Tag Archives: Guelph

Why are citizens still paying the legal costs of a former employee who was fired?

By Gerry Barker

February 5, 2020

Opinion

Part Two

Here are 41 facts that the three-year city financed lawsuit against a private citizen proves nothing but a wanton waste of public money. It also reveals important pieces of evidence of a conspiracy by senior officials no longer employed and a compliant city council approving the financing the legal costs of one employee who was fired. He was the one who launched a defamation lawsuit against blogger Gerry Barker in November 20116.

These facts support how the abuse of political power exercised by the City of Guelph administration that has blown the doors off the public’s right to know its business. Accountability, transparency and open government are ignored most of the time.

It’s a secret society, self-absorbed and devoid of fair comment and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights.

But judge for yourself. Read the facts and discover how people we elected have wasted your tax dollars on a mindless denial of our rights in an inverted action of revenge.

The Royal City no longer translates into Camelot

FACT 1 – For the record, my wife and I are residents of the City of Guelph.

FACT 2 – In 2016, I wrote 10 blog posts as outlined Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi’s statement of claim that he sued me for defamation. The posts were critical of his role in secretly concealing a total of $98,202 salary increases shared by three senior executives, including Mr. Amorosi.

FACT 3 – These increases were awarded December 10, 2015 in a closed-session of city council.

FACT 4 – It has never been revealed whether these increases were paid retroactively for 2015 or were received throughout the year before the approval.

FACT 5 -I was served in August 2016 with a demand to apologize to Mark Amorosi for publishing posts on guelphspeaks.ca, critical of the city administration for concealing senior staff salary increases for 2015 to 2019.

FACT 6 – The Toronto lawyer representing Mr. Amorosi, Mark MacKinnon, wrote the demand for an apology. The terms included that he would write it. He demanded that it had to be posted at the top of the guelphspeaks blog for 30 days. This demand was rejected.

FACT 6 – Mr. MacKinnon also stated to my counsel that if I refused, he would recommend legal action.

FACT 8 – On November 15, 2016, Mr. Amorosi announced on the front page of the Mercury Tribune newspaper that he was suing Barker for $500,000 based on defamation as a result of the alleged critical posts on his blog. Amorosi stated in the article that the City of Guelph was paying his legal expenses.

FACT 9 – In January 2017, Mr. Barker requested a copy of the minutes of the Dec. 10 closed-session meeting of council, and it was denied in April with no explanation.

FACT 10 – On February 9, 2017, Mr. Amorosi was fired as published in the Mercury Tribune newspaper. He did not physically leave city employment until February 20.

FACT 11- The day before his dismissal, city Solicitor Donna Jaques resigned to take a job with the Northland Railroad.

FACT 12 – Three major media outlets described Amorosi’s departure as being “fired.” The Mercury Tribune that also described the departure as being fired joined them.

FACT 13 – In a sworn statement Mr. Amorosi testified that “he agreed to leave” when confronted with an inadvertent release from the Information Technology department. It forwarded some 50,000 confidential emails to a third party representing a fired employee, Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole. Mr. Poole sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. Mr. Amorosi was in charge of that IT department and it formed the basis of his dismissal.

FACT 14 – the Poole lawsuit was settled following the return of the missing files. Terms were never disclosed.

FACT 15 – In September 2015, Ms. Pappert requested that she receive payment of her unused sick day and vacation benefits from the Human Resources department. That department was under Mr. Amorosi’s responsibilities and three months before the salary increases to the senior managers was approved Dec. 10 in closed-session.

FACT 16 – On March 31, 2016, the 2015 provincial Sunshine List was published. The public learned of the three senior managers shared salary increases of $98,202. The province publishes the List composed of all public employees in the province earning more than $100,000 a year, not including taxable benefits.

FACT 17 – For unknown reasons, the city publishes its own “Sunshine List” each December but does not include the salaries of the senior managers.

FACT 18 – Of the three recipients, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, who received an increase of $37,000 taking her 2015 salary to $257,000, a 16.8 per cent increase? Much of that increase was a retroactive performance bonus of $27,000.

FACT 19 – This information about Ms.Pappert’s 2015 compensation was revealed in August 2016.

FACT 20- Ms. Pappert’s compensation as Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. for four years has never been revealed.

FACT 21 – DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson shared the balance. Amorosi’s 2015 salary increased 14 per cent to $209, 000.

FACT 22 – Derrick Thomson received an increase of 19 per cent taking his 2015 salary to more than $207,000.

FACT 23 – The three senior managers cost the city in 2015, $673,000 plus some $22,000 in taxable benefits. That figure does not include the $181,000 paid to DCAO Al Horsman who worked for eight months and took a job as CAO of Sault Ste. Marie.

FACT 24 – CAO Ann Pappert resigned in April 2016. DCAO Thomson resigned in January 2016 but was rehired in May to replace Ms. Pappert who left her job May 26, 2016.

FACT 25- Colleen Clack replaced Thomson as chief of Public Services. At the time her salary was $142,000. She was later promoted to DCAO.

FACT 26 – When the 2016 Sunshine List was published in March 2017, former employee Ms. Pappert was paid $263,000 for five months work in 2016.

FACT 27 – The new CAO announced details of his three-year contract, which included a salary of $230,000 plus $11,000 taxable benefit for using his personal car for city business.

FACT 28 – In March 2019, Derrick Thomson “parted ways with the city” for reasons unknown today. When the 2018 Sunshine list was published, Mr. Thomson’s salary was $335,000. In just two and a half years on the job, Mr. Thomson earned $100,000 more than his stated 2016 three-year salary of $230,000.

FACT 29 – Mayor Cam Guthrie explained that Mr. Thomson was given a $67,000 performance bonus for his work on giving away Guelph Hydro to Alectra Utilities. Guelph Hydro stated in its 2016 financial report that the city-owned power distribution utility had a total value of $228 million.

FACT 30- when city council approved the Hydro merger, there was $18.5 million of cash sitting on Hydro’s books to be returned to the city’s general revenues. There has been no reporting or accounting of what happened to the money, owned by the citizens.

FACT 31 – Mr. Amorosi testified under oath that city council did not approve staff salaries but it was the responsibility of the CAO. If it’s true, under the CAO Bylaw, it was CAO Thomson who approved his 2018 salary and performance bonus. If it is not true, them did Mr. Amorosi commit perjury?

FACT 32 – I requested a statement from the city in 2018 of the amount of public money that had been spent on Mr. Amorosi’s lawsuit and it was denied because the case was before the courts.

FACT 33 – From a reliable source, I learned there was another closed-session meeting of council in May 2018 to discuss the status of the Amorosi lawsuit and the legal costs to May 2018. It was reported the city paid Amorosi’s legal costs of $30,000. Without reservation, knowing what my legal costs are to date, it will be much more than that figure and counting. This is another example of the city denying and obfuscating the details that aren’t serving the public interest.

