Tag Archives: Leanne Piper

Your GuelphSpeaks Weekender

By Gerry Barker

Posted November 22, 2015

Here’s this week’s line-up:

* The city of Guelph according to Chairman Piper

*   Some Adult truths to tickle your fancy

* The city reserve funds are on life support

* Life aboard Liz Sandals’ submarine

 

Leanne Piper bares herself as a Farbridge loyalist

Coun. Leanne Piper has a bagful of opinions and has become the defacto leader of the elected Farbridge Gang 0f Seven (FGOS) who currently dominate city council. It is a group dedicated to carry on the Farbridge agenda that more than 48 per cent of electors rejected last October.

Here we are a year later, and the bloc voting of FGOS is paralyzing the people’s business. They include: Leanne Piper, Cathy Downer, Karl Wettstein, June Hofland, Mike Salisbury, Phil Allt and James Gordon, the godfather of the Farbridge agenda.

The remaining councillors include Mayor Cam Guthrie, Dan Gibson, Bob Bell, Andy Van Hellemond, Christine Billings and Mark MacKinnon.

Leanne Piper posted a message June 3, 2014 with the heading, “Mayor Karen Farbridge Recognized for Leadership.”

Piper went on to say that “we don’t recognize how well regarded our city and our Mayor are until we leave the city limits. The Canadian Urban Institute knows that great cities are no accident. Leadership at all levels – politicians, staff and community – work together to develop and achieve great things. Congratulations, Karen!”

Now it’s appropriate for a councillor to support the mayor. But the date of this pronouncement from Chairman Piper suggests adoration and responsibility do not mix. Especially when the city has been found guilty of wrongful dismissal of Urbacon Buildings Group Corp., the general contractor of the new City Hall. The cost of this decision made in September 2008 is currently $23 million. That’s above the original project cost of $44 million totaling $67 million plus HST.

The city set aside no funds in the event it lost the lawsuit initiated by Urbacon. There was no admission of responsibility by neither Mayor Farbridge nor any of her majority of supporters including Leanne Piper, Karl Wettstein, June Hofland, and Mike Salisbury. These councillors are part of the FGOS dominating city council today.

The Farbridge legacy is a hangover of mismanagement of personal environmental projects, ego, and lack of financial control of public funds. It has left the city with a multi-million dollar shortfall in reserve funds, critical condition of our aging infrastructure and a dysfunctional staff.

Yes Leanne, you are to be congratulated for being a key player in creating the irresponsible actions of a Farbridge-led council gone wild.

It will take years to return Guelph into a fiscal condition to repair the handiwork of your leader.

Time for a rethink, Leanne.

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Some adult truths to tickle your fancy

            * Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch three consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

* Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.

* There is great need for a sarcasm font.

* Was learning cursive really necessary?

* Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

* Bad decisions make good stories.

* I keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when    they call.

* I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more     kisses begin with Molson Export than Kay.

* I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

* How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?

* I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front.

* The first testicular guard, the “Cup,” was used in hockey in 1874 and the first helmet in hockey was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

By Anonymous

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Whatever happened to all those reserve funds?

The city hired a consultant group from Hamilton to conduct an operations review. BMA reported that the city’s reserve funds, except the water reserve, were in a “red flag cautionary” mode.

What does this mean to the average citizen? Not much really except that it will drive taxes and fees up to replenish the under-funded reserves.

There are three reserves that were raided by the former administration to pay the $8.96 million settlement costs to Urbacon Buildings Group Corp as a result of losing a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

There was a recent report that the reserves’ shortfall was due in part because of the Urbacon settlement. However in the past eight years of the Far bridge administration, the reserves were often used to provide internal capital to cover mistakes, cost overruns, pet projects, and a number of other issues.

In short, the administration used the reserves as an ATM to conduct the city business; spending money outside the budget.

