Tag Archives: city of guelph

By a 6-3 vote council agrees to a staff proposal to spend $197 million on a new operational super garage

By Gerry Barker

October 28, 2019

Opinion

Why did four city councillors not show up to vote spending $197 million on a maintenance and transit garage? Council voted 6-3 to proceed with planning the project which will take 25 years to complete.

The vote was as follows:

IN FAVOUR: Mayor Guthrie, Councillors Allt, Gibson, Goller, Gordon and Hofland (6)

AGAINST: Councillors Bell, Piper and Salisbury (3)

ABSENT FOR VOTE: Councillors Billings, Downer, MacKinnon and O’Rourke (4)

That’s 46.15 per cent of the 13 members elected to council making this decision.

Considering the outcome, why was it so necessary to hold the meeting on federal Election Day?

It happened last Monday night when council met to approve spending $197 million on a new consolidated operations complex next to the Waste Resources Innovation Complex, aka the city dump, off Watson Road.

Council voted to proceed with preliminary planning. It is remarkable that six councillors voted to spend $197 million by 2045. If by some miracle there will be seven successive councils elected and each agrees to continue this plan.

But here is the kicker. Coun. Mike Salisbury seconded the motion to proceed with the project moved by Coun. Dan Gibson. When it was time to vote, Salisbury was one of three councillors voting against the motion.

What happened? Did some councillor say they would second the motion but failed to turn up?

Here is the actual amended motion approved by six councillors:

That staff be directed to proceed with planning and design for a consolidated City Operations Campus consisting of operations facilities for Transit, Operations, Fleet Maintenance, and Corporate Building Maintenance located on the City owned Dunlop Drive property and that the final decision on a new city operations campus be determined following the presentation of a detailed business case and staging plan being provided to Council.

Not even the Government of Canada would commit that amount of money on a single-fixed service facility to be completed in 25 years.

Of course it has been said that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Get out the Togas staff; looks like you will break the Guinness World Record for long-term planning.

Next, a staff proposal to apply another tax levy on taxpayers

I predict the cost will zoom in the next 25 years if all seven successive councils go along with it, based on just inflation to an astronomical $400 million. The affect of inflation impacts on increased labour costs, materials including cement, steel, bricks, lumber, tools, consultants, vehicles, fuel, insurance, finance charges, change orders.

The special levy is estimated to provide $50 million in capital to help pay for the project in the next ten years. This is beginning to smell like that $350 million Baker Street renaissance Private and Public project to include a library. That was a proposal Mayor Guthrie announced before last year’s civic election.

Is this a moon-shot by council?

In view of this latest display of staff self-serving planning, after 18 years when former Mayor Karen Farbridge announced council would build a new downtown library, it appears council has benched it again.

Those six councillors won’t be around to witness the ribbon cutting in 2045. So why would they approve a 25-year project of such magnitude? Is this some magical municipal financial proposal that would be created by David Copperfield … now you see it, and now you don’t?

The preliminary plan, authorized by the six coucillors, focuses on building a new Guelph Transit maintenance and operations facility. That is only estimated to cost $80 million.

How will the administration finance projects already in the pipeline?

What about those two capital projects including the downtown library, ($68 million), the South End Community Centre, ($68 million). That adds up to $136 million. The new well construction project, ($30 million) adding two new deep wells is included in the 2020 capital budget. Not in this list is the $450 million for infrastructure that is currently being financed by one per cent levy on property taxes.

A report published in the Mercury Tribune outlined cost of the South End Community complex of $68 million. In 2021, $58 million will be available chiefly from development charges. That leaves a gap of $10 million. Some of that missing amount has already been spent from city operating funds passed by the previous council. In the 2022 capiital budget there is another $587,140 for maintenance equipment.

Now there is wind of another property tax levy. Pardon my cynicism but when the administration blows $66 million on Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc and gives Guelph Hydro away for pennies on the dollar, what do we expect?

Staff predicts another 60,000 new residents by 2045

Does this group of six councillors seriously believe this is even remotely possible?

They decided these long-range capital projects to justify their egos, loyalty and survival. The city staff is also married to senior management who know what they are doing. Or more likely, are some members of council listening to their supporters and ignoring the financial requirements of such a huge project.

The process started Monday without analysis of how all those other capital projects will be financed. They made a decision that did not include a business plan.