FACT 34 – The city has never explained why it is continuing this attack on one of its citizens. One who dared to criticize an issue that according to the city’s own code of conduct, that excludes open government policies, allowing accountability and transparency of the public’s business?

FACT 35 – It has cost Amorosi nothing in three years to perpetuate the city’s complicity in continuing to finance his lawsuit that is without merit.

FACT 36 – To date it has cost me $86,000 to defend myself. It’s not over yet.

FACT 37– The city administration has never cooperated or acknowledged details of that December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting of council. It approved the three senior staff increases. In that same month, in another closed-session, council approved a bylaw indemnifying any employee or elected officials by paying their legal costs if facing a legal proceeding against them.

FACT 38 – I did not sue Mr. Amorosi, he sued me, or I didn’t fire him or, in his submission made to the judge in 2019 that he was unable to get a job because of what I had written about him in 2016.

FACT 39 – Two independent individuals searched Mr. Amorosi’s name on the Internet. There was only one of my posts on the site but references to his dismissal from the city dominated the site.

FACT 40 – Since August 2016, the same lawyer has represented Mr. Amitosis.

FACT 41 – CAO Ann Pappert who left the city in May 2016 recommended the indemnification bylaw in December 2015.

SUMNARY

These are facts. They represent a major attack by a city council on a private citizen for unfounded reasons.

The cost to the citizens of Guelph including me, the defendant, is being covered-up by the administration.

I have never been found guilty of defaming Mark Amoroso.

After more than three years of costly litigation the end is nowhere in sight. So far, the lawyers are ahead, 180 to 0 for the city and its citizens who are paying the legal costs.

It can only end when the citizens demand it. This legal procedure was started by the city administration that financed all the legal costs of the Amorosi lawsuit.

It’s up to the administration to end this

Our taxes, fees and services are way out of line with comparable communities. It has been like that for the past 13 years. That’s the main reason that our costs of living in Guelph keep increasing every year. Just remember the promise made by Cam Guthrie in 2014 that he would keep the property tax annual increase equal to the rate of inflation.

That promise went out the window with his first budget for 2015 when the final rate was 3.96 per cent. The Consumer Price Index for 2014 stated the inflation rate for Canada was 1.1 per cent.

So if you are satisfied with the way your city is being managed, with respect, you should start researching how this city has arbitrarily increased its operating cost and capital spending to build needed projects, such as a new central library, the South End Community Centre to name just two.

Two project that leap out and are under way or recently completed, the new Maintenance Campus for Guelph Transit and the Parkade on Wilson Street next door to City Hall. Both these projects on the surface seem important but strikingly inclusive of staff needs.

There has been too much waste of resources, mismanagement, not to mention the millions lost including Urbacon, GMHI, environmental services, downtown, dodgy deferred taxes and development breaks to developers, to name a few emptying the city till.

If you believe that the city and we can do better then let your councillors know and demand a clean up of the administration brand of policies. Press staff and council to lower operating costs. Get rid of the deals and stop the shallow spinning of action. When the city says, that within ten years it will have spent $1,7 billion on capital funded projects, lets have some specifics including estimated costs, dates to completion and the sources of revenue to pay the bills.

This administration is overdue for a diet. Waiting three years to change the cast of characters can’t come soon enough.

I now turn this data over to the court of public opinion.

 

 

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The City of Guelph has spent an estimated $100,000 financing a dismissed employee who is being used as a surrogate to sue a private citizen who criticized the administration.

By Gerry Barker

February 3, 2020

Opinion

Part One

Note: The salary figures used in this report are rounded down for ease of reading. Actual figures are available from the Province of Ontario Sunshine List website or the City of Guelph Finance department.

Today is the first of two parts about how our city council was complicit in attacking a resident for criticizing the administration for concealing, in closed-sessions the payments made to the three top executives. There is no argument that the data was concealed according to the city’s own published “Sunshine List, published in December each reporting year on its,website

We now know that the City’s Sunshine List since 2015 has never revealed the salary data of its top senior managers

They did it because they calculated that most citizens would never access their provincial Sunshine List published annually and containing the three management salary data.

That’s why, until a week ago, that guelphspeaks.ca revealed the $1,392,333 paid to two of those Dec.10, 2026 recipients. One was CAO AnnePappert who resigned May 26, 2016. The other was Derrick Thomson, who left the city in January 2016 and was rehired as CAO in June 2016 to replace Ms. Pappert.

Why Mr.Thomson who had left the city? Were there no candidates in Ontario who were qualified to apply fore a $259,000 job?

Why was Ms. Pappert in such a rush to get out of her job that paid her $263,000 for months work in 2016?

Thomson and the city agreed to “part ways” in February 2019. He was given a one-year contract extention of his $335,000, 2018 income, from the city as CAO.

So, why did he give that up? A year later, he was appointed CAO of a tiny municipality (pop. 9,000).

Now here’s the back-story

From 2015 to February 2017, the third recipient was Mark Amorosi. He sued Barker in November 2016 and was dismissed in February 9, 2017. At the time, his colleague, CAO Derrick Thomson told the public that Amorosi’s dismissal had nothing to do with the lawsuit charging Barker with defamation for telling the truth. In fact, it had a lot to do with the performance of those three senior managers.

This placed the city in an awkward situation. There was no place to hide for Thomson after making that undertaking on behalf of Amorosi who left the city without recourse. Later in a submission to Superior Court Justice, Cynthia Peterson, he stated that he “agreed to leave.”

Even the motion judge stated that three major media outlets described his departure as being “fired.”

This lawsuit has now entered its fourth year. The estimated cost of Amorosi’s lawsuit to the citizen’s is $100,000.

Barker’s legal cost are $88,000 to date. In four years his property taxes cost $30,000. It is impossible to guess what every taxpayer is contributing to this scandal. Until this dispute is cleared, we’re all in it together.

Oh! my there’s more

The city’s dilemma is that this has become a major political problem. It involves using a surrogate, a former employee, who, for four years made Barker pay for his criticism of the administration.

But here’s the rub. Not only is Barker paying to defend himself but also so are the taxpayers including Barker. This is all about political ego, deep pockets using public money and denying the rights of the public trust.

And it’s not going away.

I don’t know who supported this in 2015. However, in sworn testimony, Amorosi stated that CAO Ann Pappert, not city council, vetted and approved all city employee salaries including the senior managers. This claim was made under the special CAO Bylaw covering responsibilities. It appears to be a conflict of interest. Absent are the checks and balances,

It was an overt way to get rid of Barker, except nobody on council figured out the political fallout, and possible intervention in the form of a provincial inquiry.

There is a solution. The City of Guelph, the authors of this misguided support of a lawsuit by a former employee, refund Barker’s legal fees. Barker will take down the alleged offending 2016 posts that initiated this lawsuit.

Each day that goes by only makes a bad decision four years ago, worsen.

Summary

This is the story about a citizen. It is a David versus a corporate Goliath episode about the abuse of power by a city administration against a citizen who blew the whistle on a secret council meeting.

