Tag Archives: Guelph

A Fable: Not even super hero Chickenman can save the peasants from financial fiasco

By Anonymous

Posted March 3, 2016

Once upon a time, there was a personable young man who wanted to serve the people of his beloved kingdom of Sustainis Land. He was elected to the Council of Peasants and brought his skill sets to the public trough, controlled by the Queen of the Left and her supporters, thus it was being drained fast.

That’s because the wicked Queen of the Left and her court had eaten all the food in the trough and poisoned the well of public goodwill.

Our hero, decided to run for the office of Lord Mayor of the Peasants, occupied by the powerful Queen of the Left.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the election. The queen’s court had made a huge mistake in judgment by losing a lawsuit brought on by the builders of the new castle that was to house the queen’s court and courtiers. The hapless buidlers were fired before the contruction was finished.

About the only thing this castle was missing was a moat to keep the peasants out. It was the place where the queen’s court, located in the bucolic village market centre, carried on the peasant’s business in secret, far from the madding crowd.

Enter our ambitious councillor who promised to protect the poor villagers from the oppresive taxation by the Queen of the Left. He promised to reduce taxes and restore the rights of the people. When the election was held, our hero soundly defeated the Qieen of the Left. In his former role as a remittance man, our hero met many peasants who supported him because he was admired and assumed trustworthy.

But the new mayor was befuddled by what he inherited from his predeccesor. He inherited a tangled financial mess and an obstinate staff. But he made the decision to get along with his council regardless.

Our hero quickly learned that his council was still controlled by the supporters of the Queen of the Left. Being a reasonable man, he sought to work with all members of council.

Then the thunderbolt happened! On March 15, just three and one half months on the job, our hero discovered that the majority of council voted to raise the taxes on the peasant’s properties by 3.92 per cent. This made our hero unhappy because he had promised the voters who elelcted him that he would limit tax increases to match the official Peasant’s Cost Index (PCI) of just two per cent.

Quel dilemma! It got worse as events unfurled instead of solving the problems of the peasants.

Next to seeing the 2015 budget break our hero’s promise for lower taxes, came the preparation and agreement for the 2016 budget. Again, it contained a greater tax increase than was promised by our hero. In fact, totalling the two budgets approved by our hero’s first year in office, the peasant’s property taxes were increased by 6.91 per cent.

Next came the revolt of five members of the Queen of the Left to walk away from a regular meeting of council, chaired by our hero. There was no admonishment, no action taken to censure those five councillors who walked out. The peasants were mystified why it happened and still are to this day.

The peasants of the village, particularly the vast numbers who supported our hero’s election wondered what happened to their champion. They still wonder and without explanation from their hero are losing patience and confidence.

The sounds of cluck-cluck were heard throughout the village and there were even T-shirts with Chickenman printed on the front sprouting up among the populace.

The peasants were coming to the realization that their hero, elected to change and reform the city, was essentially looking after his self-serving interests and his desire to go beyond Sustainis Land to become a senior government representative.

And folks, that’s when our hero became known as Chickenman amonf the Sustainis Land peasants; who failed to respect the people who elected him but chose to use his skills to divert attention to confront those members on council and stop the bleeding of the public purse.

It is now abundantly clear, our hero will always be labelled as Chickenman because he headed for the hen house when the roosters took over his council.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Chickenman.

 

 

 

Advertisements

11 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Did City Clerk Stephen O’Brien get a call from Karen about her friend Susan Watson?

Posted September 2, 2015

It is a stunning pre-determination outcome of the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC) meeting September 10. City clerk Stephen O’Brien has said he doesn’t believe that Susan Watson has to reimburse the city for the cost of her election complaint.

O’Brien did not reveal the total audit costs except that he said the auditor William Molson’s fee was fixed at $7,500. The fee that Mr. Molson contracted for was $7,500.plus $500 for each meeting. In addition the clerk did not include the fee paid to the “subject matter expert” Toronto lawyer, Jody Johnson, hired to advise the CAC members of their duties and responsibilities. Nor does he mention the staff costs spent on the CAC audit.

