Tag Archives: Guelph

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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Nothing nefarious or backhanded here Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie tells concerned citizens

By Gerry Barker

October 10, 2019

Opinion

When bad stuff hits the fan, it’s time to pull the plug.

That’s what our Mayor Cam Guthrie did Monday night during a council meeting. He said he was sick and tired of the ‘continuing narrative’ of his administration’s operations and citizens’ concerns of ‘demising democracy’ in Guelph.

One report said the mayor ‘bristled’ over his description of the ‘continuing narrative’ that he sees as criticism of his administration. Now this is a Mayor who is known for easily becoming angry over something he didn’t like. In his case ‘bristling’ is an understatement.

I know from personal experience dealing with the man.

And guelphspeaks has been a constant critic of the mayor and his council so I presume we are included in the bad stuff hitting the fan.

The subject of the meeting concerned public access to the 20 public advisory committees appointed by council. Leading that delegation was civic activist, Susan Watson. I generally haven’t agreed with Ms. Watson over the years but she is right in asking council to allow public access to the public advisory committees.

Guelphspeaks.ca has been complaining since 2013 about the use of closed-session council meetings that deny the right of the public to be informed and able to express opinions in the public’s interest.

I know that when I requested a copy of the closed-session minutes of that December 10, 2015, regarding salary increases for three senior staff managers. The request was denied four months later.

I filed the request in January 2016. I was tipped off what had happened at that December 10 meeting. I was also told that council passed a bylaw, also in closed-session, that indemnified any employee and elected official who were facing a legal procedure brought by a citizen or corporation. The bylaw protected that group from legal action by the city paying their legal expenses.

I bring up the case of former Chief Building Inspector Bruce Poole who was fired because he dared to challenge the administration because some 50 city-owned building projects did not obtain building permits as required by law.

In this case, the city was his employer but did not pay his legal expenses when he sued for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. He won his case when the city Information Technology department bungled a request from Mr. Poole’s lawyer for documents pertaining to his dismissal. Instead, some 50,000 private emails were sent to the lawyer. The city settled the case withholding details of the settlement.

Was this a case of a double standard? I believe today that December meeting information was in the public interest and was co erred up.

When the 2015 Sunshine List was published in March 2016, I compared the 2014 salaries of the senior city staff with the 2015 List and it confirmed my early information that it was accurate. I proceeded to report the information, focusing on the responsibilities of the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi.

Why him? It was because he was responsible for the Finances of the City and Human Resources. He also oversaw three other departments. If Mr. Amorosi was not involved in the decision, who was?

Instead, as a result of my reporting, he sued me for $500,000 alleging defamation. Slightly more that two months after filing the lawsuit, Mr. Amorosi was fired for cause. The sick joke was that despite his alleged incompetence, his legal expenses are still being paid by the city. That includes my wife and I.

So, when Cam Guthrie says he is sick and tired of the continuing narrative of a diminished democracy, he should consider that he was Mayor when the corporation, with its deep pockets, supported Amorosi’s lawsuit brought November 16, 2016. He was fired February 9, 2017.

This is a mayor who agreed to support Mr. Amorosi when his former Dec. 10 colleague, Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson, who said the city would continue to pay his legal expenses, fired him. That has been the case for the past two years and seven months and counting.

Sick joke number two: Amorosi testified that he agreed to leave. Even the motion judge punctured that balloon stating that three major media outlets described his dismissal as being fired.

This is a case of corporate corruption by an elected council led by a mayor who did not like what I wrote or me personally. Regardless, the council had to agree to support Amorosi except that the legal reason to do so using the indemnification byway to justify their decision.

They twisted the bylaw’s intent backwards. I did not take legal action against Amorosi, because I was forced to defend myself as the defendant.

I am not giving up because I can’t. This case is before the courts and I must pay my legal bills untold a resolution is reached.

This is not just about me. It is the ability of the City of Guelph to use public money to suppress any criticism by a citizen using the public’s money to enforce its power.

Gerry Barker is a Guelph resident and retired journalist. His 13 years writing and blogging of the City of Guelph administrations frequently exposes reports and commentary of the lack of open government, accountability and transparency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Has the stain of corruption been the city administration’s operating practice since 2007?

By Gerry Barker

October 7, 2019

Opinion

What is corruption? Is it good people behaving badly? Is it a matter of convenience to hide operations by using closed-session council meetings?

Looking back in the coverage of the city administration in the past 13 years, my bulging files are full of data including dates of publishing either in the Guelph Mercury or guelphspeaks.ca.

Well, the records shows that closed-session meetings were the product of the Farbridge administration with Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert, as head of the city staff and Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) for four years.

The Mayor also served as chair of GMHI that eventually scooped up Guelph Hydro and its subsidiaries.

In my opinion, these top executive controled the epicemtre of administrative corruption.

First, it gave awat control of all the City of Guelph Corporation assets and operations. It artfully eliminated public participation.

Second, the Board of Directors of GMHI was made up of the mayor’s loyalists on city council, including Todd Dennis, Karl Wettstein, June Hofland and Lise Burcher. Not one has disclosed details of those GMHI closed-session meetings. And I am not on their Christmas List.

Conducting closed-sessions enhanced control by the GMHI Board of Directors. The only occasional press release stated in principle that GMHI had sent $1,500 to the city as a dividend each year.

The problem was that GMHI was losing bags of money so what was the source of that dividend?

Actually, the only GMHI asset making money was Guelph Hydro.

The wheels starting coming off this comingled collection of the public corporation with the defeat of Mayor Farbridge and a number of her supporters.

