By Doug Hallett
An organization that opposes the current direction at city hall currently has no plans for endorsing candidates in next fall’s municipal election.
“GrassRoots Guelph does not plan at this time to endorse candidates specific to wards in the city,” says Gerry Barker, the group’s executive director. “We believe that the residents in those wards are fully qualified to choose the best candidates to represent their interests,” said Barker.
As for mayoral candidates, the only sure thing is that GrassRoots Guelph won’t be endorsing Mayor Karen Farbridge. Aside from that, “the jury is still out, and GRG will remain open-minded as the nomination process unfolds,” Barker said.
Coun. Cam Guthrie, who entered the race for mayor on Jan. 2, “has not asked GRG for an endorsement, nor has the organization offered it,” Barker said in an email sent in response to a Tribune query.
“What I can assure you is GrassRoots Guelph will not be endorsing Mayor Karen Farbridge,” he said.
When GrassRoots Guelph announced its existence last summer and also its plans for getting involved in the 2014 civic elections, Barker told the Tribune that GrassRoots Guelph would likely start endorsing candidates in February. He said some potential candidates for the 2014 civic election had already approached the group seeking its support.
Now, though, GrassRoots Guelph seems to be taking a wait-and-see approach.
“GRG is not endorsing anyone at this time, as the nominating process will take months and the choices (are) many. Our members are hopeful that there will be a number of candidates who will bring a balance of common sense and management skills to council and the school board,” said Barker, a retired journalist who runs a local political blog.
“The timing of any potential endorsement will be dependent on the stream of announcements by candidates that GRG expects will occur right up to the close of nominations in September,” he said in the email.
“Essentially, GRG will work to inform voters of the track record” of the administrations that Farbridge has led, Barker said.
“In doing so we believe that residents will see that change must come, resulting in increased numbers of voters at the polls next October.”
Last March, Barker and Guthrie tangled after the Guelph Tribune published a story about a statement that Guthrie made at a city council meeting in late February. “As the chair of the audit committee, I can honestly say this city is being run very, very well,” Guthrie told council after presenting a report on his committee’s work during 2012.
Guthrie later answered questions about his statement from an accusatory Barker, in an email exchange that was published in full on Barker’s blog and was excerpted by Guthrie on his Ward 4 blog.
The full version on Barker’s blog amounted to an online interrogation of Guthrie, punctuated by comments from Barker such as “You’re missing the point,” “Cam, you gotta be kidding,” and “Cam, get real.”
After posting what he said were Guthrie’s unedited responses to his questions, Barker ended the lengthy blog entry this way:
“The best thing Coun. Guthrie can do now is hunker down and hire a public relations expert to guide him through the minefield of press and public relations.
“Through all this, we have yet to hear Guthrie apologize for his statements. If he still believes what he said was true, then he hasn’t been on the job long enough to understand what has happened in the past six years to our city. Stating he made a mistake in his characterization of the city being ‘very, very well run’ will be judged by the electorate in 2014.”
In an email sent to the Tribune in late February, Guthrie confirmed that he thought Guelph is well run. “Yes, there is always more to do, and new opportunities to run a city better. The status quo should always be questioned,” he said in the email, sent in response to a Tribune query.
By Doug Hallett