By Gerry Barker
June 27, 2016
It’s a revelation that two city-owned facilities, managed by the city and used by the public, lose a total of $780,000 a year. Not just in 2013, but also by admission of the former General Manager of Tourism and Culture, Coleen Clack, it has averaged that for the previous four years.
This is a stunning admission by the newly appointed Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) of all city operations including infrastructure maintenance and repairs, Guelph Transit and public first responder operations, Police, Fire and EMS.
Now we don’t know Ms Clack. But as a taxpayer and shareholder in our city’s corporation, I find it difficult to understand why Ms. Clack would be promoted to such a senior position without experience or accreditation in managing such a large portfolio and attendant responsibility.
We understand there was urgency in appointing Operations Senior Manager in view of former DCAO of Operations, Derrick Thomson’s, and appointment as the new Chief Administration Officer (CAO).
But why the haste? The city operations won’t cease because of a temporary gap in leadership. There are capable middle managers that are able to keep the city working.
Coleen Clack may be capable of handling the job. I have been told she is an able and good manager.
But wait a minute! If this is true, why under her responsibility as a manager of these two facilities, is the RiverRun Centre losing more than $531,000 and the Sleeman centre losing almost $249,000 every year?
Now that Ms. Clack is in a most senior management position, how can we taxpayers be assured that she can handle the job in view of her past record?
Perhaps the powers making this decision should have put Mark Amorosi in charge of Operations awaiting arrival of the new Chief Financial Officer has been hired.
What we do know is that we don’t mind paying taxes as long as I get value. In 14 years that has not been the case. This is our personal beef about not getting value for our taxes. My wife and I live in a community of 22 homes that is a land condominium corporation.
The City of Guelph does not plow the street in winter, clean the street of winter debris in the spring and fall; does not pick up our garbage, saying we live on a dead end street and the trucks cannot turn around, although the fire department has no such difficulty. As members of a Home Owners Association, we own and are responsible for the infrastructure of the development that includes paying into a reserve fund to replace roads and aging underground water and sewer pipes. The reserves are based on an engineer’s study estimating when the infrastructure needs replacement or maintenance.
Our little community is a self-sustaining village within a city. The rub is that this development was approved by the city and regardless; we must pay taxes for basic services that the city does not supply.
So, for the privilege of living in Guelph, we must be double taxed for basic services.
Seems to us that is reminiscent of the kind of thing that started the American Revolutionary War in 1755 when the citizens, protesting the tax on tea, boarded a ship in Boston Harbour and dumped crates of tea from England into the harbour.
As we said, we don’t mind paying our way but this is a parallel tax grab by a corporation dominated by the political activists who are hungry for revenue.
We can hear the complaints coming that we elected to live here and must accept the responsibility. That’s true but the city has created ghettos of condominiums in which its planners disregarded access to public service vehicles. The number of households affected by these policies is estimated to be more than 6,000. That’s 13 per cent of the total property taxed properties in Guelph.
The misguided war on cars
The previous Farbridge administration developed policies that emphasized restrictions of vehicular traffic on major streets. Often well-travelled major streets were remarked to accommodate bicycle lanes by reducing four lanes for vehicles to two lanes.
In eight years in office, the Farvridge administration permitted new housing in the area bordered by Arkell, Victoria, Clair and Gordon streets. There are few single-family homes in the area but scores of low-rise condos and linked, strip townhouses. The residences are not welcoming to cars or commercial vehicles because of narrow interior roads that prevent street parking and interior connections to major roads. Driveways barely accommodate a full-sized vehicle and there is little visitor parking.
It’s an example of social engineering to create intensified housing in accordance, the administration claimed, was the Ontario “Places to Grow” directive. The administration believed that single-family housing created increased dependence on the automobile. Instead, it spent millions creating bicycle lanes that are used by a small minority of residents in many cases as basic transportation but chiefly not in the winter months.
This same group of cyclists ignores the law that states they cannot ride on sidewalks when those bike lanes disappear on major roads.
These measures contributed to increased property taxes and user fees in Guelph. Today, the city’s legacy of those forced collectivization efforts has forceded the citizenss into a state that reflects major changes in lifestyle. It has been done in the name of reducing carbon emissions and abortive sustainability projects costing millions.
None of this was discussed or approved by the vast majority of citizens save for loyal supporters of the Farbridge administration. These included the civic labour unions that now represent 80 percent of the city staff. Also the remnants of the Guelph Civic League and its successor 10 Carden Street, that is a publicly funded political action organization.
The trouble is Guelph’s operational and capital costs are 50 per cent higher than either Cambridge or Kitchener, due to the excessive spending of the previous administration.
The underlying problem in the city is the culture of entitlement that has grasped not only the minority of leftist citizens who support the social engineering changes but most of the senior staff who are beholden to the previous regime.
It becomes a struggle to change the culture because of the bloc of seven councillors supporters who support and are dependent on the senior staff. For them, it’s business as usual despite replacing the Chief Administrative Officer whose performance over five years led to her resignation.
The cost of financing these projects plus multi-million operating deficits of city- owned facilities is still prevalent among the staff administration that is currently undergoing major senior staff changes.
How the culture is perpetuated
It’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole, when one is whacked down another immediately pops up.
In our view, there are two councillors, June Hofland and Karl Wettstein, who have been deeply involved supporting the former mayor’s policies from the beginning of her mandate in 2007. These policies have squandered the public trust and treasure. Accordingly, as key enablers of these failed costly projects and financial management, both these councillors should resign.
The reason is that collectively, they have failed their responsibility to represent the people by morally abandoning them and forcing an agenda to which the majority of citizens did not agree. This was proven in the 2014 election, in which Cam Guthrie won the citywide mayoralty race by more than 5,000 votes.
Despite that overwhelming victory, the supporters of the former mayor won ward by ward contests in which it allowed victories with a small number of voters in each ward. Ms. Hofland won by only five votes in Ward Three. Mr. Wettstein ran second in Ward Six almost 900 votes behind newcomer Mark MacKinnon.
These two councillors during their four-year involvement on the Community Energy Initiative (CEI) from its active inception in 2011, provides ample proof that they were complicit in initiating and participating in the failed $26, 637,244 loss implementing the project. This figure is the amount presented to Council May 16 by the GMHI Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Pankaj Sardana and then CAO Ann Pappert.
The two councillors had to know what was going on through their membership on the board of directors in Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI), the operating corporation running the CEI. They are the only two serving councillors, appointed by the former Mayor, who are still on council
Wettstein has already recused himself from the probe of GMHI by claiming he had a pecuniary interest because he received a stipend for serving of the board. For her part, Ms. Hofland voted against further investigation by council into the GMHI record. Only she and Coun. Mike Salisbury voted against the motion.
Councillors Hofland and Wettstein not only shared responsibility along with the former mayor for the GMHI financial disaster but also are now stonewalling any investigation including an independent forensic audit of the affair.
They have abrogated their responsibility and there is no back door to escape. They must resign.
Do you believe this is corruption at its very worst? Or is it just business as usual?
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