They did it because staff had the backing of the leadership, both elected and senior staff. In eight years, the city staff has been stocked with Friends of Farbridge (FOFS) and senior staff. Many of these employees do not live in Guelph. Yet they are making decisions that affect not only the tax and user fees rates but have done it with immunity.

One of the problems that got us into this mess was the lack of a Chief Financial Officer who could provide the necessary checks and balances required in a $500 million corporation.

The Farbridge Gang of Seven is still blocking necessary reforms to restore fiscal responsibility to the city.

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Liz Sandals is in her submarine as the system crumbles

It’s hard to imagine why Liz Sandals is still Minister of Education. While the Ontario education system is in tatters, Liz submerges beneath the ocean of discontent.

Her public comments reveal a Minister without common sense, respect for the students, the parents and the taxpayers.

Some classics:

When questioned by reporters following the Globe and Mail revealing the secret $2.5 million pay off to three teacher unions to cover extra negotiating costs, she said it was “nothing about anything.”

When asked if the unions supplied receipts to back up the payments, Sandals replied that it wasn’t necessary because she was familiar with the added costs. She said, “ you don’t have to see every bill when you’re doing an estimate of costs.”

Premier Wynne later jumped in and said the unions had to supply receipts for fear that the Sandals statement would cause a wave of expense account manipulations when receipts were not required.

The Minister refused to say how much the government spent on its own negotiating costs.

Under her leadership, Sandals has caused major disruption in the everyday operations of Ontario’s Schools. It has been going on for 18 months and still going on as unions remain engaged in work to rule, obstructing the normal operations of thousands of Ontario Schools.

Even the principals of those schools are powerless to properly operate the institutions that are responsible for educating future generations. Union-ordered cancelled field trips, report cards, extracurricular activities and only allow parent consultations if they feel like it.

The teacher unions have to step back and let the process continue as it should without the cheesy, obstructionism that is out of control. It’s that way because the Wynne government allowed it to happen. The convoluted “new” two-tiered system of negotiating with the union and the school boards has been an unmitigated disaster.

And next year, the negotiating process starts all over again.

This isn’t about politics, it’s about responsibility to keep labour peace and supply our children with a quality and productive education.

Time to say goodbye Liz. With you in charge nothing will change.

 

 

 

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With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Posted September 13, 2012

What is it that Coun. Leanne Piper doesn’t understand about conflict of interest as it applies to her employment with the University of Guelph and her position as a councillor of the City of Guelph?

During the July 23rd council meeting, Ms. Piper as chairperson of the committee responsible for water, waste and environment, moved to have council approve a contribution toward a watershed project covering the Grand River area.

This project, in conjunction with scientists from the University of Guelph, is an in- depth analysis of the watershed and its ability to sustain demand for water use and the ability to control waste water flowing into streams and rivers.

Her making the motion to have council approve spending some $240,000 for the project is a direct conflict of interest.

This is another example of Coun. Piper’s disdain for the rules covering conflicts of interest. All she is required to do is recuse herself if a motion or a vote or discussion is introduced involving her employer (the university) doing business with the city.

Recently, council agreed unanimously to reject a proposal to build two student residence towers on the site of the Best Western Motel at Gordon Street and Stone Road. Coun. Piper was one of those councillors who voted to reject the proposal by Abode Varsity Living.

The company appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board that is currently hearing evidence on the project.

On the first day of the hearing, it was revealed that the University of Guelph objected to the proposal on the grounds it would be unfair competition to the development of university residences.  The owner of the property said he was approached by the University to purchase the land, after he made a deal with Abode.

The Mayor had no trouble lining up her troops to reject the proposal on the grounds it was too big for the neighbourhood. Of course, the decision was made on a staff recommendation.

It’s apparent the university has allies on council to support their objection. Three of whom were employed by the university.

One may ask why this sudden desire to build university-owned student housing off campus? Student housing on campus totals some 5,000 units serving an undergraduate population of 20,000. Guess where the rest are going, into neighbourhoods where they are seldom welcome?

