Tag Archives: Guelph Tribune

The Guelph Tribune rejected this ad on the grounds it was “Inflammatory”

By Gerry Barker

October 24, 2016

Definition: Inflammatory adj – rousing or likely to arouse excitement, anger, violence, rioting, etc, as a speech. Webster’s Dictionary.

To use this word, inflammatory, is to suggest the ad will cause civic unrest, derision, violence and rioting because of its content, is a supercilious reason not to publish it.

Is this a case where those Guelph citizens who disagree with the administration are being compared to those French citizens who overturned the monarchy of the rulers of France? Under the Guthrie administration, are we being reduced to peasants with no rights or support? If you believe this, then I’m Guelph’s Jean Val Jean and “aux barricades, mes Amies.”

This isn’t just suppression of a different point of view but overt repression of the facts.

The paper’s decision not to publish a paid ad followed its refusal to publish Pat Fung’s analysis in the op-ed page as a service to its readers. The Editor said Mr. Fung had to reduce a 2,800-word document, with explanation charts, to 400 words. He further added that the material was too political. Having given that excuse, how does he justify shortly afterwards running a column by defeated councillor Maggie Laidlaw, praising the work of defeated Mayor Karen Farbridge? He now knows how readers responded to that “community editorial.”

Is there a double standard here?

When reading this ad copy do you believe it promotes violence and rioting?

I agree it will promote and arouse anger among citizens who have experienced the eight Farbridge years when millions were misspent, based on poor managerial judgment and the willful misuse of power.

So, when it comes to the people trying to present facts based on the city’s own audited statements, The Guelph Mercury Tribune, refuses to even accept a paid ad to express a legal opinion on the management of the administration.

In my opinion, it is journalistic suppression of fair comment and opposing opinion of the operations of an administration. Under Mayor Guthrie it is an administration that is hyper secretive and distrustful of the public trust and criticism.

The Guthrie administration has control of the Guelph Tribune by virtue of the “City News” ads that run in every edition of the paper, paid with your money. The annual cost to taxpayers is estimated to be more than $400,000. The paper has a monopoly where there is no print competition.

With this decision to ban legitimate news and response to thousands of citizens, the newspaper loses credibility and becomes what its out-of-town owners want, money, regardless of public political sentiment. Using its controlled distribution system, delivering the paper to most households in the city whether the owner wants it or not, gives the administration almost total control of the media in Guelph.

All except www.guelphspeaks.ca that has a proven track record of exposing the weaknesses and mismanagement of two city administrations. My wife and I have tried to overcome this abuse of the public trust for ten years. We have had success in contributing and exposing the waste and secrecy that are the trademarks of both the Farbridge and Guthrie administrations. And there is more to come.

The support of the people has been amazing and satisfying. GS would not have survived all this time without your support and information. We are just ordinary citizens and taxpayers who have been around long enough to understand what is happening to our city. Our only regret is the failure to balance the council with reform candidates and losing the bid in 2014 when June Hofland edged out Craig Chamberlain by five votes.

The Tribune’s rejection is an example of how the administration is using your money to control the print media in Guelph.

What’s the next step, suppressing potential violence, rioting by the citizens because of an ad that opposes the administration? That’s what this newspaper stated and it is grounded in fear of losing revenue.

Today is the first step in fighting back. GS and its supporters are planning to publish two posts seeking retribution for the blocking by the Tribune of a legitimate and important news story. One that the Editor refused to assign a reporter to even interview Mr. Fung.

Accordingly, we’d like to hear from you either through commenting on the blog or emailing gerrybarker76@gmail.com. If you wish to remain anonymous, please indicate and your comments will be protected using a nom de plume. This is necessary because the reactionary trolls will respond.

A city in crisis

By Gerry Barker, editor of http://www.guelphspeaks.ca with Pat Fung, CPA, CA

September 29, 2016

A stirring wake-up call by Guelph resident, Pat Fung, CPA, CA, analyzes the financial state of the Guelph’s administrative mismanagement of our city that is exacerbated by a bloated bureaucracy and dysfunctional council.

