57 of 600

mudfightsaloonI have been following the Guelph Mercury’s coverage of the trial in the dispute between the City of Guelph and Urbacon.

Recently, the court heard that 57 of Urbacon’s requests for information from the architect were considered “unnecessary”. That’s 57 of 600. So it would now seem 543 requests were necessary.

As expected, mistakes seem to have been made on all sides — by the City of Guelph, by the architect, by Urbacon. And from trial evidence, the City of Guelph has a lot to own regarding the delays and all that followed from them.

The judge may well decide that the difficulties Urbacon encountered amounted to a breach of contract, countering the breach that is said to have occurred when Urbacon did not provide accurate and timely schedules. The judge could ask how the City of Guelph ensured accountability, up to and including being able to fire Urbacon — as it was turning the corner on the project — given its own not-insigificant role in the delays. If the City was going to fire Urbacon, it likely should have done so much sooner. And without having been so complicit in the delays.

Add the break down in communication, which all parties seem by trial evidence to have had a role in.

All in all, when the City of Guelph fired Urbacon, what was happening at that point in the project that wasn’t already the accepted norm for it, as broadly dysfunctional as it seems to have been? And wasn’t the City of Guelph long in the thick of it?

At this point in the trial, certain themes seem to be emerging. It seems the City needed to acknowledge its role in the delays, suck it up and see it through… with Urbacon.

If one prediction can be made, it’s that this misadventure will be the basis for one or another case study, and likely, an article in future contracts… appropriately known as the “Guelph clause”.

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Our Condolences

jennifer kovach 1We send our deepest condolences to Gloria and Bill and family for the loss of their beloved Jennifer yesterday.

Also, we send out our condolences to Jennifer’s friends and colleagues in the community.


Facebook memorial page for messages of condolence

Messages of condolence sent to Jennifer’s Guelph Police Service email

Public Funeral announced

Kovach Family Statements about Jennifer

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Not in the forecast

No further explanation is required.

Clarity: not in the forecast

Clarity: not in the forecast

That seems to be the attitude from Guelph’s City Hall in the instances when the news doesn’t match up with the City’s “official speak”. It’s a big issue as it goes to public confidence in the information that is coming out of City Hall, and the public’s assurance that the City is actually accountable to it — beyond the handful of days when some of us cast a ballot, every four years. Accountability and transparency may well matter most when it’s least convenient.

And that is more than a staff issue. It is a corporate-culture issue, which goes to the top — including Council.

Councillors, you know it starts and ends with you and what you expect in terms of public answers to how public money is spent. Election-time rhetoric is typically not without commitments from candidates — including incumbents —  that they will push for doing things better, not the least of which involves improving accountability… so what about it?

Otherwise, it’s a case of “just shut-up and pay your taxes.” But how about saying, “No, we’re not moving on, this now reaches beyond operations. This is an issue of public confidence and it goes to what we are asking of everyone. It’s now about OUR role, our obligations to the public, and frankly, to our staff as well.”

To date we are no further ahead in knowing what was staff’s “error in judgement”, in a recent controversy involving the collection of source-sorted waste. I posted the following comment with that story by the Guelph Mercury’s Scott Tracey.

Public deserves a better explanation for what happened and what actually happens

The “explanation” doesn’t indicate accountability for what happened, it really doesn’t explain anything. How often does this happen and what exactly was “the error in judgement” – the use of that truck, only, but it was still likely all going to go to landfill anyways? Why otherwise would staff assume that using that truck would be OK? Are they really going to sort it after arriving like that?

It seems further clarification of what happened regarding the as-of-yet undefined error in judgement is not in the forecast. But don’t we deserve better?

So… again: What happened, and why?

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One for the next list of 99

Lucky us, we have been chosen.

Pick us! Pick us! Pick us!

 A response from Guelph CAO Ann Pappert was published in yesterday’s Mercury, regarding the Bradshaw video misadventure, along with a field goal of an editorial on it today — alluding to the inescapable question… when will Council weigh in and say, enough is enough?! From today’s Guelph Mercury editorial:

Now, it will be interesting to see if council as well regards the continued staff investment in defending this Bradshaw pass as a good use of municipal resources.

As I mentioned in a comment on 59 Carden St., I did not see any mention from Ms. Pappert of the video actually being connected to a business locating here, which frankly I was expecting to be the case… Which is to say the video hasn’t to date even met my expectations for it.

Also, I stand by my position that Mr. Bradshaw was not the right guy to go with for promoting our community and city. But how much did we really consider it? We went with the cold call, didn’t we?

For how this is playing out, we may yet be featured in a documentary. A real one, even.

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Unexplainable photo of driver

City of Guelph waste collection, showing green and blue bags in same waste stream.

City of Guelph waste collection, showing green and blue bags in same waste stream.

You may recall my previous posts describing the quick destruction Zippy The Squirrel Warrior wreaked on our new roll-out green bin.

The photo to the left has been the subject of some recent controversy and banter and the background to a well-considered editorial in the Guelph Mercury.

Further to the story, an unexplainable enhancement of the driver-side window has been

Unexplainable enhancement of photo lifted from 59 Carden St. blog clearly showing Zippy driving City Truck

Unexplainable enhancement of photo lifted from 59 Carden St. blog clearly showing Zippy driving City truck.

produced, showing a driver not believed to be City of Guelph staff. Some have suggested that the driver is a squirrel.

Zippy was unavailable for comment.