It’s time to serve the people’s immediate needs

I can think of immediate needs for a new dowtown library, plus a major construction of two new wells to supply future needs (already in the 2020 Capital Budget). Is the Guelph Innovation District plan still alive?

The 2020 capital budget is $151.6 million subject to public and council review. The ten-year capital spending forecasts that by 2029 the total will be $1.7 billion.

According to DCAO Trevor Lee: “The ten-year plan is funded based on asset management principles that lays out the long-term investment needs for our city.

Our General Hospital is asking the city for $4.7 million to expand to meet the needs of a growing population.

These are a few of the pressing issues that affect all citizens, not just the working conditions of the staff. Spending $22 million plus on a parking garage next to city hall will basically serve the city employees. More than two-thirds of the parking spaces are only available to monthly users. Guess who they are?

City council has continued to ignore the downtown area. despite the promise by the former mayor that the downtown would be a vibrant and exciting place for everyone.

How did that turn out?

The property tax deal is a hidden subsidy to the U of G

I’ll wrap up this pet beef. When is city council going to influence the provincial government to amend the 32-year property tax deal granted to all post secondary institutions? They only pay $75 a year per registered student in lieu of property taxes.

The University of Guelph has a huge advantage under this outdated plan because it is in the property land rental business, obtaining income from properties it owns along Stone Road plus hundreds of acres currently not in use. That acreage can be leased to developers with no impact on the city property tax deal with the province.

Bottom line is the city receives approximately $1,65 million per year based on 22.000 students in lieu of property taxes. Meanwhile, the University leases it land to developers and the city receives no property tax assessment income.

How does this compare to Linamar’s property taxes with 19 plants operating in the city?

Yet citizens owning property receive annual tax bills that in recent years increases by an average of 3 per cent. In 32 years how much of an increase has the University paid in lieu of property taxes? Zero.

It has been going on for years and Guelph residents are subsidizing city services pertaining to the University and the community college.

This is iniquitous and has not been upgraded since inception to even allow for inflation.

This places a huge burden on city residents who must subsidize transit, infrastructure, police, fire and EMS services to the growing city and university/community college population. In the 2020 budget, the police services board is requesting a 10 per cent increase in the police budget.

By 2045, the staff estimates there will be 60,000 new citizens living here.

It’s something to think about.

1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

Along came a spider who sat down beside her and said, “what a nice new Library you may have”

By Gerry Barker

September 26, 2019

Opinion

This is one of the great myths of our lives. In 2004 during Mayor Farbridge’s first term in office, council debated whether to replace the downtown Library with a new one. The Library had outgrown its capacity to serve a growing population.

It sparked the growth of satellite branches and a bookmobile.

The Library lobby continued to campaign annually asking council to approve building a new facility to meet the needs of the present and future. The first proposal was to build a 93,000 square foot main branch Library downtown on the Baker Street Parking lot.

At the time, it was obvious that council was engaged in building a new city hall and renovating the old hall into a provincial offences court. This major project turned out to be a six-year financial disaster completes with a major wrongful dismissal lawsuit by the general contractor and a $65 million dollar bill.

The Library project went to the bottom of the capital-spending budget.

That was followed with the $66 million loss of shareholder’s investment in the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc district energy project. This was launched in 2011, during the same time frame of the city hall lawsuits. There were five different interests suing, including each other. Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. suing the city for $19.2 million brought the main one. The city counter-sued for $5 million.

It was a three-ring circus of flying legal briefs and claims.

It was the dark period of the city administration amid the Library project, which bubbled beneath council’s primary interests.

The new Mayor, Cam Guthrie, announced that a private public partnership was being assembled to renovate the Baker Street site that staff primarily would cost the city $300 million. The plan called for a combination of commercial and residential complex. Included in the Mayor’s statement was that the proposed 88,000 square foot downtown Library would be the anchor on the site.

The timing was perfect as the Mayor decided to run for re-election and spoke highly of the Library project. He was re-elected.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Baker Street proposal was being scaled back due to costs and would not include the Library.

Council shows restraint in capping 2019 capital budget

This past January 17, city council approved a 2019 capital spending budget of $87,370,100. Almost half of that budget was slated for wastewater and two new wells to accommodate future development.

Of the nine projects in the staff recommendation, absent was the new downtown Library. You remember, the one Mayor Guthrie announced in 2018 before the civic election.

