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, June 30, 2010

Better Organization Means Better Government, Press Release

I wonder if widdling nine managers down to five will mean that we get our 20 minute service back on the bus. I doubt it. I'll let the press release speak for itself.

GUELPH, ON, June 29, 2010 – The City of Guelph is implementing a new functional model and realigning its organizational structure so that it's better positioned to respond to the complex issues of a growing single-tier municipality, better enabling it to deliver on Council and community priorities.

The changes—which affect the upper tier of the organization—were announced today. The reorganization reduces the administrative structure from nine departments to five, and distributes executive oversight to four Executive Directors who, along with the CAO, will share responsibility for overseeing key operating and administrative functions.

"Part of my mandate as CAO when I joined the City of Guelph in 2007 was to put a new organizational structure in place that best positions the City to be able to deliver on community priorities," says Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig. "We made some minor, initial changes in 2007, and this reorganization is the final leg of that change. Its intent is to reduce the size of the senior administrative structure and make us more responsive, more agile. It’s neither a cost-saving measure nor a downsizing exercise.”

City functions are now grouped under five departments: Operations and Transit, led by Executive Director Derek McCaughan; Community and Social Services, led by Executive Director Ann Pappert; Planning, Engineering and Environmental Services, led by Executive Director Janet Laird; Human Resources and Legal Services led by Executive Director Mark Amorosi; and the Office of the CAO, led by Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig.

Users of City services including residents, businesses and visitors will notice the difference, as the reorganization is intended to bring more clarity and responsiveness to service delivery.

The new model will allow for closer working relationships between staff and Council, which will create an environment in which staff can be more responsive than they could in a structure where everything was channelled through the CAO's Office. "That type of structure becomes slow and increasingly cumbersome as the organization—and our community—grows," says Loewig.

The new model is based on research, a study of the nuances of the organization, and other practices in municipal services, is future focused, and is in the spirit of continuous improvement in delivery of services to the Guelph community.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For Your Convenience: Skateboard Indoors

Because you demanded it: a short term decision to make up for the fact that there's still no replacement for the Deerpath Park skate park. You want to go outside and skateboard? Too bad, you're going to have to wait until the bureaucratic process meanders to a halt. Here's the press release:

GUELPH, ON, May 26, 2010 – The closing of Guelph's Deerpath Park skateboard area has led the City to partner with the Ward Skatepark to offer skateboarding for public use this summer.

"We have certainly heard from our young citizens on this issue," said Ann Pappert, Director of Community Services. "With the removal of the equipment from Deerpath Park, we explored interim options to provide our youth with a venue to skateboard."

The City has negotiated an agreement with the Ward Skatepark to rent space on weekdays in July on a trial basis. As part of this pilot initiative, staff will monitor participation and decide whether to extend the agreement for the month of August while school is out for the summer.

The Ward Skatepark has been recognized as one of the province's premier indoor skateboarding venues and has been featured in numerous magazines. The park features a variety of obstacles that meet the needs of beginners and expert skateboarders. It has knowledgeable and trained staff on hand to support a safe and fun experience.

The park will offer sessions for under-12 and beginner skateboarders throughout the summer, along with sessions for older and experienced riders.

The Deerpath Park skateboard equipment is in storage until a new location is found. The City has initiated a City-wide study to find an appropriate new location for the skateboard area, assisted by a working group of residents from across the city, Youth Council and Neighbourhood Coalition representatives and facility users.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Where's My Elephant?

I was working on this week's Guelph Beat, when I typed out this paragraph that I have since disgarded.


And to answer the inevitable question: no you won’t be getting a bit of cash back on your property taxes. “Residents are paying for 51 weeks of service in 2010 so the City of Guelph will not be issuing refunds on property taxes,” Karen Farbridge wrote on her blog that Monday. Well, that’s weird. I could have swore the five closed days were as a result of the city being unable to reach a deal with the unions to allow for rotating layoffs that would avoid complete closures of city services. Did I just blow my mind? I don’t know, but the people that read about this on the Mercury’s City Hall blog certainly blew their tops.


I was referencing a post on the 59 Carden St blog that mentioned the Mayor's above comments. But joking aside, it did strike me as weird that a five-day shut down was taken into account as part of the city budget last December. It took me a while, but I did figure out that this was correct. The intention was that all city workers would take five unpaid days off, but that those days would be mapped out so that services would be unaffected and facilities wouldn't have to be shut down for those days. Considering that employees work five days a week, the five days off effectively means a week off. Hence, the city would only be operating for a total of 51 weeks according to whatever way those days off would be implemented by human resources.