It was no ordinary meeting December 10, 2015. It secretly awarded $98,202 salary increases, bonuses and benefits to the three top managers of the City of Guelph’s administration. The final settlement will be confidential.

It gets better. Follow the record of how municipal financial power is used for four years, attempting to muzzle a citizen who was critical of a number of closed-session meetings by the city administration. A former employee launched defamation lawsuit alleging critical postings published in the blog gurslphspesks.ca. Amorosi announced the city was paying his legal bills.

Here’s a quick summary of what happened. On November 15, 2016, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, sued Gerry Barker for $500,s000 in damages. He claimed defamation resulting from 10 critical blog posts and stated the city was paying his legal expenses. Barker had reported in March 2016, the three top managers received increases totaling $98,202. February 9, 2017, Mark Amoroso was fired.

That was three years ago. The case has never been settled. It has cost Barker YTD $88,000 to defend himself and his postings are fair comment. The city refuses to reveal the cost of supporting Amorosi that is estimated to be more than $100,000 of public money.

It is interesting the Judge Peterson stated that Barkers language was “measured” and did not vilify Amorosi personally.

On Wednesday, February 5, 2020, the second report on this major breach of the public trust will be revealed.

Since November 15, 2016, Gerry Barker has never been found guilty of defaming Mark Amorosi.

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Here is the real story how city council paid two former CAO’s $1,392,333 in four years

By Gerry Barker

January 27, 2020

Opinion

Here is the truth about how city’s Sunshine List published the 2019 staff earning $100,000-plus per year.

In just four years, the Guthrie administration has run roughshod over the public trust and, more important, the public’s pocketbook.

This is about the ballooning size of city staff and the money being paid over a four-year period.

Council are sworn to protect the public interest, provide the necessary checks and balances in acting as the board of directors of a $600 million corporation.

The council giveaway of Guelph Hydro was outrageous of which the benefit to the 55,000 Hydro customers who have yet to receive any explanation or benefit.

Did you know there were two Sunshine Lists publishing the salaries of every employee who earned more than $100,000 per year?

Neither did I until I stumbled on a page deep in the city website.

The city Sunshine List since 2015 revealed all those employees earning more than $100,000. It does not publish the names and data of those managers earning more that $200,000. Don’t forget there are other manager in the 200 grand club whose ID does not appear on the city’s Sunshine List.

The city Sunshine List is published at the end of the calendar year. They “beat” the 2019 provincial Sunshine List that is published in late March.

The provincial List provides the name, occupation, and taxable benefits of every public employee in the province, including those in management.

These figures are generated by the city financial department and forwarded to the provincial Sunshine List department for publication. That list contains the qualifying employees in the 445 Ontario municipalities including Guelph

This is lying by omission in plain sight. What other explanation could there be?

Is it insurance against public outrage? Possibly. Is it to paint over and cover-up the mistakes, wasted resources on pet project spending?

All those protesting the senior manager’s salaries should be shown the City’s Sunshine List that leaves a hazy fog over the truth?

What about those performance bonuses to Pappert and Thomson?

It is becoming apparent that City Council disregards many citizens.

The leadership makes decisions without regard of the unintended consequences.

In March this year, the provincial Sunshine List reports the 2019 salaries, occupations and taxable benefits of ALL public employees in Ontario including the City of Guelph.

The cover-up trail

Let’s check the city’s Sunshine List from 2015 to 2019.

In 2015, the city’s Sunshine List stated there were 158 employees earning $19,170,856. Managers were not on that list.

Conclusion: Can we believe those figures with the managers earning more than $200.000 were not included?

Moving on to 2019. The city’s Sunshine List stated there were 359 employees earning more than $100,000. The cost to citizens is$40,855,826.

The new reform Mayor, elected in 2014, a self-described “numbers guy.” How are his math working for you?

These figures show the doubling of numbers of staffers found on the city website. We have twice elected a Mayor and council that in four years have created more debt and growing exponentially the cost of living of the people who pay the civic bills?

In four years the property tax rate, averaged 3.5 per cent. It has increased property taxes by 17.5 per cent. The figure does not include the effect of increased assessment. Typically adjusted upward each April, bumps up your property tax rate that year.

Throw in the latest operating tax dodge called special levies on property, separate storm water maintenance, annual increases of supplying potable water and dealing with wastewater. Those items are excluded from the city’s operating budget.

It’s the weird system of managing figures and figuring management.

Mr. Mayor, what ever happened to your 2014 election promise to keep the Guelph property tax rate at the level of the Consumer Price index?

Here’s why. The city Sunshine List between 2015 to 2019, did not publish the salaries and benefits to senior managers, Pappert, Thomson and Amorisi.

How serious is this malignant oversight manipulated under the radar by council approving the salary increases?

For 26 months, one of the top managers was Depity Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi. From 2015 to February 2017, he was the man in charge of Finance and Human Resources. He reported to CAO Ann Pappert.

Just for the record, CAO Ann Pappert received, in 17 months, from January 2015 until May, 26, 2016. $520,000.

That’s an average of $30, 588 per month.

Do you know of anyone in your neighbourhood in Guelph who makes that kind of money a month?

As it turned out, she was not alone

In 2018, CAO Derrick Thomson, received $335,000. He left in February 2019. His departure was described by the city as a “parting of the ways.”

Today, the news is that he has just accepted a job, as CAO of Minto, a town in Wellington County, population 9,000. The previous Minto CAO was earning $160,456.

Accepting that job only rekindles speculation about his leaving Guelph. Why did he leave a $335,000 job with a one-year contract extension, to take one that paid half of what he was making as Guelph CAO?

Mr. Thomson was paid $782,333 for 32 months, from June 2016 to Febriary 2019. He also received $33,000 in taxable benefits.

Ann Pappert moves on

After leaving the city in May 2016, former CAO Ann Pappert landed a job in October 2016 as a provincial Assistant Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. She left that position in January 2017 and the trail of employment is not followed.As As it turned out, it was a banner year for Ms. Pappert who not only received $267,000 from mthe City of Guelph but an unknown salary for her four months work in Queen’s Park.

Now we come to Guthrie’s largess with senior staff manager, Mark Amorosi. He was the third recipient in that secret December10 meeting. The provincial Sunshine List confirmed the salary increases to, Pappert, Amorosi and Thomson totaling $98,202P

No one acknowledged the increases until the 2015 Sunshine List was published March 31, 2016. Pappert, Thomson and Amorosi never commented or admitted receiving the money.

For specifically critical of Mark Amorosi’s role as DCAO of Finance and Human Resources, later in the fall, I was sued for defamation claiming $500,000 in damages.

Just over two months later, Amorosi was fired for failing to oversee a data dump of 50,000 personal emails to a Kitchener lawyer representing a former Guelph Chief Building Inspector who sued the city for wrongful dismissal.

His case was quickly settled by the city.

Here we are in the fourth year of the lawsuit.

Last August, the motion judge dismissed our motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The case is now before the Ontario Court of Appeal.