It has now reached a crisis of misspent treasure and lack of confidence by the public in past and present administrations. It is expressed in annual property taxes, and user fee increases. The crisis includes secret deals made with certain developers to induce special treatment by reduction of development fees and taxes. City reserves have been plundered without public knowledge to cover up mistakes.

Reality and responsibility is non-existent as the staff management continues to claim the city is in “sound financial condition,” according to Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi.

Since 2008, Mark Amorosi has allegedly been one of senior staff overseeing the soaring cost of living in Guelph. He was hired in 2008 as head of Human Resources. Since then, he has grown in influence becoming a DCAO of Corporate Services, the man in charge of not only HR but also the controller of city finances since the senior staff reorganization following the 2014 civic election.

What Amorosi’s “sound financial condition” claim is compared below to the analysis done by Mr. Fung, an individual with an accredited financial background. The sources of his analysis are contained in the annual audited statements of the City of Guelph and the recent report of management consultants BMA.

Here is a chart, part of Pat Fung’s analysis

Guelph’s Operating Costs 2008 to 2015 (source: audited financial statements)

($ thousands) 2015 2014 2008 $ Change 08 to 15 % Change

’08 to ‘15

General government 27,070 25,136 18,891 8,179 +43.3%
Protection services 79,550 75,506 51,855 27,695 +53.4%
Transportation services 60,381 57,405 43,380 17,001 +39.2%
Environmental services 76,238 72,697 35,035 41,203 +117.6%
Health services 29,180 27,522 18,524 10,656 +57.5%
Social and family services 43,601 52,280 51,183 -7,582 -14.8%
Social housing 21,372 20,444 n/a 21,372
Recreation and cultural services 40,906 39,481 23,947 16,959 +70.8%
Planning and development 7,313 6,155 3,986 3,327 +83.5%
Total Expenses 385,611 376,626 246,801 138,810 +56.2%
Consumer Price Index 126.6 125.2 114.1 12.5 +11.0%

 

Pat: Guelph should reduce its operating expenses by $20 million and freeze taxes and fees at current levels to fund the capital/infrastructure gap. We cannot continue to increase spending on operating costs on top of increasing spending of capital and infrastructure.

Pat’s recommendation: Freezing revenues at 2016 levels and reducing expenses by $20 million, and holding expenses at $365 million for 20 years. City reserves would be built up to $200 million in 10 years. This would be reduced by whatever is spent in the interim on capital and infrastructure. This has the same financial effect as increasing taxes but is funded totally from within the current system of taxation and user fees.

Where did the money go? For example, note two categories: Social and Family services, a 14.8 per cent reduction and Social Housing, of which there was zero change in seven years. These are two key components of the leftist majority agenda on the present council. Yet during those eight years under the Farbridge regime, the categories were totally ignored.

But wait; let’s check out Environmental Services that enjoyed a 117.6 per cent increase. In fact more money was spent on the environment than Social and Family Services and Social Housing combined. Ask Coun. James Gordon about that as he says it’s his job to improve social services including affordable housing.

Here is another chart that captures the per person charges of Guelph’s selected expenditure categories compared to the Ontario Municipal Averages. These per person figures are from the City’s own consultant, BMA.

Selected areas from 2014 BMA report Guelph cost per person Ontario cost per person Excess spending relative to other Ontario Cities based on 120,000 population in Guelph
General government $229 $104 $15,000,000
Fire $185 $165 $ 2,400,000
Waste collection $29 $10 $ 2,280,000
Roads $244 $198 $ 5,520,000
Parks $77 $59 $ 2,160,000
Library $72 $50 $ 2,640,000
Total $836 $586 $30,000,000

According to the independent BMA consultant report, every person in the city pays $836 for the operational costs of these six defined areas. The average in Ontario is $586 per person. That’s a 42.66 per cent difference, or total excess spending by Guelph of $30 million per year.