Here we are in September, and the same members of council agree to add $44 million in debt to partially fund a new downtown Library to an estimated cost of $67 million. The reports say that the begging bowl is out to get a $36.6 million grant for the Library from the federal government depending on which party wins the October 21 election.

Is this a promise to be broken?

This form of financial brinksmanship is an enduring fixation by the majority bloc of city council that has stalled funding library for the past 13 years by diverting funds for other projects.

It remains today to be a malignant history of exceeding budgets, using reserves to balance the books, wasting public funds in sketchy decisions and planning, conducting public business in closed-sessions with no public participation. Ignoring its own protocols for open government, accountability and transparency.

This was not another Guthrie example of selling the sizzle, not the steak. He was one of four councillors who voted against the proposal. The mayor had his reasons but if he was not aware of the details of the project, or perhaps he was. There seems to be a lack of fiduciary judgment by the nine councillors who voted to spend $67 million on a project that was not part of the 2019 capital budget.

Regardless, Monday, September 16, council approved spending $67 million to build a new 88,000 square foot downtown Library. Coun. Dominique O’Rourke initially objected, stating that without all the information pertaining to the proposal, “It wasn’t going to happen.”

Later she relented and voted to spend the money.

To assist those members of council who voted for the Library, here are some of the missing details to support the project that will cost more than twice that of the new renovated police headquarters.

* Has a site for the new Library been chosen, where and the cost?

* What is the acreage of the site to accommodate adequate parking?

* What’s the estimated time of construction and the start-up date?

* When does the special Library levy to taxpayers kick in?

* In 23 years what is the total cost to property owners paying the Library levy?

* Is this levy fixed or will it increase as property taxes increase over 23 years?

* Is the financing in place and approved to justify the $67 million in capital approved?

* Has a business plan been prepared that separates the construction costs from the equipment required?

* Is the present library going to be sold with proceeds going to new Library costs?

* Has an architect been commissioned to design the new Library and monitor construction?

* Has a Request for Proposal been prepared to establish construction costs?

* What does this decision do to completing the $63 million South End Recreation complex?

* How can council approve funding the Library when it is not in the current capital spending budget?

* If this is council’s intention, where will it find the $67 million it has now approved and added to the 2019 capital spnding budget?

*         *         *         *

The only possible explanation is the costs will be spread over five or six years during the time frame of completing the project. If this is the case, why didn’t council tell the public of this method that is logical and potentially manageable?

Quite frankly, this is another crapshoot by an administration that by now should have learned better handling public money.

If any of these questions have not been reviewed by staff and reported to council, how can a motion to spend $67 million succeed by a 9-4 majority without the answers?

I believe we need a new main branch Library to meet the needs of our growing city?

However, the people need a specific plan and the costs. The staff report says that $44 million is being added to the city debt.

The remaining details are not confirmed including a request to the federal government for a $36,6 million grant. The outcome of that grant request is unknown today because there is no federal government because Parliament has been prorogued until after the election.

3 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Apparently, to land a good job with the city it helps whom you know in the administration

By Gerry Barker

September 9, 2019

Opinion

The city announced last week that a former member of the Cam Guthrie re-election team has been hired to be manager of corporate communications and government relations.

Jodie Sales comes to Guelph from the Town of Milton where she has held a similar position for three and a half years.

On the surface it appears she is qualified for the job.

However, was the position advertised? Were other candidates applying for the position? Was Ms. Sales or other candidates interviewed for the posted position?

Tell us, was the job posted and where?

Before accusing me of nit picking, this is a job serving the public interests. It entails that there is opportunity for qualified citizens to apply. The city release did not mention the salary or benefits for the position.

Further, I am not criticizing Ms. Sales but the methods used by the administration to hire anyone for a staff position, especially one described as an “executive position.”

Perhaps in hiring employees over the years, the administration must focus on being careful to ensure that the recommended candidate will not be disruptive or offend other employees. Recommendations by a friend or relative of an employee should always be part of the hiring process.

Prior to being appointed to the management job, was Ms. Sales interviewed by senior management? Recruiting is 50 percent performance knowledge and 50 per cent having a gut feeling.

In this case, the perception is that she had the inside track on getting the job because of her work on the Mayor’s campaign.

Mayor Guthrie was asked if he had recommended her and denied he had any part in the process. Judging from that I would surmise that he was consulted but politically, he denied it.

Maybe he did not have to say anything. One thing we do know is that she did a bang-up job handling communities for the Guthrie campaign.