Still, this does nothing to resolve the mystery of transit. Karen Farbridge says that the tax hike was adjusted to take into account 51 weeks of work over 52, otherwise the property tax rate would have been higher. So why don't these same rules apply to transit? I quote the city's benevolent transit manager:

“If we provided a discounted rate we’d negate the financial improvements we’ve made,” said Mike Anders, the city’s general manager of community connectivity and transit. “We’ve analyzed the situation, and because we’re not able to identify which day of the week riders are using them ... it’s not possible for us to discount the pass.

“Commuters only use the bus Monday to Friday and they wouldn’t normally use the service on Sundays. Therefore they would then be getting a discount on their travel.”

In other words: screw you if you use your bus pass to go other places besides your work on the weekend. And if you work on the weekend, screw you too. Is it just me, or has Mr Anders' attitude to the people that use the service he's manager of teeter on the spiteful. Indeed, the city's patting itself on the back for future improvements to transit (ie: transit hub) seem hypocrytical in the face of the fact that transit service right now blows. (Of course, if more than 1.2 per cent of city staff used the service, they'd know that.) Do you like getting to work on time, or the convenience of making your transfer on time? Too bad, is what transit management has to say. Take an earlier bus. (Forget that it already takes a half-hour or more to get across town already.)

My question remains the same: why are bus riders being punished, it seems, almost exclusively? No discount for lost service, no heartfelt apology/clarification from city managers (much less the Mayor) and no sign of things getting better. Barely a month in, things seem to be getting worse, which prompts the old repose: how low can it go?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Protest in Effect?

I just received a strange report concerning activity on the bus today.

A tipster just told me about their experience riding the bus about an hour ago from Stone Road Mall, where a transit supervisor pulled a driver and tried to put the number 9 from the mall to downtown out of service, and standing the riders for another half-hour. Fortunately, the riders' protests were heard and they were taken downtown, where that bus and one other were taken out of service.

My tipster then waited for the number 23 bus downtown, whose passengers were left waiting with the passengers of the number 24 bus. Another transit supervisor came over and said that while the 24 will be arriving late, the 23 wouldn't be arriving at all.

So what's the deal with buses today? Are drivers out of sorts? Are riders? Is there a mutiny afoot on our bus system? Let me know your thoughts, experiences and tips below.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Reminder: City Closed on Monday

The City of Guelph reminds you the misery loves company as facilities city-wide will shut down for the first of five days this summer. (Only Guelph Transit will keep running, but we'll pay for that later.) On a practical level, you may not notice a difference. But if you're like me, and have your garbage pick-up on Monday, then you're looking at two weeks worth of blue and green garbage to hold on to and a month's worth of clear bag garbage to go out in another two weeks.

Anyway... here's the press release.

GUELPH, ON, June 16, 2010 – The first of five temporary City facility closures takes place Monday, June 21. All City of Guelph facilities will be closed and services suspended on this date. Click here for a list of affected services and facility closures.

City facilities will be closed and services suspended for five days this summer in order to implement cost saving measures approved by Council in the City’s 2010 budget. The decision to close facilities for five days is part of Council’s decision to minimize the impact of a loss of revenue during a global economic recession on property taxpayers.

Guelph Transit buses will continue to operate on these days. In order to achieve the targeted savings, transit service—including mobility service—will be suspended on Sundays in August.

There will be no closures or disruption to emergency services such as police, fire and emergency medical service (EMS). These services will continue to be available at all times.

Facility closures and service disruptions will also be in effect Friday, July 9; Thursday, July 22; Wednesday, August 11; and Tuesday, August 24.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ferraro Joins Ward 2 Race

Ray Ferraro has decided that he's going to give municipal politics another go by running for his old seat in Ward 2 this fall. Ferraro, who served on council from 2003 to 2006, will face off against incumbants Ian Findley and Vicki Beard, the only two declared candidates for Ward 2 so far.