 

Check this out:

Guelph Ontario

Waste collection $/tonne $137 $114 20%
Roads $/kilometre $27,617 $11,847 133%

* Why are waste collection costs 20% higher than average Ontario?

* Why are road costs 133% higher than average Ontario?

* Except for residential water/sewer usage, why are commercial and industrial     water/sewer costs 10% to 12% higher than average Ontario? Particularly when water consumption has declined by 16 per cent in the past six years.

* Why have Guelph Hydro rates increased by 42.5 per cent in the past four years?

According to the 2015 Sunshine List, the City has 92 middle managers carrying the title “manager,” in addition to senior and supervisory staff. The City must reduce these positions and flatten out the organization to make it more responsive and more cost effective. In our financial situation, we cannot afford this huge layer of middle management.

These soaring costs are one of the problems why Guelph has not achieved greater business and industrial development that increases revenue. The current assessment ratio between residential and commercial/industrial is a dismal 84 per cent to 16 per cent. It has not changed in ten years. The Ontario average ratio in many cities is 60/40. Neighbouring Milton is an example.

Now let’s take the General Government’s cost comparison. Guelph spends $229 per person in this category. The Ontario average cost per person is $104. The difference is a whopping 120 per cent additional cost to every resident of the city.

Further, General Government expense is not a service but overhead. Based on a per capita population, it can be reduced to meet needed operational expenses. This would bring the city government costs in line with what most Ontario municipalities are currently paying. Also, it’s an excellent place to start cutting operational costs.

This method does not affect service cuts to the public, the favourite excuse of the majority of council and the new Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson. He says the staff will not propose any service cuts in the 2017 budget.

The current acting CFO, DCAO, Mark Amoroso, doesn’t like to talk about the per capita cost to Guelph’s citizens. He says it’s irrelevant. Does he care? He lives in Hamilton.

Looking back nine years, how have your household costs affected you? Did the exploding cost of running a city overtake your income, an ability to pay your City taxes? You are not alone.

Only we the people can create change

This message was paid for by a group of Guelph citizens who care about their city. Now it’s your turn. The best way the people can influence change in the way your money is being managed, is to contact your councillor. Each member has received the Fung analysis. Demand answers from them over the excessive spending and mismanagement contained in this well-documented report. Pat Fung has provided indisputable evidence that this city is on the brink of financial disaster, compounded in the past nine years.

To help stop this recklessness, join the thousands of Guelph residents engaged in protest of the way their city is being mismanaged. Please donate to help finance the protest. Send your donation and comments to:

GrassRoots Guelph

Box 250 – 17A – 218 Silvercreek Pkwy, North,

Guelph ON N1H 8E8

Please make your cheques and money orders payable to GrassRoots Guelph. Sorry, we cannot accept credit card contributions, but cash in a sealed envelope is welcome. No contribution is considered too small. All funds received will be used exclusively for creating change in the way our city is being managed.

Both GrassRoots Guelph and http://www.guelphspeaks.ca are non-profit organizations and manned by volunteers. Thanks for participating, welcome to the cause and join the protest today supporting common sense management.

For a copy of Pat’s full analysis, go to: www.guelphspeaks.ca or email pat.fung@sympatico.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Between the Lines

When respect cuts both ways

By Gerry Barker

October 5, 2016

Comments on the www.guelphspeaks.ca this week have been informative and conducted with respect of citizens’ perspective of living in Guelph.

This shows that people are thinking about how their city has been managed. They are also articulating their point of view with respect. It’s refreshing if only the administration would listen.

Here’s how the owners of the Guelph newpapers and other media played ball with their power unequivacally supporting the administration, not for four years, not for eight years but to date almost forten years.

As a critic of the administration(s) for the past ten years, I am attacked from all sides, particularly by senior management and surrogates of the majority of elected officials. This group was most active prior to civic elections in 2010 and 2014.

For five years up to 2011, I wrote a regular column called Between the Lines in the Mercury editorial page that criticized the Farbridge administration’s mismanagement, particularly of city finances.