The most interesting part of this announcement is, what is the role of council, including the Mayor who is the only member elected across the whole city?

That email sent by the Mayor stated: “All city administration hiring is done through the CAO or other city management.”

Former DCAO Mark Amorosi who stated that council did not approve staff increases they are approved in the annual budgets. He confirmed this during a recent sworn testimony. That would indicate that council does approve salary increases because it must approve the annual city budget.

Those increases, according to the Mayor and Mr. Amorosi, are set in December for the upcoming calendar year. But the increases are not publicly released until 15 months later.

In formulating the 2015 city budget, did council have the right to approve or disapprove staff salary increases? If true, why didn’t council tell anyone? The salary increases were only reported annually each March in the provincial Sunshine List.

It lists every public employee in Ontario who earned more than $100,000 annually.

That data names the employee, the salary and taxable benefits. That list is the only record available to the public.

In recent years, the administration has published its own list prior to the Sunshine list. It is incomplete when compared to the previous provincial list to illustrate changes in salary or job responsibiliyies.

Case in Point; In 2015, the public did not learn about the three senior staff manager’s increases until Match 2016.

The 2015 budget was approved in January boosting property taxes by 3.96 per cent, including adjustments reported later.

I will be reporting more details of this and other tactics used by the administration to suppress information of concern and what is in the public interest.

I also recognize that our new CAO, Scott Stewart, is not responsible for these tactics that were created by a previous administration. Instead I am hopeful that all bylaws covering procedures and operational details be reviewed and open for the administration to open government, to accountability.

I personally wish Ms. Sales success and fulfillment in her new position.

The administration leadership has markedly changed in the past year and the opportunity exists to return our city into one of progress, financial responsibility, transparency and accountability.

A good first step is to reintroduce online voting in 2022.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Executive spite boosted the new city hall project costs by $23 million

By Gerry Barker

August 1, 2019

Opinion

Part Three of Seven stories to fuel your min

It all seems like yesterday when there was a sea-change in the composition of Guelph Council, or so most citizens thought and I was one of them

The defeated councillors included Mayor Karen Farbridge, Maggie Laidlaw; Mike Salisbury was elected in ward 4 replacing Mayor-elect Cam Guthrie. Retiring from council was Karl Wettstein in ward 6, Andy Van Hellemond in ward tw

Here is the result of the 2014 civic election: the majority of progressives totaled seven. These include James Gordon, June Hofland, Phil Allt, Mike Salisbury, Leane Piper, and Cathy Downer. The uncommitted are Rodrigo Goller and Dominique O’Rourke. The moderate councilorsr include Dan Gibson, Bob Bell, Christine Billings and Mayor Cam Guthrie. Holding the swing vote in council is Mark MacKinnon, ward 6.

The story on election night was the defeat of Mayor Farbridge by rookie Councillor, Cam Guthrie.

The defeat of the mayor was the lawsuit brought by the general contractor of the new city hall and renovation of the old city hall into a provincial offenses court. In 2006, council approved the $42 million contract.

Karen Farbridge was elected mayor in 2006 and her council held a majority of 11 councillors out of 13.

Enough already!

But a funny thing happened before the contract was completed. September 18, 2008, the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group Inc., was kicked off the job that was 95 per cent completed. Guelph police were called to expedite the removal of all employees including the sub contractors.

The reason was, and no one was taking responsibility including the Mayor or council or senior management, admitted they were responsible.

Later, chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert said that her predecessor, CAO Hans Loewig, was responsible for the Urbacon firing. She said his authority was covered under the CAO bylaw.

Following the time of the firing of the general contractor, Mr. Loewig was awarded a three-year contract paying $190,000 annually for his work on the Urbacon file. Ann Pappert replaced him in 2011.

At best, Mr. Loewig was a part-time CAO being allowed 12-weeks, vacation spent at his Arizona home. Mr. Loewig was hired to replace the former CAO, Larry Kotseff, as acting CAO and on contract. That changed to permanent employment in 2008 followingnthe Urbacon firing.

Urbacon did not sit idly by and served the city with a wrongful dismissal suit for $19.2 million.

Meanwhile, the Farbridge administration was faced with hiring replacement contractors to complete the project Then the city counter-sued Urbacon for $5.3 million. Next was to deal with the completion bondholder, Aviva, and the architects charged with overseeing the construction. This was followed by lawsuits from the sub contractors who were not paid for their work before the firing of the general contractor.

