It was a wowzer of a speech, upbeat, positive and full of promise. And Chutzpah.
Mayor Karen Farbridge stepped out of the civic shadows to describe her city in three words – creativity, compassion and chutzpah.
It took chutzpah for the iron lady to make that speech. The normally reserved chief magistrate told her businessperson audience, that she is getting calls from all over Canada asking; how does Guelph maintain a 4.1 per cent unemployment rate?
What she didn’t mention is revealing. Contortion of the facts comes to mind.
She failed to tell her rapt audience about why Guelph has the ninth highest debt of all cities in the country, almost double per capita than Kitchener. Nor did she explain that the municipal taxes in the city are also among the highest of similar sized cities in Ontario.
Nor did she explain why a newly hired chief financial officer quit after one week on the job He was the second CFO in six months to either be fired or quit.
Her record in developing manufacturing jobs after five years in office is dismal as the 16:84 ratio of industrial commercial assessment compared to residential remains the same.
With more than 4,500 public service workers in the city, it skews the artificially low unemployment figure. Jobs have been created but they are mostly minimum wage with few benefits positions. Guelph’s civic staff of more than 1,450 enjoys some of the highest salaries in the municipal field plus extensive benefits including unprecedented job security.
The private sector cannot compete with the taxpayer-paid civil service wages and benefits in the city.
The Mayor dwelt on the number of growth collaborative initiatives to create jobs and increase assessments. That was chutzpah! Two years ago an independent consultant warned that Guelph was not friendly to business because of bureaucratic stalling of applications and information.
In this so-called state of the city address, the Mayor failed to tell her audience of the growing debt and unfunded liabilities the city faces. This includes the $12 million in capital to build new headquarters for the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health Unit. She failed to say that she demanded that the Ontario Health Minister provide an assessor to judge whether Guelph must provide the money. Now that’s chutzpah!
Two judges have already ruled that the city has to pay.
Appointing insider Ann Pappert as Chief Administration Officer after a $46,000 headhunter search was chutzpah!
This speech had the eerie quality of Emperor Nero merrily playing the fiddle while Roman burned.
Now that was chutzpah!