I received an email from the managing editor in the fall of 2011, saying I was fired because the paper was going in a different direction. For the record, not only that didn’t happen but also the publication folded last January. That event shocked most people but I predicted it a year before because there was not sufficient revenue to support the publication.

I charge that Ms. Farbridge and her confederates spoke with the Publisher of The Record in Kitchener who was also publisher of the Guelph Mercury, to stop using my column Between the Lines. The messenger was Lynn Haddrell, Editor in Chief of both papers to Phil Andrews, Managing Editor of the Mercury. I always respected Phil but I knew he was caught between a corporate decision and having control of the content of his newspaper. None of these people are part of the Guelph political scene today nor does the Mercury exist.

The relationship between former mayor Farbridge and the Guelph Tribune

As for Ms. Farbridge and four members of her former council, she is no longer in charge of our city.

Why did Ms. Farbridge have the power to do what she did to get rid of http://www.guelphspeaks.ca? Her leverage lay with he city paying an estimated $400,000 a year of taxpayer money to the Guelph Tribude to run “City News” pages in every issue of the paper.

This is nothing but naked power exercised to get rid of an individual consistently critical of the city operations.

Then in early 2012, the administration again tried to shut down http://www.guelphspeaks.ca. This time, Executive Director of Human Resources and Legal Services, Mark Amorosi, stated the city notified a Guelph blogger (not me) that the city would no longer respond to requests for information from “any personal blog website.”

I took it that he meant me.

Amorosi went on to say that the city only interacts with “legitimate media outlets” that follow the Ethics Guidelines of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ).

It appears that while Amorosi used the CAJ as the benchmark of who should have right of access to public information, he couldn’t have read the CAJ Ethics Guidelines. If he had, he would have read the following:

“News organizations- including newspapers, websites, magazines, radio and television – provide forums for the free interchange of information and opinion. As such we (CAJ) seek to include views from all segments of the population.”

“Personal online activity, including emails and social networking should generally be regarded as public and not private.”

Believe me folks, it takes a lot of energy, research and dedication to produce a blog that is always available online to anyone and comments on events that city hall doesn’t want to talk about. And I do it using my own money because I believe it’s the right thing to do.

Government is for all the people not the chosen few

I do it because I don’t believe that any government, particularly in Guelph has the power to suppress, muzzle or deny information to which the citizens are entitled. This includes Provincial and Federal freedom of information laws.

Despite the information roadblocks set up by the administration, the ugly underbelly of gross mismanagement by an entrenched administration and majority of council is gradually exposed.. It includes neglect of vital civic issues such as affordable housing and family services, the aging infrastructure and wasteful spending on projects that were poorly planned and executed.

The evidence is there. Yet there is an element in this city that keeps saying it’s time to move on. They wish.

So let’s make it simple:

* How do we pay for the Urbacon $23 million excessive new city hall costs? How do we replenish the drained reserves?

* In 2011, Coun. Leanne Piper bragged that the city had more than $80 million in reserve funds. Most of this has evaporated as the reserves were used to cover up mistakes. These include lowball budget forecasting causing negative variances of the city budget at year end. The Province requires that the city accounts be balanced by year’s end.

* The sloppy and careless Community Energy Initiative has already cost $37.1 million and counting. The Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GHI) has a staff costing $267,000 annually, yet its Chief Executive Officer says GMHI has no money. Add to that the Guerlph Hydro subsidiary, Envida Community Energy Corporation owes GMHI $11 million and it does not have any money.

Gee, do you think you could run your personal budget that way?

* The role of Guelph Hydro in this convoluted financing of a co-generation plan is murky because the GMHI meetings were all held in private sessions. The plan is supposed to not only generate 10 megawatts of power from each District Energy Node (gas fired pump) to the grid, but also supplies hot and cold water to a small number of nearby buildings. The outcome has been a financial disaster due to poor planning and execution with Ms. Farbridge chair of GMHI until her defeat in October 2014.

