LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for September 26, 2016

Tonight’s city council meeting will be proceeding by some additional action, and I don’t just mean the closed meeting that starts at 5 pm. Nope, also starting at 5 pm Rally to Protect Water, so stay tuned for updates from that as well. As for when the meeting starts, you can click here for the amended agenda from City Hall, and you can click here to read Politico’s preview of tonight’s meeting. For the complete blow-by-blow of tonight’s council meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.

Guelph City Council Meeting – September 26, 2016

Live blog from the meeting starting at 6:30 pm

  1. Direction given to GMHI Board, and info received at closed meeting.
  2. Special presentation for ‘O Canada’: The Overtones.
  3. Guthrie jokes that the crowd is big b/c they knew the Overtones were coming

    Guthrie jokes that the crowd is big b/c they knew the Overtones were coming
  4. The Overtones have been part of the city for 50 years. Used to regularly sing ‘O Canada’ for council.
  5. They meet every Monday at Ignatius if anyone’s interested.
  6. The Overtones are now singing “My Canada My Home.”
  7. Reminder: Anyone can apply to sing or play ‘O Canada’ before council.
  8. Guthrie says that b/c so many are here for Gordon’s motion, it’s being moved up to the beginning. Applause.
  9. Guthrie asks that it be noted that the water advocates applauded for something he said.
  10. Order of info: United Way presentation, minutes, agenda amending, items with delegations, Gordon motion, rest of the meeting.
  11. Suzanne Holder, Project Co-ordinator in the Office of the CAO to present plan for United Way campaign w/ co-chair Allt stepping in 4 Guthrie
  12. Allt says he’s here to “put the touch on everyone” to get money for United Way. Knows he makes ppl angry when he asks for $$
  13. Allt points out that UW offers supports to combat hoarding, confesses he himself is a hoarder.
  14. Allt asks to make this the best UW campaign ever.
  15. Allt wants to show that #Guelph is the best community. The best. You know what I mean…
  16. “We’re going to have a very sock-ccessful campaign” says Allt on the “Pull Up Your Socks” initiative.
  17. Approval of the minutes moved by Downer, 2nd by Piper. Passes 13-0
  18. Stormwater Fees or Charges By-law and Sustainable Funding Strategy only to be pulled from CotW agenda by Cllr Bell.
  19. Approval of the rest of CotW reports passes 13-0
  20. Hugh Whiteley enters on cue to talk about Downey rd improvements.
  21. Whiteley says that traffic study is only half finished but the arterial roads won’t be able to carry higher volumes of traffic.
  22. A mystery attached to 2008 he says. Annual average daily traffic (AADT) on Niska is a problem for Downey, Whiteley says
  23. Perception of the neighbourhood important aspect, but can’t be technically measures, says Whiteley.
  24. Niska volume is 6x the trigger for traffic calming requirements, says Whiteley. Bit of a problem for the Niska/Downey intersection
  25. The Niska Rd process is now at the MoECC, has nothing to do with Downey, they’re 2 separate projects, says staff.
  26. Billings is asking that staff come back with a detailed design before construction to help deal with some of the concerns Whiteley highlited
  27. Staff says that a complete phase 1/2 plan b4 going to public might tie hands and result in a longer process.
  28. Pedestrian refuge islands and bike facilities are part of the plan for Downey Rd.
  29. The longer process may push things back and not start as early in construction season. Plus, phase 1 is simple.
  30. 2nd phase includes cushioning and sloping, more complicated traffic calming. Report will come back btwn 1 and 2
  31. There will be a report on phase 1 of traffic calming before council approves moving on to phases 2 (in other words).
  32. Hofland proposes to amend 2nd clause to say “in principle.” Billings agrees.
  33. Downey Road Transportation Improvement Study passes 13-0. Next, the executive action plan
  34. Derrick Thomson will present. Thrilled by the community response to new Corporate Admin Plan, he jokes.
  35. Thomson says city isn’t starting from scratch, dedication to value for services already here.
  36. City reaching the end of current corporate strategic plan.
  37. Later this week we’ll get the annual “Making a difference” report.
  38. Much discussion about the creation of “a culture of openness.”
  39. New plan will promote “culture of collaboration” through civic accelerator/roundtables and other ways.
  40. Thomson says there are 2K employees at @cityofguelph. Are staff being efficient when they make a difference one-on-one?
