It’s that time of year again. Time to look back at the year that’s almost over and quantify which stories were more important than others. I know it sounds like I’m being sarcastic, but there is something to recommend taking a moment and seeing where we stand and backtracking just how we got to this point. So without further adieu, I offer, in my estimation, the five biggest news stories in Guelph in 2010.
5) The Garbage Fail Bids
If the new Organic Waste Processing Facility hadn’t already gotten enough confused and/or negative press, then the news that the City is going be trading plastic bags for plastic bins put it over the top. There was already a matter of uncertainty as to the numbers in the final bill for both the construction and operation of the OWPF, but the added expense of buying new bins and converting the City’s fleet of garbage trucks to service them, created a Red Alert level of rhetoric in this past fall’s Municipal Election. While legitimate questions remain, like how Waterloo will get its garbage processed for cheaper than we will, this is a provincial mandate, and ultimately a very sound, environmental direction. Still, a lot of people are against the move on the basis of storage, hygiene and transport of the bins, which are, ironically, a lot of the same reasons why people were against Wet/Dry when it was introduced a decade ago.
4) Reefer Madness
So for years, four shady characters in Downtown Guelph have been selling pot to anyone that needed it, and the Guelph Police finally arrested this gang back in May. The trouble was that the characters in questions were the owners and employees of the Medical Cannabis Club of Guelph, and the drug users they were selling to had subscriptions from their doctors. Basically, the Police busted the MCCG for operating “outside [the] guidelines and regulations” set by Health Canada for the sale of medicinal marijuana. But the biggest crime wasn’t the ever static grey area that seems to be our country’s legal policy about pot, but the fact that dozens of the MCCG’s customers, people suffering and in need of the relief marijuana provides, were left out in the cold as to where they could now secure their prescriptions. Some dubious questions still surround why the MCCG got a police smackdown, while the Club itself is in legal limbo till 2012. So much for Guelph’s reputation as a “caring community.”
3) Moan Temple Pilots
Speaking of which, there was the bizarre affair of the proposed Sikh temple in the south end. I say “bizarre” because despite a million reassurances from everyone short of the reincarnated soul of Sikh founder Guru Nanak Dev that the temple will have an occupancy of 400 people max, neighbours in the Claire and Victoria Roads area were still against it. There was some overt racism to accompany the impression of covert racism in the passionate, though half-hearted, arguments against, but it all came to naught anyway. The appeal by Westminster Woods Residents’ Association was withdrawn from the Ontario Municipal Board after members heard that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the appeal. Look for construction to begin on the temple next year.
2) Staffing Solutions Fail
While a lot of the 2010 budget negotiations fell in the waning days of 2009, the full effect fallout didn’t really hit until the new year was upon us. In the budget, it was passed that all City Staff had to take five unpaid days off in the calendar 2010 year. The hope was that the City and the unions could work out a scheme were the five days off could be spread out enough to avoid a state where the City would have to be closed for five days. This didn’t turn out to be the case. The so-called “Karen Days” (named for, and with exception by, Mayor Karen Farbridge) frustrated Guelphites, especially the skip weeks for garbage pick up and the no Sunday service for Guelph Transit in August. While many candidates in the election towed the “Never Again” mantra, we’ll have to see what happens during the 2011 budget deliberations next month.
1) Never Bet Against Karl Hungus
So despite all the rage – property tax rage, Karen Days rage, construction rage – only 33.9 per cent of the eligible electorate in the City of Guelph came out to vote in the Municipal Election. At election headquarters at City Hall, the votes were counted and the lights were off by 10:30. And in the end result, only two of the incumbents running again, Mike Salisbury and Vicki Beard, were voted out. The implication: we’re mad as hell, but what are you going to do? The aftermath, if you follow the comments in the blogosphere is renewed anger and low expectations for the new council. But really, what else is new, and who else is to blame?