About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Budget Warning: Cuts Ahead, But Which Ones?

So, I just got out of the official media brief on the finer points of budget proposals being brought to council on Monday, and this hand is all cuts. Well, sort of.

First and foremost, as was repeated numerous times throughout the brief, these are mere proposals. Council will make the final call (or cut as it were) on the December 14th and 15th meetings when the official budget is passed. As for the proposals themselves, Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewing called them a "menu of options" split into two groups: "Department Reduction Proposals" and "Other Considerations."

Basically, the city is trying to mitigate the loss of $8.1 million in revenues as much as possible. What this means is, even without any new spending, and using the numbers from the 2009 budget, there's already a 5.2 per cent increase in the 2010 budget that needs to be covered. Contractual obligations, collective agreements and compensation account for another 4 per cent increase. So when it's all said and done, the City of Guelph basically needs to find another $14.4 million for 2010.

So where is much of that money going to come from? Cuts mostly, hopes city officials. With the options presented in the "Department Reduction Proposals" the city can save 4.48 per cent or $7.4 million. If all the items under "Other Considerations" are enacted then a further $2.5 million can be shaved off the deficit, bringing the increase down to a more manageable 3 per cent.

Now the big question: Where do we trim? The City included some ideas, and again to emphasize, these are mere proposals. If you don't like something, let your voice be heard at one of the public meetings, the full schedule for which can be found on an earlier post. Just keep scrolling down.

Proposed Cuts Under "Department Reduction Proposals"
  • $91,100 cuts Economic Development & Tourism (incl. promo materials)
  • 5 unpaid days off for all city staff
  • A reduction in staffing of 29 full time positions, hopefully to be accomplished by attrition ie: retirements and resignations
  • Elimination of stat holiday bus service
  • Summer schedule for transit
  • 7 per cent fare increase for transit (Note: I asked how this would translate to dollar value for a single ride pass on a city bus and was told that the exact breakdown is not yet known, but it could be somewhere between 10 and 20 cents)
  • Increased rental fees on city facilities (rooms, rinks, rec facilities)
  • Delayed opening of east end branch of the library till June '10
  • Reduction in travel, catering and conference costs
Proposed Cuts Under "Other Considerations"
  • Closing Centennial and Lyon's pools
  • Closing Centennial rink
  • Eliminating John Galt Day activities
  • Eliminating 2 hour free parking downtown
  • Adjusting the Industrial and Perimeter transit routes (Note: this does not mean cancelling them)
This is far from a complete and thorough list, but if you have any questions or comments about anything specific, feel free to post below.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SUBBOR Gets Served

It appears that another hurdle in the construction of the organic waste processing plant's been cleared with this ruling. And as a bonus, it was in the City's favour. Hurrah! A court decision that's actually making us money!

SUBBOR to pay City of Guelph $2.5 million
Settlement brings successful conclusion to court battle with SUBBOR, avoiding need for future court proceedings.

GUELPH, ON, November 23, 2009 – The City of Guelph will receive $2.5 million in legal costs from SUBBOR (Super Blue Box Recycling Corporation) and its parent company Eastern Power Limited. The award is part of a settlement between the City and the two companies that comes after the Ontario Superior Court and the Ontario Court of Appeal have already ruled in the City’s favour. Guelph City Council ratified the settlement at tonight’s meeting.

SUBBOR and Eastern Power Limited will pay the City of Guelph $2.5 million in instalments, with interest payable in the event of any default in payment.

Other aspects of the settlement include SUBBOR and Eastern Power Limited’s agreement to surrender all rights to the SUBBOR building — which is located on the site of Guelph’s Waste Resource Innovation Centre — and the land on which it resides. The companies have 90 days to remove their equipment from the site, not far from where excavation is currently underway in preparation for Guelph’s new Organic Waste Processing Facility.

"We are extremely pleased the City has reached a settlement with SUBBOR and Eastern Power Limited, eliminating the need for further court proceedings," Guelph’s mayor Karen Farbridge said on behalf of City Council. "The settlement is a good one for the City, bringing successful finality to what has been a long ordeal."