Yes we can fight city hall

Supporting this administration is the little paper that can’t, the Guelph Mercury Tribune. It’s biased with one-sided coverage of the administration has been revealed when the paper refused to publish Guelph citizen Pat Fung, CPA, CA’s expert analysis of the financial state of the City of Guelph. Not only that but the paper refused a full-page ad on the Fung analysis claiming it wasn’t documented, was inflammatory and too political.

And all this time we believed that more people would be able to read the financial analysis.

The administration. who received copies of Mr. Fung’s analysis, rejected his findings and this was dutifully echoed in the Tribune news pages. Instead of responding with reasonable questions following Mr. Fung’s five-minute presentation to city council last Monday, council waited until he left the chamber to bolster their opinion that his findings were inaccurate.

For the record, not one member of council or the senior management holds the Degree of Chartered Accountant or Certified Public Accountant. DCAO Mark Amorosi controls city finances. He does not possess degrees in either of Mr. Fung’s professional designations nor has his experiences, performing financial analysis and senior staff management for major corporations.

Now comes the next stage of getting the eight-page Fung analysis to as many people as possible. A group of citizens are supporting a complaint about the paper’s refusal to carry the report. They are in the process of contacting the National Press Council to complain about the Tribune’s rejection of a thoroughly researched report..

Think about this. The city has a communication department with 11 communication specialists plus someone on contract. It includes one of that number to be exclusively assigned to the Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson. Question, does Mayor Guthrie have his own communication specialist assigned to him? Just asking.

Let’s see, the cost of this department is just over $1 million not including taxable benefits. The Tribune has only two reporters covering city hall and they have to file reports twice a week.

Respect is won only when there is open and transparent government that is accountable to the people. And a community newspaper that has no competition openly covers both sides of the story.

Oh yes, whatever happened to Andy Best who was hired last year to bring that type of government to Guelph? Just asking.

 

 

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Guelph’s civic operational crisis took nine years to fester and the solutions will not come soon or easy

By Gerry Barker

June 2, 2016

The newly named Mercury Tribune (MT) asked in an editorial: “Is city hall in trouble?”

Why did it take this long to figure that out? Does blowing $27 million on the new city hall project not get the paper’s attention? For eight years the owners of the Mercury and the Tribune soft-pedaled any criticism of the Farbridge administration.

Since the Mercury went to newspaper heaven, the newly named Mercury Tribune carries on the policies of the owners not to bite the hand that feeds you. That’s a reference to the city advertising that is published regularly in the Tribune. Ironically its titled “City News.” The cost is estimated to be $500,000 a year.

Why government competition regulators allowed two newspapers, owned by the same corporation operating in a relatively small community, remains a mystery. The day the Mercury died marked the end of responsible print journalism in Guelph.

To quote the late Lord Thomson of Fleet, a former newspaper baron: “News is the stuff we put around the ads.”

It’s another example of claiming an inanimate object is in trouble. No, It’s the people who run the show who are in trouble. It has been growing like a cancer in the workplace for the past nine years.

It started with the election of former mayor Karen Farbridge and a majority of council who shared her vision of a socialist nirvana and of being a world leader in environmental practices.

She ran the city as a dictator who believed it was the right thing to do for the City of Guelph.

Her policies included:

* Millions spent on waste management (organic waste facility, waste collection system, the Detroit recyclable deal, failure to collect waste from some 6,000 residences).

* Action to reject the use of fossil fuels that affect climate change (bike lanes, Guelph Transit, deliberate lane reductions in major roads … the war on cars).

* Enforced sustainability of green energy supply, (Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc and Guelph Hydro, the geo-thermal and district energy projects, high water and electricity rates).

* Housing intensification, (eliminating single family homes and failing to produce affordable housing).

* Creating financial mismanagement that has driven the city’s cost of living up by more than 50 per cent higher than either Cambridge or Kitchener.

How council hid behind closed-doors

And you know what? Most of it was achieved behind closed doors with little or no input from the citizens, except their so-called progressive supporters.

