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Sis, Boom Bah! Mayor enlists the Cam-ettes to help take control of council

By Gerry Barker

July 11, 2018

Recently, I have been pressed to run for Mayor of the City of Guelph

Supporters want to prevent another four-year term of Mayor Guthrie who, they feel, has failed to meet his promises made when elected in 2014.

I am still considering making a decision to tackle the job of changing and reforming the administration’s spending on failed projects. This has painted a political picture of the Mayor whose trust of the city staff is suffocating the public trust.

My wife and I voted for him in 2014, as did most people who voted in record numbers.

We all had such high hopes for the energetic new mayor to clean up the fiscal debris of the previous administration.

But that did not happen. Instead, in the first four months in office, his election promise of keeping property taxes pegged to the Consumer Price Index (1.99 per cent in 2014) failed. The 2015 property tax approved by the Guthrie Council in March 2015, peaked at 3.96 per cent.

I’m not going to pursue the mismanagement, pandering to the staff, giving away Guelph Hydro, and holding all those closed-session meetings to prevent the public knowing the conduct of its business.

No, I’ve exposed much of it and picked up a lawsuit, still not concluded, for my trouble.

Instead, it’s time to end Guelph’s reality show. The attempt by the Mayor and his supporters to stage a well-planned coup to take control of council has now been exposed.

Introducing the Cam-ettes

It started early this week with a meeting between two councillors and me.

The only thing I can reveal, as the meeting was off the record, was the enthusiasm expressed in describing the new candidates for council. One of the councillors said he had been working hard to recruit and consult with a group that he predicted would change the composition of council and get rid of the controlling socialist majority.

I was excited at the prospect of new, bright candidates to finally start the process of reform and the reduction of overhead of city operations.

What I did not tell them at the time, concerned a meeting the next night of folks wanting me to take on Mr. Guthrie. At that meeting, we discussed the pros and cons of my candidacy.

Then I told them of my meeting, the night before, and the proposal to introduce qualified candidates to eliminate the socialist majority on council. As much as I have been critical of this “Gang of Seven,” politically, all that was needed was to defeat just two, Coun. Wettstein and Coun. Hofland.

But then things don’t always work as planned.

Both these councillors were on the Board of Directors of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. for four years. In my opinion, both failed to carry out their sworn fiduciary responsibilities by not revealing the failed operations of GMHI that cost the citizens millions.

Now here is the Guthrie team plan

So far there are four Cam-ettes running: In Ward 6, Stacy Cooper and Dominique O’Rourke; in Ward 4 Indu Arora, friend of the Mayor’s wife; in Ward 1 Charlene Downey. All of these women were nominated May1st along with the Mayor. Fact checking indicates none have been elected to a municipal council.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but remains a strong indicates collusion. There’s nothing wrong with that except that these four have been groomed to support Cam Guthrie as dedicated councillors voting for the Guthrie agenda.

Here’s the rub. Any attempt to elect a majority to gain control results, in this case, of Cam Guthrie gaining a majority of councillors for the next four years.

I find that undemocratic and manipulative. No surprise there, considering Mayor Guthrie’s penchant to use people then discarding them when they are no longer useful.

The political world of Cam Guthrie

Here’s a sample of how the Mayor says one thing and conceals his real intent. In the recent provincial election, the Mayor denied he was a candidate representing the P.C.’s. Guelphspeaks announced in August 2017, he was the chosen candidate to represent Guelph throwing the P.C riding association into administrative chaos.

Candidates who indicated they would run had to be put aside while P.C. headquarters told the riding association that they had a candidate and not to pursue a nomination meeting. This all occurred following the Patrick Brown dismissal.

Bob Coole, the Guelph P.C. Association president, received a call from Cam Guthrie inviting him to lunch at a pizzeria on Stone Road. At that meeting, Guthrie said he was the P.C. headquarter’s choice as the candidate. Coole was told not to agree holding a nomination convention, as Guthrie wanted an acclamation. There were more delays and finally Doug Ford named Ray Ferraro the Guelph candidate.

The mayor’s back door interference created an organization nightmare of which the Association did not recover.

