Thursday, June 24, 2010

I’ve Got Issues (For you to think about this Fall)

So it’s officially summer and you’re just about ready to put politics out of your head for a couple of months. Who can blame you? Well, before you check out, or heck, even if you have no intention checking out, I thought it’d be corking if we ran down some of the issues that might make the grade in this fall’s municipal election. (Or at least the top five issues that are important according to my own meandering experience.)

1) Transit

With the bright, shiny transit hub ready for groundbreaking and the Guelph’s Transit Growth Strategy revealed earlier this year, why does transit in this city still suck? And if you’ve been taking the bus lately, you will have noticed that it sucks just a little more. The so-called summer schedule has been pock-marked by longer waits, late buses and only the vaguest hope that you might make it downtown on time to get your transfer. Plus, people that use city buses are left holding their bag on Sundays this August, when Sunday is put on hiatus. Oh, and if you’re having trouble with the new normal, don’t look for support from city management.

In this day and age, in a city this size, it’s irresponsible and short-sighted for Guelph to be cutting back on transit as a stop-loss measure for budget deficits. And the fact that they talk about the future of transit while cutting it in the present makes city council and staff seem hypocritical. When the TTC strikes for a day the Provincial government comes in on a Saturday to order them back to work. In Guelph, a day without transit is cost effective.

2) City Finances

It was the worst of times and it was the even more worst of times at budget meetings last fall as councillors’ deliberations veered more towards what not to cut as opposed to what can we cut. As previously discussed, transit was a big victim of the proverbial machete, but even if you don’t take the bus, you would have surely enjoyed the first of five so-called “Karen Days” this past Monday. While the complete closure of the city for five days this summer has numerous people’s fingerprints on it, there’s still something odd about a city that threatens facility closures, yet still has cash money for indulgences like pissoirs and downtown beautification.

3) Development

It’s an ongoing issue, and one that will keep going in every election from here till eternity. Still, I think there are a lot of questions people have regarding the city’s growth strategy, as well as issues regarding specific corners of the city in their own wards. Generally speaking, I would love to hear about the city’s brownfields and any plans on making these spaces viable rather than mowing down more green space.

4) Downtown

There’s no question that there are still a lot of issues to be worked out in the core. For one thing, there’s a whole block that stands near empty with nothing but a vague promise that it may one day be developed into a swanky new anchor for culture in our downtown. But how about finishing works-in-progress like The Gummer Building, which has stood in a state of half-finishedness for over a year now? Plus the semi-artificial clash between day-downtown and night-downtown needs to be rectified. There’s something wonderful about how the same space can mean two different things depending on the time of day, but still there are concessions to be made on both sides. And for the record, I’m still against having people pee in the street in a big plastic can, not matter how French you make it sound.

5) Arts & Culture

Since the last election, Guelph has lost one movie theatre, several small art spaces and more or less hung a condemned sign on the largest music venue in the city not called The River Run Centre of Sleeman Centre. Combined with the postering flap a few weeks ago and what I see is a trend city hall double speak: we love our artistically vibrant city, so long as you have a Trillium grant. Saying that you love the arts isn’t enough, it means accepting that indie artists are going to put up posters because they have no other means to advertise and that they need spaces they can afford in order to do their work in. Lip service only counts if your name’s Ashley Simpson.

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