The MT editorial concluded: “Council needs to control things behind the scenes and mend the rife before it gets any worse.”

This coming from a twice-weekly paper that receives thousands of dollars in advertising from the City of Guelph called “City News.”

This isn’t Kansas Toto, and the people are awakening to realize that more closed-door sessions are not going to solve the problem of a city management dissolving before our very eyes. The only senior managers left are DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Scott Stewart. At this point, the people do not have the confidence that Mr. Amorosi should be considered as CAO.

It did not happen overnight, but has been building up for years. It intensified with the revelation of the Urbacon affair that cost the city more than $27 million over budget to build a new city hall and to renovate the old one into a provincial court.

That was the last straw for the citizens and, in October 2014, they defeated the mayor two of her supporters and there were two supporters who did not run for office.

To the astonishment of the majority of electors, nothing changed. The senior staff under CAO Pappert, in November 2014, before the new council took over, reorganized itself into a committee composed of the CAO and three Deputy Chief Administrative Officers, (DCAO).

Then in March this year, we learned that the three deputies had awarded themselves with huge increases without council’s approval. The current regulation allows the CAO to hire and fire staffers. Only council must approve the CAO’s employment increases.

Well, that’s what happened last December 9, in closed session; Ms.Pappert was given a $37,537 base salary increase for 2015, plus $6,000 in taxable benefits. The public didn’t find out about this 17.11 increase, until last March when the provincial Sunshine list of civic employees earning more than $100,000 was released.

And the Mercury Tribune wants very complex operational change to be solved “behind the scenes?”

This newspaper and its defunct predecessor exacerbated the problem over the Farbridge years by rewriting city news releases. Rarely, I can remember, was there any investigative reporting or digging behind the scenes. And, there was no shortage of material to investigate.

The tiger representing the silent majority is awakening

Now city council has a tiger by the tail. The entire senior management structure needs a complete overhaul. The lower ranked members of the city staff need assurances and guidance to renew efficiency, productivity and restore morale.

There are three key positions that needed as a priority: An independent and professional City Manager replacing Ms. Pappert, a Chief Financial Officer, a Director of Operations. Mr. Scott Steward current DCAO of Environmental Services could be a candidate for the vital operations portfolio. Another possible candidate as a director is City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien.

Mr. Amorosi may want to move on as his responsibilities as head of Corporate Services, should be assumed by the new city manager.

None of this is going to occur overnight. Resetting governance and management polices including salaries and organizational structure will take months, if not years.

Looming immediately is the audit of the GMHI operations to be released shortly. In the fall there is the 2017 budget preparations and consideration of the staff that proposed 2 per cent property tax infrastruture levy for owners.

With the current make-up of city council, the solutions will not come easily. That’s where we the people come in. Tell our councillors to bury their political differences and work together to restore responsible government to Guelph.

If not, work to get rid of those who fail to meet their responsibilities.

If we don’t react, I’m reminded if the late Walt Kelly’s comic strip Pogo, who said in the Okeefenokee Swamp: “ We have seen the enemy and they is us.”

 

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How city council dodged discussing the two per cent infrastructure levy

By Gerry Barker

Posted December 19,2016

In a report in the Guelph Tribune, it stated that the city was considering a ten-year, two per cent levy on property tax stakeholders to pay for the aging infrastructure of our 200 year-old city.

The accunulated ten-year total amounts to $285 million, and its all coming from property taxes.

The report stated that city financial chair, June Hofland, at the beginning of the December 9 budget meeting moved to send the staff initiated report to the corporate services committee.

As I was at that meeting for eight hours, from start to finish, it took to defeat the operating and capital budget, not once did I hear the words: “Two per cent levy for ten years” spoken by any member of council. There was no further discussion or explanation and the report was approved unanimously.

Thanks to some diligent reporting by the Trib’s Doug Hallett, the details of the report, created by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), were quoted at length.