Once work stopped it was more than a year before it was completed, using two other contractors to finish the job.

Whew! This was a disaster caused by the Farbridge administration despite the Mayor never owning up to it. My sources said she was enraged because Urbacon kept advancing the completion date.

There were reasons for this. First, during a subsequent five-week trial in 2013 in Brampton, the court heard there were more than 300 contract changes ordered by the city. Second, there was a sense of emergency over a number of city employees still working in nearby rented offices in which the leases had or were about to expire.

The Brampton trial was wrapped up in early 2013 and Superior Court Justice, Donald MacKenzie, delivered his judgment brief in March 2014 in favour of Urbacon. It was followed up with a devastating detailed judgment in June.

This document ordered that the costs of the case were to be completed in October, the month of the civic election.

Undaunted, the city lawyer took the case to another court requesting the costs of Justice Mackenzie’s judgment be postponed until after the October civicelection. That was denied by the presiding judge who said he would not change Justice Mackenzie’s’ judgment. In August, a settlement was reached costing the city$8 million payment to Urbacon.

This was the final event that led to the mayor’s defeat in October.

Shortly after, CAO Pappert announced that the city hall costs had increased by $23 million.

Urbacon, the six years of unnecessary expenses

In my opinion, as a taxpayer, this was a sloppy, self-centered series of events that spun out of control and should never have occurred.

When one thinks about it, that mismanagement, recognized as such at the ballot box, could have been used to build a new downtown library as was promised by two Farbridge administrations. Five years later, we are still eaiting.

In January last year, two city Councillors, June Hoflanf and Leanne Piper, supporters of Ms. Far bridge, during a workshop to assist women to become entrepreneurs, asked attendees to donate money to re-elect the former mayor.

Wisely, Ms. Farbridge chose not to be a candidate in last October’s civic election.

Next, Part Four of Seven:

Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. covers-up losses of $68.3 million

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Between the Lines

How the Mercury Tribune rations online access to its website content

By Gerry Barker

July 2, 2019

Opinion

How low can the Tribune stoop to deny full access to its online news?

In all the years of working in the news business, I have never witnessed a newspaper reject access of its online content that has already been published.

Is it possible they are building a list of future subscribers?

Here is what the organization that owns the weekly newspaper demands before you can access content online. This is reproduced from the Mercury Tribune online website under the heading “Local News.”

Unless you aren’t registered to receive the complete story online, the following is posted on the Mercury Tribune’s website:

HEADING -Guelph could phase out vacant property tax discount by 2021Currently, vacant and excess commercial and industrial lands see 30% discount on property taxes

News Jun 26, 2019 Guelph Mercury

In a report to council, city staff is proposing to phase out the 30-per-cent property tax discount for vacant and excess commercial and industrial properties by 2021. – Dreamtime

Owners of vacant commercial and vacant properties may soon have to start paying the same tax rates as others in the city.

According to a report to be presented to councillors at their July 2 meeting of committee of the whole, city staff are recommending that the property tax discount for vacant and excess commercial and industrial lands be phased out over the next two years. (Balance of  the article is blanked out)

You’ve reached your article limit  (Directed at guelphspeaks)

Already have a Torstar account? Sign In

Please register to support the local, relevant news you need from a source you trust.

Register now and enjoy:

  • Breaking news that affects your community
  • The latest neighbourhood news, opinions and insight
  • Ability to comment on articles
  • Access to our events calendar, including the ability to submit your own listings.

*         *         *         *

Torstar is the corporation that owns the Toronto Star and Metroland Publishing that owns the Mercury Tribune. Now, you may ask, why is there an arbitrary limit to access the full article online, as published free every Thursday?

Am I the only reader who has reached his article limit? Perhaps the Tribune management should explain why the restriction online access is only to those who register.

This is a form of public information censorship that only one major advertiser would request.

The only advertiser who resen any criticism of its operations by gielphspeaks.ca is the City of Guelph administration.

The Tribune refuses to label the city administration’s weekly ads labeled “City News” when, in fact, it is advertising and not labeled as such. The kicker is that these “City News” ads are paid with public funds.

Now some of the “City News” content, as published weekly in the Tribun includes legal notices that are required to be published. It remains advertising and not news. Missing is the city logo. Wonder why?