A rough estimate is the city so far has spent more than $10,000 on the Watson complaint brought on Glen Tolhurst for receiving a donation for $400 from GrassRoots Guelph Voters Association Inc (GRG). As a candidate in the 2014 civic election, Mr. Tolhurst spent less than $2,900 on his ward six campaign in which he was not elected.

The Watson complaint was based on three elements:

* Tolhurst did not claim the value of GRG advertising in the Guelph Tribune of which he was one of 12 candidates suggested for consideration by voters.

Mr. Molson disagreed saying that the GRG advertising campaign was not and should not be considered a contribution to Tolhurst’s campaign.

* Susan Watson stated that GRG erroneously called itself a business when in fact it was a citizen’s group.

Mr. Molson disagreed. GRG is a non-profit incorporated organization under the Ontario Corporations Act and therefore entitled to make donations in municipal elections.

Tolhurst’s greatest sin: Clerical errors valued less than $10

The auditor noted that Tolhurst contravened the Ontario Municipal Elections Act (MEA) by failing to note in his official expenses report the cost of a city map ($5.50), checked off the wrong box on the form and under-reported an expense by $1.

It is ludicrous for O’Brien to suggest that Tolhurst contravened the MEA on that basis so therefore Watson does not have to repay the city. The auditor, in his report, said the reporting errors were not enough to be considered a contravention of the MEA

Why, before the committee has had a chance to consider the Molson report, is the city clerk claiming that Ms. Watson, the person who made the false allegations that caused the audit, is not responsible?

His comments, as a senior city official, are unworthy, unprofessional and slanted. The people have already determined that this complaint was vindictive and frivolous. And conducted at the public expense.

The clerk says the CAC could “commence legal action against Tolhurst if the auditor found that Tolhurst contravened the Act”.

Does the city of Guelph really want to go to court over election expense errors under $10? The CAC’s own auditor stated the errors were not significant to warrant such an action.

The committee “will probably weigh the perceived and severity of the contraventions,” the clerk added.

Clerk says we have to follow proper procedures

While the CAC is independent of Council, the clerk stated, “it is their job to ensure that the proper process is followed.”

Mr. O’Brien, are you suggesting that the proper process was not followed? Are you basing your statement that repayment of public funds by Susan Watson “is not going to happen?”

Let’s get this straight. The CAC May 6 ordered an audit of Glen Tolhurs’s election expenses. May 20, the CAC selected William Molson to perform the audit over the objections of one CAC member, who said an auditor with more experience in such cases should be selected. Molson’s bid was the lowest of three.

This appears to be following procedures.

Mr. Molson commenced the audit process in June. Nowhere during the audit investigation were there failures of procedures.

When Molson released the report, he found that the accusations made by Susan Watson failed to meet the test under which she claimed Tolhurst contravened the Act.

The CAC has little choice in this matter. It’s own auditor has basically said the complaint is unfounded. His judgment was based on law, the MEA and the Corporations Act. He said changing those laws was beyond the scope of the CAC.

The most egregious part of this is O’Brien’s blatant interference in the process is that Watson would not have to repay the public funds used to support her claims

Hello, Karen?

6 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Some questions for Andy Best Guelph’s new open government program manager

Posted August 28, 2015

The Mercury ran a FrontPage story this week accompanied by a photograph of the new open government manager, Andy Best.

Well, let’s start by testing how transparent and open Guelph’s new manager really is.

* When was it decided to establish a new position to manage a transparent and open government (T and O)?

* How was the salary of $91,000 determined if this position is a first in Canada?

* Why is the position a contract position with a one-year duration?

* Where was the position posted?

* What were the job specifications for applicants?

* How many applicants responded to the job posting?

* Who posted the position and who interviewed applicants?

* According to the story in the Mercury, why is the focus on developing Internet –based communication programs when a large portion of the population does not use computers or smart phones?

* Were you not a president of the Guelph Civic League?

* Did you not support former mayor Farbridge in her failed re-election campaign?

* Did you receive compensation for work done on behalf of the Farbridge campaign?