Now you have to ask the question, why was this major report not included in the 2016 budget considerations? Why? Because of the fear that including it would create a huge property tax increase. With the 2.99 per cent final tax increase, adding another two per cent would bring the 2016 tax increase to 4.99 per cent.

Even the Gang of Seven supporters of the former mayor, lacked the courage to try that on for size this time around. So, like the $8.96 million used to pay the Urbacon Buildings Group lawsuit settlement, they kicked the two percent levy can down the road.

Obviously this bombshell report advanced by the staff before the crucial budget deliberations, was discussed in camera before the meeting. Hofland was chosen to get it off the table and move that the report be sent to the Corporate Services Committee to be discussed at its February meeting.

Kicking it down the road illustrates how a dysfunctional council is unable to control its spending chiefly because of the 7-6 voting edge held by the Gang of Seven.

As for the AMO report, consider that it is an organization funded by the provincial government. Taking it one step further, it is an attempt to divert its responsibility of supporting municipalities to fix its estimated $60 billion infrastructure’s needs onto the backs of ratepayers.

Just look at the mess the Kathleen Wynne Liberals have made of the province’s finances, in which successive budget deficits have resulted in ballooning debt and growing debt service costs. They have dug themselves into a financial hole that, they now assume, can only be solved by selling off assets (Hydro One) or off-loading infrastructure costs onto the municipal taxpayer.

In Guelph, the problem is exacerbated by nine years of financial mismanagement, centred on irresponsible spending. It has resulted in Guelph having one of the highest property tax rates and user fees in the province.

An independent study by Guelph resident Pat Fung, CA, CPA, compared the operating and capital costs between Guelph, Cambridge and Kitchener. He used each city’s official annual financial reports to the province, proving that Guelph’s costs are 50 per cent higher than either of the other two cities.

Despite these findings, the Gang of Seven on city council pushed to add more staff, and more project costs onto the backs of the people. Staff costs are 80 per cent of the property tax levy. Yet it doesn’t seem to concern the council majority or the senior city staff.

In a letter to the Tribune Alan Pickersgill, a follower of the Farbridge leftist agenda, says: “The city does not have a spending problem. It has a revenue shortage and a constituency that appears unwilling to do what is needed to correct it.”

Well Alan, it is clear that you have joined the “no-brainer” financial theorists on council and staff. The disastrous financial mistakes and errors in judgment, made by the previous administration, amplify your sweeping assertion that it’s okay to soak the taxpayers to pay for it.

It now appears that those three reserve funds that were raided to pay off Urbacon will not be repaid today, tomorrow or in the next five years as promised by Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert.

I am one of your “constituency” folks who do not have faith in a chair of finances whose financial experience and work history as a bank teller now oversees the finances of a $500 million corporation. Or depending on a recently hired General Manager of Finance whose qualifications lay in non-financial jobs in Halton Region, chiefly involving social services. Why should we be confident of a Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, to be senior controlller of city finances, who resides in Hamilton and whose background is Human Resources?

With the exception of Hofland, these people have no skin in the game. They are hired guns and in terms of financial management, do not have any apparent professional financial training, including academic credits.

Until city council hires an experienced Chief Financial Officer to take the necessary steps to clean up the mish-mash of financial management, the city will continue its downward spiral to a serious future financial disaster.

Maintaining the influence of the former Mayor and her agenda has become the Farbridge Factor. It’s a spectre of eight years of setting the city on a course that will take years to recover if the failed system of irresponsible budgeting continues.

If you need more evidence of how our public business is being managed, look no further that the deliberate sandbagging of the AMO report just before the beginning of the 11-hour marathon deliberating the 1016 budget.

It’s just more mushroom politics by our council by keeping us in the dark.

 

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Newspaper readers deserve better says Torstar Chairman

By Gerry Barker

Posted November 9, 2015

In an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star, the chairman of the Torstar Corporation. John Honderich takes umbrage over Postmedia CEO, Paul Godfrey, ordering his chain of 16 papers to endorse Stephen Harper.