Election Results for Ward 2 - 2003

Election Results for Ward 2 - 2006

For all election news and full list of confirmed candidates go to http://guelphvotes.ca/

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Final Destination

Locomotive 6167 has been moved to its new perch along the tracks between the Greyhound station and the train station. Above is my picture from the scene as workers make sure the train is secure while some locals take in the action.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Press Release Clearing #3 - City Fleet Greener Than Ever

Finally, we get some good transit news. The City of Guelph has earned an E3 certification for the environmental high standard of its transit fleet. Read this press release for all the details.

GUELPH, ON, June 10, 2010 – The City of Guelph is one of only two municipalities in Ontario to receive an E3 silver rating for sustainable fleet management. It is also the only municipality in Ontario to receive a silver rating for its transit fleet. The designation was announced in Toronto this afternoon by Roger Smith of Fleet Challenge Ontario, the E3 affiliate in Ontario.

“Guelph can take pride in being the first municipality in Ontario to achieve a silver rating for our transit fleet,” said Mayor Karen Farbridge. “The E3 Fleet rating is proof of Guelph's commitment to reducing our environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions."

The E3 Fleet is a made-in-Canada Rating System to recognize fleet performance in terms of Environment, Energy and Excellence. Under the E3 Fleet program, public and private sector fleets can seek formal ratings on staff training, idle reduction practices, vehicle purchasing practices, fleet operations and maintenance, trip and route planning, fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas performance.

The City undertook a comprehensive fleet review in 2008 as part of the E3 rating criteria. Armed with this data, the City adopted several policies. These policies ensure that City employees are accountable for reducing fuel operating expenses by minimizing engine idling. Staff are trained on fuel efficiency for vehicle and equipment operation. The purchase of right size vehicles further decreases the City's carbon footprint and result in lower capital costs.

“We are pleased to be the second municipality in Ontario to be awarded with a silver rating. Earning the E3 rating has been a two year process and involved several departments of our organization,” said Bill Barr, the City’s Manager of Fleet and Equipment.

The City will continue to monitor its fleet performance using the E3 rating system to determine where further improvements are possible. The City's next audit will be in two years.

Visit www.e3fleet.com for more information.

Press Release Clearing #2 - Burcher Re-Ups with FCM

Ward 5 Councillor (and recent "Better Know a Ward" profilee) Lise Burcher was re-elected to another term on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors. Attached is the press release from the FCM:

Guelph City Councillor Re-Appointed to National Green Council
Lise Burcher one of five Canadian municipal officials to serve on FCM’s Green Municipal Funds Council

GUELPH, ON, June 9, 2010 – City of Guelph Councilor Lise Burcher was re-elected for a fourth term to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Board of Directors at the May annual general meeting in Toronto. FCM has been the national voice of municipal government since 1901 representing the interests of municipalities on policy and program matters that fall within federal jurisdiction.

The FCM Board of Directors is composed of sixteen elected municipal officials in Ontario and a total of seventy one directors across Canada. FCM membership constitutes 1,775 community members representing over 90% of the Canadian population. Its membership represents all regions and scales of community from the very smallest rural villages to Canada’s largest cities.

Councillor Burcher is a very active member in the organization and has taken on a number of leadership roles in addition to her board responsibilities, including serving as a Green Municipal Fund Council (GMF) member. The GMF is one of five councils across the country and she serves as the chair of the GMF’s audit committee. This committee administers $550 million in funds to support municipalities to undertake projects and plans that demonstrate innovation in sustainability.

She was one of several board members that initiated the development of a national municipal policy platform presented to the COP 15 climate change discussions n Copenhagen in December 2009. Councilor Burcher was also appointed to serve as FCM’s international representative for Latin America and the Caribbean; and showcased Guelph’s innovative Community Energy Initiative and its progressive community engagement strategies at the UN Habitat’s World Urban Forum in March of this year.

“It is an honour to be supported by my colleagues throughout Ontario in my bid for re-election to the Board,” stated Burcher. “I look forward to contributing further to the valuable work of this outstanding organization.”

Councillor Burcher was first elected to Guelph City Council in 2003. She represents Ward 5.

About the Green Municipal Fund

FCM’s Green Municipal Fund (GMF) provides loans and grants, builds capacity, and shares knowledge to support municipal governments and their partners in developing communities that are more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

About the Federation of Canadian Municipalities

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been the national voice of municipal government since 1901. With more than 1,750 members, FCM represents the interests of municipalities on policy and program matters that fall within federal jurisdiction. Members include Canada's largest cities, small urban and rural communities, and 18 provincial and territorial municipal associations.