* Why is there no mention of opening council and staff meetings that are consistently conducted in camera?

* Who do you report to?

This exercise smacks of a patronage appointment for work done on behalf of the previous administration. It is too coincidental that a loyal supporter of the former mayor and her chosen slate of candidates lands a great job with the city. Is it possible to assume that this position was not part of the 2015 budget?

And if it was, why wasn’t it debated in an open and transparent council meeting as part of the budget discussions?

This is exactly the kind of policy decisions that were made, in secret, for the past eight years by an administration that failed to protect its fiduciary responsibilities to the people.

There is no secret about the fall-out. Most voters decided that losing more than $14 million on the failed New City Hall project called for a change in the way the city was being managed.

There is no room for patronage appointments, particularly choosing those who were party to the failed policies of the previous administration.

The policies proposed by Andy Best in the Mercury, illustrate that the real problems in Guelph need to be solved by reducing costs, reviewing all management procedures and fixing the aging infrastructure.

It isn’t necessary to establish a department that is planning new communication services that has nothing to do with transparency and open government.

Andy Best cites the do-it-yourself budget simulator program on the city website, allowing citizens to tinker with departmental budgets. It amounts to nothing more than a survey. It is devoid of the nuts and bolts of budget management. A clear example is the lack of any information about the costs of lawyers and consultants.

It’s a dreadful sham that will be disregarded when the real budget planning gets under way next month.

That’s a sad excuse for selling T and O to the taxpayers.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Tackling the former administration’s voodoo financial tactics

 

Posted March 20, 2015

Now that Ms. Maggie Laidlaw is no longer a member of Guelph council after her defeat at the polls last October, should we trust her current judgment that the people did not vote for tax cuts?

After reading her latest column in the Mercury, it’s easy to understand why she was not re-elected. The barrage of negative blog comments in the Laidlaw column , echo why she was not re-elected.

She still sticks to the myth that the Urbacon firing was caused by then-acting CAO Hans Loewig. She went on to write that only he had the authority to do so, not council. This myth is perpetuated by the current CAO, Ann Pappert, who stated he had the right to dump the city hall general contractor under “the CAO bylaw”.

And that says a lot about these ladies who are still operating as if there wasn’t an electionUrban myths are easy to propagate when you hold tight control of the city’s business, as was the case for the past eight years under former Mayor Karen Farbridge. And Maggie Laidlaw remains chief cheerleader for the tawdry operations of the city from 2007 to 2014.

The choice of accepting Ms. Laidlaw on the Community Editorial Board lies with the Mercury management. The selection methodology is unclear. The supporters of the previous administration are in a firm position to maintain the myth, you know, the one about blaming Hans Loewig for firing Urbacon.

Myth and the man was rewarded six weeks after the firing with the CAO getting a juicy four-year contract starting at $195,000 a year plus benefits. For the record, the current holder of that office, Ms. Pappert, earns $234,000 and that doesn’t include the $20,000 she was paid to move from Waterloo to Guelph. The Canada Revenue Agency allows a moving expense deduction if moving more than 20 kilometer for a job. In Pappert’s case it was a bonus.

And Maggie Laidlaw wonders why she and her pal, the former mayor, were not re-elected. People! You got it all wrong on October 2014!

It’s the classic “you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Not far behind, is the Community Editorial Board’s, Yvette Tendick. She opines in the paper that because the previous council agreed to spend $300,000 last year for a “multi-use path” on Woodlawn Road, it should be spent this year along with a similar amount in the 2015 budget. Adding that she is proposing that $300,000 be spent every year for the next ten years. That’s a total of $3,600,000 to support that minority of “active transportation” adherents.

Wisely, the proposal was axed from the 2015 budget as was the previous $300,000 contained in the 2014 budget created by the previous administration. That money was promised but never spent. It was an election year remember?

The writer should understand that unspent city budget allocations in a calendar year cannot be rolled over to the next year’s budget. This is what Ms. Tendick is proposing. It was a practice of the previous administration to do just that. The administration declared in the official Financial Information Report, filed annually with the province, the closing figure was frequently altered in the folowing year’s budget.