But that does not excuse the city spending thousands of public funds to pretend the content is legitimate news. Perhaps the following Tribune statement urging readers to register to get their news online explains it:

“Please register to support the local, relevant news you need from a source you trust.”

Two words stick out from this statement, ‘support’ and ‘trust.’

Believe me, I know from personal experience that both those words can mean the opposite.

I can only comment about the Tribune statement using the expression, ‘support local, relevant news you need.’ It’s not only an untrue premise but a deceptive way to disguise the Tribune’s real intent to support the administration’s point of view.

This comes down to trust.

How can the thousands of citizens who receive the free ad-heavy Mercury Tribune each week trust the content? More important why is the city paying to print only one side of the story produced by the city’s communications department?

I know what it has cost me to defend my right to speak freely as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights.

It comes down to public participation in government affairs without the threat of litigation to prevent it.

This concerns every citizen to be able to access information and comment on it wuthout the threat of costly retaliation.

Opinions matter.

One final question to ask yourself: Would you have voted to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities in December 2017?

Well, ten elected members of council did and that sealed the deal.

That was the most lurid misuse of the public trust that this city has endured in the past 13 years.

Trust is not just a five-letter word.

 

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Why the indelible stain of council secrecy still muzzles our right to public participation concerning public interests

By Gerry Barker

June 24, 2019

Opinion based on facts

Here are some of the tools of secrecy and controlling the message as practised by the Guelph Council since 2007:

* Conducting its business in closed-sessions.

* Retaining London-based Amberlea Gravel as special investigators of closed- sessions since 2008 and are on annual retainer.

* Establishing a system of discussing the public business as the Committee of the Whole (COW) eliminating the various committees of council.

* On the pretext of efficiency, using the councillor’s Code of Conduct to prevent any leaks of closed-session meetings or face discipline by the Integrity Commissioner who reports to council and is on retainer.

* Controlling the message by buying advertising space in the Guelph Mercury Tribune weekly newspaper passing it off as “City News” and not labeling it as advertising.

* The city communication staff prepares the content of these ads.

* The impact of this is that the Tribune editorial material rarely is critical of the city administration and rewrites press releases handed out by city staff.

* This results in muzzling any matter that council decides requires a closed-session to discuss responding to public participation with a potential negative outcome.

* The closing of the Guelph Mercury in January 2016 was the end of responsible print coverage of the public business.

* The fallout of denying public participation results in voter manipulation, that in October 2018 civic election resulted in the lowest voter turnout in many years. All of the incumbents who ran were re-elected.

* This was caused by voter suppression by giving Guelph Hydro away to Alectra utilities without the stakeholders being given no specific information about the terms and specific conditions of the deal. And that included most members of council and the sycophantic media.

The denial of online voting by city council also contributed to a lower turnout.

Guelph has been in the hands of successive administrations that used all the tools mentioned above, to obscure the truth and resulting in financial damages.

Why did the CAO drop out?

Let’s talk about recent examples of the fog of obscurity that is employed daily by the senior city staff and city council.

Last March, the Chief Administrative officer, Derrick Thomson, “parted ways” with the city by mutual agreement. The city did not state the circumstances of its CAO leaving.

The 2018 provincial Sunshine List of all public employees earning more than $100,000 a year was published. It revealed that Mr. Thomson received $335,000.

That was some $67,000 plus a taxable benefit of $11,000 more than he earned in 2017. This time, Mayor Guthrie told city council it was a bonus for Mr. Thomson’s role as co -chair of the Strategic Options Committee that was charged with disposing of Guelph Hydro.

Citizens and members of council still don’t know how that worked out.

There is one other detail. In September 2018, Mr. Thomson received a one-year extension to his existing contract that would end in April 2020.

We are not aware of why he suddenly left on a Friday afternoon in March or the circumstances of his $67,000 bonus or the reason for his departure.

There was no succession plan in place as the three remaining Deputy Chief Administrative Officers, (DCAO) were named to handle the duties of the departed CAO. That process is estimated to continue until August when a new CAO will be either named or hired.

The fog of secrecy continues unabated

Again, secrecy is used to cover –up why Mr. Thomson left without a successor in place and received a whopping great bonus for his role in dumping Guelph Hydro.

It is mindful of the games played in 2016. Mr. Thomson resigned in January. CAO Ann Pappert announced her resignation in mid-April agreeing to stay on until a successor was named. She left May 26, 2016.