I have no idea when our case will be heard,

I estimate the citizens of Guelph have already paid the lawyer representing Amorosi an estimated $100,000. This is our money. My legal costs are $80,000 and no end in sight.

The city administration refuses to reveal the cost of the personal lawsuit in Ambrosi’s name.

If you believe this laysuit isis unfair and a waste of public money, here’s what to do?

Email; your councillors and tell them yo stop using their fiscal power against a law abiding citizen whi still believes in the Canadian Constitution allowing freedom of expression.

Please send me a copy at:

gerrybarker76@gmail.com

 

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Does the Guelph civic administration abuse its power?

By Gerry Barker

January 20, 2020

Opinion

In 2006, the McGuinty Liberal government, to placate the municipalities’ lobby machine to extend the three-year term of council elections to four years.

In 2006, Guelph elected its first council for four years led by former Mayor, Karen Farbridge. Only two councillors survived the onslaught of the leftist-based Farbridge council supported by the national NDP organization.

What followed was a total domination of the city, its responsibility to the citizens and soaring property tax increases exceeding 3 per cent every year for eight years plus increasing user fees, including water.

So, where did the city collect and spend the money starting in 2007?

The city functions by using an operating budget and a capital spending budget for major projects.

The first was approving spending $12,7000 to convert the abandoned convent building owned by the Diocese of Hamilton. The church wanted to demolish the convent to create more parking for parishioners.

Instead, the city persuaded the church to lease the building to save it as an historic pre-Confederation building. Newly elected councillor Leanne Piper, former chair of the Guelph Heritage group proposed the project to turn it into a Civic Museum.

A noble project in which a minority of the public participated

Four years later the city announced the project cost was $16.5 million.

That does not include the operating costs such as staff, utilities, maintenance, insurance and depreciation.

That was only the beginning of a council that failed to uphold their sworn duty to protect the public trust.

Through all this, the central library replacement, announced by the former mayor in her first three-year term in office was a new downtown library was a priority for council.

Twenty years later we are still waiting.

Here’s a list of some of the projects that were passed by council, without public discussion or involving the citizen stakeholders and their right to accountability and transparency.

* In 2013, council hired a consultant to prepare and plan incorporating accountability, transparency and open government. The bill for that project was $500,000.

* The Organic Waste Processing Facility, that was over built costing $34 million and the builder is still operating the plant. The operation has been a costly, mismanaged project of which the citizens were kept in the dark.

* Spending $15 million for a automated waste collection system using special trucks, each costing $150,000 to do the job, followed that. The troubled\ was the maintenance of the vehicles soured. In addition, several of the new residential developments could not accommodate the vehicles. They were forced to hire contractors to pick up the trash.

* Next came the legal battle to reduce its contribution to the Guelph, Wellington, and Duffrin Public health organization voting to build a new headquarters in Guelph cost $17 million The Mayor sued because Guelph had contributed $10 milliohn to the project, approved by the board of directors.

She lost the lawsuit. The legal bill was reported to cost the city $10,000.

Let’s pause for a minute

In 2006 the city staff number of employees was 1.400. Today, we employ 2,300 full-time and part-time employees. For the record, the cost of city staff consumes 80 per cent of all property taxes. So this is an example of an employee merry-go-round.

The two effects of this unprecedented expansion of staff is one of the exponential growth annual increase in the number of staff and two, the increase in remuneration to the entire staff. Do you believe that a city staffer employed in 2006 witnessed his salary and benefits declining? That’s an unrealistic assumption.

Of course not because of inflation that boosts costs annually.

How about your salary and benefits, pension and elderly benefits increases?

My friends, this is the biggest problem of incompetence by the staff and the elected officials.

They have become one and the same. The trade unions that dominate the city staff work hand in glove with the elected city convoy. Councillors become dependent on the staff in the decision making process.

Should I remind that the majority of city council have acquiesced to the staff for the past 14 years

Let’s move on to expose more of council mismanagement

In n2014, Superior Court Justice Donald Mackenzie, found the city guilty of wrongful dismissal of Urbacon Buildings Group Inc., the general contactors of the old and new City Hall project on Carden Street.

That was settled by the city and cost an additionaL $23 million over the otiginal $42 million contract. That was a 53 per cent increase over six years

Imagine this. You and your spouse are sitting around the kitchen table and sign a contract to remodel the kitchen for $XX. Then you change your mind and add other feature additions. The contractor say wait a minute that’s not what we agreed to.

Regardless, that’s what your city did to you.

Now it gets interesting.

With the defeat of Mayor Farbridge in 2014, and a number of her council, there was something else going on. Newly elected Mayor Guthrie discovered a financial disaster involving Guelph Municipal Holding Inc.

This was a special project the former mayor put together

While mayor, she made herself chair of GMHI board of directors, and then transferred the city-owned Guelph Hydro to GMHI. She also selected city CAO, Ann Pappert, as the CEO of GMHI.

None of this was reported in the midia includingn the only weekly newspaper in the ity. In fact, almost all of the meetings by the GMHI board were conducted in closed-session.

As part of my defence against the city financed defamation lawsuit, I revealed the increases or the three top managers authorized by a closed-session council meeting, Dec. 10, 2015

These details were only revealed four months later when the provincial Sunshine List was published March 31, 2016.

Now, under the Guthrie administration, there are more closed-sessions by council.

In the fall of 2017, council appoints a special committee to investigate the options of selling, merging or keeping it. The result was, the selling option was off the table. And a merger with Alectra Utilities was recommended by the committee apointed by city council..

Late that year, the accounting firm KPMG announced results of a GMHI consolidated audit that showed the shareholders liability of $66 million. What followed was a highly contrived public relations campaign costing citizens $2.5 million resulting in council approving the merger.

To this day, it remain the greatest blunder of financial management in the city’s history. Council gave Guelph Hydro away for peanuts and promises.

What can citizens do to protect their civic assets and the rights to object?

Against this closed-session juggernaut of municipal power there is almost no opportunity to participate, seek accountability or reject the action of the elected officials and staff.

Today, our only option comes every four years during the civic election. The next one is in 2022.

Here how the deck is stacked against you

The city uses closed-sessions to conduct its business.

They use a hired integrity commissioner to keep council members in line and not reveal discussions of closed-session meetings. They are on retainer plus time involving an investigation of a breach of the council Code of Conduct.

An outfit called Amberlee Gravel, who is the special investigators of closed-session council or board meetings when a citizen complains, polices citizen complaints. They are also on an annual retainer plus time investigating.

Since being appointed in 2008, there have been four complaints or requests. All were denied. My request for the minutes of the December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting took four months to decide whether to release the information. Denied.

Remember the power of running the city rests only with city council.

The Ontario Ombudsman’s office refuses to intervene to assist citizens if their city employs an outside special investigator.

In my opinion, there is a conflict of interest that prevents a citizen’s requests apparently by the city’s special closed-session investigatort and the Ombudsman’s office

It’s a municipal Catch 22

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in my experience, is to put it mildly, highly politically partnered with its legislative bosses and ineffective.

