Tag Archives: Mayor Cam Githrie

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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Following the 12-year trail of secrecy and denial of the public interest

By Gerry Barker

February 19, 2019

I am encouraged that there is unrest among elements of the Populist left, as finally there is a realization of why council holds so many closed- sessions.

The latest critique of too many closed-sessions conducted by council came from Adam A. Donaldson, a blogger and columnist in the online news source, Guelph Today.

Adam’s political philosophy is wrapped around the causes of the left dominated city council members and a general left of centre political bent on matters of the public interest.

His Market Squared column this week asked the question why council shuts its doors to public participation? In 2015 and 2016, council held 84 closed-session meetings.

The focus is the sudden departure of Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson, described in a city press release as a “parting of the ways.” Adam joins a lot of people in the city wondering what happened.

Guelphspeaks posed a series of speculative questions about the sudden departure of the CAO in the middle of preparing the City’s 2019 budgets. The GS post has experienced one of the greatest numbers of readers in recent memory.

The 49-minute closed-session council meeting decided to appoint the three Deputy Chief Administrative Officers, Scott Stewart, Colleen Clack and Trevor Lee as the troika of gate keepers of the public’s pursuit of its right to know.

I speak from experience when it comes to requesting the minutes of the Dec 10, 2015 closed-session meeting that awarded $98,202 in salary increases to three top senior city managers.

Six weeks following the launching of a lawsuit against me, November 16, 2016, I requested a copy of the minutes of that meeting. I knew the outcome but not the details including who recommended it to council and who supported it?

In April, four months later, Amberlea Gravel denied my request. They are the city-appointed special investigators of closed-session meetings.

That event occurred in April three months after the plaintiff in this lawsuit had been dismissed. The CAO, Derrick Thomson, ironically was the person who fired his once close colleague with the comment that the firing did not involve the city’s support of lawsuit. He also praised his colleague for his great contribution to the city.

Because this case is now before the courts, I cannot comment further.

But as of a week ago Friday, the three recipients of that $98.202, 2015 retroactive salary increase, are all gone.

Going back to the CAO committee of three DCAO’s, did it ever occur to members of council that its decision to foist Thomson’s job now onto three capable senior managers? Council awarded compensation for the extra duties until the end of July or until a candidate is selected.

Which of the three will attend city council meetings, both open and closed?

How are the CAO responsibilities subdivided? How is there continuity in managing? Where are the checks and balances of managing continuing operations?

This not only unfair to those senior managers but could have been avoided by appointing one of the three as acting CAO until a candidate has been chosen.

To demonstrate how these birdbrain decisions are made, consider the following report by Mr. Donaldson:

“I also looked at the City of Guelph’s own materials about the regulation of closed meetings. On the subject of reports, it says: “Whenever possible, written Closed Meeting reports are preferred over verbal reports as the former provides for a more detailed account of the confidential record.

Why?

This city council is bereft of its responsibilities to act on behalf of the public and their right to know about the city’s business.

Instead, they snuggle and hide behind a contrived closed-session protocol developed and fine-tuned over eight years by the former administration.

A case in point is the draconian Code of Conduct in which councillors, engaged in closed-sessions, cannot comment or reveal the details of those meetings. To do so will result in an investigation by the city-appointed Integrity Commissioner who is prosecutor, judge and jury of any alleged break of the Code of Conduct.

And to think we spent some $500,000 in 2013 to a Toronto consultant to develop a governance program employing Transparency, Open Government and Accountability.

On top of that, the new Guthrie council employed a supporter of the former mayor to a $93,000 per year contract to manage the new Transparency, Open Government, and Accountability program.

Wonder whatever happened to him and TOG&A?

 

 

 

 

 

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