Behold! Mr. Thomson agreed to a three-year contract as CAO and rejoined the staff in June 2016. Case closed or so we thought.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

In March 2017, the Sunshine List revealed that in 2016, Ms. Pappert received a 12-month salary of $263,000 but only worked five months.

There was no explanation from the Guthrie administration as to why she received a full year’s salary, adjusted for inflation. The only hint came in August 2016 when

Coun. Cathy Downer asked the city HR department for a breakdown of Ms. Pappert’s 2015 salary and benefits payment.

The report stated that Ms. Pappert received a retroactive performance bonus of $27,0000 part of her 2015 salary of $253,000. Again, there is no explanation supporting the bonus.

When compared to the $67,000 in 2018 performance bonus paid to Mr. Thomson, her’s is penny ante.

The spin is in and it’s with our money

That friends, is why and how successive city administrations continue to flaunt your rights by going to ground through closed-sessions over which we have no recourse. There were 84 such closed-session of coumcil in 2015 and 2016.

I know because I requested the minutes of the December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting of council and received an answer four months later denying my request.

Now I know why.

In 11 days, my legal counsel will present my statement of defence. We will request for a dismissal of the lawsuit accusing me of defamation in 2016. The action was brought in November 2016 by a former DCAO whose legal expenses are being paid by the city.

Thursday morning, April 4, at 10 a.m. in the Wellington County Court House, the motion to dismiss will be heard by a Superior Court Justice.

Based on the current law, the outcome will depend entirely on the facts presented to the judge.

I have already paid a severe personal price for revealing the truth. I am hoping that this hearing will force real accountability and transparency of all operations of our city’s business. This would include a complete public overhaul of the council’s procedural bylaws.

I feel that I underestimated the power of successive administrations to stifle and, cover-up using our money to stop criticism and challenge to public operations.

That is the essence of voter suppression, using secrecy while managing our public business without recourse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

The growing fallout of Guelph’s 12-year War on Cars led by the Fossil Fools on council

By Gerry Barker

April 29, 2019

Opinion based on facts

When Karen Farbridge was elected Mayor in 2006, it began the transformation of Guelph into a “world class city” in terms of transportation, power self-sufficiency, waste management and clean air and water leading to her wellness commitment for all citizens.

Was it noble? Yes, but not affordable as it turned out.

It was the defining intention of the majority of her council to establish key targets to reduce the use of fossil-fueled vehicles in the city at the time with a population of 111,000 permanent residents.

Let’s drill down on how the Farbridge interests in control of council tackled change and imposed their collective agenda on the citizens.

It started with a tour of Sweden to investigate how that country dealt with its waste.   Sweden reduced about 90 per cent of all waste that is incinerated, driving turbine generators to deliver power back into the grid.

Waste disposal plans increase traffic congestion

The administration decided in 2007 that was not an option for Guelph because of the perceived dangerous emissions of such an operation. Instead, Guelph spent $34 million building an organic waste facility that has never made any money or permitted residents to obtain the compost produced by the plant.

One goofy prediction that was amusing but confusing

Part of the grand design to change Guelph was to get fossil-fueled vehicles off Guelph Streets. I recall former councillor Maggie Laidlaw, bragging that “in 20 years there won’t be any cars on Guelph Streets.” Ah, a temporary episode of green-based rapture.

Well that prediction was well off as there are more cars, trucks and buses clogging the streets twice a day due to deliberate lane reduction on major routes to accommodate bicycle lanes.

It is estimated that building the bicycle network has cost taxpayers some $8 million.

The policy continues to this day, as the widening of Speedvale Avenue to accommodate new bike lanes, estimated by staff, three years ago, as costing $14 million. At the time, staff did not recommend it.

This includes widening the bridge over the Speed River, removing the Hydro poles and installing underground power transmission corridors.

There are no bike lanes on Speedvale Avenue between Woolwich and Stevenson.

This brings up what the city has already done on many streets and roads. These would include Victoria Road, Speedvale, SilverCrek, Downey, Woodlawn, Stevenson and Norfolk. All these streets were changed by the Farbridge and Guthrie administrations.

This is embedded policy that when a major street is resurfaced, new lane reductions are painted restricting the use of vehicles ergo, growing traffic congestion.

In my opinion, this is a planned restriction vehicular movement and trade designed to meet the environmental movement’s agenda, controlling the city.