So Councillors Leanne Piper, Maggie Laidlaw and Lise Burcher, are you representing the people who elected you or your bosses at the university?

Where was Mayor Farbridge, the one concerned about integrity and code of conduct of councillors, when these obvious violations of the the Ontario Conflict of Interest Act occurred under her watch?

Her silence is deafening.

It’s not that complicated.

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I get stupidity fatigue reading Macleans’ 99 ways government stupidity spent your money

  • For viewers who don’t read Macleans, there is not enough space to describe how, across the country, our fog-bound, greedy officials make dumb decisions spending your money willfully supporting the most specious of proposals.

One of my favourites was spending by Ottawa to build seven chalets along the Rideau Canal, at a cost of $750,000 each to accommodate skaters in winter. Average house costs in the city are just $360,000.

I can report reading the report is a revealing and tiring exercise.

So then look at the situation in Guelph, where we have a substantial portfolio of home-grown stupidity by our council and staff.

Let me count the ways.

*  My favourite was the nameless city staffer who promoted the idea of selling Guelph’s streetlights to Guelph Hydro. That’s like borrowing from yourself. The taxpayers own Guelph Hydro.  It was a stupid proposal designed to create fresh capital to a council starved for money. That was shifting the debt to another city agency. Try doing that at home.

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*  Picking a fight with partners in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit.  The health board approved a $17 million headquarters on Stone Road and a satellite office in Orangeville. Guelph’s share was mandated to be $10 million.

Mayor Farbridge and her supporters on council decided to challenge the proposal by first withdrawing its representatives from the public health board and then challenging the decision in the courts. The city lost. The cost to taxpayers for this is an unbudgeted $10 million. Why can’t our council get along with their partners?

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*  Using $2 million of stimulus money to install bicycle lanes on Stone Road. The other stupid use of stimulus cash was paying $750,000 for a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre.

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*  Then along came the stupid downtown pissoir experiment. Councillor Ian Findlay and Mike Salisbury travelled to Edmonton to check out how that city handles the public calls of nature. The result of Guelph’s six week temporary pissoir experiment was collecting more than 2,000 litres of male urine. It didn’t fix the problem.

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*  Spending $300,000 to a consultant to rearrange the Guelph Transit routes to be more efficient and of service to the public.  When started January 1st, the system was a disaster. Passengers complained of route changes, wait times and missed transfers. But hey! The buses were given new logos and the drivers took the heat from passengers. Is that any way to run a railroad, er transit service?

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*  The granddaddy of stupidity was spending $33 million on a wet waste composting plant and then being told by the Ministry of Environment that they would not allow plastic bags to be used at the facility. Instead, council agreed, based on a staff recommendation, that another $15 million be spent on a green bin system plus automated trucks to pick the bins up.

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*  For the past five years, the Farbridge Council has used reserve funds to prop up ambitious projects and keep the annual tax rate increases in the 3.5 per cent area. The chickens came home to roost recently when city staff told council there was not an evident pool of money to support the city’s share of a proposed affordable housing project. If the staff doesn’t know where the funding comes from how can such a program even be considered?

Coun. Bob Bell who attended the county meeting to discuss the project, wished there was $2.5 million in the city’s affordable housing reserve fund but said, “ we haven’t put any money in there for about three years.”

So, when Coun. Leanne Piper brags that the city has $84 million in reserves, maybe she should drill down and find out where and how much there is in the reserves.

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Finally, the stupidity prize goes to Mayor Farbridge who bypassed her own council bylaws and allowed Coun. Leanne Piper to engineer a coup that saw Coun. Gloria Kovach stripped of her police services post. Then she took the job for herself. Her seven fellow travelers on council supported both moves, 8 to 5.