This was documented in the petition to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing by GrassRoots Guelph. It challenged the accounting of public funds, and the charges are as true today as they were three years ago.

To read the actual petition, please go to guelphspeaks.ca and click on the post: “Petition by citizens in 2013..”. In the event you are unable to access, send an email request to gerrybarker76@gmail.com.

Just how many persistently active “active transportation” enthusiasts are using Guelph’s sidewalks and streets? This is another hangover from the previous administration that used public funds to create social change for a minority of citizens.

It was a basic war on cars advocated by members of yesterday’s council, regularly addressed by Maggie Laidlaw, a durable cyclist. She predicted some years ago that cars would not exist downtown in Guelph within 20 years. Reckon that prediction still has 14 years to materialize.

Did she seriously believe that seniors and the disabled could get to doctor’s appointments and grocery shop on bicycles or by walking?

The exact opposite has occurred with the narrowing vehicle lanes on major roads to allow wider bicycle lanes, creating growing traffic congestion.

This is yet another example of the huge job facing the new council to correct the mistakes, misrepresentations, excessive taxation, and voodoo financials imposed on the city for the past eight years.

They face daunting tasks ahead and we wish them well.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

Is eMERGE yet another reincarnation of the Guelph Civic League?

Posted December 10, 2014

Just when you think the Farbridge era is over, the cousin of the Guelph Civic League, eMERGE, pops up spouting much of the same environmental material and “action plans” that the majority of Guelph voters rejected October 27.

Under the guise of bringing people together, the Farbridge-era supporters advocate reducing your carbon footprint, waste, energy, water and automotive transportation.

Translation: Sell your car and seek alternative transportation, such as riding a bike, walking or taking public transit; recycle to reduce waste; put a brick in your toilet tank; don’t water your garden, use a rain barrel; grow a vegetable garden and enrich the soil with chicken droppings from the coop.

These are, on the surface, viewed by the leftist minority as necessary to survive but are not a pragmatic solution in our civic society. One that is mostly dependent on revenues from property taxes and user fees.

It’s an agenda advocated by the ramblings of multi-millionaire environmentalist, David Suzuki. Who, it should be noted, endorsed our former mayor in her bid for re-election.

eMERGE is financed with your money through the Trillium Foundation, a provincial government fund to encourage public participation in civic affairs. It is an extension of 10 Carden Street, the non-profit offshoot of the Guelph Civic League. It received a grant of $135,000 a few years ago to promote all things “wellbeing” in the city.

eMERGE was started up about a year ago to follow through on the Farbridge administration’s war on cars by remarking major streets creating traffic congestion, dividing the community with forced management of waste, advocating sustainability, including eating locally grown food.

It is beyond coincidence that there was political motivation behind the timing of the start-up. It was a well-planned advocacy group, composed chiefly by supporters of the Farbridge manifesto to change Guelph into something it was not ready to accept. The identity of the eMERGE leadership is not apparent.

The former Mayor conducted much of the city’s business without public input. Oh, they would hold consultation meetings composed chiefly of her supporters plus members of the city staff dragooned to attend to beef up the numbers.

In many cases these so-called public consultations were a sham meant to give the illusion of full public support.

Two glaring examples come to mind. The decision to renovate the Loretto Convent on Catholic Hill into a civic museum was done behind closed doors without any public input. More than $15 million was spent in the name of preserving the pre-Confederation building that was located on property not owned by the city. The details of the property arrangement with the Roman Catholic Diocese in Hamilton have never been revealed. The end cost of the project is not known as there were serious infrastructure problems encountered during construction.

The second example is the multi-million dollar Waste Resource Innovation Centre (WRIC) located on Dunlap Drive. This was the crown jewel project of the former Mayor’s determination to turn Guelph into the “world class” waste management capital. The money was spent on the pretext that Guelph’s waste, and the Region of Waterloo’s waste and Waste from Detroit would be processed in the WRIC, thereby diverting waste from the landfill. Once again the secrecy of the deals made with organic water processing plant contractor Maple Reinders and its subsidiary companies, the Rizzo waste management outfit from Detroit, have not been revealed. Nor has the annual cost of running the WRIC.