Honderich decries the Postmedia action in the recent federal election pointing out that “owning a newspaper is a privilege, not a right.”

The Torstar Chairman goes further stating “ Newspapers are an essential informing part of the democratic process and their first responsibility must be to the local readers they serve.”

Right on, John.

He goes on to state: “In the interest of transparency, it must be declared that editorial independence has always been the official policy of the Torstar newspaper group.”

For clarity reasons, it is important to know that Metroland Publishing, a division of Torstar, is owner of the KW Record, Guelph Mercury, Guelph Tribune and Hamilton Spectator.

Two people manage the Guelph Mercury editorial department. The managing editor and, who reports to Lynne Haddrall, editor in chief at the Record and Mercury. Donna Luelo is publisher of both papers. The Mercury is now printed in Hamilton resulting in closing down its in-house printing operation.

So, perhaps Mr. Honderich can explain how the Guelph Mercury is independent and transparent? As he pointed out, the first responsibility is to the local readers they serve. So with the publisher of the Mercury and his editor in chief working and living in Kitchener, where is the editorial independence of the Mercury/Tribune readers and citizens of Guelph?

Mr. Chairman, I can help you with this as I have been covering Guelph municipal affairs for nine years. For five years I wrote a regular column in the Mercury that was often critical of the administration.

I was let go about three months after announcing that I started an online blog guelphspeaks.ca to fill the void of three weeks in which my Mercury columns were not scheduled. I have no regrets about that decision. It gave me more freedom to question the administration’s policies and how our city was being managed.

The bottom line is, in eight years, the Mercury suffered staff cuts in the editorial department, thereby reducing its ability to check slanted news releases from the city communication department and investigate the facts and operation of the municipality.

As time went by, it became increasingly apparent that the two-term regime of Mayor Karen Farbridge was in serious trouble. The situation exploded in June 2014, when a superior court judge found the city wrongfully dismissed the general contractor  constructing the new city hall and the renovation of the old city hall into a provincial offences court.

It became known as the Urbacon affair and the current overrun cost to the municipality is $23 million.

Mr. Chairman, the result in the October civic election was the defeat of the mayor and four councillors who either quit or were defeated. This happened because the people were galvanized to bring about change in the operation of the city.

I regret that the two newspapers that Torstar owns in Guelph played so little role in this major political upheaval. Their phlegmatic approach reporting the news over those eight years, and their loyalty to the administration, did not go unnoticed. Record numbers of electors flooded the polls. Shortly after the election the editor of the Tribune retired.

So John, perhaps you ought to inform your Metroland group to grant real editorial independence and transparency to the Guelph Mercury and Tribune.

Otherwise your declaration of the newspaper’s first responsibility is to the local readers they serve, doesn’t wash in this part of the province.

Guelph is not Kitchener-Waterloo nor is K/W, Guelph.

I think you get the point.

Regards,

Gerry Barker

 

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Turkeys and the Titanic compost project

Editor’s note: This is a letter sent to the Guelph Tribune that was refused. Another example of the stifling of free speech and commentary by the Corporately owned Guelph papers.

Posted July 29, 2012

Why was I not surprised to hear a news item on the local radio station that Guelph was paying Hamilton to  ship their green bag compostables to Guelph? The city doesn’t have sufficient green bag volume to commission the new wet-dry facility.

The reason being given for this waste of money is that the projected compost material contracted from Waterloo, which was touted as a cornerstone to  ensure the plant viability, is less than planned.

Guelph had the opportunity to contract with Hamilton for green bag composting but in a misguided ego  trip, decided to  build its own facility. It would appear that the numerically and financially illiterate mayor and her merry band of tax and spend councilors, are seeing the turkeys come home to  roost.

Wait until the less than hoped for efficiencies come to roost when the 3 bin waste collection comes on stream. Another turkey circling city hall. The whole $50 million waste management (that’s an oxymoron if there ever was one) plan will be recognized as a white elephant with the Guelph taxpayers being on the hook for it. What a legacy!

Glen N. Tolhurst

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