Dean Wyman, Guelph’s general manager of solid waste, was unable to confirm for the Guelph Mercury if the waste streams were in fact separated by the City, leading some to speculate that the issue is the driver can’t remember where it parked the truck. Or more likely, just won’t say where. Perhaps the as-of-yet undefined “error in judgement” by staff was in allowing the squirrel into the cab.

But with a face like that, who could say no?

Public Enemy Number One.

Public Enemy Number One.

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A fantastic post on ** fantastic ** waste diversion

Scott Tracey’s 59 Carden St. blog has a fantastic post and comment thread regarding the City’s collection of sorted waste materials. There have been a few comments previously posted on 59 Carden St. about the City collecting waste materials in a manner that suggests waste diversion in some areas is consistently not happening. At any rate, it would seem from the photo on 59 Carden St. that waste diversion of sorted materials is not happening as well as it should, or as is being messaged by the City.

It certainly departs from the public’s expectations about what is happening to the waste they’ve sorted for collection.

If there is a lesson in this, it is that the public may be right some of the time, possibly most of the time — at least, possibly, more often than City staff appreciate or accept and more often than the public itself knows. And also, in much of this, where an observation or experience differs from the messaging of the City, and the spin prevails, someone knows, or on occasion a lot of people at the City know better.

Picking up on Scott’s comment on the thread, it’s curious why the “information” from the City hasn’t been more transparent about what actually happens to some of your sorted waste.

This could be big. Watch for a ramp up of the messaging.

In this instance it’s a good thing someone has their union to protect them from being made the scapegoat.

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Resilience and dedication

…Stand out as two words that describe the individuals involved in restoring the neighbourhood’s outdoor rink to its former glory not that long ago. There were nine youths playing hockey on it tonight.

Resilience is maybe an unusual word for this kind of thing but it comes to mind in thinking about the response to having the rink lost in the recent heat blast — it takes a certain kind of, “OK, well, let’s pick up where we left off” type of energy in rebuilding it. It would be easy to bet against the likelihood of us having a winter with extended periods of cold anymore, and to use that for a reason to pack it in altogether. Most of us would have understood it if the volunteers decided to throw in the proverbial hose for the season… deterred by a sense of futility in the effort, that “winter” weather will now lay complete waste to any effort several times over.

Dedication also comes to mind — the type of thinking that says, “imagine the fun that could be had for a lot of people if we try again”.

Both of which distinguish the volunteers in this issue. It’s unlikely that they will be receiving a medal for sticking it out so that the sticks can come out. Such as it is for our community’s many, many volunteers actively doing good things for people they don’t even know or will likely never meet, not because it’s their job but because they knew it to be the right thing to do. And, even less likely there will be an issue around how to store the zamboni.

Toques off, err, hats and gloves on, to them.

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Seasonally normal weather…

For March. Quirky, heavy snowfalls that are gone in a day or so, and lots of rain. But we’re not yet finished with January.

We’ve had a blast of cold recently. But stepping outside this morning was like stepping in front of a blast furnace.

The outdoor rink that volunteers were working on, that was getting some good use, is gone. Not sorta gone. Gone. That must be disappointing. It takes an unusual love for hockey and skating and winter and one’s community to make an outdoor rink happen. It’s hour after hour in the cold and dark with a water hose and a lot of patience, when the rest of us are happily inside. For them, a blast of cold weather means a chance to start on or improve the rink. It seems for them, the colder the better.

It also must take unusual commitment because the hours of work seem to be too quickly lost anymore. I can imagine how discouraging it must be to have the makings of a fantastic rink, with plans to have a tourney on the weekend or to show it off to friends and family, only to lose it in a few days of heat… with more cold of course in the forecast.

But I’m guessing that isn’t the focus for those volunteers. The focus, common to all volunteers, is likely steadfastly positive and hopeful. I’m guessing it’s not about it all becoming grass overnight, it’s about the amazing time they had on it those days after school, and the use they saw it get, and the hope to be able to do it all again, and maybe plans on how to do it better, when Jack Frost next knocks on the windows.

Still, from the winters we’ve had here, I have to wonder if the winters of outdoor rinks in our parks will be mostly lived through our stories of past fun than fun lived in the cold for our children.

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Setting Guelph apart

Lucky for us, we have distinguished our city, with two mentions in Maclean’s magazine – see the article, Part I, Part II, Part III. We made the list for wasting taxpayer dollars in notably stupid fashion, twice.

Mention of the Terry Bradshaw video, along with Mayor Farbridge’s reaction to the Maclean’s article — as reported by Guelph Mercury’s Scott Tracey — reminded me of this blog post by the Mayor. That blog post reminded me of this blog post by the Mayor, as part of the integrity commissioner sideshow.

Catch my latest column, and Scott Tracey’s column in reaction to… and in reaction to the reaction to Maclean’s.

Here are some of my previous blog posts that may be of interest to you…

Civil Disobedience

Non-confidence in this “path”

End it now




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31 days in America

Found this graphic in the National Post depicting the number of gun deaths in the 31 days following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. The data, as of January 15, 2013 totals 919 gun deaths since that horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that included 20 children and eight adults, including the perpetrator. This data comes from the Slate news website (which lists 923 gun-related deaths, and allows the reader to click on each fatality, many of whom are young adults) and the twitter feed @GunDeaths. The data is considered to be incomplete.

Also, I came across this new poll showing that Americans are more angry about the Connecticut shootings than they are about 9/11. If only that was reason for hope for substantive change in America.

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