Tag Archives: Mayor Cam Guthrie

The Guthrie record: Now are you better off today than in 2014?

By Gerry Barker

October 15, 2018

Mayor Cam Guthrie published a full-page advertisement in the Tribune this past week, just ten days before the civic election extolling his virtues, track record and, regretfully, dodging the vital issues facing the community and lying by omission (LBO).

This is a classic deja-vu of his election in 2014 in which he was the default victor over a Mayor who the public decided was not worthy of re-election. And, with good reasons.

The vast majority of the voting public understood there had to be change at the top. And Cam Guthrie filled most voter’s hopes and expectations beating, Ms. Farbridge by more than 5,000 votes.

The left progressives, who had dominated city council for eight years, were dumb- founded.

As an incumbent candidate, Guthrie campaigned on keeping property taxes at the same level, as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) at the time was 1.95 per cent.

In March 2015, the new council approved a 3.96 per cent property tax increase accelerated by the previously frozen increased assessment on property that was not included in the 2015 budget as presented to the public.

In his four years as mayor, Mayor Cam Guthrie presided over more than an 18 per cent increase in city property taxes.

So, why would citizens believe him now?

So, early in January 2015, guelphspeaks.ca published the fact that Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert’s, contract was being reviewed by city council. This resulted in an investigation of who had tipped off guelphspeaks.ca?

The Mayor, enraged over the leak, even sent out an e-mail to an undisclosed group of people, presumed to be his supporters, that Barker was not to be believed as he always got his facts wrong. Really? Prove it!

The new Mayor even threatened a Guelph citizen who published the four-year track record of the CAO’s performance in not balancing the city books and resorted to taking money from reserves to meet the provincial regulations that no municipality can carry a deficit into the new year.

For her trouble, Mayor Guthrie said he would take legal action against this citizen’s accurate analysis of the Ms. Pappert’s five years on the job. That threat disappeared for good reason.

But the Guthrie defence of the former CAO continued

In December 10, 2015, city council met in closed session. The purpose of the meeting was to approve some $98,202 increases to four senior staffers for the fiscal year 2015.

The main recipient was CAO Ann Pappert. Her increase included: A retroactive performance bonus of some $27,000. It also unclouded payments for unused vacation and sick leave credits that totaled a $37,000 increase in her base pay for 2015. This took her remuneration to $253,000 not including her taxable benefits.

None of this was made public until March 31, 2016 when the provincial Sunshine List was published, naming all public servants in Ontario earning more than $100,000.

Comparing her remuneration for 2014 ($219,000) to the 2015 provincial list, demonstrates a 17 per cent increase.

Mayor Guthrie presided over this December 10, 2015 closed session when council awarded these senior managers the huge increase. Guelphspeaks attempted to obtain the minutes of this meeting and was denied after a four-month wait for an answer from Amberlea Gravel, the council-appointed closed-session investigator on retainer by the city.

To this day, Mayor Guthrie has not acknowledged the details or rationale of that closed meeting.

The result was the people of Guelph paid Ms. Pappert in the first two years of the Guthrie administration some $463,000 for 17 months work.

This meeting was just one of 82 closed session meetings the Mayor oversaw in the first two years in office.

In his full-page ad, the Mayor lists the “Community Assets” of the city. These include: Breaking ground on the South End Community Centre ($63 million); Ensure the $350 million (in today’s dollars) Baker Street redevelopment project moves forward (including the $53 million Downtown Library); Setting aside funding for the “much needed” hospital expansion; To protect and promote the tree canopy of Guelph; Create fenced-in dog parks.

As the late Peggy Lee used to sing: “Is that all there is?”

Let’s dissect this “Community Asset” run for the roses by the Mayor.

Let’s start with the fenced in dog parks across the city.

This is not an asset; it’s an operational wish list. But let’s address the real poop problems that pervade our parks, Canada Geese. It’s not pleasant to enjoy our parks when there is a proliferation of geese chomping on the grass randomly pooping wherever they feel. And they are so content most stay in Guelph for the winter. You can fence in dogs but cannot handle the bigger problem of goose infestation. Sounds like a plan, priority dogs. How about goose-control pills?

Aside: Whatever happened to the tax on cats?

The declaration of setting aside funds for the Guelph General Hospital is an important issue. But where is the money coming from? The Guthrie administration has not only followed The Mayor’s campaign promise to maintain property tax increases to the CPI but has socked property owners with a two per cent surcharge.

The money allegedly is to go toward repairing and renovating neglected infrastructure but half of it goes to “city buildings.” Those levy funds go for financing the proposed $63 million South End Recreation Centre in which the Guthrie council has already quietly committed $3 million for preliminary architectural planning.

This is the first major community recreation centre to be funded by a property tax levy of 1 per cent across the city.

At this point you have to wonder where the priorities are.

The Mayor has proclaimed that a new downtown Library will finally be part of the Baker Street redevelopment. This is nothing but an empty promise. It will be ten years before a new Library is open. The mayor and most of council will not be in office because the shovels don’t go into the ground until 2024. Many are frustrated supporters of a new downtown library. It’s just Cam promising anything to pander to their hopes and dreams after 20 years of promises by various administrations.

This is what didn’t show up in Community Assets

The Mayor neglects to reveal his role in the Guelph Hydro merger with Alectra Inc. The crown jewel of real assets has been given away for a pittance.

The proposal has yet to be approved by the Ontario Energy Board.

He must feel vindicated and confident that his support of this multi-million dollar asset giveaway was best for the 55,000 customers of Guelph Hydro.

As the saying goes: “It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings.”

For these reasons my wife and I did not vote for either Mr. Guthrie or Ms. Mlyarz.

If you have not done already we urge you to vote Monday, October 22. Eligible voters have already received their voter card with the location of the poll in each ward. Along with the official voter card, be sure and bring some ID such as driver’s licence, health card, utility bill or your Canadian passport.

Contact the City Clerk’s office. They will be happy to assist voters with information if required.

It’s your city and your vote.

 

 

 

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How Mayor Guthrie interfered in the Guelph P.C. campaign

By Gerry Barker

September 24, 2018

A year ago, guelphspeaks.ca received a tip that the P.C party was interested in having Mayor Guthrie as its candidate. Mayor Guthrie denied he was available and the matter disappeared. Until that is, when the election Writ was dropped by the Liberal government slated for June 7, 2018.

Prior to that, in Late January, the P.C. Leader, Patrick Brown, who Mr. Guthrie, is alleged to befriend, was forced to resign over alleged sexual misconduct. Across the province, P.C. riding associations were thrown into a tizzy as the party leadership had to redefined and hold a leadershuo convention that Doug Ford won.

In Guelph, there was a crisis in selecting a candidate because of interference from the Tory team inToronto.

And now, for the rest of the story.

I like to call it Pizza-gate for reasons soon to be revealed.

Guelph PC Riding Association President, Bob Coole, and his campaign team were interviewing and seeking candidates to carry the PC banner in the June election. A front-runner at the time was lawyer, Peter McSherry who dropped out. While the Association was working to set up a nomination convention because there were other candidates interested in running, a message came from P.C. headquarters in Toronto.

The gist was not to proceed with the nomination meeting because, without identifying the individual, team Toronto said they had a candidate and the nomination convention would possibly not be necessary.

The Tory riding association was confused and concerned about losing time to get a candidate nominated and organized for the June 7 election.

There was speculation of who the pre-selected candidate would be.

When asked, Mayor Guthrie steadfastly denied he was the one because he loved his job as Mayor and would be seeking re-election.

What the Mayor never revealed was the secret recruiting campaign that along with Coun. Dan Gibson worked to nominate candidates to support him if elected Mayor.

If this was a horse race, this action might be compared to hedging your bet.

Some of those team Guthrie candidates allegedly are members of the Lakeside Evangelical Church. Both Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Gibson are members of that church.

It is still perfectly legal but not above board.

Mr. Gibson admitted to this writer that he had spent weeks talking and recruiting candidates although their religious affiliation was not included in discussions.

Nor should a candidate’s religious affiliation be a factor in any election.

Unknown to the voting public was the Mayor’s political stick handling to become the P.C. candidate in the June provincial election while publicly denying he was seeking the nomination.

Unfortunately, the question of religious affiliation pointed out by some opponents of Mr. Guthrie, who charged him with creating a slate to favour his mayoralty.

What these people are claiming is nuts and blatantly untrue.

For eight years, the progressives left in Guelph ran a slate of supporters of then Mayor Karen Farbridge.

In my opinion, the chickens have come home to roost. The NDP slate of candidates are facing imminent defeat, based on the record of wasted millions on projects such as the new City Hall and the GMHI debacle, to name two. But in the past four years the progressive’s Bloc of Seven, held a majority on council and played a role of obstructionism and stalled necessary reforms.

Playing both sides of the street

Let’s return to the Mayor’s sabotage of the Guelph P.C. Riding Association’s abortive attempts to conduct a legal nomination convention. The P.C. headquarters team was complicit in creating the delay because it refused to confirm the identity of their chosen candidate. And they never did.

As a result of the Mayor’s action behind the scene, a nomination meeting was never held.

In the midst of the P.C. Association turmoil of uncertainty, Mr. Coole received a telephone call from Mayor Guthrie asking him to lunch and suggested they meet at a pizza restaurant located in a Stone Road plaza. In the course of that meeting, Mr. Guthrie said he was interested in receiving the P.C. nomination but only by acclamation.

Mr. Coole advised him that the nomination process involved other candidates and he could not recommend to his board the request by the Mayor. By now, some weeks had gone by and the P.C.’s had no candidates.

To fill the gap, the riding association attracted two candidates, former city councillor Ray Ferarro and a Rockwood veterinarian. The PC headquarter’s team interviewed both. But time to hold a nomination meeting had almost run out.

The new PC leader, Doug Ford, on a Saturday three weeks before the election, named Mr. Ferarro as the Guelph P.C. candidate among 18 others in ridings across the province.

On May 1st, nominations for city council opened with Mayor Guthrie and four new individuals signing up for council.

It became apparent that the Mayor was setting up a slate of supporting candidates who shared similar interests and beliefs.

But in doing so, he sabotaged the Guelph P.C. Riding Association’s efforts to run a fair and open nomination convention.

Unfortunately for Mr. Guthrie, blind ambition led to the P.C.’s getting hammered in the June provincial election. As a member of the Conservative Party, he is now considered persona non grata.

Voters have no choice but to elect Cam Guthrie as our mayor. If he struggled in the past four years dealing with a strong opposition, this next four years will not be any easier.

He must speak truth to power.

 

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Just say NO and let them GO as the Ontario NDP muscles into the Guelph municipal election

By Gerry Barker

September 4, 2018

I was sent a flyer from the Ontario NDP asking for support.

“There are a number of great progressive candidates running in this election who share NDP values,” the handout states.

In my opinion, this is nothing but blatant influence pedaling. A major political party with deep pockets and endless professional resource to force the outcome of our municipal election is conducting it.

After 12 years of holding the majority of city council, the time has come to end the NDP domination of our council.

It does not name these self-described “great candidates” but the flyer is asking to support them by volunteering, donating and meeting sign requests.

Presenting for your consumption, names of the Bloc of Seven that has dominated Guelph council for the past four years: James Gordon, Ward 2; June Hofland and Phil Allt, Ward 3; Mike Salisbury, Ward 4; Cathy Downer and Leanne Piper, Ward 5; and Mark MacKinnon Ward 6.

There are others running who are suspected NDP supporters to insure another NDP control of council. One additional NDP candidate is Aggie Mlynarz, running for Mayor and with no municipal governance experience. If she is elected, the NDP will lock up control of council for the next four years.

If you believe that these seven “great candidates” have worked diligently as city councillors on your behalf and warrant re-election, support them.

If, on the other hand, you agree that the NDP dominance of city council for the past 12 years has been littered with financial mismanagement, self-serving policies and projects including the Urbacon wrongful dismissal lawsuit, the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) multi-million dollar fiasco and the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc.

Then: “Just say NO and let them GO.”

If you believe this, consider the following:

Revive the Community Energy Initiative that has already cost citizens millions chiefly through the GMHI that in 2016 loss $17 million. The 2017 report is not available but is estimated by experts to increase the loss to an estimated $24 million.

Increasing spending on bicycle lanes of major streets and trails resulting in squeezing many major roads causing increasing traffic congestion caused by a growing population. The active bicycle lobby does not contribute to these annual lane expansions but remain entitled to the free rude.

A promise made and a promise not kept

Going downtown? Where can you park? City council deferred a $700,000 budget item to buy new parking meters for downtown. Instead, it channeled the funds to a preliminary spending on the proposed $63 million South end Recreation Centre. This was promoted and approved by council on a motion by Ward 6 councillors Karl Wettstein and Mark MacKinnon, both part of the NDP Bloc of Seven controlling council.

Are you still driving around the block to find a parking space?

Closing down public participation

Suppressing public participation by conducting the people’s business in closed-sessions. In the first two years of the Guthrie administration there were 82 closed-sessions conducted by the administration. What were they talking about? We’ll never know because the minutes of those meeting are sealed.

Is the Guelph Hydro deal in the best interests of the people?

Here are the ten councillors who voted December 13, 2017 to approve the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Inc: Mayor Cam Guthrie, Councillors Dan Gibson, Andy Van Hellemond (not running), June Hofland, Christine Billings, Mike Salisbury, Cathy Downer, Leanne Piper, Mark MacKinnon and Karl Wettstein (not running).

It is painful that the Ten ignored the public response to reconsider the Alectra deal. Fortunately, it has yet to be confirmed by the Ontario Energy Board. Given Guelph’s dismal record of managing the energy file, the outcome of saving this jewel of city assets is uncertain.

Playing the Reserve Funds Rumba

How council balanced the books by misusing reserve funds. Official documents show that under her management for five years, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert, failed each year to balance the city books as required by law. This was because the budgets were overspent, it’s called a negative variance.

An example was the $8 million settlement with Urbacon of which more than $5 million was taken from three non-related reserve funds to complete the payment to Urbacon. To the best of knowledge those funds were never returned to the three reserve funds. What do you think?

Spending money on social engineering projects such as waste management, transit, injection clinics, Wellbeing programs, intensification of new housing, but nothing on affordable housing in Guelph that County Wellington managed. And let’s not forget the Wyndham street underpass botched reconstruction that denied large trucks that had crashed into the underside of the overpass.

Another way to drive up the cost of living in Guelph, raise taxes

Adding property tax surcharges – it’s a tax by any other name to fund failing and neglected infrastructure. The city staff has declared that the cost of updating the infrastructure in the city is more than $400 million.

Increasing staff does not justify the modest annual increase in population. Of course, certain staff increases are needed particularly in the three public safety divisions, police, fire and EMS. But needs under the past three NDP dominated councils do not necessary match those public safety needs but diverted staffers to support NDP self-serving projects of which the general public is not informed.

Why is the Ontario NDP interfering with our municipal election?

They are protecting their agenda that is part of the National NDP platform such as minimum wage increases, guaranteed annual income, pharmacare for all citizens, higher taxes, energy and environmental projects. In Guelph annual property taxes have risen, on average, by more than three per cent in the past 12 years. That does not include the two per cent property tax surcharge that started in 2017.

We believe it is the citizens’ time to express their views at the ballot box and “Just say NO and let them GO.”

These are just some of the priorities of the council majority if it is composed of NDP dedicated members. They drive the policies that were forged by the former mayor of Guelph that had resulted in the city having higher taxes than most of its peer group in Ontario.

The other day, I was told that inflation has hit the Guelph municipal candidates in which four years ago a ward candidate would usually spend on average up to $5,500. Today that has almost doubled.

Is it logical that to run for a job that pays $40,000, you have to spend $10,000? Yes there are other perks, most taxable such as honourariums for serving on some boards and committees.

The Mayoralty race in previous years has cost more than $80,000. Mayor Guthrie has the advantage of being an incumbent but also has a large following of friends and supporters. But even he cannot depend on those juicy cheques from various businesses and organizations that are incorporated.

Where does mayoralty candidate, Aggie Mlynarz, 28 year-old Fine Arts graduate with no municipal experience find that kind of money?

In my opinion, the Ontario NDP should butt out and stop using the City of Guelph as an incubator for grooming candidates for future higher office.

The definition of insanity: Re-electing these seven NDP councillors and electing an inexperienced mayor, is again like electing the same NDP council majority and expecting a different outcome

Just say NO and let the NDP GO!

 

 

 

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The passing of logic and understanding

By Gerry Barker

August 27, 2018

On Saturday a great American statesman, Navy pilot and patriot, died.

John McCain was 81 years old and loved to be called the “Maverick.” His historic “no” vote to stop the total dismantling of Obama Care in the U.S. senate, ended the attempt by his fellow senators to finish the job.

Maverick indeed.

This week in Guelph Today, there was an opinion piece written by local blogger Adam Donaldson in which he described the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) annual meeting as “ much AMO about nothing” – cute. So its no wonder that one cannot take Mr. Donaldson seriously.

He said he interviewed Mayor Guthrie who was enthusiastic about the AMO meeting stating: “They (the provincial government), have been very welcoming, very open to hearing what’s going on in Guelph.”

The piece later on quoted Premier Doug Ford telling the AMO delegates that the government had no plans to further emulate the Toronto Council reduction (Bill 5). It would reduce it from 47 members to 25 matching the provincial and federal riding boundaries in the city.

Is Donaldson still smarting over the total defeat of the Wynne government and its policies by the Ford Tories? Guess he’s not been around to recognize the political reality of removal as the party that was in power for several years. .

Good grief! The Liberals were in charge of this province for 15 years. The Ford Tories have held the reins of power for less than three months.

But the Liberal media including my former paper, The Toronto Star, are doing a character assassination number on Mr. Ford while his cabinet members are still trying to find their offices.

The Guelph Today Ford wrecking ball commentary asks the question: How long will the Ford government treat the AMO with ‘gusto’ and how long will it last?

That will be four years.

The Wynne government used the AMO to reinforce its wacko energy plans that have driven the cost of electricity in Ontario to one of the highest in North America. That’s because the AMO is funded and supported by the party in power. A creature of the province, one may surmise, like the 444 municipalities in Ontario.

It’s one way for the party in power to control and manipulate the operations of its 444 supplicants. It’s also a convenient instrument to keep all those municipal councils in line with the implied threat of denying grants, favours and support.

There is nothing equal about all this. It’s done our way or our cooperation will disappear.

The election of Green Party candidate Mike Schreiner as our representative to the Ontario Legislature has isolated the city from provincial support initially. Schreiner is a party of one with no recognition as an official party in the Legislature.

His effectiveness under this situation handicaps his obligation to ensure the city is able to access the support of the various provincial departments now dominated by the PC’s.

Recently, there was a story published in the Toronto Star describing the movement of young families from Toronto due to the high cost of housing. The story mentioned destinations including Barrie, Kitchener, Cambridge, London and Kingston. There was no mention of Guelph.

Why was that? With respect, there are several factors. The first is that Guelph’s residential property taxes are among the highest in the province. The city is home to the University of Guelph that currently has a reported 22,000 students.

While there is great pride in the University, there exist huge costs to most citizens to subsidize the university such as infrastructure of utilities roads, transit, medical facilities, street maintenance including snow and leaf removal,

The burden of these and many other services falls on the property taxpayer of the city of Guelph. The University is the largest landowner in the city. Provincial legislation in 1987 decreed that in lieu of property taxes, the universities and colleges in Ontario would pay $75 for every full-time student attending for two semesters.

This arrangement has not changed in 31 years. Compared to citywide assessment of properties in that same period, using a base of the Consumer Price Index for inflation, the increases to city property owners is almost incalculable.

In 15 years, did the provincial Liberals ever consider fixing this unfair and costly archaic system?

By banging the drum to complain about the Ford leadership, look inwardly Guelph because the governance of our city in the past 12 years has neglected the basic fiduciary responsibility of the elected and senior management.

There are three major events that have cost residents dearly. First the $23 million additional cost of building the new city hall; then came the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. cover-up that so far, has resulted in a major write down of Guelph Hydro’s tangible assets plus a loss of $17 million in 2016. The third project, linked to the GMHI debacle, is the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Inc.

You cannot walk away from these mismanaged projects and then announce a potential $350 million renovation of the Baker Street parking lot involving a partnership with an Ottawa company to commence construction in 2024.

Guthrie gushed that the prime tenant would be the new downtown library.

I am not against this proposal but question what is the taxpayer’s commitment to this project?

Oh! I forgot this is election time.

Meanwhile, the demolition of the Wynne government’s social engineering policies will continue because most voters rejected them by electing Doug Ford and 75 members to the Ontario Legislature.

 

 

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Swimming upstream against a tsunami of incompetence

By Gerry Barker

August 23, 2018

More than two years ago, I asked the Ontario Ombudsman office to assist me in obtaining the minutes of a city council closed-session meeting conducted December 10,2015. That meeting approved salary and bonus increases to the four senior staff managers that totaled $98,202.

At the time of the request, only council and some staffers knew what those increases were and why was there no explanation?

The Ombudsman representative told me that that office could not assist because “Guelph had its own special investigator of closed session meetings” … Amberlea Gravel located in London. This organization was hired by the city in 2008 and had been on retainer for the past ten years.

I filed a request for the minutes through the city clerk’s office. It took more than four months to be told that my request was denied. By that time, the increases had been revealed when the 2015 Sunshine list was published in March 2016.

To this day, the city administration has never explained why it withheld that information for almost four months and has yet to acknowledge it.

The cover-up was controlled behind closed doors.

It got me thinking this year about the methods used by the current Guthrie administration to suppress public participation in the business of the city.

So I checked with the city clerk and requested how many closed-session meetings were held since January 2015 to a couple of months ago.

I was informed that in 2015 and 2016 there were 41 such meetings held in each year. That’s 82 over 24 months. That number dropped in 2017 when the council voted to conduct its business acting as the ‘committee of the whole.’ Last year there were 12 closed-session meetings with a similar number this year to date.

Why does this matter?

It is a slippery slope that allows city council and senior staff to virtually, make decisions in secret, without public input or knowledge. It results in pre-digesting the contentious items of business without telling anyone.

That’s how the Farbridge administration wasted millions on the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) by imposing silence for four years using closed-session meetings.

To prevent leaks of the details of those closed-sessions, the hammer over the councillors was the threat of the Integrity Commissioner investigating the alleged misconduct and potential penalties.

The scope of this GMHI ‘green’ adventure was to create power self-suffiency and potential heating and cooling of downtown building and the Hanlon Business Park.

It was finally exposed following the defeat of the former mayor in 2014. It took until May 2016 before the awful truth was revealed. Ironically, the report was presented by GMHI CFO Pankaj Sardana and signed by Chief Administrative Officer (at the time) Ann Pappert. Ms. Pappert was appointed Chief Executive Officer of GMHI in 2011. So, she was wearing two executive hats and had to have intimate knowledge of the city and GMHI operations for four years.

But it gets better, or worse as the case may be. The former mayor was chairperson of the GMHI Board of Directors. Because of her position as mayor and head of GMHI that included Guelph Hydro, she named four members of council to the GMHI Board.

These included Councillors June Hofland who was also head of the council finance committee, Karl Wettstein, Lise Burcher and Todd Dennis. This gave Ms.Farbridge complete control of both the city and GMHI.

The disturbing situation some four years later, is that the financial mess is still to be cleaned up as contracts and operation of the District Energy pumps are still operating to supply hot and cold water to five buildings downtown, including the Sleeman Centre and River-Run theatre across the street.

Best estimate of the cost of wrap-up will require $17 million and counting. The bottom line is there remains insufficient revenue to continue operating GMHI but the problem has yet to be resolved. The purchase of GMHI shares by Alectra may solve the situation. According to the merger agreement, the proposed Alectra Inc. dividend will be paid to GMHI, not the city.

The Guthrie administration has promoted the sale of GMHI shares, which are worthless, to Alectra Inc as part of a merger agreement. The data shows that the owner of Guelph Hydro ‘s tangible assets including poles, wires, substations, and equipment is the subsidiary corporation Guelph Hydro Electric Services Inc.

And who owns GHESI? Why it’s GMHI. That’s why Alectra is ‘purchasing the shares of GMHI.

How did we get into this pickle?

Because as citizens we were denied important information and details including a supportive business plan that made sense, not chaos.

It was a carefully orchestrated scheme that was under the control of a city council, of which most members were bereft of skills, financial acumen and conscience.

So what does the Guthrie council do? They approve entering an agreement with a private corporation to redevelop the Baker Street parking lot into a spiffy downtown showcase of mixed use including a new library, businesses, shops and residences.

The estimated cost of this grand design is unknown. One estimate said between $314 and $350 million. This proposal won’t start until 2024. Citizens have no information about the city’s share of the development. And it won’t be ready for occupancy until at least 2028.

When is this stream of building abortive monuments going to stop? There is plenty of blame to go around. But until we elect responsible and experienced councillors we will continue swimming in a sea of uncontrollable, ego-driven waste of resources.

 

 

 

 

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Say hello to Guelph Tomorrow, the new people’s participation association

By Gerry Barker

July 29, 2918

Please Note: There is a lot of material in this lengthy piece. It is part of the long march of electors to voting day, October 22. Check out Guelph Tomorrow’s website opening in mid August for reliable updates and information.

This is composed of like-minded citizens who reject the policies of the past three councils that have conducted the people’s business chiefly behind closed doors. The city debt has never been higher. By taking development fees from other projects, public buildings have been financed outside the box of financial management. Millions have been lost on failed energy and environmental projects such as the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc’s failed projects.

The reserve funds have been depleted to a point that the administration will not reveal. In 2009, Coun. Leanne Piper was quoted that the city held $70 million in reserve funds. Would she care to update us on that one?

This occurred over the past 12 years because we the people let it happen. We elected ward councillors in the majority who collectively, were controlled by a mayor and professional staff. The former mayor who bragged that she was turning Guelph into a world-class leader in waste management and other environmental projects drove the agenda.

It’s time to elect and support individuals who are politically in the centre of the political spectrum. Guelph Tomorrow will assist those councillors running for the next four years to ensure that our municipal management must be conducted with transparency, with active accountability and open government.

This means shutting down the closed-session meetings of council that suppress public participation. It includes a quarterly summary of the financial status of city operations distributed through the Hydro mailing system.

Most important is to stop the annual property tax and user fees increases that are crippling the city and exceeding the inflation as set by the Consumer Price Index currently running at 2.5 per cent.

When was the last time you received a financial statement from the city?

For example, under the current Guthrie administration property taxes alone have increased by an estimated 17 per cent in four years.

To pay for all the mistakes, the Guthrie council approved giving away Guelph Hydro lock, poles, wires and most of the staff for a tiny dividend from the acquiring corporation.

It is a recipe for disaster, especially for lower income folks, those on fixed incomes and functioning below the poverty measurement.

In 12 years, the majority of a highly-organized political organization that operated below the public’s radar has shattered the public trust.

This group manipulated the agenda to promote their misguided and unreliable projects.

Let us count the legacy of political Action and its impact on the citizens.

Start with the Community Energy Innovation plan that was the mother ship of such leftist failed projects.

The Organic Waste Processing Facility cost $34 million and has yet to turn a profit. It imports wet garbage from Simcoe County and the Region of Waterloo, both of which are paying less per tonne than the basic operating costs.

Reason? The facility was overbuilt to the extent that its capacity was six times the needs of the City of Guelph. This is an example of a leftist dream that has resulted in the city having the highest waste collection and processing in the province.

The kicker? Don’t expect to get compost even though you paid for it

The $23 million over budget cost of the new City Hall complex took the end cost to $65 million. The settlement to the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group, was $8 million following judgment by a Superior Court judge.

The Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. built a district Energy scheme that included installing a geo-thermal piping system to supply hot and cold water to five nearby buildings. Coupled with other zany projects costing the citizens according to the KPMG audit some $60 million in shareholder equity.

The list of wasted funds is extensive. What it has accomplished is forcing Guelph taxpayers and citizens to pay for it. The result is the city has become one of their most expensive places to live in Ontario.

Guelph Tomorrow’s mission:

Transparency, Active Accountability and Open Government in all city operations.

The No Frills plan to reform and change our city to be less proactive and more reactive to measure and control management through the council and not the professional staff.

That’s why this election is so important.

Just recall the recent announcement that the city was entering a Public Private Plan to redevelop the Baker Street parking lot into a $350 million mixed-use project including a new downtown library of some 88,000 square feet.

Plans call for shovels in the groun in 2024 and occupation in 2028 barring any delays, heritage or environment problems. By just calculating the effect of inflation on the cost of the project over ten years is easily an estimated 30 per cent or more than $105 million.

Guelph Tomorrow is in favour of affordable development but not long-term schemes designed to ensure re-election of city councillors including the Mayor.

The attached No Frills reform package is necessary to halt spending on projects that bind future councils.

First, we have to clean up the mess and rebuild our city with fair taxes and fees we can all afford today but not tomorrow.

The No Frills Action Plan for the People by the People

Here is the Guelph Tomorrow No Frills Action Plan to return common sense and councillors’ fiduciary responsibility to the administration.

No Frills means hiring an Auditor General to supervise the internal auditors.

No Frills means the city auditor will complete a full audit of city finances before submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal h\Holdings Inc. and removing Guelph Hydro from GMHI returning it to the city as a separate department

No Frills means halting capital spending until the audit of the city finances is completed.

No Frills proposes a new senior management structure to change with a City Manager heading the staff with Directors in charge of major departments.

No Frills recommends that a reorganized administration will include an executive management team composed of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, City Manager, City Clerk, City Solicitor, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Public Services, Director of Environmental, Engineering and Planning. The City Manager acts as chair. Ex officio would include the Chief of Police, Fire Chief and Director of EMS.

No Frills recommends that the first responder departments, Police, Fire and EMS be amalgamated into the Public Safety Department. Chair would be rotated every two years between the three heads of divisions.

No Frills means stopping the merger of Guelph Hydro and Alectra Utilities.

No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. and removing Guelph Hydro from GMHI, returning it to the city as a separate department.

No Frills means Guelph Hydro board of three members will be elected for four years.

No Frills encourages public participation in all areas of the administration.

No Frills means that the status of finances in all reserve accounts and the purpose of each and be revealed to the people.

No Frills means evaluating all polices including NGO subsidies and donations.

No Frills recommends on the advice of the Executive Team to restore the committees of council with members receiving a stipend based on attendance.

No Frills means scrapping the protocol allowing closed-session meetings. Only those conditions for such a meeting are to be used according to the Ontario Municipal Act.

No Frills means a review of the purchasing and procurement system by the CFO and Internal Auditor filing their report to the Executive Team.

No Frills mean freezing all salary and benefits until the city audit is completed.

No Frills means ordering a staff rationalization review by an independent authority.

No Frills means reviewing all by laws by the City Solicitor and reporting finding to Council.

No Frills means investigating to change the University “B ed Tax” law in lieu of property taxes.

No Frills Communication Plan

No Frills means publishing a summary of the city’s financial status every three months including budget variances.

No Frills means freezing all communications, contracts and systems.

No Frills means the General Manager of Commications will conduct a weekly media news conference at City Hall.

No Frills means recognition of staffers for operational excellence as recommended by Department Directors.

No Frills means that any closed-session meeting conducted under the Ontario Municipal Act must be summarized by the Mayor or designate within 24 hours.

No Frills fixes of Property Taxes and User Fees

No Frills means freezing property taxes to 3 per cent for 2019 and 2020.

No Frills means immediate elimination of the 2 per cent property tax levy.

No Frills means eliminating the storm water levy on Hydro bills returning it to operational expenses.

No Frills means freezing all user fees pending a review by the CFO.

No Frills mean freezing all planning and development approvals pending a review by the Director of Environmental, Engineering and Planning.

No Frills steps to fix procedures, protocols, and governance issues

No Frills means dismissing the Integrity Commissioner.

No Frills means closing down Guelph Municipal holdings Inc. andf removing Guelph Hydro from GMHI returning it to the city as a separate department

No Frills means dismissing the closed-session investigator Amberlea-Gravel of London. Replace with the Ontario Ombudsman’s services.

No Frills means review of the Council Code of Conduct.

No Frills means staff accountability at all levels.

No Frills means rewarding and encouraging staff performance and efficiency.

No Frills means courtesy and civility, at all levels of the administration, is required.

No Frills means that complaints by the public must be dealt with expeditiously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The illusion of progress, decoding the $350 million Baker Street redevelopment

By Gerry Barker

July 20, 2018

Gee! And all this time we were told the proposed downtown main branch library was only going to cost $53 million. It has now morphed into an 88,000 square foot facility in the proposed $350 million Baker Street redevelopment plan.

Instead, the city staff, buttressed with the signatures of eight senior managers, convinced city council to approve the huge redevelopment of the Baker Street parking lot. The public library being the anchor of the development.

Costs were estimated to range from $315 million to $360 million but staff said the real costs have yet to be determined. The inflation factor for the next six years will boost today’s average cost of $350 million by at least 15 per cent or an additional, estimated $52.5 million.

Then there is the strange inclusion of some $29 million that the city claims it has already invested toward the redevelopment plan. Some $22 million of that is the Wilson Street Parking garage now under construction adjacent to city hall. Why is that capital being assigned to the Baker Street plan?

It was announced that “green” private developer from Ottawa, the Windmill Development Group, had been selected to be a 3P partner – Public Private Partnership over four other private proposals, Windmill’s design proposal was accepted and will create a huge downtown complex complete with hi-rise residential, commercial retail, possibly a Conestoga College campus.

The “green” reference is because Windmill will create “innovations in land use, water, air, energy, design, waste management and smart building technologies to create healthy, high performance green buildings and communities and underground parking.”

Wow! That’s a lot of green

Let’s get real. This project will not even put a shovel in the ground before 2024, six years from now. Why is this lame-duck city council approving this now without knowing the real cost in today’s dollars?

What is the cost sharing arrangement?

What is the city’s financial and legal exposure in this proposal?

The staff is pushing this today when it is apparent that the first book or video taken from the proposed downtown library, under perfect conditions, will not occur until 2028.

Comparing it to the length of time a major similar development has taken to complete is the new Guelph Police Headquarters.

Council approved spending $34 million on the project in August 2014. Almost four years later the job is still not finished. Perhaps I missed my invitation for the open house.

Early in the process the police issued reports of the progress of the renovations to a vital public safety HQ that continued to function. But there has been no report on the costs and whether it is going to come in on budget.

If this is any example of completing complex buildings then this could easily be a ten-year project to complete.

The Baker Street redevelopment can be an important addition to the downtown but we need more specific information, not just the potential news of more jobs, more money spent and more property tax income.

Let’s skip the gravy and get to the beef

This announcement’s urgent approval smacks of politics to demonstrate how progressive and action oriented the city council is under the leadership of Mayor Guthrie.

It’s another ram job by the mayor in this election year to enhance the image that he is doing a great job, when in fact his track record has failed to come close to the promises he made in 2014.

The capital spending deadline in an election years is mid-August.

The risk is that this city council is committing future councils to a multi-million dollar spending on a project that will be costly to cancel now that it has been approved bu council. Financing, beginning today and extending for the next ten years will daunting regardless of who is in power.

When is the Guthrie administration going to tell the truth about all those closed-session meetings concerning management of the public’s money, that have shut out the public?

As the British paratroopers dropped in Holland in WW 2, their objective was to take and hold the bridge over the Rhine.

It turned out to be a bridge too far.

It’s a lesson in failed strategy that city council should consider.

Most councillors, if not all, will not be around to see the Baker Street redevelopment completed.

It is their bridge that is too far.

 

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