The irony is the Guthrie interference in the process was accompanied by the Mayor’s crocodile tears that he loved Guelph and would be a candidate for re-election in October.

There is no nice way to put this but Cam Guthrie’s behind the scenes duplicity in sabotaging the Guelph P.C. campaign reflects the blind ambition and self-absorbed character of our mayor.

Let’s move on

Don’t you think that 12 years of the domination of council, by the extremist left that controlled our city administration could deter re-election of some of the incumbents? Social engineering projects wasted millions on waste management, staff salaries and benefits, the new city hall complex, GMHI failure to impose energy policies that didn’t work and now the giveaway of Guelph Hydro.

If all four of the Cam-ette newbie’s are elected, they will join incumbent Guthrie councillors, Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond, Christine Billings and the Mayor. That would give the Mayor complete control of council.

Then there are the wild cards

In Ward 6, Mark MacKinnon has the advantage of being an incumbent. I would be the last to support him as he stated that paying taxes is the price of living in Guelph. He further opined that because your house increased in value, you should borrow money to pay your property taxes.

Bob Bell, the veteran councillor in Ward 1 has yet to declare. I’m told that his business of building bicycle accessories has created opportunities in China and The Czech Republic.

Incumbent members of the “Gang of Seven” who are running again include James Gordon, Phil Allt, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, Cathy Downer, and Leanne Piper. Karl Wettstein, the seventh member, has not filed his papers. In Ward 6, former Farbridge councillor, Lise Burcher ,is attempting a comeback.

Who is vulnerable in this group? In my opinion, I’d pick June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, James Gordon. Mark MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein if he runs.

On paper it looks that Mayor Guthrie, so far unopposed, will have a comfortable majority in the next council.

As for me, I have the support of a seasoned campaign team, plus a platform that is extensive and is described in detail in the No Frills Action Plan to be published next week.

My inclination is to run but the task is great and there are serious mitigating facts to be considered.

Predicted surprises will occur before the close of nominations July 27 at 2 p.m.

In the meantime, pencil me in.

 

 

 

 

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Why Guelph’s bureaucratic costs are crippling our city, because staff won’t listen

By Gerry Barker

September 12, 2016

On August 22, My wife and I sent an open letter to the Hon. Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs. In the letter, the details of mismanagement of our city were outlined and we asked a reply to our request for an investigation of city operations.

That was three weeks ago and we are still waiting.

Premier Kathleen Wynne appointed Mr. Mauro in her recent cabinet shake-up. He has experience on this file as he served in the job before. Our MPP Liz Sandals was moved in that shake-up from Minister of Education to President of the Provincial Treasury Board, a less onerous cabinet job with little or no public exposure or consequence. That’s the equivalent of a “D” in politics.

Meanwhile Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi disagreed with his new boss, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Derrick Thomson, about the state of city finances. His statement claiming the city was in “sound financial condition” contrasted with the CAO’s statement that the nine-year capital expense plan was underfunded by $170 million after just one year in operation.

Believing today that this city can afford a new Downtown Library, South End recreation Centre, the Wilson Street parking garage and redevelopment of the Baker Street parking lot, is pixie dust and impossible.

It is now open and transparent about how public money has been wasted by a staff in concert with council in the past nine years.

It is not Mayor Cam Guthrie’s fault. He, unknowingly in taking office December 1, 2014, inherited a financial cesspool of millions spent and wasted on self-serving policies of the previous Farbridge administration. You remember them and all their self-promoted awards. To read a recent column written by one of her supporters, the writer painted her as Saint Karen, the revered leader of Guelph. Yikes! Is there no limit to their arrogance?

The problem today is the rigid control of council. They regularly support the senior staff that has seen a CAO and DCAO leave the city because of the revelations of mismanagement.

In his fine analysis of the bloated city operational costs, Pat Fung, CPA, CA, outlined why the city’s operating costs were growing at an unsustainable rate that lasted seven years.

