Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Civic Engagement Guide 2010

So it happened again: The second of five planned days of service cancellation throughout the City of Guelph. On Friday July 9, no facilities were open, doors were locked on City Hall, libraries and their books were shut up tight, and, oh yes, there was no garbage pick-up.

Once again though, it seemed that the news reached deaf ears and blind eyes, at least that’s how it was described by Guelph Mercury reporter Scott Tracy in a post on the 59 Carden Street blog. “I was out for a bit Thursday night and the affected area is between my house and downtown,” Tracy wrote. “I stopped and told about 10 people who already had their bags out or were in the process of putting them out. None of them had any clue what I was talking about and a couple of them seemed to think I was lying about there being no services today.”

Little did they know, apparently, that Mr Tracy is a man of impeccable moral character, but again the debate raged: just how exactly, given all the avenues of communication available to the City of Guelph, did the message not reach wider? More still, how detached are these people that Tracy mentioned, that the news of the so-called “Karen Days” only reached them once it was told to them by a random stranger on a walk through their neighbourhood?

So in an effort to tackle these questions, I decided to put together this quick civic engagement guide. Use it well, and you just might not be the one caught putting out your garbage for a truck that never comes.

1) Read a Paper – As curmudgeonly as Andy Rooney is, he was right a few years ago when he said that he didn’t think anyone that didn’t read a good newspaper should get the vote. Of course, Guelph is hardly Toronto with its several different daily newspapers to choose from. Still, we do have two solid newspapers in the Royal City, and if you’re too cheap to pay for the daily, there’s the one that comes to your house twice a week for free. That’s right, the only reason the Guelph Tribune won’t come to your house is if you ask it not to be delivered there. And here’s the kicker: each Trib usually features a two page spread of City news and updates, directly from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

2) Listen to the radio – Of course, modern commercial radio isn’t faring that much better than their cousins in print, but still, for locally relevant bits of news and information, you can’t do much better for accuracy and immediacy. And again, the City typically buys air time to update citizens on important news and information, like what days your garbage might not be picked up. So tune your dial in to either 106.1 FM, 1460 AM, or check out your community radio at 93.3 FM.

3) Visit the City’s Website – Yes, the City of Guelph has a website. And everything that you might ever need to know about where to do what and talk to who and when is as close as your nearest internet browser. Did I just blow your mind? I thought so. If there’s an important new piece of information the City thinks you should know about, it usually ends up in a press release right there on the main page. And if that’s still not enough for you, check out the city council’s schedule so that you can lodge your complaints in person. Or if you think you can do better than the two people currently representing you on council, find out how to file and run for office yourself this fall.

4) Keep reading Guelph Beat and Guelph Politico – Like my man Shaft once said, I may have to put you down, but I won’t let you down. 

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