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How the gang of eight illegally dumped Coun. Kovach from the Police Board

Who is the “gang of eight”? Here are the names of the Farbridge controlled group on council: Mayor Farbridge, Councillors Leanne Piper, Lise Burcher, Maggie Laidlaw, June Hoffland, Ian Findlay, Todd Dennis and Karl Wettstein.

They all voted recently to throw Coun. Gloria Kovach off the Guelph Police Services Board. Ms. Kovach was appointed to the board last January for a four-year term. It was a unanimous decision at the time by members of Council.

Council procedural rules require any change in previous decisions must be approved by at least nine members of Council.

Here’s what happened: Coun. Leanne Piper moved in a striking committee meeting to remove her colleague claiming she was only elected for a one-year term.

When the full Council was presented with the proposal, Coun. Bob Bell produced a copy of the minutes confirming Ms. Kovach for four years on the Police Board, but it was ignored.

Instead, the gang of eight voted 8 to 5 to remove Coun. Kovach.

Immediately, in another 8 to 5 vote, surprise! Coun. Leanne Piper was appointed to the Police Services Board.

But in doing so, Council did not follow its own procedural bylaw.

This should be overturned. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs should investigate this travesty in which a senior member of Council was unceremoniously dumped for pure political vengeance.

Where were the city solicitor and clerk when this was going on? MIA – missing in action.

Let’s check the Baloney Scale: Drum roll, please.

It’s a ten!

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Piper’s political power play is the essence of sleaze

If citizens ever need another example of sleaze in city politics, look no further than the firing of Coun. Gloria Kovach off the Guelph Police Services board.

Ms. Kovach, a senior member of city council and veteran of serving on the police board for seven years, was the victim of a heartless and vengeful coup orchestrated by Coun. Leanne Piper.

Coun. Kovach has been an outspoken critic of the Farbridge administration and this was the classic set-up to seek revenge and put her in her place.

Kovach was voted off the board by an 8 to 5 margin. As usual the eight Farbridge supporters lined up to support their ambitious colleague.

Surprise! Then they voted by the same 8 to 5 margin to appoint Coun. Piper to the police services board.

This comes on the heels of the compost plant debacle in which $32 million has been spent to build a wet waste facility that is still stinking up the neighbourhood.

More surprising is the role of rookie Coun. Todd Dennis in the past year. After being elected on the promise to control finances, reduce taxes and promote construction of the south end recreation centre, he folded like a cheap tent.

Dennis, along with his ward six colleague, Karl Wettstein, has meekly gone along with the Farbridge majority. He was seduced by newfound power and nurtured by the Mayor with the promise of a committee chairmanship. Neither ward six councillors dance to the Farbridge agenda like puppets on a string.

This was a planned dénouement of a popular and proficient councillor. It is the worst kind of sleaze politics that doesn’t belong in our civic government. It was done with full knowledge of the Mayor who controls all appointments to committees, boards and commissions.

Coun. Piper’s naked ambition to seize power is mindful of her promoting moving the Guelph civic Museum to the derelict Loretto Convent. She convinced council to preserve a pre-confederation heritage building that was slated by the owner for demolition. Now, almost five years later at a cost of some $16 million, the project is still not open. Any resemblance of the original heritage building has been destroyed with 21st century architectural add-ons.

Piper manipulated her colleagues by claiming that Coun. Kovach was only appointed in January for a one-year term, not the usual four years.

Coun. Jim Furfaro showed a page from the minutes that proved the reappointment of Coun. Kovach was for a four term and was approved by council. That did not deter Coun. Piper and the Farbridge cronies from dumping Coun. Kovach.

This single event should be remembered as an example of how the city is administered by a controlling group of councillors who will stop at nothing to satisfy their personal agendas and egos.

Here are the names of those councillors who courageously voted against this egregious power play: Bob Bell, Jim Furfaro, Cam Guthrie, Andy Van Hellemond and Gloria Kovach.

Remember those names October 2014. Then voters can elect principled candidates who will represent taxpayer interests in a fair and equitable manner.

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