is the interest rate charged on the retrofit loans?
* What happens when the homeowner cannot repay the loan?
* Does the city register its interest on the property title?
* When did the citizens vote to adopt this plan?
* Where is the city going to find the funding to implement this plan?
* Is this another Fbridger inspired plan to invoke her environmental polices?
* Why should property owners have to finance this plan?
* Did the staff, directed by Ms. Pappert prepare a business plan for the project?
* If so, was that plan approved by the finance department?
* Did the Bloc of Seven know those two days after approving the plan, that Ms. Pappert was leaving her job?
The overhanging drive to establish GEERS rests with former mayor Karen Farbrdge who remains a ghostly political force influencing the city government.
It’s another money-losing scheme done in the name of sustainability and fossil fueled use resulting in reducing Guelph’s contribution to climate change. A lofty goal but the Province of Ontario’s contribution of gases affecting climate change is 1 per cent of the total world carbon emissions.
Guelph’s portion of the Ontario carbon emission total is less than .00016 per cent.
It is yet another example of environmental projects that are adopted without an up-front analytical business plan to justify the cost. Most of these measures were adopted in by the Farbridge administration behind closed doors without public input.
So why is council turning the civic corporation into a bank to finance retrofitting a select number of properties? It ‘s another example of a misguided adventure orchestrated by a determined group of progressive adherents. In eight years, Farbridge managed to spend millions on energy-based projects, waste management and geo-thermal heating and cooling for a select number of office buildings and condos.
Don’t forget those bicycle lanes that have caused growing traffic congestion because vehicle lanes were reduced on major roads to permit wider bike lanes. The tiny minority of adults using bicycles for basic transportation does not contribute money for the road changes and maintenance. The irony is that cyclists do not pay for these road changes or contribute to the maintenance. In fact, Guelph’s cost of maintaining roads in the municipality is $28,000 per kilometer. The provincial average is $11,000 per kilometer. When it is suggested that cyclists should be licensed there is uproar from their lobbyists.
Their sponsor progressives regard these projects as investments. Trouble is, any investment has to have a return in order to qualify. We’ve already experienced that these so-called investments are great users of the public’s capital without the payback.
In their misguided view, the payback is reducing climate change that benefits all citizens. It’s a mindless theory for reasons we have already mentioned. Guelph is a miniscule contributor to global warming. When the progressives fail to build a new downtown library, a needed south end recreational centre or provide affordable housing or rebuild an ailing infrastructure, their version of investments pales by comparison.
Instead, starting with the 2017 budget, the staff wants to levy more capital to pay for badly needed, often critical, infrastructure retrofitting that affects all citizens. The proposal calls for two per cent special levy over ten years to rebuild the infrastructure. It is estimated that the contribution will net more than $250 million. That figure comes from the Associated Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).
One member of Council who attends the AMO meetings mentioned the cost of fixing our infrastructure. It is peculiar that Leanne Piper, a stalwart supporter of the former mayor, would bring this up to council and staff. She voted to support GEERS two days before Ms. Pappert quit. Her supporting vote contradicted her admonishing fixing the infrastructure that has been mostly neglected in the past eight years.
The people have reacted twice in the past 17 months and were successful in removing senior progressive leaders.
It is a lesson, that the people do have the power and are not afraid to use it.