Press Release Clearing #1 - HCBP Moving Forward

Sadly for some of my activists friends, it seems as if it's full steam ahead for the Hanlon Creek Business Park. Here's a city press release on the next phase of construction from last Monday.

Agreement to consolidate land holdings in Phase 2 of Hanlon Creek Business Park would expedite development

GUELPH, ON, June 7, 2010 – City Council has authorized staff to proceed with the preparation and possible execution of a cost sharing and land exchange agreement between the City of Guelph and Guelph Land Holdings Inc., (GLHI) a subsidiary of Cooper Construction Limited, with respect to Phase 2 of the Hanlon Creek Business Park.

The agreement will transfer ownership of most of the City’s lands in Phase 2 to GLHI and will set the terms for the purchase and servicing of Phase 2 lands of the park. The timing of such an agreement is ideal as it allows the City to divest of its investment in the Phase 2 lands and receive a return on investment while minimizing the City’s financial risks moving forward, as substantial investment is required for servicing of Phase 2.

Under the agreement, GLHI will become the primary developer of Phase 2 of the Hanlon Creek Business Park and be responsible for servicing and marketing the property. The City will retain approximately three acres of land, which will be developed as part of Phase 3 of the park.

Subject to the execution of the agreement GLHI intends to begin development of Phase 2 next month and is targeting completion in fall 2011.

“The City initiated the development of the Hanlon Creek Business Park as a catalyst to attract private-sector investment. We did so in response to the business community’s concern about a shortage of serviced employment lands in the city,” says Guelph’s General Manger of Economic Development & Tourism, Peter Cartwright. “Now that we have strong private sector proponents, the timing is right for the City step back from its role in the development of Phase 2.”

About the Hanlon Creek Business Park
The HCBP encompasses 671 acres in the south west corner of the city. The development comes after almost a decade of public consultation, scientific assessments and thorough environmental analysis. The site will attract knowledge-economy businesses in sectors such as food and agribusiness, environment and energy, advanced manufacturing, and information and communications technology, and will provide approximately 10,000 jobs in our community.

For more information about the Hanlon Creek Business Park visit guelph.ca/hcbp.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Intense Race for Ward 1

Watching the 2010 municipal election slate come to life has been an interesting experience. Granted, there's still about three months for everybody to commit to putting their name on the ballot, but I have noticed an interesting trend in Ward 1.

If you go over to the guelph.ca/vote website, you'll notice that there are as many declared people running for the two seats in Ward 1 as there are running in every other ward combined right now. An interesting question is why? Is it because there's a confirmed vacancy given that Kathleen Farrelly was announced her intention to step down from council at the end of her term. Her colleague, Bob Bell, has also yet to announce and indeed may have bigger fish to worry about given the fact he's running as the Green Party candidate in the next federal election.

So is there a perception that Ward 1 is in play this election? I don't know, but here's the list of five in case you've missed it.

Linda Murphy
Seán Farrelly
Allan Boynton
Eugene Gromczynski
Russell Ott

What do you think? Why the run on Ward 1 in 2010?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blue W Lands in Guelph

If you've been turned on to the joys of simple old tap water and convinced that bottle water is a long con perpetuated by multinationals selling a resource you already pay for back to, then you might interested in this.

GUELPH, ON, May 28, 2010 – Finding local restaurants, City facilities and businesses willing to fill reusable containers with municipal tap water free of charge will soon be easy, thanks to the Blue W program.

The Blue W program is a not-for-profit initiative, supported by the City of Guelph, that offers an online directory, Google map and downloadable Smartphone application that show where to access municipal tap water for free.

"Refill your reusable bottle—anywhere. It's really that basic." said Evan Pilkington, the Director of Blue W. "Guelph is a city full of people who appreciate tap water. Helping provide residents and visitors greater access to safe, clean municipal tap water is what Blue W is all about.”

The program officially launches in Guelph tomorrow with volunteers applying decals in windows of participating local businesses. To date more than 30 locations have signed on to be a part of the program.

Guelph's renowned municipal water conservation and promotion efforts made it a logical first choice to launch the Blue W program. Blue W organizers plan to roll out the program in communities across Canada.

For more information about Blue W visit bluew.org.

And if that does nothing for you, read over this piece from last week's Globe.