  41. No, but they are the ones Thomson looks forward to working with everyday.
  42. Guthrie says he’s never seen a more well-function exec team, in private or public sector. He’s proud of their work.
  43. Pat Fung, Statler to Gerry Barker’s Waldorf, is the delegation.
  44. “Why aren’t service cuts ever considered?” Fung asks. Response of CAO is to add taxes and user fees.
  45. No direct value to the citizens of Guelph says Fung of city hall aspects
  46. Fung complains about too many communication staff. Number 1 complaint on any city issue: not enough communications.
  47. Guthrie says he finds it a little bit disturbing that ppl are coming to council to challenge city staff this way.
  48. Allt has a Q, but says it would be inappropriate at this point.
  49. Council votes to receive the report. Passes 13-0
  50. Raquel Gurr, Sr. Corporate Analyst, Development Charges and Long Term Planning on Guelph’s AA+ S&P rating.
  51. According to S&P, Guelph has exceptional liquidity, very strong budgetary performance, very low debt burden, & strong financial management.
  52. Guelph has higher relative standing as compared to similar municipalities, hence the +. “Stable” means this won’t likely change.
  53. Our institutional framework is “very predictable and well-balanced,” much to Pat Fung’s dismay no doubt.
  54. S&P rating not just based on operating budget, but all city assets as well.
  55. Allt asks about references to finding efficiencies, isn’t S&P lookingg at how well we’re doing that?
  56. No, S&P doesn’t look at that, but over successive years efficiencies have been presented, says Staff. “Too many to be presented now.”
  57. “Are people interpreting different methods in different ways?” asks Allt.
  58. Amarosi says city is happy to “compare ourselves to anybody”.
  59. Cannot draw conclusions from per person costs, says Amarosi. May be valid reasons why per person costs vary.
  60. Billings asking about how much the debt has to be cut down to in order to get a AAA?
  61. Staff: S&P doesn’t share detailed info, or actual measures. Can’t call them up and get exact number.
  62. Billings asks if anyone remembers the last time Guelph had AAA. Apparently no.
  63. Wettstein says he and Downer recall it was AAA but “for about 3 weeks.”
  64. Most municipalities rank ‘average’ in budget flexibility b/c there isn’t much wiggle room.
  65. Wettstein says AAA comes at a cost in terms of cutting services and people. Would affect service in the end.
  66. 5 municipalities have a AAA, but they are much larger than ours.
  67. Hofland moves receipt of the report, Billings seconds. Hofland congratulates staff on the AA+ rating.
  68. Gibson says we have to stay focused on being diligent. Ontario still has an A+ credit rating despite its tax burden.
  69. He saved the joke about splashing some cold water.
  70. Things are getting rowdy as Guthrie calls 10 minute break. Some chant “we’re not leaving”
  71. Crowd tickling back in to the chamber, the show will go on in a minute.
  72. Guthrie says it’s been great meeting so far, hopes it continues.
  73. Guthrie asks clerk Stephen O’brien to clarify delegation issue.
  74. O’Brien: Notices of motions come to council is referred to committee since most of the work is done at that level.
  75. 1st chance for delegations: Oct 3 CotW meeting, then Oct 24 meet of council.
  76. Guthrie asks Gordon to read motion and get someone to second it.
  77. Council, with support of staff, to express concern that permit is not in the best interest of Guelph (basically).
  78. Gordon shows pile of hand written letters from school kids.
  79. If “Heart & Carrying” had a graph “you guys would be off the charts,” Gordon says to the crowd.
  80. “It’s clear that you care deeply about water,” says Gordon.
  81. Gordon credits staff for enforcing restrictions this summer, reminds that Guelph is the largest city to rely solely on ground water.