Citizens in Guelph have no recourse to have honest, unfettered, non-political hearings of grievances.

How serious is this?

Your city administration is using your money to support a private lawsuit initiated in 2016, against me by a former employee who was fired, according to four major media outlets. His sworn testimony before the court was that he “agreed” to leave.

Was he a team player? Planned on retiring anyway?

I can tell you that he did not receive any additional compensatio after February 20, 2017.

This is a prime example of abuse of power against a citizen who was critical of the secrecy involved in large increases to three top staff managers.

This lawsuit now in its fourth year is not just about Gerry Barker, it’s about all citizens who dare to be critical of public administration that are considered by the city to be improper or incorrect.

I believe citizens must appeal to the provincial government to allow a mechanism to recall any councillor or employee who is complicit in not performing their duties or operate outside their oath of office and its responsibilities.

 

 

 

 

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Canada’s Ballard Power rises from the ashes brings new heavy vehicle pure power to the world

By Gerry Barker

January 13, 2020

Opinion

This is a story of a Vancouver-based company that has experienced a bottom and bust past developing a third source of power that is emission-free. It is capable of powering locomotives, container ships, heavy trucks, buses, forklifts and large recreation vehicles.

This break-through technology saw Ballard Power Corporation shares, in the last decade soar to $200 a share only to crumble to penny stock levels.

Ballard Power went from darling to peasant in a few years. Collapse of auto companies and a global recession did the company in but not dead.

Today the company shares have made a modest recovery by forming alliances with a major Chinese engine manufacture, Weichjai, to partner converting fossil-fueled heavy vehicles to use the Ballard hydrogen fuel cell technology.

How does it work?

Hydrogen fuel cells combine elemental hydrogen with oxygen in the air, capturing the energy for conversion to electric, according to Ballard Power.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the company worked with a number of major vehicle manufacturers including Honda, Daimler-Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Nissan and Volkswagen.

Right now, around the world, Ballard and its partners are concentrating on heavy vehicle power that is emission free. The only discharge is water.

There are now thousands of such vehicles using the Ballard Power hydrogen fuel cell technology.

This has the potential of moving heavy vehicles safely and contributing to the reduction of carbon by fossil-fueled commercial vehicles.

What has this to do with Guelph?

There are two reasons that affect citizens.

The presence of Linamar Corporation and its place as a leading manufacturer of auto parts is essential to our community’s economy. They face new challenges to adapt to the growing use of electricity to power car, light trucks, SUV’s and vans.

Did I mention the slow death of sedans with the growth of SUV’s of all shapes and sizes?

Remember the old expression, the trend is your friend?

The new opportunity is supplying large vehicle companies with parts such as engines needed for hydrogen fuel cell heavy vehicles.

This is rapidly taking place. The Chinese engine manufacture Weichai has already partnered with Ballard. As well the U.S. engine builder, Cummins, has signed an order with Ballard Power.

The limitation of electric-powered personal vehicles is the range based on the capacity of the batteries and the limited power available in light vehicles.

Tesla Motors produced some 200,000 EV’s last year and finally made a profit. Tesla produces luxury EV’s that have costs above fossil-fueled vehicles despite government subsidies to purchasers.

One may question why the government is subsidizing EV purchases when private enterprise seems to be pricing emission-free vehicles in greater numbers now.

The second concern for Guelph is about the heavy city and transport trucks using our streets daily. They are going away and cannot convert to electric power sourced from the grid. Also, the cost of switching can be daunting.

In my opinion, Guelph Transit should be the starting point by gradually replacing its fossil-fueled buses, fleet with hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles.

The same applies to the heavy equipment used by the city.

And hydrogen fuel cell power was developed in Canada, eh?

 

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A 2019 rear-view look back of the Good the Bad and the Ugly

By Gerry Barker

January 6, 2020

Opinion

Let’s start with the first anniversary of the giveaway of Guelph Hydro that became effective just about a year ago. But questions remain.

What ever happened to that $18.5 million that we were told was part of the cash of Guelph Hydro and was to be distributed to the city’s general revenues?

Why are the hydro poles on Speedvale Avenue being relocated?

What is the cost of this work being performed by Alectra Utilities, the successor to Guelph Hydro?

Why was there a spike in hydro rates last August?

How many Guelph Hydro employees left their jobs as a result of the take-over by Alectra?

Why have there been a number of power outages since the takeover?

What benefits did the city receive as a result of the takeover?

It cost the administration some $2.6 million to sell the proposal to the citizens using fake town halls and slanted communiqués that lacked any pertinent details of the transaction.

Why did city council hold closed-session meeting regarding the impending giveaway?

Why has there been no documentation of the details of this so-called “merger” of a city-owned distribution system valued at $226 million in 2016 by Guelph Hydro?

Why was the CAO Derrick Thomson financially rewarded using public fund?

Co-Chair of the Strategic Options Committee Mr. Thomson received a $67,000 performance bonus in 2018 and resigned in February 2019.

Jane Armstrong, chair of the Guelph Hydro board of directors, was also co-chair with Thomson on the SOC that recommended the merger with Alectra with no details.

Her reward was being appointed to the Alectra Utilities board of directors for five years as city council’s choice to represent Guelph. Her salary was $25,000 per year plus expenses. After a tear there has been no information about the promised dividend from Alectra that was included in the deal. In fact, there has been no communication about this to the citizens.

This giveaway was an example of how public information is dispensed. It is a policy of this administration to conceal, misrepresent and control the details of business to which is in the public interest.

Other examples of ignoring the public trust

The Guelph Innovative Development project has been simmering beneath the surface of the public interest. In 2012 the city staff was assigned to create a new green inspired community on the reformatory property owned by the province.

Last year, the province hired a real estate company to sell the 1.072-acre property in a modified auction. Last spring the real estate company announced the property was on the market and the results of the auction were to be announced in July.

“Silenco!” As they say in the Sistine Chapel.

All that money spent on planning a new “green” development by the city staff appears to be history. The piece of property the city coveted bordered on York and Victoria,

That was one of a number of mistakes made by the Farbridge administration. Just don’t ask why the city started the overbuilt Organic Waste Facility; Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc; bike lanes that start and stop on major roads; Lane reductions on major streets; increasing traffic congestion; City hall construction that was over-spent; the assessment ratio between residential and commercial/industrial remained at 84 per cent versus 16 per cent. That has been unchanged for 13 years.

That last one has the greatest impact on residential properties. Regardless of the increased population and the increases in revenue to the city, much needed new industrial development has been bungled.

And the citizens who pay user fees, special property tax levies, increased assessments and taxes annually pay the bills every year.

We are surrounded by municipalities that have successfully increased the commercial/industrail ratio. These include Milton, Kitchener, and Cambridge.

Yikes!

Did I mention the city staff refusing to pick up used needles on city property? Or

The $25 million parking garage next to city hall that chiefly benefits city staff?

