***UPDATE AT END OF ORIGINAL POST***
One of my favourite movies is the Christmas cult classic National Lampoons Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase who plays Clark Griswald, the fun family man who tries to make everyone happy throughout the Christmas Season.
This movie immediately came to mind when I received the latest report on revised plans and costs of building a new downtown library, to the tune of $67,000,000. To accomplish this, a city-wide increase to the tax levy is required, and once open it could result in further increased property taxes just to operate it.
So what does Clark Griswald have to do with Guelph’s potential $67 million dollar downtown library project?
Clark decides that he wants to surprise his family by installing an in-ground pool as soon as possible. It’s expensive but Clark isn’t worried. He’s 100% certain that his boss is going to send him his annual Christmas bonus which will cover the costs.
But (spoiler alert), the sure-thing Christmas bonus doesn’t arrive and mayhem ensues. Clark is a mess and doesn’t know how he’s going to afford the pool because he’s already committed to installing it by writing a personal cheque without enough funds in his bank account to cover it.
Thank goodness his wacky cousin Eddie sneaks off, kidnaps Clark’s boss and forces him to give the bonus after all! It truly was a Christmas miracle.
The report asking for $67 million on Monday is similar to Clark Griswald trying to install his pool without all the funds or information to do it.
It’s true, the upper levels of government have recently opened up applications for infrastructure funding that will allow Guelph to apply for our own Christmas Bonus which (fingers crossed) will perhaps cover some costs.
Yet we have a Federal election on October 21st, and we don’t know what the results will be, or what direction a potential party might take on these grants. They might keep them, they might scrap them. Who knows? On top of that, the Provincial Government still hasn’t nailed down the replacement of the removed development charges and informed municipalities of how this new funding would work for projects like the downtown library. Furthermore, we’re discussing this without the entire context of our completed 2020 capital budget and the 10 year capital forecast for all projects across our city.
We don’t have a Cousin Eddie that can run out before Council’s Monday night meeting and kidnap whoever they can to force them to write us a cheque that night.
Let me be clear, I fully acknowledge the current downtown branch is inadequate. A new library should be built, and on Baker Street.
But I’ll be direct and to the point here: We shouldn’t be making a $67 million dollar budget decision on a library this coming Monday.
Inevitably there will be those that want us to make that decision. Their resolve to building a new downtown library is their passion, and I respect that. They always delegate to the matter and continuously write letters to the media trying to push their case. That’s their right and I welcome those that are being respectful throughout this dialogue. Yet I believe some in the “build it now at all costs” camp don’t empathize with the thousands of people that are living paycheque to paycheque just trying to keep their head above water to support themselves and their family in this city.
I look forward to the discussion with my council colleagues, staff and the public. But in my opinion, Council should refer this decision to a future date where we have further clarity and a better level of comfort on the unknowns we currently have today.
Before the kidnapping of his boss, Clark technically does receive his Christmas bonus. He slowly opens the envelope in front of his entire family, hoping for the big cheque, but instead he receive’s a one year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.
I am honoured to have your trust to oversee the finances and direction of this city while stewarding the taxpayers hard earned money. I didn’t run for Mayor to settle on a Jelly of the Month Club membership. I’m here to do things with excellence, armed with the right information and to implement projects at the right time while minimizing risk to your money.
This coming Monday is not the right time to make a decision for a $67 million Library, and I feel confident that the silent majority in this city agrees with me.
Mayor- City of Guelph
When I mentioned above that we should have this discussion at a future date, I should have been more clear about defining what “future” meant. All I’m asking for is about a 7-8 week pause. By that time (roughly first week of November) many touch points that will bring more comfort to this decision will have passed. Some have read my post above and immediately jumped to a conclusion that I am wishing for this to be delayed another year or more. This is not the case. Especially when the deadline for the application for upper level government funding needs to be submitted before Nov 12th.