The reconstructed railway underpass that stopped the big rigs

Did I mention the Wyndham Street rail bridge? It was reconstructed by the city that does not allow large trucks to use it because it wedges the tops of some the high trailers against the top of the underpass. The underpass was improperly built.

The city engineer’s solution? Install warning signs to stop the big trucks from entering a bridge too low..

Again another restriction of needed supply trucks to service the shops and businesses downtown. Sure there are other routes to get to their destination, but the city did not care and the underpass was never repaired.

Who would like to live in that section of Speedvale?

Speedvale is a major cross-the-city route used every day and the line-ups vehicles at intersections such as Woolwich, exacerbates the congestion. The project will not be completed for nine months.

The fallout of squeezing heavy traffic lanes

Since 2007, the city has added bike lanes to several streets. Often, they start at one intersection and disappear at the next.

One example is on SilverCreek where the street was resourced from Speedvale to Paisley. Then the road painters moved in and reduced a four-lane major road to two, and installed bike lanes plus a left-hand turn lane continuous right down the middle.

So, I’m Joe Cyclist, heading north on SilverCreek to Woodlawn. Whoops! The bike lane is not there from Speedvale north. I am forced to share the road with 3,000- pound cars and trucks on the now narrowed road.

Does this make sense? There are similar examples of the disappearing bike lanes all over the city.

What is the logic of this? What does it accomplish in terms of cyclist safety on major streets where bike lanes just disappear?

More Car Wars links contributing to the clogging of our streets

There are two other factors of lack of leadership that uses its power to pursue its all things environmental-based agenda.

New housing intensification

One is the intensification of housing in the south and Eastern districts of the city. The council allowed these developments composed of strip housing and low-rise apartment buildings. It is based on the Provincial government’s “Ontario Places to Grow” policies that encouraged more housing on less land.

Guelph population grows bringing more vehicles

Between 2007 and 2016, Guelph’s population increased by 20,000 according to the StatsCan census of 2016. That does not include the growing number of University of Guelph undergraduate students.

This has a direct impact on volume of fossil-fueled vehicles, large and small, on our streets. Adding more people means more cars and trucks.

Electric vehicles are years away from becoming the majority using the roads in the city. But if the city continues to squeeze street driving lanes, using an electric car will not result in less congestion. However, the noise levels will be lower.

Somehow, this has not registered with the city administration.

The public driving electric cars using the city thoroughfares impacts traffic congestion as the internal combustion owners. In fact the goal of getting fossil-fueled vehicles off Guelph streets, has had the opposite intended effect.

City council, like the Ostrich, buries itself when it comes to fosil-fuels

So, why is the city building a $22 million parking garage next to city hall, blocks away from the Wyndham Street shopping district? Ms. Farbridge said she was going to turn downtown into a “vibrant centre for everyone to enjoy.”

Other matters of state distracted our former mayor

Here we are 12 years later, with a downtown that has closed businesses, no available parking during the day and used by a weekend collection of students, drug dealers, and outsiders looking for action. It is a combustible crucible. The beneficiaries are the operators of the 33 bars and watering holes downtown.

This is not something new but a municipal failure to make downtown safe and inviting every day. It’s been that way since the parking meters were removed 10 years ago in which the city lost more than $600,000 annually in meter revenue.

In the 2017 budget, there was a staff recommendation to replace the meter heads at a cost of $700,000. Instead, that funding was diverted by council to help pay for the proposed South End recreation centre. As an aside, council has already spent some $3.5 million preparing the site for a $63 million recreation centre.

Consider that in 12 years, the average property taxes have increased every year by 3 per cent. User and development fees have also increased substantially.

Power politics at work

One final thought. Ward one Coun. Dan Gibson, announced that land on Watson Road, owned by Loblaw’s, was being rezoned commercial to accommodate a major grocery store to serve the east end.

Sounds good. But here’s the skinny.

Council Mr. Gibson and Mr. Bell have been pushing to open an east end grocery store on the site since 2013.

Mr. Gibson was quoted as saying the council would “put Loblaw’s feet to the fire” to get them to build a store on the site. Loblaw’s, Canada’s largest grocery chain, has demurred because it owns a large Zehrs’s store on Eramosa. I presume it feels that building another on Watson could cannibalize the existing store. And they do not want a competitor using the land.

In negotiating to persuade Loblaw’s to build the Watson store, is it a good idea to say the city is going to “put their feet to the fire?” Stay tuned.

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines