Tag Archives: Mayor Cam Guthrie

Is there a new citizen’s organization on the horizon: Huelph Guelph 22?

By Gerry Barker

May 13, 2019

Opinion

Is Mayor Cam Guthrie still a card-carrying member of the Guelph riding association’s Progressive Conservative Party?

I should state that Mr. Guthrie does not like me and the feeling is mutual.

My wife and I voted for him in the 2014 civic election despite his screaming accusation on the phone just days before the election that: “You have cost me the election and my wife and children are crying.”

It is a known fact that the final days of an election campaign can cause hysteria, uncertainty and what I call the Nixon syndrome of intense paranoia about those enemies surrounding him.

Gee, Cam. I wasn’t one of them.

That was the beginning of the end in which a relationship disintegrated. Regardless the GrassRoots Guelph supported his candidacy. I wrote many posts revealing the mismanagement by the former mayor’s council involving a $23 million cost overrun. That included the new city hall and provincial court conversion of the old city hall.

It only took Mr. Guthrie about 45 days to send an email to a number of people informing them that I did not know what I was writing about and frequently got the facts wrong. One of my supporters sent me a copy, as I was not on his mailing list.

My sin? I reported that council was reviewing CAO Ann Pappert’s contract.

I then realized that Cam Guthrie had a powerful ego fed by ambition but little experience to support his lust to seek power and control.

To be fair, those first four months were not easy for the Mayor.

First, he did not have the support of the majority of council, most of whom were part of the former mayor’s council supporters.

His first test was overseeing and approving the 2015 city budget.

During the 2014 election campaign, candidate Guthrie promised that he would keep the property tax rate at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) level that was 1.11 per cent in 2014.

On March 25, 2015, the budget was revealed. The property tax rate was more than 3 per cent and adjusted later for the increases in assessment of Guelph properties to total 3.96 per cent.

It would take a year before the truth about that budget was exposed.

It turned out that council approved $98,202 increases to three senior managers for 2015 but never told the public who or why. That is until the provincial Sunshine List of all public employees earning $100,000 or more were published.

Guelphspeaks.ca was the only media outlet that compared the salaries of city employees with the 2014 Sunshine List. And that, Inspector Clouseau, is how the public learned of the names and increases. However, at the time, still unknown was the “why” for the increases.

In my opinion, this plan was hatched in the waning days of the election campaign. Regardless council had to be aware of it, including the Mayor who already supported CAO Pappert, who resigned in April 2016 and left the city May 26.

When the 2016 Sunshine List was published in March 2017, Ms. Pappert was paid $263,000 but only worked five months.

Former employee Derrick Thomson replaced her in June 2016. Eight months later he fired colleague DCAO Mark Amorosi, one of the three recipients of the 2015 secret senior manager pay increases.

In March 2019, CAO Thomson and the city “parted ways.” Thomson was earning $335,000 plus an $11,000 taxable benefit. There was no explanation and a four-month search was launched to find a successor.

It was the end of a dark cloud of cover-up hanging over the city, as all three senior career employees were gone. Mayor Guthrie presided over 84 closed-session council meetings in two years that denied any public participation, accountability or transparency to which the public is entitled.

It only proves that pigs can fly.

Addendum

Recently, Mayor Cam Guthrie formed a Task Force to investigate and develop a plan to deal with the growing problem of homelessness. In the Task Force’s third report, it admitted that the local groups currently engaged in dealing with this serious problem, lacked sufficient funds to resolve the problem.

Meanwhile, the Mayor is stating that Provincial Budget cuts will result in “tax hikes and service cuts” for cities. Has the Mayor read the Ontario budget and supporting documents to reach that conclusion?

This is a Guelph/Wellington problem that has needed funding to resolve the issue.

Unfortunately successive city councils have not addressed the growing problem and  the treatment of addicts occupying the city. That’s why the Mayor decided to corral the stakeholders responsible for the homeless and addictive.

Perhaps, it’s time not to depend on senior governments to finance our problems and how to pay for it. All Ontario municipalities lacking the power to broaden the narrow tax base reliant on property taxes and user fees. That’s why when it comes to dealing with a serious  local situation, council’s only  alternative is to take their begging bowls to Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill.

And this is where Mike Schreiner, MPP and Lloyd Longfield, MP use their influence to help solve the problem of under-funding.

Until support comes from the province and Ottawa, both the city and county will be unable to make real change in dealing humanely with those less fortunate persons and addictives.

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Was it coincidence that CAO Thomson is gone or just business as usual?

By Gerry Barker

April 1, 2019

This is the day of pranks, tomfoolery and the joke’s on us.

For once in his life, your faithful correspondent is speechless, witnessing the destruction of the city staff superstructure.

Thinking of the old Yogi Berra line: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” It appears this is not Derrick Thomson’s only departure described as a “parting of the ways” just before the provincial Sunshine List is published. It pops up near the end of March each year.

That List is really the only creditable source of all those Ontario public servants earning more than $100,000 a year plus taxable benefits. Dare I say it, but the former Mike Harris government created the List?

In December 2015, there was a closed-door meeting of council allegedly to discuss some substantial salary and benefit increases for the top three senior city staff managers. Not in dispute when council acted, the increases totaled $98,202.

There was no information published until the 2015 Sunshine List reported three months later.

How do we know the scope of those retroactive payments to the senior managers?? Guelphspeaks.ca compared what the three managers were paid in 2014 and 2015. That’s how the increases were discovered.

Turmoil at the top

In January 2016, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson, was the first to resign following the December 2015 meeting that allegedly approved the increases. He was gone two months before the 2015 Sunshine List was published.

Mr. Thomson accepted a position with the Town of Caledon where he lived. He left a job that was paying $207,000 (all figures rounded) plus $10,000 in taxable benefits.

In April 2016, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert announced her resignation but agreed to stay on to assist the new CAO. She left the city May 26, 2016. Her share of the $98,202 was $37,000 taking her 2015 salary to $257,000 plus $6,000 in taxable benefits.

In June 2016, Mr. Thomson was hired to replace Ms. Pappert. He announced that he would reveal details of his contract. In the fall he said he signed a three-year contract with a salary of $230,000 plus an increase of more than an $11,000 taxable benefit.

When the 2017 Sunshine List was published his salary had risen to $245,000.

Then, the city announced in early March 2019, prior to the 2018 Sunshine List publication, that by mutual agreement, CAO Derrick Thomson and the city were “parting ways.”

There was no further explanation other than he left immediately prior to the 2018 Sunshine List hit the Internet.

Déjà vu, again?

There will be no tag days for Mr. Thomson as his 2018 salary was $335,081 plus the $11,000 taxable bonus.

That is more money than the Premier of Ontario is paid.

It indicates that Mr. Thomson received more than a $90,000 increase between 2017 and 2018. The questions remain why was he suddenly gone on a cool Friday afternoon? The absence of explanation is part of the administration’s tight control of public information. You know: “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them.”

These are matters of the public interest yet there is no information surrounding these developments and why the turmoil exists in the senior echelon of the city government.

Almost forgot. Ms. Pappert worked five months in 2016 but was paid $263,0000, according to the 2016 Sunshine List.

The only way the pubic can receive this information is through the provincial Sunshine List. Without it, none of us have a clue and that’s the way the Guthrie administration wants it. The fact that council convened 84 closed-session meetings in 2015 and 2016 is evidence of denying the public access to information.

The rising trajectory shutting down public participation

For the past 39 months, annual property taxes increases in Guelph exceeded that of Brampton, Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Toronto, Windsor and many more. Why? Why are other comparable cities able to manage their finances without hitting the property taxpayers’ ATM every year? Guelph’s tax rate is consistently more than 3 per cent.

For example, this year Brampton’s property tax rate is 1.1 per cent. With all the turmoil that city management has been through, it’s an astonishing achievement.

This year brought a welcome break when the city announced a property tax rate of 2.63 per cent less than the annual  3 per cent for only the second time since 2007. There are adjustments coming that will likely increase that tax rate.

In my opinion, there are two crucial aspects of this failure to govern responsibly:

The left majority of city council has politicized the staff. We blew the opportunity last October by not turning out to vote or participate. Municipal voting only occurs every four-years and we’re stuck with an administration that is frequently incompetent, secretive, authoritarian and irresponsible.

Don’t get me wrong. There are talented and dedicated employees on staff. Unfortunately, in Guelph, the leadership is the weak link.

The other vital action that needs to engage is public participation. This means attending council meetings and presenting contrarian points of view. Further, protest decisions that are not in the public interest. Sad to say, some councillors cherishs ambition and not pragmatism.

The woods are filled with competent and talented individuals experienced in public service. They aren’t hard to find. It’s too easy to blame the staff but after witnessing the merger of Guelph Hydro, council failed to look after its own destroying one of the best group of staffers in the province.

If we don’t react to stupidity and careless statements that city council has already demonstrated, we can only blame ourselves.

The real power governing the city lies with the people.

Let’s restore it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Council speculates spending $10 million to buy 243 acres from Ontario using reserve funds

By Gerry Barker

March 11, 2019

Opinion

First, some history: Shortly following her re-election in 2010, Mayor Farbridge launched her plan to convince the province to give the city almost 25 per cent of the 1,070 acres of the Guelph reformatory lands plus the former Turf Institute land.

The former mayor and her council majority, along with city staff were involved in planning the project. It would reflect the land use values advocated by such urban planners as Richard Florida. It was proposed to be an environmental project that excluded most vehicles, was self-contained with shopping, parks, businesses, where there would be jobs for the inhabitants in short, a development for tomorrow.

It was given the misleading title of the Guelph Innovation District (GID) lands. One to be developed over eight years at public expense before the city owned the peoperty and it still doesn’t.

Did they consider how winter weather would affect the planned mobility of resident’s facing a foot of snow?

Think about it. A fossil fuel free environment modeled on residents being able to work within the community, shop on a bicycle and walk to where ever they choose.

Was it the crown jewel of the Farbridge administration in 2010?

It was another social engineering vision thing, that the design would create a new modern city where people could walk to shop and work. It would be spacious and contain a portion of affordable housing. There would be business sited in the design along with police and fire stations and possibly elementary schools.

The cost of services such as water, sewers, electricity, telephone, and cable to the city systems will be very expensive due to the upgrades needed by the city to provide those necessary services to the site.

It could be Guelph’s Tomorrow Land. Insread it was just another village as part of the city.

But the Wynne government didn’t bite at giving away provincial property. The planning process went on with the blind assumption that the Ontario government would change its mind.

Last December 17, the majority of council voted to negotiate with the new Ford government with a cockamamie proposal to buy the lands using two unrelated reserve funds totaling $10 million as deposits.

Council approved the motion, initiated by Councillors James Gordon and Leanne Piper.

“To me the risk is to the city in this process,” Coun. Christine Billings stated. “We’re playing middle man, and so I see that we have some risk as the stages are set.”

In my opinion, the citizens have all the risk. By Guelph standards, this is a huge undertaking to develop raw land and to flip it to private developers to complete the city’s planned development. In eight years, this proposal has already cost citizens millions, with city staff doing the design, planning and engineering studies.

Considering the elements of risk in this staff proposal, who should have known better, includes the following:

Doesn’t the Province, the seller, employing third party real estate professionals, want to determine the value of the lands in question?

If agreement is reached with potential developers, will the price of purchasing the lands, using public funds, be too high for developers?

Already the city administration has set the ground rules notifying any potential developers that the design must adhere to the city plan.

How long will it take the city investment to be recovered and reserves replenished?

What is the financial status of any developer to guarantee completion of the project?

How long will it take before the city receives income from property taxes, user fees and services income?

Really, the city staff recommended this?

This city has no business engaging in this property flopping scheme. It is another hangover from the former administration to force-feed their proposals, and projects without public input or consideration.

Here are some remembrances of your taxes being squandered:

* The Civic museum – $10 million;

* Bike lanes – $5 million to date and an ongoing expense of $300,000 annually;

* The organic waste processing facility – $34 million and the compost is not available to residents who financed it;

* Capital cost of the bin collection system – $1.55 million;

* Cost over-run of the Urbacon Buildings Group city hall – $23 million;

the GMHI fiasco -$63 million and counting;

* Trafic congestions caused by lane removal to allow bike lanes – cost is unknown and an unintended consequence;

* Downtown parking revenue lost – $77 million over 12 years;

* Affordable housing – nothing;

* Over 12 years annual increase in property taxes and user fees– for now, incalculable.

* The Baker Street renovation by a Public Private Partnership (3P) estimated to cost $350 million and shovels don’t go in before 2022.

* A staff estimate of repairing and replacing infrastructure throughout the city – $450 million over the next 30 years.

These are real numbers not percentages in pie charts

Are you concerned that our city is going into the real-estate investor business, using public funds, is wise and will benefit all citizens?

In my opinion, I do not believe the city has the money, or the expertise to engage in this scheme that is highly speculative. Coun. Billings is right as we are the man in the middle, being financially responsible for completion of this proposed flip from start to finish.

The province will love selling it to a municipal corporation that cannot go bankrupt under provincial law.

The province gets paid in full before the city can resell the property to a third party developer who is now in control of the project. The developer client can demand that his company decides if the plan, demanded by the city, is acceptable.

That presents a large problem that could take years to materialize.

Remember, it took six years to settle the Urbacon lawsuit that the city administration was fully responsible for, spending an additional $23 million to complete the project originally budgeted for $42 million.

To me, the present council is dominated by so-called progressives determined to continue the Farbridge vision of making Guelph a paragon of political correctness and environmentally superior.

How’s that working for you?

 

 

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The crucible of corruption and how it affects all of us

By Gerry Barker

March 4, 2019

Opinion

This past week, I experienced a five-hour examination designed to challenge my credibility as a citizen, a taxpayer and homeowner. It was a crucible to discredit my persona reputation and that of my wife and family.

I won’t go any further than that, as it has become a two year plus legal case that will be resolved so therefore I cannot comment at this time.

What I can address are the details of the 2019 budgets that are now reaching a crescendo of policies that will impact every part of your life and living in Guelph.

The core problem is the ineffectual management of the city by the staff. Let’s drift back a week or so ago.

Chief Administration Officer Derrick Thomson “parted ways” with the city. Why the sudden separation in the middle of the city budgets’ preparations over which he oversaw?

As the head of the city staff, the staff proposed a property tax rate set at 3.93 per cent.

Before getting too excited, there is a process of meeting in which the public can appear before council to express their needs and demands.

Tomorrow night, March 5, council will approve the new property tax increase.

History shows that several influences arise.

First, the sitting councillors have their chance to promote their pet projects. This creates a political adjustment such as you, as a councillor, add your project to the list. Something has to go in order to keep the property tax rate under 4 per cent.

Are you starting to get it? First, announce a staff recommendation of 3.93 per cent. This is done before the citizens request their projects be approved. There are  a wide range of projects requiring the blessing of the mayor and his council.

* They include an appeal of the Kazoo festival supporters along with the Guelph Arts council to “plead for more funding for the city’s Community Wellbeing Grant to assist small arts organizations.

* Head of the Guelph Transit union wants more funding to support finding for nameless improvement but Transit has the go-ahead to hire three more drives. Did management not have a say in this? It would be helpful if Transit would total ridership, the route usage and impact of the University student passage contribution, compared with taxpayer subsidization.

*   Steve Dyck quickly wants the city to spend another $1 million this year to fulfill its commitment to reach zero carbon emissions. Steve, the transition from fossil fuels will take at least another 50 to 75 years, if ever. Steve, how’s it working for you?

*   A delegation protested the increase in their monthly parking fees from $40 to $100. Is this part of Steve Dyck’s zero emissions proposal?

*   A number of advocates for affordable housing to accommodate those marginalized citizens to be able to have a home.

There were a number of citizens who, in the main, asked for public funding. In my opinion, this has been a problem for years. But should the municipal taxpayers be responsible? The administration can certainly support it through planning and expanding projects. Financing should come from senior governments and the private sector.

Today, we have no CAO, a triumvirate of three skilled DCAO’s in charge of the city staff its responsibilities and financing.

For 12 years I have been advocating reducing city overhead chiefly to fix the city infrastructure deficit. Unfortunately, council does not agree, instead it includes in the 2019 budget an additional 17 new employees at a cost of $9.2 million.

In my opinion this is a self-serving staff recommendation that lacks detail of where and what are these new staffers supposed to do? The city information releases don’t offer any rationale for recommending these new employees.

What Guelph needs now is a cadre of experienced and qualified staff leadership. We already have the base of individuals to refocus management and turn our city into a model that will attract businesses, technology firms and make our city a great place to live and be affordable for all.

Let’s loosen the surly bonds of misguided management that has sucked the treasury dry in the name of progress and the environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why won’t city council tell us why the sudden departure of the CAO?

By Gerry Barker

February 13, 1019

Opinion

Who agreed to “part ways” with Thomson out the door and no explanation for a quick exit?

Near the end of last week the announcement was made that Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson had “parted ways with the city.”

Who decided he had to leave so abruptly, Thomson or Council?

The public has the right to know why the Chief Administrative Officer of the city was summarily dropped.

Was it something he said? Did he pixxed-off certain members of council including the Mayor?

Was it so terrible that neither party wanted to reveal the details?

Or was it a personality conflict between certain members of council?

Did he misappropriate public funds?

Or was it because of health issues?

Or has he accepted another job, like he did in 2016?

So what does the Mayor do? He calls yet another closed-session meeting and, to illustrate why this council fails once again and bungles another serious senior staff development.

Witness the witless creation of a Troika assigning three Deputy Chief Administrative Officers to run the store for six months while the search seeking a new boss goes on.

Is this not a crisis where three senior staff is assigned to perform the duties of an absent CAO?

This is a dumb idea. Forcing a committee of three top managers to fill in for their former boss only exemplifies the lack of business management experience of most members of council.

There is no succession plan in place for senior management. To create this Troika is an example of the misfits of knowledge by city council.

Council, in secret session has created this awkward senior management structure by increasing their compensation for up to six months following the appointment of a new CFO of the city.

This commuter is not to disparage the ability of the three remaining DCAO’s who are capable and worthy candidates for the job.

I don’t envy the situation on which the council has put them.

In the middle of the 2019 Budget creation, why did this happen?

Some history

Since 2006, there has been four CAO’s heading the city staff: Larry Kotseff, Hans Loewig, Ann Pappert and Derrick Thomson. Of the four only one actually lived in Guelph. A year following Ms. Pappert’s appointment, council gave her $20,000 to move from Waterloo to Guelph.

Of course the city should conduct a search for a new CAO and select a candidate with an independent view and ready to clean house of the dominant partisan council.

We need a CAO who understands the role of staff is to serve the public interest and not to bury those rights behind closed doors.

The record shows that the city administration have wasted millions on building a new city hall; the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc financial loss of $63 million of shareholder value; the giveaway of Guelph Hydro; the bike lane network expansion; subsidizing Guelph Transit support of a variety of services to the University of Guelph, including low property taxes on the largest land owner in the city.

These are just a handful that has drained the Guelph Treasury for projects that often lacked a business plan. Most important has been the neglect of the city infrastructure, some of which is 200 years old.

Despite warnings from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and more recently from the city staff that has put a $450 million price tag on infrastructure renewal and replacement.

In its usual response, city staff recommended to council to place a special levy of 2 per cent for infrastructure work on property taxpayers.

Even that was bungled when council decided to split the levy with 1 per cent dedicated to “City Buildings.” Sponsored by Councillors Karl Wettstein and Mark MacKinnon, the money went to the proposed South End $63 million Recreation Centre.

It was learned that professional outside planners had spent some $3.5 million on preliminary site and design of the complex.

There has been no budget planning in the capital budget for this project. It is only one example of the voodoo financial management of council, most of whom don’t understand a balance sheet or a business plan or the correlation of each. But that’s what we have a staff for, right?

Mind you, I believe the city now has much stronger and experienced senior managers to maintain fiscal responsibity and management practices.

That’s why citizens should be concerned about Mr. Thomson’s sudden departure that has not been explained.

Once the money has been spent, we cannot get it back.

That’s why it will be most important to hire a CAO of experience, proven performance and that old standby, guts, to steer our city to create a balanced and affordable community for all citizens.

We wish council Godspeed in this search for a new CAO.

 

 

 

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The short memory of Susan Watson ignores history of the past 12 years

By Gerry Barker

January 28, 2019

Opinion

Editor’s Note – Before launching into another overview of unvarnished civics reports on the management of our city, I urge everyone to read and absorb the history on which I have been reporting and commenting since 2011.  The administration is in charge of our $500 million corporation. But who is really running the show?

Susan Watson, the high Priestess of the Left-leaning coalition of power figures controlling our city administration. In a letter to the media, she says: “We all care about our property tax bills.”

She then adds that we should all care about impending increased changes to the development impact by-law updating currently before city council.

Three guesses as to where this is going.

She urges readers not to believe the ‘old’ slogan that, “Growth will pay for growth.”

However, before we consider her statement that in the next ten years, citizens will subsidize development in Guelph at an estimated rate of $5 million a year or $50 million. Those figures come from Tara Baker, the city’s General Manager of Finance and Treasurer.

Ms Watson claims that in the past five years taxpayers paid $21.5 million to subsidize development in the city.

There seems to be a difference here between the city staff manager, responsible for all things accountable is projecting in public administration. Susan Watson’s recent five-year analysis of taxpayers subsidizing development does not agree with the Financial GM’s forecast.

None of these figures define ‘development.’ For example, do the figures include city development projects or are these Ms. Watson’s personal political views?

Are development impact fees charged to the Wilson street five store parkade the city is building across the road from City Hall? That’s a $22 million project.

That cost has been declared as part of the estimated $350 million renovation of the Baker Street project announced before the civic election won by Mayor Guthrie. He said a deal has been struck between the city and Windmill Developments based in Ottawa. It is called a 3P or Private, Public Participation Plan. Whoops that’s four P’s.

This apparent proposal won’t start until 2024 and take at least five to six years to complete. The joker is what is the city’s capital share of this and its public liability? What is the estimate of revenue including taxes and, wait for it! Developments fees?

Some may believe it is heresy regarding city-managed projects to dredge up some of the spectacular management failures in the past 12 years.

Whopper Alert!

Here’s a run down of some of the historical failures:

* The organic waste processing facility costing $34 million of taxpayer’s money and the public does not have access to the organic mulch by-product. It was so overbuilt to handle Guelph’s wet waste that it depends on Simcoe County and the Region of Waterloo for feed stock to keep the joint operating. To top it off, a subsidiary of the company that built the facility, operates it through a subsidiary corporation and sells the finished compost. Details of this arrangement have never been revealed to the people who financed it.

Would you agree this information is in the Public Interest?

*         *         *         *

* Along came the new city hall construction. In 2006, city council approved a contract for $42 million. In 2007, a new council took over and by September 2008, booted the general contractor off the job. The contractor sued the city for $19 million and six years later, a Superior Court judge ruled the city responsible for wrongful dismissal. The overrun cost of the entire project was $23 million.

Why did a lawsuit outcome fail the interest of Public Interest?

*         *         *         *

* The $34 million police headquarters renovation will not be completed until next December. This is a city-managed project and so far it is on schedule to avoid cost overruns coming in at contract cost. However, experience dictates that missing the 2018 completion date indicates possible cost overruns.

* The greatest city mismanaged failure was the five-year record of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) led by former mayor Karen Farbridge and aided by her former Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, who had the dual responsibility as Chief Executive Officer of GMHI.

The real cost of this multi-tasked attempt to create self-sufficiency in power supply and a geo-thermal heating and cooling water system to a small collection of nearby buildings. These include the city- owned Sleeman Centre, River Run theatre and Hanlon Business Park. The only information about the cost of this operation was stated in a consolidated audit of GMHI conducted by accounting firm KPMG

There was a shareholder’s liability of $63 million. That’s a loss to taxpayers in any language.

Was GMHI shrouded in closed- sessions in the Public Interest?

*         *         *         *

Does Ms. Watson object to private enterprise and its role in creating housing both affordable and upscale? Or is it another undocumented scare tactic to reflect her ongoing anti-Conservative campaign to discredit the likes of Mike Harris and Doug Ford?

Susan, look back to the future

Ms. Watson should go back 12 years to examine the track record of former mayor Karen Farbridge and close friend who was supported financially in the three elections.

The Farbridge administration thatran the city for eight years was no slouch in cutting deals with private developers. These include Tricar developments that received deferred development fees in construction of two high-rise condos. There were others given deferred development and deferred property taxes to build housing, particularly in the downtown area.

These deferments were covered by transferring funds of the Brownfield reserve fund valued at more than $30 million. One of those sites was the former LaFarge cement manufacturing plant, east of the Hanlon, south of Paisley.

The funds were set aside to clean up contaminated sites that needed remedial action to remove dangerous elements in the soil.

That Brownfield reserve transfer was done to limit the annual property tax increases and deferred development charges that would impact the city budgets over the years. Again, details of these deals have not been revealed.

But there is more

But the biggest flop of the Farbridge administration was the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. The audit of this project by accounting firm KPMG, revealed shareholder’s loss (the citizens of Guelph) was some $63 million. The details of this were published following council meetings May 16, 2016 and mid-July 2016.

This audit showed the costs of creating self-sufficiency in power and a geo-thermal underground system providing hot and cold water supplied to a few city-owned building, a church and two large high-rise conco towers near the Sleeman centre.

The Guelph Hydro giveaway

Then the new council, in 2017 voted to merge Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities.

I remain convinced it was a terrible deal because the only thing citizens received was return of its own money. The surplus of Guelph Hydro cash of $18.5 million, that’s our money, is about to be returned to the city. Also, the city is to receive a 4.36 per cent share of 60 per cent of the Alectra Utilities profits.

Breaking news! In 2019 the city, according to budget documents, will receive a dividend of $1 million from Alectra Utilities.

So, why was it merged with Alectra when Guelph Hydro was sending an annual dividend to the city of $3 million?

The administration’s war on fossil-fueled vehicles

The reconfiguration of major city streets is another alleged development of reducing the use of fossil-fueled vehicles. In fact, the opposite has occurred as traffic congestion has substantially increased due to the shrinkage of traffic lanes on major streets to accommodate bicycle lanes.

The cost of this abortive attempt to cut emissions is in eight years: Council has spent some $300,000 annually on bike lane development. Included also was $2 million received for special bike lanes on Stone Road as part of the 2009 infrastructure program of the provincial and federal governments. Oh yes! That also included spending $75,000 on a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre. That replaced one that was working well.

What in hell has that to do with infrastructure?

Added up, there were millions spent on projects described first as optional, but the Farbridge administrations were determined to adhere to climate change and environmental projects to achieve their dream. As usual, citizens picked up the tab.

I do agree with Ms. Watson about private developers paying the costs of connecting to city roads, water and sewer lines, power distribution and public safety facilities, to name a few. But I remain confused about the financial status between private and public development.

Property taxes spiral because of kitchen table accounting

We have just gone through 12 years of council and support staff that have strayed off the reservation.

The good news is there are some moves made to install experienced money managers who can re-focus and concentrate on fixing the infrastructure and freeze the mega projects such as Innovation Guelph Reformatory lands plan and the Baker Street renovation.

Reducing overhead operating costs, debt, pie-in-the-sky projects and maintains services are more important than ever.

How do you get out of the hole, stop digging.

 

 

 

 

 

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How do we get off the Bike Bandwagon?

By Gerry Barker

January 21, 2019

Opinion

The other night council received its first blush of the $87.37 million capital spending budget. Here’s where it will be spent providing that council and lobby groups don’t add to the total. That’s what usually happens during the budget process every year.

It is an unnatural opportunity for councillors to impress and placate their constituents. It is far too tempting with the power to spend the public’s money on projects to patronize the various special interest groups and individuals.

For starters, here’s the list of Capital spending projects produced by the staff:

  • $3.325 million for contaminated site-related projects.
  • $8.361 million for corporate projects, including planning studies, vehicles and equipment and facility renewal and expansion. This figures includes planning and strategic initiatives of Baker District and the beginning of the city’s Official Plan review.
  • $4.96 million for emergency services. The majority being directed at the expansion of paramedic services.
  • $7.916 million for open spaces, recreation, culture and library. This includes renewal of equipment and facilities and additional funds to progress the South End Community Centre project.
  • $3.107 million for solid waste. Includes planning and construction for a public drop-off scale.
  • $4.683 million for stormwater management. Including repair, renewal and replacement of assets.
  • $14.502 million for transportation services. Including bridges, culverts, roads and parking.
  • $13.104 million for wastewater services.
  • $27.445 million for water services. Includes water testing and studies at two new wells potentially to be used for city expansion.

More than 63 per cent of this proposed $55.051 million capital budget is being spent on three vital services all involving potable water, treating wastewater and building wells.

I’d be the last guy to complain about spending money on our vital use of clean water and developing new supplies to meet the needs of a growing population. With the 2016 census, Guelph has grown to 131,000 residents. Recent increase in newcomers is in the 10,000 per person range that the 2016 census reported for Guelph.

That means that by 2021 Guelph’s population will be 142,000 if the rate of growth remains the same as the previous census period.

I agree with the staff recommendation, water is the top priority.

That total water spending proposal does not include $4.683 million for storm water management that is in the capital budget. But property owners are already paying a special levy of one per cent for storwater maintenance. It used to be part of the operating budget but was transferred to the citizens for payment, monthly, through their Hydro bill.

Let’s talk about demands by the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation. Translation: The tiny minority of cyclists who feel it is their right to travel the streets and be protected from those dirty, stinky and loud vehicles. They take it upon themselves to chiefly be responsible to support climate change by banning the use of fossil fuels.

But here’s the rub

Operators of motor vehicles pay taxes, licences and user fees to use the roads. In fact the City of Guelph, receives a gas tax rebated from the senior governments of more than $5 million annually. It’s rebated to the city not the people who previously paid for it at the pump. This results in the very people using fossil fueled vehicles end up subsidizing more bike lanes.

How much do the active transporters pay? They are not licensed, pay no taxes, are not insured, no mandatory bike inspection, no tests for ability to safely use the streets and know the rules of the Highway Traffic Act.

And yet, one Yvette Tendick, speaking for the Coalition, laid out their demands to be included in the 2019 Capital Budget.

The Guelph Mercury published the following profile of Yvette Tendick who joined the community editorial board in 2015.

Yvette Tendick is a primary school teacher with a bachelor of environmental studies degree. She has always had a strong interest in environmental issues. Over the years, her environmental focus has morphed from sustainability of natural ecosystems to sustainability and resilience of cities.

She is interested in the steps citizens might undertake to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels while simultaneously increasing our quality of life. She believes one way to achieve this lofty goal is through active transportation, which she engages in during her commute to work by bike or on foot.

She also has a keen interest in getting the next generation physically active, and is rather certain that city design and infrastructure are crucial to nudging all of our citizens to get moving.

Getting to the root of the deal

Now here is what she is proposing city council to do to improve cycling, aka active transportation.

  1. January 16, she told council that the city should clear up some of the trees and roots. These are putting pressure on the existing retaining wall along what will one day become a multi-use trail at Speedvale, including a proposed underpass.
  2. “So before even considering tearing down this retaining wall in a few years, a quick fix of removing the trees ASAP seems to be the first logical step in increasing the longevity of the current wall.”
  3. “Separated bike lanes are needed on Gordon from Kortright all the way to Wellington, and also on Woolwich from Woodlawn all the way to downtown,” she said.

Well, that’s a tall order.

I think after reading this report, she is asking the council to add $30,000 to the capital budget for her short term plan A to make it easier for cyclists to use the trail to downtown. Trouble is the location of this on Speedvale, some eight kilometers long, is not identified in the article. Which retaining wall? Which trees and roots? Where on Speedvale?

This is a game of assumptions that leave the rest of the citizens out of the loop.

City council, since 2007, has spent millions on developing bike lanes, reducing vehicle lanes on major routes to accommodate them.

Ms. Tendick’s profile is clear but misguided. Does she really believe that the so-called active transportation theory will work and vehicles using fossil fuels will disappear in her lifetime?

How many citizens depend on bicycles 12 months of the year?

It’s a known fact that the city has zero documentation of the number of residents using bicycles on Guelph streets and roads 12 months of the year.

The groups of environmental activists, who ride bicycles, resemble a cult bonded by the belief that they can change the way we transport ourselves while at the same time clean up the atmosphere.

I think of Kevin Costner in the movie, A Field of Dreams, in which the punch line is ‘if we build it, they will come.’

This group is the whiniest, pushy and provocateurs of social engineering for which we have already paid to placate their cause.

It is if they want to roll back society more than 150 years or, as my wife is fond of saying ‘I loved the good old days.’ Neither of us has ridden a bicycle since we were 16.

We are not alone.

How can the proponents of active bicycle transportation be so narrowly focused on the environment when most citizens cannot and never will use bicycles to get out and about?

Think of riding a bicycle to perform simple tasks such as getting groceries and needed drugs, or going to the hospital or doctor’s offices, going to the library, visiting family and friends, going to the cottage or vacation, getting to places of worship, volunteering and going to the park, theatre or your granddaughter’s recital.

Especially when it’s raining, snowing or just damned cold. It’s not a time for the Mary Poppins trick of flying under her umbrella.

Stop and think of children, seniors, the disabled, and all those outside the active transportation groups’ demographic of ages 18 to 40.

I think the expense of expanding or spending more money accommodating the cyclist group should be frozen. That is until we get the handle on our basic infrastructure needs and financial shortfall of some $450 million increasing at a rate of $20 million a year.

Has anyone calculated how much fossil fuel as been reduced as a result of building this network of bicycle lanes in the past 18 years?

We would rather be able to flush our toilet and enjoy a glass of water from the tap than paying for more bike lanes.

Are the demands of the minority greater than repairing the infrastructure of our city that serves everyone? Transportation technology is moving ahead at warp speed. Bicycles are not part of the transition.

It’s time for council to get off the Bike Bandwagon.

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