The trouble is you cannot stuff these targeted ideals down people’s throats as the Farbridge administration did over eight years. The result was a huge waste of money through bad decisions that citizens will be paying for the next five years.

When eMERGE brags about Copenhagen soon becoming carbon neutral, you get a good idea of where this organization is heading. Guelph is not Copenhagen. For eMERGE to set arbitrary goals for reducing carbon, using less water and energy is the handmaiden of Farbridge reincarnated.

The recent Auditor General’s scathing report on the management of the province by the Liberal Government has its roots in Guelph. Mayor Farbridge artfully absorbed Guelph Hydro into the Guelph Municipal Holdings Corporation (GMHI) of which she was chairman. The hydro utility is worth some $175 milliohm and has been sending a “dividend” of its operations to the city. If the former mayor had been re-elected, it is likely the utility would have been sold.

Don’t be fooled by eMERGE’s slick propaganda and website. The people voted for change in the way our city has been run. It’s now up to Mayor Guthrie and the council to steer a new path that is progressive yet affordable.

That includes building a reputation that Guelph is a great place for new businesses to locate, offers new job opportunities, is a great city in which to live and is affordable.

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

More short takes on bridges, budgets and a business plan

Posted October 25, 2013

A bridge too low?

The city takes two years to rebuild the lower section of Wyndham Street including installing crash guards under the CN rail bridge over the street.

Unfortunately, the city brain trust did not measure the distance from the bottom of the crash guards to the newly laid pavement. Result is there have been four collisions with trucks smacking the guards.

This prompted city engineers to close the street trying figure out what the problem was and to put signs up to warn truckers once the real height is determined.

Meanwhile the street is subject to intense investigation until a solution is found.

It only took two years, eh?

When Janet Laird speaks, is anyone listening anymore?

The dilemma of 6,400 condominium residents in the city not having their waste picked up by the new-fangled automated cart collectors, was not helped by comments by garbage poobah, Janet Laird.

Dr. Laird flatly said there is an understanding at city hall that introducing private collection of waste won’t be considered by Guelph. Not until “efficiencies” of the new system are established.

Guess that’s what she has to say seeing she is the author of the $52 million waste management system that doesn’t work. It fails to serve some 6,400 Guelph residences and the organics plant is unable to reach its planned capacity of 30,000 tonnes of wet waste processed annually.

Her response is “we have offered solutions to all condo developments for dealing with the cart system.”  Tell that to the owners. These are the same owners who purchased their property that had been approved by the city officials to receive all services including garbage collection.

Don’t expect this administration to resolve this serious problem, if Dr. Laird has any say.

Coun. Ian Findlay and the Wilson Farmhouse magical business plan

Ian Findlay, ward 2 councillor, is a small business owner downtown. He now proposes to have the city finance $500,000 to renovate the Wilson Farmhouse into a community centre and “green living showroom” for the whole city.

The business case states the conversion will turn a profit of $17,000 a year. Ian please, that won’t cover the debt-servicing let alone the liability insurance and other variable operating costs.

This has to be the dumbest idea for the good councilor to mastermind since his trip to Edmonton a few years ago to study how that city addresses the public human waste problem. Remember the downtown pissoir experiment that barred females from using the temporary facility, only men? Guess it seemed like a good idea at the time. Ka’ching Ka’ching!

Current public interest in Guelph has the “greening” of the city at the bottom of the family bucket list.  There is far more interest in reining in spending, controlling tax increases and stopping the cuckoo ideas that council members keep bringing up.

Findlay’s proposal deserves a decent burial. It may be fun running the city business and spending other people’s money but politically, it can be a dangerous exercise.

Crafting a city budget for 2014 requires tight public scrutiny

We are approaching the last year of this council’s life. Already the staff has stated that the starting point for the 2014 budget is a 3.4 per cent property tax increase. Hey! That’s an improvement over last year when the staff recommended an 8.5 per cent increase.