Here is a telling chart of Pat Fung’s analysis

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

($ thousands) 2015 2014 2008   $ ’08 to ’15 per cent
           
General government 27,070 25,136 18,891   8,179 +43.3%
Protection services 79,550 75,506 51,855   27,695 +53.4%
Transportation services 60,381 57,405 43,380   17,001 +39.2%
Environmental services 76,238 72,697 35,035   41,203 +117.6%
Health services 29,180 27,522 18,524   10,656 +57.5%
Social and family services 43,601 52,280 51,183   -7,582 -14.8%
Social housing 21,372 20,444 n/a   21,372  
Recreation and cultural services 40,906 39,481 23,947   16,959 +70.8%
Planning and development 7,313 6,155 3,986   3,327 +83.5%
           
Total Expenses 385,611 376,626 246,801   138,810 +56.2%
Consumer Price Index 126.6 125.2 114.1   12.5 +11.0%

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

The Fung Solution: It can be done by freezing revenues at 2016 levels and reducing expenses by $20 million annually. It can be accompkised by freezing expenses at $365 million for 20 years, allowing for increases for index of inflation and assessment growth. City reserves would be built up to $200 million in 10 years. This would be reduced by whatever is spent in the interim on capital and infrastructure. This has the same financial effect as increasing taxes but is funded totally from within the current taxation, user fees and spending.

Will Guelph do the right thing and reduce staff and operating costs?

Guelph’s current financial situation is close to what the City of Brampton faced last week when it terminated 25 senior managers. Mr. Fung pulls no punches in his analysis saying in order to reduce operational expenses, the city will have to lay off staff, reduce salaries and reduce management personnel. According to the provincial Sunshine List there are 92 city staff positions with the title “ manager.” That’s one for every 22 full-time equivalent employees

Regardless, the new CAO is quoted as saying that: “One option the staff will not present to council this fall as a solution to its capital funding woes is drastic cutting of services.”

That’s the usual claptrap excuse that has enveloped thinking of both city staff and leftist members of council.

Mercy me. We can’t cut services as the runaway train of financial mismanagement plunges off the cliff? Thomson disregards the Mayor’s request to investigate funding alternatives other than another property tax increase.

With that thinking by the CAO, who heads the 2,100 member of staff, get ready for a recommendation by staff to approve a 2 per cent special levy of property taxes for more than five years. Or, perhaps a longer period. It remains a sloppy and quick fix to the deep financial problems existent today and are not hoing away. It’s just another way to extract more money from the property taxpayer.

Do these deep thinkers on staff not understand why Guelph’s operating costs on a per person basis in six active operational areas, far exceed the average of the rest of the municipalities in Ontario?

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

Now let’s take the General Government’s cost comparison. Guelph spends $229 per person in this category. The Ontario average cost per person is $104. The difference is a whopping 120 per cent additional cost to every resident of the city. Further, General Government expense is not a service but overhead. It can be reduced to meet needed cost cutting measures to bring the city government costs in line with what most Ontario municipalities are currently paying, based on a per capita population.

Now current acting CFO, DCAO, Mark Amorosi, doesn’t like to talk about this per captia cost. He says it’s irrelevant. What doe he care? He lives in Hamilton.

The present senior staff management and the Bloc of Seven on council, show no signs of acknowledging the growing financial problems being foisted on the taxpayers year after year. Plainly the staff is bloated with too many managers, high salaries and benefits, plus in some cases, two high priced managers doing one job.

Mark Amorosi’s crowning triumph was getting council, in closed session, to approve a 17.11 per cent increase for his then boss Ann Pappert and his three DCAO colleagues between 14 and nine per cent increases for 2015.

The public found out about it in March this year when the provincial Sunshine List of every public employee in Ontario earning more than $100,000 is named with taxable benefits five months after the fact.

Mark Amortosi was in charge of the city finances and Human Resources when council approved those increases December 9, 2015. Why is this man still working for the City of Guelph?

We urge folks to read the complete Fung Report. It can be found in the guelphspeaks.ca archives – Part One was posted August 29, 2016 and Part Two was posted September 1, 2016. If unable to locate the report, please contact Pat at pat.fung@sympatico.ca or guelphspeaks.ca

 

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