About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Be a Menace to Downtown or People Will Write Letters About You

I was reading the new edition of The Guelph Tribune this morning, and I came across a rather terse letter to the editor. I couldn't find it on the Trib website, so I now re-write it verbatim:

"A sorry sign of the times?

"On St. Patrick's Day I was having a quiet meal on a restaurant on Carden Street when two drunk students lurched up to the front door and relieved themselves in full view. It was 6:30 pm, still daylight.

"The waitress told me that on her way in to work about a half-hour before, she had passed students urinating on the steps of the Church of Our Lady.

"Is it just me or is the population of rowdy drunken students increasing in beautiful downtown Guelph? I welcome feedback."

-Melissa Campbell, Guelph

To wit, I offer my feedback.

No it's not you, it's your perception. Generally our personal experiences inform our worldview. We hear stories about violence on the news and we think our community is violent in spite of reputable statistics that say the rate of violent incidents has gone down. So you had an unfortunate run-in with a pair of defective samples of humanity and you heard of another second hand from your waitress, but that doesn't necessarily mean that debauchery is on an uptick in the downtown.

My second thought concerns your assertion that these individuals were "students", meaning University of Guelph students, I presume. As a resident of the City of Guelph and a former student and student journalist at the U of G, I've been on both sides of this issue, but to my experience, anyone old enough to been seen drinking or being drunk is corralled into a broadly defined category of "student". Now to be fair, students can get rowdy, disrespectful and downright rude, but unless they were wearing a piece of clothing or had some other identifying mark that says they're affiliated with the university, then a "student" they need not necessarily be.

Next is the culture. Quick, tell me who St. Patrick was and what he's famous for? What time did he live in? When was he canonized? Who and where is he the patron saint of (besides Ireland)? If you can answer 3 out of 5 of those questions without referencing Wikipedia, then drink hardy with a clean conscience. The rest you, you're just looking for an excuse to consume mass quantities, aren't you? That's okay, just don't rub mine (or Melissa Campbell's) face in it.

One factoid of perhaps dubious truthiness that I've always enjoyed was that before the invention of indoor plumbing in Paris, a good pair of boots would last you a year. This is because human -ahem- waste would be deposited in a pot and thrown out the nearest window. Fortunately, things aren't that bad, but the notion of comfort with which some people have in using the city's back alleys, let alone the sidewalks, as a urinal is truly galling. Maybe the next time I'm in an establishment and I have an excess of phlegm I should start spitting on the floor.

The ideal solution: Get by-law officers out in force during busy nights at the bars. The police are already, but let's leave them the job of breaking up brawls and the other dangerous stuff that the police should, and do, prioritize before the loose leakers. Get by-law officers out and looking for the guys peeing against the doors of businesses and the steps of churches, but forget this $240 fine stuff. Double it! Really hit the scofflaws in their pocket books. Several weekends of this and hopefully it'll be message received. Next, go after people that dump half eaten Sun Sun's.

I wonder though, is this likely? Probably not. For it's easier to say to people "if you're going to piss in the street, fine, just do it in one of these two buckets." Did it work? I guess in a way. But at the same time I don't think anyone that typically doesn't care about peeing against the door of a restaurant is not going to be desuaded to do so with a pissoir nearby. Which is why, I think, the only solution is getting medieval on them. And if they are students, then they will recognize the educational weight of a valuable lesson.


Anonymous said...

The suggestion about having by-law enforcement officers out after hours is a good one, but unlikely. It is a shame that the downtown, at night, is pretty much taken over by drunken 20-somethings. Anyone can go down there any Thurs-Sat night after 10:30 pm and see what I mean.

The long term solution: chase the bars that cater to that demographic out of downtown, back up to the university where they belong.

With the "Places to Grow" legislation, the key goal in downtown planning is to intensify the residential density in the downtown, which can not happen if existing residents and business owners are unhappy with late night noise, vandalism, litter etc.

Martin said...

I couldn't disagree with you more on this one, Adam.

If you took a walk down Scottsdale that day you'd have noticed the degenerate stew of humanity drinking themselves stupid on their front lawns (the ones littered with red cups and crushed beer cans). It is absolutely fair to blame the degradation of this town on the massive influx of students. Its no secret that the U of G is rapidly expanding and the fall out is taking place all over the south end. Look at how run down the property is in anything even adjacent to a student neighborhood. I don't know if they're lowering admissions or what, but the new crop seem to have less respect for the community than those who preceded them.

The police couldn't give a shit either as evidenced by my attempt to flag one down only to see him look me in the eye and drive off.

Like you I'm taking a personal tone on this because I'm personally offended by the situation we've let ourselves get in.

Disclaimer: I'm 26 and have lived in Guelph since 1990 with a few exceptions for college and such.

Anonymous said...

Drunken individuals are who perpetrate these obscene acts but there is a slew of organizations behind them that encourage the problem.

A solution that was tired in response to this were public washrooms, but alas we live in cold windy Canada, AND the public washrooms were not very private. Perhaps a un-half backed idea of a public urinal would be a good idea?

At the same time the City gives people hoards of parking tickets in-front of businesses that see NONE of that revenue come back to them in terms of repairing the vandalism done to their shops.

On the problem of students taking up residences in town and not caring for them, the blame can be laid on the landlord who:
a. made his property into a rental and moved to Oakville.
b. could care less about the state of his property as long as the bills are paid.

And why aren't students living on-campus for their entire tenure? Because the U of G doesn't have the space and gouges them in terms of rent and food.

So this problem is definitely multifaceted, with lazy ends at all sides.