What’s the story spun by the mayor during his re-election campaign about the $350 million Baker Street redevelopment with a private partner and a new central library?

How has the Mayor’s task force dealing with the homeless and drug addicts, unemployed youth and those street people suffering from metal illness? This is not just a Guelph problem but also one that exists in most urban communities across the country.

It begs the question, why can’t all levels of government collectively deal with this growing problem?

There will always be an underclass but there are many today smitten with illness, loss of job, disabilities that should be offered a leg up with counseling and a guarantee of an annual income. Those qualifying should receive support.

There are pilot programs of this kind of support in the U.S. While I commend Mayor Guthrie’s task force initiative, this is a national problem that needs to be addressed.

Growing up during the Great Depression, I recall the hardships encountered by my parents. My dad lost his GM dealership and passed away in 1941. My mother worked in a factory during World War 2. We always had food on the table but no car or permanent home until after the war.

But that’s another story about my widowed mother who never gave up.

I realize that the problem can never fully be resolved but in our country blessed with resources, human, on top and under our vast lands, there can be a better way to enhance the lives of all our fellow citizens.

When you think about it, we all benefit from helping those less fortunate frequently through no fault of their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The police budget deferment demonstrates council’s ignorance of how our public safety service works on our behalf 24/7

By Gerry Barker

December 2, 2019

Opinion

Coun. June Hofland, has indicated that she may ask the Police Services Board to spread out “its big budget ask” over two or three years.

The former chair of the council finance committee for three years in the Farbridge administration, Ms. Hofland was also on the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc board of direcors. With her years of experience, she would logically understand the relationship between city council and the Police Board.

She said she intended to discuss the 10 per cent Police Budget increase of $3.9 million with the chair of the Police Board before the final vote on the city budget, is taken on December 3.

If city council were a TV sitcom, you wouldn’t need a laugh track.

But their behavior overseeing the public’s business is no laughing matter.

Its time to start dumping the administration’s garbage can

But Ms. Hofland isn’t a throwback to Gilligan’s Island; she’s just an amiable stooge for her fellow councillors, Curly, Joe and Moe.

Editor’ note: Having been sued by these same guys three years ago, I hesitate to identify them but I’m confident you can figure it out.

These three gems stated they would support Ms. Hofland’s approach to discuss the Police Budget with the chair of the Police Board. It’s called the hands-on approach.

Trouble is, that’s not permitted because the Police Services Board is an independent body, not subject to council intervention in its financial requirements or operations.

In fact, the Police Board is empowered to seek resolution of their service requirements from a province-appointed mediator to review the budget if city council reneges.

Why not talk to Police Board members, the Mayor and Coun. Billings?

So if those four councillors supported the Hofland proposal, why didn’t they talk to the Mayor and Coun. Christine Billings who are members of the Police Board?

It’s interesting to me that in August 2014, just before council was denied capital spending due to the October civic election, the Farbridge council approved spending $34 million on renovation of the downtown police HQ.

The project is scheduled for completion at the end of this month, five years later.

This capital project was to be financed with $3 million from the Police Board reserve, diverting development fees from private projects and adding to the city debt.

This decision came on the heels of being forced to spend $23 million over budget to complete the new city hall and renovation of the old city hall. It was only the tip of the iceberg that was caused by vital mismanagement of the project by city contract staff. A judgment by Justice Donald MacKenzie confirmed wrongful dismissal of the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Gtoup.

Along came GMHI

One of the serious problems facing the Guthrie administration was the former mayor’s pet project to use Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc to make Guelph self-sufficient in terms of power generation. The plan introduced geo-thermal heating and cooling to a handful of downtown buildings, including two new high-rise condominiums.

The former Mayor was also chair of the GMHI board of directors that took control of Guelph Hydro and installed solar-generating panels on many public buildings to generate electricity. It was only the beginning of creating a district Energy plan.

None of these major projects were conducted with oversight or participation of the public. June Hofland was a member of the GMHI board of directors but never commented or spoke up about the operations.

The shoe dropped in May 2016 with a report of the financial mess GMHI was in. It was followed in July with a staff analysis that was devastating. Then came an independent, consolidated audit of GMHI by the accounting firm KPMG.

It revealed a shareholder’s liability of $66 million. This was never denied by city council.

This has been the genesis of disastrous toxic mixture of poor planning, crazy-legs fiscal management wasting public money, and, mostly done in secret.

This is the damning 14-year legacy of overtaxing property and user fees with yearly increasing by more than twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index maintained by StatCan.

It was toxic because the Mayor of the city was also the chair of GMHI with a loyal supporting cast of councillors and the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, who also doubled as Chief Executive Officer of GMHI.

Pappert knew in 2015 that she could be in trouble as two reports of the GMHI operations were a devastating indictment of a failure to manage and oversee the impact on the city’s finances.

The record shows she started her exit from the city in late 2015 by requesting the cash value of her unused sick and vacation benefits from the Human Resources Department.

And who was in charge of that department? Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Mark Amorosi.

In December 2015, council held two closed-session meeting. One was to award CAO Pappert with a $27,000 performance bonus along with an additional $10,000 for assorted benefits. DCAO Amorosi and Derrick Thomson each received increases that were part of a total $98,202 shared among the three senior managers.

The other closed-session meeting, also held in December 2015, approved an indemnification bylaw that the city would pay all legal costs of any employee and elected official who faced a legal procedure.

City council was directly involved in both these closed-sessions that was not revealed to the public until March 31, 2016. By that time Mr. Thomson had left to take a job with the town of Caledon.

Two weeks after the 2015 provincial Sunshine List was published, CAO Pappert gave notice of her resignation. She agreed to stay on until May 26, 2016, when Derrick Thomson returned in June to accept the CAO position.

These two top managers benefited further in 2016, 2018 and 2019. First in March 2017 the 2016 Sunshine List showed that Ms. Papper received $263,000 for five-month’s work.

In 2018, Mr.Thomson received a salary of $335,000 that included a performance bonus of $67,000. He “parted ways with the city in February 2019 just before the 2018 Sunshine List was published.

This is how our city council conducts our business.

The following is an outline on how to regain control of our city.

What can be done about it?

Simple answer is get involved. Get organized to challenge this council that has demonstrated it cannot manage a two-car funeral.

Council is about to start a review of changing ward boundaries. This should only be reviewed by an independent committee, appointed by the mayor elect incorporating public participation.

I believe that a major change must come to create more efficiency, fairness and is accountable to control the operations with the city staff.

Greater transparency will be achieved with an independent staff rationalization from top to bottom, including council and senior city staff.

A first step is to reduce the size of council to nine. This would involve redefining job descriptions in concert with the staff rationalization program. The rationalization should cover every employee, full and part-time and contracted workers.

An independent committee of civilians would be appointed to outline the responsibilities and communication rules. This would include streamlining procedures, rewriting the staff and elected official’s Code of Conduct. It would eliminate the Integrity Commissioner and the closed-session investigators.

