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Guelph election candidates be warned

Comments made by Coun. Jim Furfaro when he announced Wednesday that he won’t seek a second term on council should get some notice. Furfaro, a former school principal, has given the impression during his four years on council of being a straight shooter and a conscientious sort.
After retiring in 2006 and getting elected as a Catholic school trustee, he won a council seat in 2010. But he found the council workload to be “more than I ever imagined,” he said Wednesday.
Yes, Furfaro just turned 67, an age when most people probably want to start taking it easy, if they haven’t already. But unlike some councillors, he hasn’t had to juggle another paid job with being a ward councillor. His remarks about the time and commitment needed to be a part-time councillor in Guelph these days, even when you’re a retired person, should be taken as a warning by those who might underestimate the role.
The mayor’s salary has been rising appropriately in recent years (to over $105,000 as of Dec. 1) to recognize the demands of this full-time job. But the part-time councillors elected on Oct. 27 will get paid just $33,433 during their first year in office. That’s for dealing with concerns of their constituents as well as staying on top of a wide spectrum of civic issues, as Guelph is a single-tier municipality – unlike Kitchener and Cambridge, for example.
A five-member citizens’ committee that reviewed council compensation this year recommended city hall explore the feasibility of going to full-time councillors. It said it had came to appreciate that the “volume of materials to read, the number and duration of various official city business meetings and the timing of these meetings make the option of public office undesirable and cost-prohibitive for someone employed elsewhere full-time.”
Now Furfaro is saying that even for a retired person, doing the council job well is too time-consuming to be a part-time commitment with part-time pay.
That’s certainly food for thought.

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