Cam Guthrie was elected Mayor but was stuck with a majority in council of the former mayor. They managed to be in control with seven members. What few people realized was that the progressive supporter had built a formidable political firebase throughout the city.

The Mayor oversaw some 84 closed-session meetings in his first two years in office. In 2015, CAO Ann Pappert requested that she wanted reimbursement for her unused sick days and vacation allowances. She also knew about her new salary would include a $27,000 retroactive performance bonus.

Did you know about this? Neither did I or anyone else except the staff and council insiders who kept their mouths shut.

Then in March 2016, the provincial Sunshine List was published. I was the only media outlet that compared the salaries of staff in the 2014 List with the 2015 List. The annual List reports the salaries and taxable benefits of every provincial public service employee earning more than $100,000 in the previous year.

The three senior managers, Ann Papper, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson share increases totaling $98,202. That figure was never confirmed or denied.

As the lone wolf in this, I wrote a number of blogs that were critical of Mr. Amorosi who was the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer in charge and responsible for Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, Special Projects and Court Services.

If anyone should know about the salary increases it should be him, right?

On Novembers 16, 2016, I was served with a charge of defamation of Mark Amorosi. On February 9, 2017, Amorosi was fired for cause by his colleague Derrick Thomson who replaced Ann Pappert as CAO. Thomson went out of his was to say the dismissal had no affect on the city-financed legal fees of the departed Amorosi.

To be clear, I had nothing to do with his firing. His evidence presented to the court was that he agreed to leave his job. His counsel said that in two years he applied for four jobs and never obtained an interview. He was listed on LinkedIn as a retired civic manager listing his experience in Guelph.

In my opinion, no matter how you slice it, the city by agreeing to pay his legal bills is complicit in this vigorous personal attack on my wife and me just because I wrote the truth in words they didn’t like.

The senior manager receiving a share of that $98,202 remununeration boost for 2015, are all gone.

So much for checks and balances of the public’s interest.

 

 

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Questions about a flawed city Strategic Plan to be implemented between 2019 and 2023

By Gerry Barker

September 30, 2019

Opinion

This past week, city council approved its new Strategic Plan for the next four years.

It’s my guess, learned from past experience, that this is another warm over of similar promises and failed action plans made by city administrations since 2007.

It reminds me of an old pop song in which the words and music keep repeating in my ear, “Zippedy Do Daw, what a wonderful thing.”

This proclamation is a dreadful collection of goals and directives but totally does not consider the details of running this city and how council and staff manage our corporate administration.

I am betting that this document will not be read and absorbed by most citizens.

Absorption is the key word here.

Let’s examine the details of the road map of progress as Mayor Guthrie put it.

Setting Clear Directions

“The plan has been developed through the comprehensive consultation process with staff and council and, incorporated input from more than 10,000 community members obtained through the development of Guelph’s Community Plan.”

Who were these community members? How were they selected? When was the list compiled? How was the data analyzed? Did city council approve and rely on the information of this poll? Did members of couical examine the poll results or was it prepared as a summary by staff?

In view of this, were all 131,000 citizens offered the opportunity to express their views on the future of their community?

How does the community sample account for the 22.000 University of Guelph students who arrive every September and leave, for the most part in April?

Not only the University students temporarily living in Guelph, there is absolutely no accounting of the impact on the permanent residents. They worry about the growing stress of providing vital public services such as police, EMS, the Guelph General Hospital and Guelph Transit.

The Guelph Police Services Board (GPSB) is in the process of asking for an increase of 31 additional officers. That’s an added estimated cost of $2.325 million to the police budget. That’s $17.74 for each of the 131000 citizens. Even adjusted to do the math for all taxpayers, it’s still a bargain to support the police.

The GPSB is composed of five members, two appointed by the province, plusthe Mayor Guthrie and Councillor Christine Billings and one appointed by city city council.

While the makeup of the GPSB has changed over the years, there has been an ongoing problem that has not been increased annual. Officers meet the demands of a growing population resulting in increased overtime costs, burnout and attrition.

Chair of the Downtown Guelph Business Association, Marty Williams, put it bluntly: “We need more boots on the ground.”

There is no denying, that to meet the needs of a growing population by the next Statscan census, Guelph’s population could be more than 142,000. Couple this with the drug problem in the city particularly in the downtown area, and there is no action plan to address these needs.

Here are the Strategic Plan’s priorities

* Powering our future by growing our economy.

Question: How? Economic development has been a disaster with the percentage ratio of residential assessment and industrial-commercial remaining stuck at 84-16 in 13 years. The average ratio in Ontario municipalities is 60-40

* Sustain our future by sustaining our environment.

Question: Does that includes the loss of $66 million by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc between 2011 and 2015?

* Navigating our future through a connected transportation network.

Question: Does that include removing two lanes of vehicle roadways to accommodate bicycle lanes? See environment above.

* Working together for our future by modernizing our government.

Question: Does this mean reducing the city council’s closed-sessions, thereby operating an open government, with accountability and transparency?

* Building our future as a welcoming and complete community.

Question: Does this mean that property taxes will be lower based on reducing overhead costs of operations that are greater than most peer municipalities? Until recently, Guelph has not attracted businesses that bring good job opportunities and assessment.

This Strategic Plan is nothing but platitudes and little real substance.

Think about it. No mention of the three major capital projects, Downtown Library, South End Recreation Complex and the Wilson Street Parkade to provide parking for the most part, for public employees next door to their place of work.

Just those three projects, two to be built and one under construction, total in today’s dollars is $152 million. Council has already increased the city debt by $77 million with much of it going to the Parkade and police HQ renovations.

It’s not what the Strategic Plan promises but how and when these high value capotal projects will be completed.

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