The indemnification bylaw will be eliminated.

Civic Elections will include online voting. Proportional voting will not be used.

There will be a review of all bylaws and reserve funds status. This will be revealed to the public.

City communications will be revised to allow citizens to select to receive regular information online or hard copy through their electric bill.

Minutes of all council, committee and board meetings will be available within a fixed time, determined by length and content.

All council and committee votes will be recorded and distributed to citizens as part of the communications plan.

Finance and legal departments will review city advertising policies.

All pending legal cases against the city will be reviewed and the status revealed to the public, but not legal strategy or tactics..

Councillors, staff or citizens should never be threatened by anyone. This is subject to the revised Code of Conduct.

The new council will operate in public and at the convenience of all citizens.

Citizens will be respected and receive prompt replies from staff regarding their request.

Realignment of organization

Reduce to four wards with one councillor. Each representative to be paid $60,000 per year and reviewed by the CAO and designated senior staff.

Elected at large is the Mayor who will receive $180, 000 plus defined expenses.

The four full-time councillors, elected at large, would receive $100,000 plus expenses and adjusted annually using the CPI as the benchmark.

These four councillors will have direct oversight of Finance, Public Operations, Clerk’s office and Legal department, Environmental services. Specifics to come.

Now I realize that there will be severe opposition to these proposals. But unless we, the public, don’t empty the garbage can, there will be more of the same to come.

The opportunity to change only occurs every four years.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

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Is it more important to hire more bus drivers than providing vital 24/7 public safety services to meet our needs?

By Gerry Barker

November 25, 2019

Opinion

I was most interested in the priorities of last Monday’s council meeting to go over the staff recommendations for next year’s property tax rates. For most of us who pay property taxes it is an annual excursion in wonderland.

This year is no exception. The first published figure of estimating the 2020 property tax rate was 3.88 per cent and a hinted hat it may be 4.15 per cent.They it was reported the staff recommendation was 3.08 per cent.

Shiver my timbers captain! One news outlet reported that the property tax rates for the past four years were less than 3 per cent. The exception, the report stated, was in 2015 when the rate was 3.55 per cent.

Here’s why it is Wrong. The word is the provincial arms-length corporation known as the Municipal Properties Assessment Corporation, MPAC, sets property assessment.

MPAC is the largest assessment jurisdiction in North America, responsible for accurately assessing and classifying more than five million properties in Ontario in compliance with the Assessment Act and regulations set by the Government of Ontario.

Having downloaded that description of what MPAC corporate make-up, there is something you should know.

The former Liberal premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, suspended property assessments for five years. That ended in 2013. Next the MPAC organization restarted its property assessment responsibilities.

This was a huge task because of the five-year growth of properties that didn’t make the MPAC files.

Stop and think about the privacy aspects of this. The provincial government and who knows how many others. have access to a treasure trove of property addresses, location, who owns them, and there are more than 5 million out there.

Remember the good old days when the muncipalities had their own assessor who would answer to council. By my count, that required some 445 local assessors in Ontario municipalities to do the job.

But the provincial government decided it wanted to control property assessment. Wonder how many employees are doing the job today, not including the investment in computers, servers and operational costs.

Drivers start your engines

The increases were phased in starting in 2015. With five million properties you can imagine it was a daunting task. But regardless, it was a vital one for municipalities that benefited from the restoration. Increased assessment of property from tax purposes was an increase to the owner. Plus, it was a revenue booster to the municipality.

It’s usually adjusted in April without fanfare and council sees it as the price is right.

That’s why you pay two installments based on 2019 rate of increase then two more property tax installments that are higher due to the new year assessment increase adjustments.

Here’s how the system works.

Every minicipality is required to file a Financial Information Report (FIR) with the province. It is detailed financial data, signed by an independent audit firm, based on the calendar year.

The Guelph annual FIR is a thick book of data, unseen by the public, although for a fee, you can request a copy.

As a best seller, it is not.

In the year following an election, council, in 2015, passed a budget from that year requireing a property tax increase of 3.55 per cent, right?

The budget had to be revised in April 2015 and subsequent years to adjust the property tax which increased the rate that year to 3.96 per cent.

This unfortunate development proved to be an embarrassment to the new Mayor, Cam Guthrie. He had promised during his election campaign to keep property tax increases level with the Consumer Price Index set by StatsCan.

The news story was misleading on a couple of accounts. Increased assessment automatically increases taxes, and the rate plus the growing basket of property tax levies for infrastructure, city buildings and possibly the Guelph General Hospital’s $45 million five-year expansion plan. The hospital Foundation is requesting $4.5 million or ten percent of the total. It is proposed to be spent over five years

MEANWHILE – The Police Services Board is asking for a $4.1 million increase for 2020. This does not include any adjustment of the $34 million Police Headquarters renovation, scheduled to be completed next month.

MEANWHILE – Staff has estimated a tax funded operations budget of $256,886,524 that will be debated tonight starting at 6 p.m. Hey! Look at it this way: It gives you a chance to try out the new parking garage next to city hall.

MEANWHILE – Is there any life support remaining for building the downtown main branch library? Just remember that this council was the geniuses who gave away Guelph Hydro but can’t finance a new downtown library.

MEANWHILE – Why is the final tax funded operations budget meeting scheduled December 3 being held at 2 p.m? Is this another attempt to turn off the public interest tap?

MEANWHILE – What ever happened to the Guelph Innovation District project to build an environmentally perfect community on the reformatory lands? Perhaps our MPP Mike Schreiner, may look into the status. Is it sale or no sale?

MEANWHILE – On a final note, Donald Trump does not drink. Instead he substitutes anxiety and morality with a cocktail composed of a malignant narcissistic personality.

 

 

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There are questions remaining about the three major 2020 city budgets

By Gerry Barker

November 18, 2019

Opinion

Tonight, city council will commence trimming the “tax supported operating budget.”

City staff has already reported a 3.88 per cent property tax increase subject to change, possibly increase.

This becomes a political matter as councillors jockey to promote their own must have agenda items.

Just wondering, does the University pay the same property tax increase as the rest of us? More on this later.

For some 14 years, citizens have been shorn of accountability and transparency of the public’s interest. Did I mention the administration’s conduct of the public’s business has deliberately thwarted the public interest?

Having just spent three years defending myself against the City of Guelph, the recent decision by a judge dismissing my 130-page statement of defence supporting my motion to dismiss the case. The judge ruling centred on the alleged harm done to the plaintiff and the public interest.

The judge ruled the harm done to the plaintiff “outweighed the public interest.”

That decision is being appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal.`

What has this got to do with the city budgets?

Let me say from the start, that the financial management of the city has greatly improved. There is a refreshing openness about the flow of information from the finance department.

The number of closed-session meetings has diminished and the public interest is being better served.

Running a city of this size requires rocket-science attention in terms of planning, short and long term. The city has grown exponentially in many ways including population. However, questions remain.