Both the Superior Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal found in favour of the City of Guelph after SUBBOR launched a lawsuit against the City in 2003, claiming $32 million in damages for an alleged breach of contract. In 2007 the Court dismissed SUBBOR’s claim and awarded full costs to the City. The Court of Appeal upheld the Superior Court’s decision and the awarding of costs against SUBBOR and Eastern Power Limited. SUBBOR’s appeal was dismissed on all counts on June 16. The City of Guelph has already been awarded and has been paid $100,000 for its costs related to the appeal.

Let's Get Ready to Budget!

The City of Guelph has released dates for the public consultation meetings for the 2010 budget. I'll be going to the meeting for members of the media tomorrow morning, so look for some words on that tomorrow. In the meantime, and citizen, business or group is able to come and make their voices heard by city officials and councillors. What does it mean to be a delegation? Read the City's guidelines here.

Meeting Dates & Times:

Monday, November 30 – 6 pm
Presentation of tax-supported operating budget
Staff available to respond to questions from City Council
Public is invited and welcome to attend

Tuesday, December 8 – 6 pm
Delegations welcome to address City Council regarding tax-supported budgets
Public is invited and welcome to attend
Registered delegations are welcome to address City Council.
Register as a delegation
T: 519-822-1260 x 2269
E: clerks@guelph.ca

Monday, December 14 – 7 pm
Presentation of water and wastewater budgets to City Council
City Council deliberation and approval of water and wastewater budgets
Public is invited and welcome to attend
Registered delegations are welcome to address City Council.
Register as a delegation
T: 519-822-1260 x 2269
E: clerks@guelph.ca

Tuesday, December 15 – 6 pm
City Council deliberation and approval of tax-supported budgets
Public is invited and welcome to attend

Wednesday, December 16 – 6 pm (ONLY IF NEEDED)
City Council deliberation and approval of tax-supported budgets
Public is invited and welcome to attend

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hanlon Creek Week Begins Today

Local activists aren't letting the moss grow under them as they continue to work to stop the construction of the Hanlon Creek Business Park with a week of events. I was sent the full schedule with details, which you can find outlined below. For updated information, go to the HCBP Occupation blog here.

A Week of Events to Celebrate the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex

Monday November 23, 1:00 – 1:30pm
Guelph Police Station, near corner of Wyndham & Fountain St.

At 2pm on Monday, November 23rd, Kelly Pflug-Back will be serving the Guelph police department with a plaintiff's claim on behalf of herself and Julian Ichim regarding the Guelph police's alleged defamation and negligence in their investigation of Ms. Pflug-Back and Mr. Ichim.

Let the police know that we won’t support them acting as political tools for developers and the city.

Tuesday November 24
Xterra Construction office, 934 Guelph St., Kitchener

Xterra Construction has been contracted to tunnel pipes below the Hanlon Expressway at Clair Road to connect the HCBP to the city’s water, electrical, and telecommunications infrastructure.

Folks from Guelph and Kitchener will be dropping off letters notifying them of the contentious history of the HCBP, and the associated environmental and social problems that have made it the highest profile environmental issue in the region.

Wednesday November 25, 2:30 – 4:30pm

Hanlon Expressway and Clair Road, the site of pending construction.

Come join concerned residents of Guelph as we hold an educational rally at the site of the next round of proposed construction. We will have a friendly presence, a press conference, and will offer informative flyers to drivers as they stop at red lights. Warm drinks, baked goods, banners, and good folks will be present. The more people the better!

We’ll meet at the Via station downtown on Carden St. at 2:30, and will have free rides.

These are not invitation only events. In the interests of cordial relations the mayor, councilors and city staff are being personally invited.

Thursday November 26, 11am – 2pm
Xterra Construction office, 934 Guelph St., Kitchener

This is the first large gathering of the week. We’ll be holding a demonstration at Xterra’s office, to follow up on the delivery of our letters. This is a non-confrontational rally that is an opportunity to demonstrate our strength in numbers. Come hear from allies upstream of us in Kitchener/Waterloo and other guest speakers, about connections between the HCBP and environmental issues throughout the Grand River watershed.

We’ll be meeting at the Via station on Carden St. at 11am, with free rides there and back. Tentative schedule is for the demo to start at approx 12 noon, and be back between 2-3.

Friday November 27, 12 noon – 1pm
City Hall, 1 Carden St.

Come down to city hall for free lunch and a noon hour concert and jamboree. Call it a hullabaloo, a hootenanny, or a kerfuffle, but be there.

Let’s have a great time and remind those at city hall that there are many people in this community who are concerned about this issue and it’s myriad connections to other issues, including protection of our drinking water and downstream communities, forest preservation, biodiversity, mismanagement of municipal finances, remediation of brownfields, colonialism , disproportionate impacts on Indigenous people, and more….

This will be another opportunity to learn about what’s going on locally and how to get involved in this ever-expanding community effort. Sidewalk chalk, street theatre, and ye olde town crier may all make an appearance.

And for the grand finale, Friday night there’s a dance party for the Hanlon Creek!

Friday November 27, 9pm – late
Guelph Googenheim, 29 Woolwich Street, below Gordon Taylor Music

Hanlon Creek Drum Ensemble: Drum and Dance fundraiser for the Hanlon Creek legal fees $5, with fees going to support the legal defence during and after the occupation of the HCBP.
9:00 pm – Drumming welcome, ft. Prince Bamidele Bajowa of the Nigerian Yoruba people. Guests encouraged to bring drums!
10:30 pm – Liason into the hype DJ set ft. Josh Cold Killbert, Sebastian Butt, Tigre$$, and Wolk.

More info about the lawsuit against the police:

On September 2, people visited the home of the owner of Drexler Construction, the construction company working on the summer’s culvert. A Drexler family member was read a letter encouraging them to drop the contract.

The next day, the City of Guelph announced they were canceling the culvert work for 2009. The day after, September 4, the police announced a “criminal investigation” into charges of intimidation, based on the letter to Drexler.

On September 9, Kelly and Julian Ichim held a press conference at the police station where they read the letter, admitted being there, and tried to turn themselves in to the police for their “investigation.” Their lawyer, Davin Charney, said that evening, “This, to me, seems like another example where the Guelph Police are taking on a political role rather than simply a law enforcement role.”

Even though the police were hyping up their investigation, and two people came to turn themselves in, the police didn’t want anything to do with them. Shortly after that, the two land defenders chose to begin the process of filing a lawsuit against the Guelph Police Services Board. Mayor Karen Farbridge and councilor Gloria Kovach are both members of this board.

The lawsuit is for $30,000 for each, including $10,000 for defamation, $10,000 for breach of their Charter rights and $10,000 in aggravated and punitive damages.

“The police are being used as a political tool to repress dissidents,” Julian said that day. Their lawyer said police “have shown contempt for freedom of expression and democracy.”

On October 1, the police dropped the “investigation,” saying there was no evidence to prove Kelly and Julian were involved.

Text of letter to Drexler
Guelph Mercury articles on the subject

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Update on Woods

So remember on Monday when I said that the management of fridge and freezer makers W.C. Woods would be reaching out to employees to explain what happens now that the company's filed for bankruptcy? Yeah, apparently that hasn't happened yet. From what I've heard, Woods has been terribly silent to its 250-person work force, all of whom are now jobless, and from what I understand, compensation-less. To counter, there will be a rally at the Woods plant tomorrow at 9 am. If you can, please head on down and support the workers to whom I offer my best wishes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Woods Deal Falls Through

Hitting the wire about an hour ago from CTV News, but it seems that a deal by a US firm to buy the W.C. Woods plant in Guelph has fallen through. This is a none-too-minor hit to local manufacturing and the employees that work at Woods, which has been on the proverbial bubble for much of the last year. The plant's even been receiving government funding to give employees paid days off due to lack of work.

What happens next is hazy at the moment. What's certain is that the business Woods' fate is now moving into a courtroom where the company's assets will be liquidated. The fate of employees meanwhile depends on who you ask. The Guelph Mercury out and out says that all 250 employees are out of work effective immediately, while 570 News says that 200 people will be laid off with the closure of Plant 2 and some employees being offered early retirement.

But more than that though, Woods is a Guelph institution, having made refrigerator and freezers in the Royal City for 75 years. Truly, this is a great loss in more ways thatn one.

Look for more info on this as the dust settles, apparently management will be talk to emplyees this afternoon. If you have any info or want to comment, just plug it in in the comments section below.