  82. “It seems like it’s time to talk about this, but tonight is not about [public input]” says Gordon.
  83. Gordon urges fellow councillors to approve whether they agree with the content of the motion or not.
  84. Gordon criticizes mayor for voting against motion before hearing from the public.
  85. “People need us to make a political statement” that staff can’t make, says Gordon. Need to have convo about what’s best for city now
  86. People sense a looming crisis and they don’t want to wait, says Gordon.
  87. An expectation here that the council can be bold, says Gordon. Again urges council to hear from public.
  88. Bell says he doesn’t think Gordon wanted council to vote on motion w/o staff comment. Wants to hear both sides.
  89. Bell repeats that this is a motion to refer to a future meeting, doesn’t think Oct 3 is enough time tho.
  90. “We are a Blue Dot Community – a city that takes its environmental responsibilities seriously,” says Allt.
  91. This is not about Nestle, or any one corp. It’s about sustainability, says Allt
  92. The motion is the referral to Oct 3. Billings also questions the immediacy though she appreciates the need for public input.
  93. Billings asks if there can be a full report from staff on Oct 3.
  94. Stewart says there’s a place-holder for Nov 7 for a report on water.
  95. MoECC not accepting comments, public or otherwise right now.
  96. Downer was also going to ask about staff report, notes that there are 2 discussions here and perhaps they should both be at same meet.
  97. Downer: Community has clearly expressed an interest and they want to delegate, but doesn’t want delegates at 4 meetings.
  98. Downer asks if Gordon might consider having motion discussed at Nov 7 CotW.
  99. Some light murmuring from the floor. “We’ll be there!” someone says.
  100. Gordon says if its the will of council that the 2 convos will be held at the same time, he can support it. But…
  101. …he believes the larger issues on water taking might be closed in the shuffle of a staff report.
  102. Downer says it would be nice to see more councillors support this motion, and is looking to split the difference moving it to Nov 7
  103. She doesn’t want to see it to fail on a “technicality of process.”
  104. She doesn’t want to see it to fail on a “technicality of process.”
  105. Gibson says council wants to address the concerns of community, but the motion has “morphed” in the last month.
  106. Gibson says council wants to address the concerns of community, but the motion has “morphed” in the last month.
  107. Premier is now talking about change and original Sept 30 deadline is off, but Gibson wants to caution that media narrative is unfair
  108. Premier is now talking about change and original Sept 30 deadline is off, but Gibson wants to caution that media narrative is unfair
  109. Gibson notes that city doesn’t endorse water bottling.
  110. Gibson notes that city doesn’t endorse water bottling.
  111. Gibson: Never felt there was a “showdown” tone to the decision tonight.
  112. Gibson refers back to this motion. “It perfectly articulates” the voices in the city. 
  113. Gibson asks Gordon if they can attach the Nov 7 date? Wants a unity motion.
  114. Before answering, Gordon wants to hear the speakers list.
  115. MacKinnon wants to make an amendment: put it to CotW without date if province changes parameters.
  116. Piper has a “whole list of reasons” to speak to original motion. But on amendment she notes there’s momentum now.
  117. Piper says that this is a political debate, and a planning issue, and the staff report doesn’t come back till after community feedback
  118. “This is something touching every aspect of our community,” Piper says. There’s a limited window b4 budget debates
  119. Wettstein says there’s no question about need to look at water issue, the confusion is what’s the motion tonight.
  120. Not a water supply issue, but the responsible use of water.
  121. Wettstein has a very specific Guelph interest and an economic reality: sending message to legal companies in middle of process.
  122. Not a Nestle issue, but a Guelph water issue, says Wettstein.
  123. Wettstein more than happy to support motion if mention of Nestle is taken out and it sets Nov 7 as the date,
  124. Wettstein says the open date could extend things beyond a comfortable date.
  125. MacKinnon withdraws motion changes referral to Nov 7. No seconder though. Back to the main motion.
  126. Hofland supports motion b/c important public conversation has to happen.
  127. Hofland adds she’s not tied to the date, but she wants to get going and is keen on the momentum.
  128. There’s an opportunity here to show leadership b/c it’s a global issue, says Hofland.
  129. Salisbury confused b/c council wants to see this go to Nov 7 CotW meet, then no 2nd for MacKinnon motion to do that.
  130. Guthrie warns crowd about decorum, likes the energy, but crowd needs to let councillors speak.
  131. Salisbury says its a lonely job b/c they deal with issues that sometimes ppl have no interest in, this is not the case here.
  132. “This is one of those situations where I don’t think I can make a decision based on my opinion” Salisbury says.
  133. Salisbury recalls the great pipeline debate, public outcry resulted in council not following staff report to consider the option.
  134. Salisbury said the motion Gibson present from a decade ago was not technical. Tying this to staff report and province a moving target
  135. Salisbury wonders if anyone wants to come out to speak in favour of the water taking permit. Would like to hear from them.
  136. Salisbury went to US midwest this summer. They’re going dry and “that’s a terrifying proposition” he says.
  137. Applause for Salisbury. Doesn’t want to go down in history for closing the door on this discussion.
  138. Gibson has point of order, Salisbury said council wants to shut down debate, and Gibson says that’s false. Asks for a retract.
  139. Salisbury says that delay is shutting down debate, but Guthrie rules that Gibson is correct.
  140. Salisbury withdraws shutting down comment, some in the crown hiss at Guthrie.
  141. Allt notes that city has saved $40 million over 10 years for water conservation. Critics never ID that as a savings.
  142. Allt wants to send province a message and not politicize staff.
  143. Piper notes that Guelph has already set precedents on planning matters and water taking.
  144. Piper understands that the wording refers to “the catalyst”, but this is the first of many permits the city will want to comment on…
  145. … might as well have the political debate right now.
  146. Stewart: IDE has a placeholder on Nov 7, if province moves dates for comment the placeholder will also move.
  147. Billings notes that the motion is tied to the registry process, which isn’t yet open.
  148. What if hypothetically council comes up with one message and staff comes up with another? asks Billings.
  149. Billings can only support referral if its done along with staff report.
  150. MacKinnon points out that political decisions are based on technical staff reports all the time.
  151. Majority of councillors have specific problems with this wording, MacKinnon says.
  152. Gibson wants to try an amendment, seconded by Van Hellemond.
  153. Salisbury asks if they would still move forward if staff report is unavailable for the Nov 7 date.
  154. Gibson says a greta Q, asks staff if they can make the timeline.
  155. Stewart says if the review process isn’t opened by province by Nov 7, there will be no report.
  156. Salisbury follows up with Q for staff: why is staff report dependent on reporting period laid out by province? Can’t we go it b4hand?
  157. Depends on the parameters that the province is looking at, hence why staff has to wait for the call for public feedback
  158. Salisbury says that it sounds like the province maybe changing their parameters though.
  159. “Regulator needs to regulate” says Stewart.
  160. Salisbury notes previous motion from ’06 was ambiguous. preferred less water taking.
  161. Gibson amendment: Council, w/support, submit comment thru EVR about Guelph concern of water taking referred to Nov 7 CotW meeting.
  162. Wettstein asks for word change from support to assistance.
  163. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Guthrie says.
    The crowd groans.
  164. Thomson: If prov doesn’t ask for comment, council could decide to still receive delegates.
  165. Bell: We already have a position on expanded water taking, Q is whether existing permit should be renewed.
  166. Bell: We could direct staff to report on renewing the present permit. Already opposition on renewal.
  167. Bell doesn’t want to entertain any discussion till there’s science from staff.
  168. Right now only the slight wording amendment is on the floor. Guthrie pushes for vote. Changing “support” to “assistance” passes 13-0
  169. A referral will always show up on an agenda anyways whether there’s a report or not, Guthrie notes.
  170. Gordon on why he didn’t answer Gibson’s email” 1) family matter that set him back 2) no EVR 3) presumptuous to act w/o specific info.
  171. Gordon notes that Gibson’s referral is the same except that “the N word” was taken out. Not sure how it can be taken out of equation
  172. Gordon said it “waters down” motion, working Allt’s turf as council pun master.
  173. “I’m really good at losing, I ran twice for the NDP” Gordon says on motion.
  174. “We’re tying ourselves in on the province, who are dithering on this” says Gordon on sense of urgency.
  175. Discussion could inform the staff report, says Gordon.
  176. Gordon also pleased to find common ground with MacKinnon, “It’s a special day,” he says.
  177. Gordon says he can’t support something that ties the city in to a provincial mandate they’re not pursuing.
  178. The motion frees us up from talking about one permit and speaking about water taking process, says Gibson. We have a lot to hear from comm.
  179. “We can simply have a conversation about our concerns around water taking,” says Gibson.
  180. Allt refers back to Blue-Dot community. Have to hold true to the principles.
  181. “We’re neither fish nor fowl if we consider [tech and politics] at the same time,” says Allt.
  182. If Guelph has to draw from Lake Erie we’re coveting the same water source as many US districts. Need to preserve own watershed
  183. This is a threat to the Great Lakes, beyond our own water shed.
  184. Guthrie says he brought that up in conversation with Salisbury today. Guthrie suggested the same thing for Kortright Church.
  185. “I’m already there with you,” says Guthrie.
  186. Oct 17 already taken for special planning meeting about Dublin St development.
  187. Downer says this is the beginning of a long discussion akin to pesticides and cigarettes.
  188. Downer says it needs to be tied to a date because the province may not put out the EVR till spring.
  189. No definite date, no predictability so why not set a date, says Downer.
  190. Van Hellemond will speak last before the vote. Says the people need to be heard.
  191. Van Hellemond says he will personally drive Gordon to city hall so that Wynne hears Guelph feedback before she decides.
  192. You’re witnessing a rare moment where the environmental lobby is loving Andy Van Hellemond.
  193. Gordon wants clarification on what we’re about to vote on. A: Gibson referral.
  194. Guthrie says there’s been consensus last couple of hours, will support referral.
  195. Guthrie believes were a lot closer on this than people may think. Hopes province releases EVR, but the discussion will still take place.
  196. It’s a good outcome, says Guthrie, preserving finite resources is important, and he’s in favour of hearing delegates.
  197. Guthrie has preference for staff report, but wants the feedback just the same.
  198. We do need to send a message to the province, says Guthrie. Similar to motion made at committee about transit solutions.
  199. Difference between that and water is the urgency, Guthrie says, he didn’t consider that.
  200. “We will have a great discussion,” even w/o EVR, says Guthrie. A very positive moment.
  201. Gibson referral passes 11-2 (Allt and Piper against)
  202. 5 minute break before council continues with the rest of the agenda.
  203. Overheard: Allt says he didn’t want a technical report to bog down the political debate. Hence vote against.
  204. Piper says she voted against b/c she wants that public feedback before a staff report, but she’s still glad it passed.
  205. Council is back in session, and we have to remember that the main motion (as amended) still has to be voted on.
  206. Guthrie asked for a unanimous vote and gets it.
  207. Returning to Bell’s question on Stormwater report.
  208. Bell asks for clarity on new $4 charge and how that ties into previous discussions about money moved out of tax revenue.
  209. $2/residential unit, staff recommending $4 to work towards sustainable level for stormwater capital
  210. MacKinnon asks about ramifications about reducing tax bill to landlords with stormwater moving to a utility. Adding $4-6 on rent/month
  211. No responsibility on multi residential properties to notify tenants if difference is greater than 2.49%
  212. Van Hellemond asks about the need for $210K. It’s start-up costs, database and admin for Guelph Hydro.
  213. There’s also a significant communications component (Pat Fung will not be pleased).
  214. @gruner_marion Yes. Gibson proposed an amendment, but the original motion must still be passed. That was unanimous.
  215. Guthrie suggests looking for a way to attach this communication to another to save costs.
  216. Gibson moves the bylaws, seconder by Wettstein passes 13-0
  217. And that’s a wrap for the meeting, 4 hours and 300 tweets later.


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