Setting aside the performance of the previous administration, in the past five years, there have been some major league boo-boos. Much of it was commenced by the previous administration.

Then, following the 2015 first year of Mayor Cam Guthrie’s election there were changes among the senior city managers. By March, this year the three senior managers who shared the $98,202 salary increase in a closed-session of council in December 2015, are now gone.

Sifting through the budgeting sands

Here are some current questions that affect all citizens:

* Why does the city rely on communicating with the citizens Online or through its “City News” pages in the Mercury Tribune at the public’s expense?

* What are the details of the City’s long-term strategy plan and was there public participation when this strategy was discussed and presumably approved by council?

* What is the status of the main branch library that Mayor Guthrie promised to be part of the $350 million Baker Street redevelopment during his re-election campaign? Is it true that he said the library would be the anchor in the proposed plan?

* Why was it necessary to spend some $22 million on a parking garage next to the City Hall? How was that in the public interest when most of the parking spaces are monthly and convenient to the city staff?

* What is the proposed total number of public employees, including permanent, part-time and those on contract?

* What was the actual cost in 2018 of consultants, legal and other professional serves?

* There has been extensive work on Speedvale Avenue between Woolwich and Manhattan Court this past summer, What is the ultimate plan to relocate power lines underground. What is the rationale and source of funding for this project that three years ago, the staff estimated the cost to be $15 million?

* More importantly, is the plan to widen Speedvale to permit bike lanes and restrict traffic lanes from four lanes to two on the city’s major east west route?

* What is the financial impact of increased assessment for new construction and existing properties in the city?

* The staff is proposing a 3.88 property tax increase for 2020. Why is it being predicted to be more than 4.5 per cent before the trimming starts tonight, what ever that means?

* Why is the city administration plumping for five new buses but is the library, remember the promises made over the years, getting benched again?

* Why hasn’t the city pursued the University of Guelph’s sweetheart deal that in lieu of paying property taxes, it is based on charging each registered student $75 per year? Why was this rate locked-in by the province 33 years ago? Did your property taxes not increase every one of those 33 years and at a rate exceeding the rate of inflation?

* Shouldn’t the Guelph General Hospital’s $4.5 million requested grant be included in the capital budget, not tax supported operating budget?

* Is it time to approve annual subsidized operating grants to vital services such as public safety organizations, and critical care facilities?

* Why is the supply of water, potable, waste and storm, not included in the tax supported operating budget? It’s just another tax on top of the property tax annual increases.

* What is the definition of infrastructure? What are the parameters of renewal of our aging infrastructure, some of it 200 years old? Should there not be detailed explanation annually to show how the money is being spent?

* What is the latest information about the ratio of assessment between residential property and commercial/industrial? It has been locked into 84 per cent residential versus 16 per cent commercial/industrial. This is a massive burden on taxpayers.

* There is a mixed bag of special levies swirling around the budget soup.

Aside from the huge property tax deal subsidy granted annually to the University, what are their other subsidies paid to city operations?

Let’s review where your money is going:

Transit, pension benefits, boards remunerations, wellbeing donations, Hillside festival, staff travel, expense accounts, community city organizations, severance costs, employee bonuses, and gifts.

Add to the list, long-term suspended development including property tax grants and collection of unpaid taxes and offences fines.

The city’s chief source of revenue comes from property values and taxes.

In my opinion, successive provincial governments have failed to work with the 445 provincial municipalities to alleviate all the egregious downloading of costs.

Certainly there are some offsetting grants but this city needs a house cleaning to reduce costs and increase revenue without socking it every year to the property taxpayers.

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This U of G professor believes the 2020 Guelph Police budget increase of 9.81 per cent outweighs the need

By Gerry Barker

November 4, 2019

Opinion

Dr. Rene Van Acker, dean of the Ontario Agriculture College, part of the University of Guelph is urging people to protest this increase requested by the Guelph Police Services Board.

It seems to be a clash between the academic ivory towers and the 24/7 protection and services of our community.

The professor obviously has never performed shift work, carried a gun, investigated fatal collisions and major criminal occurrences, attended domestic violence calls, and responded quickly to cases that engage citizens.

In short, this is a city with a university sitting in the middle. Often, Guelph police are called for support to control student behaviour on and off campus.

Think weekend’s downtown, homecoming, St. Patrick’s Day, and political protests.

It seems stranger to read the professor’s letter to the editor in which he refers to the proposed 2020 police budget as “outweighing the need.”

How would Dr. van Aker know the details of police operations to make such a statement?

He ignores the night and day risks that our police endure on a routine shift. He criticizes the Mayor that he “senses” that people want a professional and responsive police service, night or day. And Mayor Guthrie should know because he sits on the Police Services Board along with Coun. Christine Billings.

So the unsubstantiated complaints from Van Aker over the 2020 police budget rings hollow because he does not identify the needs of the police services.

The Ontario Sunshine List shows that three times in the past six years, Van Acker has received more than a 7 per cent salary increase. It was topped off in 2018 with an increase of 7.69 per cent earning a yearly salary of $235,000 plus benefits.

Dr. Van Aker should look beyond the police services budget and consider all the other services that citizens pay for, including the public safety personnel who are engaged around the clock.

The city administration must raise sufficient revenue to pay for the scores of public services plus the cost of primary and secondary boards of education. One can only imagine the operating costs of those institutions that function 10 months of the year.

The U of G pays $1,600,000 per year in lieu of property taxes. The payment is based on the number of registered students, currently estimated at 22,000. This was a deal granted in 1987 to public post-secondary institutions. The rate is still fixed at $75 and has not changed since.

Lets compare the impact of inflation that this deal has ignored for more than 32 years. All costs have increased. Are your property taxes fixed for 32 years? Has the university increased tuition and student fees and land leases in which it derives income?

Keep in mind that the chief revenue sources of the city are property taxes and user fees.

Our property taxes have more than doubled in the 16 years we have lived in Guelph. It is this property tax deal with the University and Conestoga Community College that remains fixed and only increases when additional students enroll.

About Guelph Transit

Students are required to pay $75 per semester for bus passes. It’s ironic that this mandatory contribution to access public transit is twice what the University of Guelph pays the city in lieu of property taxes.

This is particularly advantageous to the university because it is, we believe, to be the largest landowner in the city. The management over the years has leased its land to a variety of commercial and residential developments.

Seeing that these developments are on University lands, does this sweetheart deal extend to those leased properties as well?

In the 32 years of this arrangement, the city has grown, requiring citizens to pay for the need for increased city services. That is a subsidy that is unfair and needs revision.

Unfortunately, this would have to be a decision by the provincial government. It involves more than 600 post-secondary institutions in the province.

Our representative in the Ontario Legislature is Mike Schreiner, Ontario leader of the Green Party, a party of one.

This affects a number of municipalities and an independent committee of mayors and chief Financial Officers need to negotiate with the government to update the property tax arrangement.

It will be a daunting task and predictably the University of Guelph will oppose changes to any proposal that will increase their property tax commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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