There is a major cloud hanging over the city’s 2014 budget gyrations. It’s a petition by taxpayers for an audit of the city’s finances and operations. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing received the petition and has revealed that it will investigate to determine what led up to the citizen demand for an independent audit.  The non-partisan GrassRoots Guelph organization, of which the writer is a member, has made serious charges of documented financial mismanagement.

In the event some or all these charges are proved to be accurate by an independent audit, this will severely affect the 2014 budget that is to be wrapped up in late November.

Another factor affecting the 2014 city budget is the judgment that is forthcoming involving five lawsuits over the construction of the new city hall. This could result in a liability of more than $20 million including legal costs.

Any thoughts by the Farbridge administration that the 2014 budget will be a good news budget loaded with promises of money for the minority special interests and base of supporters can be devastating at the ballot box next October.

Is the party over? Turn out the lights.

5 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

She never promised us a rose garden

Posted June 11, 2012

At a recent meeting of the Public Liaison Committee overseeing the new $33 million compost plant, members were told that “this is a waste facility and I don’t think we can guarantee there will never be odours.

This was in a letter by Janet Laird, Executive Director of Planning and Building, Engineering and Environment and point person on the compost plant project. I don’t think they print business cards that can handle that title.

First some background.

From 2003 to 2006 the council led by Mayor Karen Farbridge maintained a policy of composting of wet waste. That council also introduced the three plastic bag system to households. During that period, it is interesting to note that Ms. Laird was the person in charge of the management of waste in the city.

In 2006, a new council was elected under the leadership of Mayor Kate Quarrie. It was apparent from the get-go that the compost plant, a metal building, was a management nightmare exhausting extreme odours, a deteriorating structure due to chemical reactions of the composting and creating a safety hazard for employees.

The neighbours formed the Guelph Waste Management Coalition under the leadership of Ken Spira. The group complained bitterly of the smells emanating from the original plant and flowing into nearby neighbourhoods.

Council listened and shut the plant down, the manager was terminated and the wet waste was shipped to a New York State incinerator. It’s important to note that cost of this waste removal was $85 a tonne.

In 2006, Karen Farbridge swept back into office along with 10 members of council who supported her policies.

Enter Janet Laird with a new proposal to reinvent the composting of Guelph’s wet waste.

She now denies promising there would be no odours from the proposed plant. During the planning and public hearings, it was emphasized that the plant would be odour free.

The planning by Director Laird’s staff did not include any alternative to handling the wet waste other than building a new composting plant. It was proclaimed that the plant would be state of the art in handling the city’s wet waste.

But then things started going off the rails.

The final design of the plant approved a capacity that was three times the city’s needs for the next 20 years.

The successful contractor, Maple Reinders, said one of its associated companies would negotiate with Waterloo to have its wet waste processed in the new plant.

At the same time, questions were raised about the cost of the city operating the plant. Estimates by Guelph Waste Management Coalition calculated the cost would be $342 a tonne. That was more than twice the price to be paid by Waterloo.

To this day, after eight months of operation, the Laird department has not released the real operating costs of the plant. Also, the plant has never reached operational capacity.

Now, one would think that such a huge project would be thoroughly examined by the Ministry of Environment (MOE) along with the assigned city officials.

Along came a major curve ball with the MOE stating the plant could not receive waste in plastic bags. The decision was made to spend another $15 million to supply bins to households and custom trucks to empty the bins.

Was this never considered in the design phase of the plant?  Or was it submerged to avoid a negative public reaction before the plant was built?

Meanwhile, in her letter, Ms. Laird upset the Public Liaison Committee by stating that the odour complaints made last November “had not been verified.” She further chastised residents commenting they “should not be encouraged to report faint odours.

This plant commenced operation last September. It was halted from November to February when more testing was done with small amounts of wet waste.

Now the city is importing 900 tonnes of wet waste from Hamilton, starting in July, for a six-week test to determine if the plant is meeting all terms of the contract.

This project, foisted on an uninformed public, is an example of arrogance by the Farbridge administration that is consumed with the environment.

Indeed, a rose by any other name.

2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines