About the Blog:

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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Please Don't Sue Me

I might possibly be courting a lawsuit here, but sometimes the news is the news and consequences be damned.
Last Saturday, an e-mail went out to numerous people, including staff members of the Guelph Mercury and City Hall, that compared certain members of the city's planning department to The Three Stooges, complete with attached picture. The comparison was made by Marc Black, owner of Hempire, one of numerous business owners on Carden Street affected by construction. His frustration palpable, the Mercury published the e-mail on its 59 Carden Street blog, along with rebuttal by Councillor Leanne Piper, and a rebuttal to the rebuttal by Black.
Then on Wednesday, both the Mercury and Black were served with papers. Legal papers in the form of libel notices demanding an apology from Black and for all offending blog posts to be taken off the Mercury site. Needless to say that this is a kind of overreaching, reactive move by the city for all parties. Could Mr. Black's joke have gone too far? Possibly, but far enough for the city to get litigious? Well that depends on your point of view, I guess.
To make a libel case - not prove one, just simply make a case that one could exist - one was to first prove that the offending party was named, and secondly, they have to demonstrate that the remarks could damage that person's or persons' reputation. In this case it's pretty easy, this person in the planning department was named, and if you've ever seen a Three Stooges short, then you know that if your professional workmanship is being compared to them then its not exactly a compliment. Strictly on the merits, the case meets the requirements. But did the city have to get legal on it, as it were? The Three Stooges comparison maybe crass, but taking this thing to court brings another pop culture situation to mind: the kind of court case one might see unfurl on a David E. Kelly legal drama like Ally McBeal or Boston Legal.
The situation reminds me a lot of the suit brought by the city on five of the organizers of the 2009 Hanlon Creek Business Park protest for $5 million, an action that's commonly referred to as a SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, suit. You know, because people that hung around in the wilderness for three weeks have that kind of money in their mattress for just such an occasion. Of course, the city knows this, but the intent is clear because nobody wants to be saddled with a seven-figure debt you'll probably still be paying back 20 years after your dead.
But back to the current situation, one that I think is more about the city having enough with taking it on the chin in terms of complaints and attacks about the way they've handled construction on Carden Street. The attack dogs, so to speak, have always seemed pretty primed with the Little Shop of Guitars' Led Zeppelin protest already getting staff keyed up. Ward 1 Councillor Jim Furfaro was quoted in a Mercury article saying that the e-mail was a low blow, and that the city had "qualified people … doing their best" and not stooges.
He is right, of course. The infrastructure work has been a long time coming, and a lot had to get done in a short period of time. Disruption, city-wide, was inevitable, but the business at that end of Carden have had to eat for a while longer than most because their street's hosted construction projects for over half a decade. But still, who will benefit most from a beautiful new facade in front of city hall?
But that doesn't mitigate the short term loss of business. Small business owners have no one to fall back on but themselves, and when conditions around your business are so far out of your control, lashing out is inevitable, I'm afraid. But the city has brought a rocket-propelled grenade to a knife fight on this one. If there has been difficulty in communicating between merchants and the city about project updates, then that's on the people across the street from the suffering stores. Now I know from personal experience that there's not sometimes enough hours in the day to answer all your e-mail, but if keeping in touch was going to be this big a problem, then maybe some of that money for signage could have been given to an intern with a Blackberry.
As for the libel suit, I hope it doesn't go through. Despite its (perhaps worthy) justification, it makes city hall look small and silly, and given the tenor on the blogosphere, they don't need anymore bad press.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Editorial Series – We Used to Be Friends, A Long Time Ago

With July nearing its end, thoughts turn ever so lightly to the offerings of Fall. It won’t be too long till those Back to School commercials start filling the airwaves, and stacks of spiral notebooks and printer paper start taking up the real estate once held by lawn chairs and barbeques (can you tell I once worked in retail?). But when September hits, it won’t just be school some of us are heading back to, but the polls as well.
The Ontario Provincial Election will unfurl over the six weeks leading up to the October 6th polling date. Locally, Liberal Liz Sandals will attempt to defend her seat from the NDP’s James Gordon, the Green’s Steven Dyck and either Robert Demille, Greg Schirk and Bob Senechal for the Progressive Conservative Party. (NOTE: My Echo deadline was before this past Monday’s PC nomination meeting, so to find out which of the three is the one, head over to my blog at http://guelphpolitico.blogspot.com/)
You’ll notice that ‘P’ word in front of the Conservative. That’s important because the leaders and organizers of the Guelph-branch of the Ontario PCs want you to know they’re different. “One piece of information that’s important to know is that the PC Party of Ontario and the federal Conservative Party are not the same thing,” wrote Guelph PC President Allan Boynton to the Guelph Mercury’s managing editor Phil Andrews. Andrews posted the letter from Boynton on the “From the Editors” blog on the Mercury website.
Boynton’s sentiments were echoed in an e-mail we exchanged the week before. “I want you to know that this process is important to the City of Guelph, and it is our job as the local riding association to not guard our candidates but to make them available to you, and the people that vote here,” he wrote. Perhaps it should go without saying, but Boynton, who has some experience putting his name on a ballot after running for city council last year, knows that one can’t get elected in a vacuum of silence.
What’s strange is that Boynton has to make such assurances to begin with. It should be a foregone conclusion that a political candidate of any party should be available to reporters looking to talk to them. At some point a certain segment of the political discourse decided that the press was the enemy, and while some members of the press sometimes behave in a manner unbefitting of our noble profession (*cough*News of the World*cough*), the truth is that “gotcha journalism” is something made up by Sarah Palin to explain why she didn’t know stuff. We’re just asking questions.
That’s a shame because no matter the division that separates us in our politics, there’s always stuff we can come together and celebrate. For instance, I salute Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his appearance this week as a day player on the turn-of-the-20th-century crime procedural Murdoch Mysteries. The Prime Minister is a big fan, and says he’s never missed an episode of the show. After a nudge from his daughter, he reached out to the show’s producers, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Like a number of Canadian politicians, Harper has, in the past, shown no qualms about appearing on sketch comedy shows like The Rick Mercer Report, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and The Royal Canadian Air Farce. It always amuses me when American politicians laud their own humorousness by appearing on Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show, while in Canada the interim leader of one of our major political parties once dived into a lake naked with a CBC TV host.
I’ve ranted and raved a lot in recent months about the cone of silence that the Conservative Party perpetuated during the last election, and I don’t just mean locally with a certain candidate that will remain nameless. To be clear, elections are about engagement, and included in that are press interviews and debate appearances. But even if there’s something not self-evident in that, Can’t we at least believe that we all mean well, and that we probably have a lot in common once we get past our political alignments.
You see, I, like the Prime Minister, also enjoy the intrepid Inspector Murdoch, who uses up-to-the-date scientific techniques, the then ever burgeoning field of forensics, to solve crimes in Victorian Toronto. It’s like a steampunk CSI. Now do you think that the stars and producers of Murdoch Mysteries were vetted for their politics before Harper arrived on set to play the bit part of a desk sergeant? I hardly think so. Why can’t the same be said for average citizens and journalists?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

James Gordon Wants to Come to Your House

The Provincial Election may still be a little over a month away from its official kick-off, but NDP candidate James Gordon wants to spend it talking to you, about the issues, in a comfortable setting: your house. I'll let the below video explain in detail, and following that is a the text from a post on Gordon's website about the subject.

I want to be your MPP for Guelph, and I understand the responsibility of carrying your voices to Queen’s Park. That’s why I want to hear from you.
In the month of August, I’ll be hosting sessions in homes across our city, talking with you about the things that matter most.
We’ll be talking about the issues that affect your neighbourhood.
We’ll be talking about greening our province in a way that Ontarians, and our earth, can afford.
We’ll share our vision for a more transparent and accountable health care system in Ontario.
We’ll collaborate about arts and culture, and all the things that make our community vibrant.
We'll look at how we can bring good jobs to Guelph - jobs that will help us build our bright future.
And we’ll plan ways to ensure everyone has access to a retirement with dignity and security.
We’ll be talking about what it really means to be a part of a strong and sustainable community.
We’ll share what we believe are our common values,  and brainstorm about how to make sure that those shared values can guide us in the choices we face.
We want to work together to make sure that we bring the true meaning of sustainability and accountability to Queen’s Park. I know the people of Guelph are up to the task. I know that the people who care deeply about our city are the ones who can change the way things are, who can make our city a better place to work and live and learn.  One of the things I love about this city is our spirit of creativity and innovation. Let’s use that spirit to design an exciting future for ourselves!
The NDP is the party that’s listening to what Ontarians need. And we need your voices and your insights to build this province.
This campaign is about the change we can make together. So, this summer, let’s talk.
I’ll be listening.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dry Conditions May Affect Nestle Operations

The Guelph Mercury is reporting that Nestle's bottled water operations in Aberfoyle may be stymied if drought-like conditions persist. It's been over a month now since our area has seen any significant rainfall, and Nestle and other companies with permits to take water maybe asked to cut the amounts their allowed to take out of the water shed if conditions don't change sometime soon.
Has such a thin happened before? Glad you asked. In 2007, during another irregularly dry period, Nestle was asked to cut back on their pumping rates by 20 per cent, a condition to which they complied. Nestle is allowed to pump 2,500 litres per minute from the Mill Creek sub-watershed, which represents 3.2 per cent of all water drawn by permitted users of Mill Creek water.Water levels have been dropping for the last little while, and the Grand River Conservation Authority sent out a warning to residents last week, asking them to help conserve water throughout this dry, hot weather.
The Grand River Low Water Response Team will meet on Wednesday to go over updated flow information for tributaries like the Eramosa River and Mill Creek.

Layton Steps Down for Health Issues; Rookie MP is Interim Leader

In a bit of surprising news today, NDP and Official Opposition Leader Jack Layton, is stepping down from his position temporarily in order to combat a new bout of cancer. Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmelhas has been named temporary leader, as its expected that Layton will return to the chair opposite Prime Minister Stephen Harper when Parliament sits in the fall. 
The ascension of Turmelhas as leader comes as a surprise because she is a rookie MP, and part of the vaunted "Orange Revolution" in Quebec during the last Federal Election. She leap-frogged over deputy leaders Thomas Mulcair and Libby Davies, as well as party stalwart Paul Dewar, to get the job, which many see as a concession to Quebec's role in boosting the NDP to Official Opposition status. Turmelhas herself though has national experience. She was a union leader for three decades, as well as serving as national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. 
Layton himself seems intent on returning to his job in the fall, and the selection of Turmelhas over more experience MPs seems to reinforce this. However, this is Layton's second bought of cancer this year after being diagnosed with prostate cancer last February. The NDP caucus will meet Wednesday to make their own recommendation to the party's federal council, which will make the final decision.
Source via CTV

Saturday, July 23, 2011

GRCA Says Conserve Your Water

The Grand River Conservation Authority is warningeveryone to be careful in their use of water. But really, after a solid week of summer heat wave and the fact we haven't had a real rain in over a month does this press release come as a surprise? I thought not.
GUELPH, ON, July 22, 2011—The City of Guelph and other Grand River watershed communities are asked to limit outdoor water use following a meeting of the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) Low Water Response Team.
The City’s Outside Water Use Program (OWUP) is currently in Level 0 – Blue, which stipulates careful water use. However, if hot and dry weather persists and local river levels decrease, the City—along with others in the watershed—may need to implement increased outside water use restrictions until watershed conditions recover. For Guelph, that would move the city into Level 1 - Yellow of its Outside Water Use Program.
Right now, under OWUP Level 0 – Blue, alternate day and time lawn watering restrictions are in place, meaning that odd numbered addresses may water on odd numbered days, and even numbered addresses on even numbered days—only between 7 - 9 a.m. and 7 - 9 p.m.
A yellow lawn is not a dead lawn; it is a sign that grass has become dormant. Until conditions return to normal, watering dormant grass will not bring it back to health. Residents are asked to use water wisely. A reduction in non-essential outside water use will make more of Guelph’s limited groundwater supply available for critical uses.
For information about the Grand River Conservation Authority, visit www.grandriver.ca. Details regarding Guelph’s Outside Water Use Program and Current Conditions Reports are available at guelph.ca/water.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Editorial Series – The Pinko Commie Manifesto

“Actually I'm wearing pink for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything.” That’s what Don Cherry told the gathered politicians, reporters and general public in December at the swearing in of Mayor Rob Ford. Undoubtedly, this admission was prompted by the audible gasps heard form the crowd when Cherry stood up in a hot pink sports coat that would even make Barbie call gauche on the Hockey Night in Canada commentator.
The “pinkos” Cherry was referring to were people vocally opposed to Mayor Ford’s “roads are for cars only” policy. “Grapes” then went on to compare Ford favourably to former OPP Chief Julian Fantino, and lauded both men for their honesty before wrapping up his address with a hearty “put that in your pipe, you left-wing kooks.” Don Cherry, class act.
But this editorial’s not about Cherry, or even Ford for that matter (he’s suffered enough… for now). But Cherry’s comment is the harsh reaction that encapsulates a growing feeling of negativity towards bikes and bike riders. In Guelph, the philosophy of a city being bike friendly was tested again recently with the introduction of a bike box at the intersection of Stone Road and Chancellor’s Way.
For the uninitiated, a bike box is a space reserved for bikes at an intersection where a bicyclist can pull up in front of a line of cars and thus get to turn the corner before the car traffic. The use and implementation of the bike box falls in a kind of grey area so far as traffic law is concerned, but some are wondering why the city’s squandering so much time and effort to accommodate bike riders when many of them either a) don’t obey traffic rules to begin with, or b) are a nuisance and the city should be more occupied with improving traffic flow. CAR TRAFFIC.
Others have mentioned that a lot of bicyclists don’t use the roads, and still use sidewalks when perfectly good bike lanes are already there. A reasonable point, but speaking as a bike rider myself – not to mention the fact that I’m also a frequent pedestrian – car drivers in the City of Guelph are scary as hell. Scary. As. Hell.
I have been at an intersection, crossing with the light, walking at a reasonable pace, and have seen out of the corner of my eye some car creeping around the corner so that they literally don’t have to stop for me. There’s something so sinister in this. A tacit implication that maybe if you don’t start moving faster then this car driver will lower the boom on the gas petal and just mow you out of the way. And then there are the ones that don’t slow down at all. The ones that take the corner and miss you by inches. You can literally feel that breath of wind as the car just zoomed around the corner behind you.
Now that’s not to say that bicyclists are victimless. Certainly there are a number of riders who are rude, they ride too fast, they don’t observe basic safety, they don’t signal and they switch from sidewalk to road with reckless abandon. But for the cautious majority, I can understand perfectly the nagging fear that riding on roads, especially ones with no clear bike lane, can lead to potential doom. To coin a phrase, in the battle of car versus bike, the car always wins.
There was a headline lately that Guelph Police had fined 36 bicyclists in a safety blitz, mostly for riding on the sidewalk and disobeying traffic lights and stop signs. I bet the amount collected from 36 bike riders will be a tidy sum, maybe enough for the Chief of Police to buy everyone at the precinct a donut and coffee. But as I pointed out last week, it was reported in April that the City has yet to collect $5.2 million in overdue fines going back six years for offenses like speeding and careless driving. I predict that any rider defaulting on his ticket will have the court system on him faster than by-law on Led Zeppelin.
This isn’t a call for bicyclist anarchy in the Royal City, but an appeal for rationalization. Bikes are fun, they encourage exercise and they’re part of a more sustainable, liveable community. And while people on bikes may occasionally skirt the law out of indifference or ignorance, the same can be said for car drivers, and the potential negative effects can be much more severe. For years, the term “pedal to metal” was associated with driving fast in your car. Let’s change that. Let’s make bike riding gangsta, and leave commie comments to the guy in the pink sports coat.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Schirk will Work for Guelph PCs this Fall

Greg Schirk received the enthusiastic endorsement of the local PC riding at their nomination meeting last night. A packed room in the Delta Hotel and Conference Centre, upwards of 500 local Progressive Conservative members, voted for Schirk over fellow nominees Bob Senechal and Rob Demille. A breakdown of votes by the numbers wasn't offered, but when Schirk made his speech prior to voting, the applause and cheers of the crowd as compared to the other two nominees gave him an audible edge.
Don't know Greg Schirk? Here's his bio courtesy of an Ontario PC press release issued today:
Greg Schirk is an entrepreneur who previously owned Royal City Glass and now works for PM Doors and Windows. His extensive involvement in the glass industry has included being president of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada (SAWDAC) and being a member of the steering committee of the Natural Resources Canada Energy Star program (Fenestration Products). Greg is married and has 2 grown children. He was raised in Guelph and maintains that “Guelph is, and will always be, his home.”
Schirk joins a Fall ballot that already includes Steve Dyck for the Green Party, James Gordon for the NDP and incumbent Liz Sandals for the Liberals. Election Day for the Province of Ontario is October 6th. 
Below, find a slideshow of images from the nomination meeting.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Editorial Series – Part the Third: The Song Remains the Same

My original thought for this week’s column was to write about the growing gulf of disgruntlement between the city’s car drivers and its bike riders, but then something unusual happened: 1969 broke out downtown. In an effort to peacefully protest the going-on five year construct-a-thon on upper-Carden Street, Kris and Adrian Raso, brother/owners of Little Shop of Guitars fought fire with “Kashmir” and other great hits from the Zepplin catalogue.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, it didn’t long for by-law to get suited and (jack)booted, marching over to the Raso’s shop to tell them to stop pumping up the jams. You see, the Little Shop is just across the road from both City Hall and the courthouse, and people in those buildings complained that the music was an irritant and disruptive. Just to be clear, do you mean to tell me that a little Zep is more of a nuisance than some 40 tonnes or more of construction machinery moving in and out of the area?
What’s especially impressive is the response time. Granted, by-law officers could walk, saunter if you will, from City Hall to the guitar store, but the music started playing Wednesday afternoon, and the first visit by by-law was shortly there after. Now that is service. God knows that whenever I’ve called by-law, the only way I could get a response that quick is with a four-leaf clover, three rabbits’ feet and a purple horse shoe. But all the lucky charms in the world are worthless when it comes to certain occasions in my neighbourhood where the parking is limited, but the laziness of drivers is not.
The stage of today’s little drama is Margaret Green Park off Westwood Rd. in the city’s west end. It was a Sunday in November, and members of my family were taking my sister to a birthday breakfast at a popular Guelph eatery. Like idiots, we take the bus and so gathered at the bus stop along Westwood. Now typically, as per city by-law, there’s no parking in front of or around city bus stops. But today there was a cross-country activity in the park, and thus a lot of people coming to enjoy the greenery at Margaret Green. So to everyone’s surprise, and nobody’s knowledge, parking in front of the bus stop, and up Westwood, and on the bridge over the Hanlon Parkway had been allowed.
Try to tell any of these scofflaws that parking’s not allowed in these areas and they’ll complain that it’s the only place they can park. Apparently, there’s some little used amendment in the Highway Traffic Act that says parking laws can be ignored in the event of parking running out. Wait a minute. No there isn’t! They just wish there was. And to add insult to injury, just a year earlier, the city shuffled around the playground equipment in Margaret Green Park, so as to create a new 20-space lot. They literally paved paradise and put up a parking lot and there was still not enough parking to suit people.
But where was by-law enforcement? I don’t know, but two hours later, coming home from breakfast, there was only a hapless City of Guelph employee trying to tell people that they couldn’t park on the two lane bridge over the Hanlon because it’s against the law, AND ONLY TWO LANES WIDE. (Sorry about the caps, but Hulk’s ready to smash over here.) I talked to this man, not as a reporter, but as a neighbourhood resident, and though he seemed a little out of his depth, he was doing the best he could do.
The one thing he could have used was by-law enforcement out in, you know, force. I heard once that the city has about $5 million in uncollected fines for speeding and careless driving. If the city went after these people with the same zeal as they took on the Raso Brothers, we could go a year without hearing the words “budget crunch.”
Which brings us full circle. And while no one outside Kevin Arnold’s dad would consider the music of Led Zepplin tunes of the Devil’s choice, the Raso’s simple and elegant protest has brought something real to the forefront. Construction can cost in more than one way, and for the merchants in that part of downtown, the half decade renovations across the street may be near a breaking point. And now that the tension is broke, perhaps relations between City Hall and the Little Shop of Guitars can be a little less “When the Levee Breaks” and a little more “Stairway to Heaven.”
Yes, I just wrote that. You’re welcome.

First Look at PM Harper on Murdoch Mysteries

Stephen Harper is living the dream, and that dream belongs to a Canadian actor. The Huffington Post Canada posted some pictures from next week's episode of the CityTV retro crime series Murdoch Mysteries, otherwise known as the one with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In this episode of the series, the PM plays a hapless desk Sergeant that doesn't recognize then-Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier when he walks into the police station. Murdoch Mysteries follows the adventures of Insp. William Murdoch, who solves crimes in Victorian Toronto using then revolutionary forensic science.
I may not agree with the Prime Minister's politics, but I've got to admit he can play things pretty cool. Harper has also appeared on the Canadian sitcom Corner Gas, and been a guest on political sketch shows like This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Rick Mercer Report and Royal Canadian Air Farce
Murdoch Mysteries airs Wednesday at 10 pm on CityTV.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ironic Twist: Begging Bear Lives Up to Name

Out of commission since some scofflaws knocked him off his perch this past March, it was previously announced that the Begging Bear, a sculpture that stands on guard in front of the MacDonald Stewart Art Centre, would be back in October (or Octobear as observed wryly by the Mercury). Just one problem, and it's kind of ironic given the name of the sculpture and everything, a $6,800 difference on the repair bill not covered by insurance. 
The total cost of the repair will cash out to about $11,300 and insurance will only cover $4,500. A fundraising effort is now underway to collect the nearly $7,000 needed to complete repairs and restore the bear to its footing along Gordon Street. Why so much? Long, stainless steel pins that will attach the Begging Bear to a deeper concrete base, and thus, hopefully, preventing future drunken pranks.
"Share Your Care for Our Bear" donations can be made by cash, cheque or credit card at Mac-Stew, or you can mail in a donation, or make one by phone at 519-837-001. The police investigation is still ongoing, but if the perpetrators are caught, I think the logical thing would be to squeeze the cash out of them. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

They Stole Justin Bieber

It what was the epitome of a slow news day as the Guelph Mercury reported this morning, on the front page no less, that a life-size cardboard cut-out of Justin Bieber was swiped from the Shoppers Drug Mart on Scottsdale Drive. Inexplicably, the police were called and they are investigating.
I hate to think that this is what passes for high crime in the City of Guelph, a pair of hormonal girls in hoodies doing a grab and dash with a live-sized poster of a pop crooner. God only knows what they're doing with it. But now the Bieber cut-out joins the long, rich history of pop culture bric-a-brac that gets nicked by young people with sticky fingers. Life-size Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson cut-outs from a Twilight promotion were stolen from U.S. Burger Kings, and several Batman posters were taken from bus stops and the like in 1989.
I was at Stone Road Mall earlier, and you'll be glad to know that their Bieber is secure... for now. So watch your Biebers local merchants, the Bieber-swiping hoodie gang could strike again at any time. After all, there at least two of them, and they'll only be able to share one Bieber for so long.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Editorial Series – Part the Second: Skate Punk’d

From Echo Weekly. Date: June 30, 2011. 
Sometimes the tenor of a debate is more frustrating than the debate itself, and that’s been happening a lot lately. Not being able to agree is one thing (ask Canada Post), but when the demand for a thing is dismissed outright because one segment of the population views its expense as a luxury and unnecessary, well that’s not democracy, that’s just being a jerk. Or an old fogy, to coin a phrase. That’s the way it seems to anyone following the debate about a new skateboard park, particularly on the message boards of the Guelph Mercury’s 59 Carden Street blog.
Now belligerence is nothing new to the debate process (or the 59 Carden Street blog for that matter), but there was a certain dismissive tone to some of the posts that really got to me.
Example #1: “This is just plain stupid. Why do we need a skatepark? Just because someone says they want one? Because someone over there has one and we don't? Becuase [sic] the little skulls full of mush will have a place to ply? If these brats need a special park, perhaps they or thier parrents [sic] should start digging for the cash to buy the land and build one.”
Example #2: “Speaking of downtown, if they give these drunks washrooms after the bars close...I want all the left wing, tree hugging, NDP'S, like Farbridge, Piper, Burcher and Laidlaw to have a shift cleaning these things...it would be hilarious...see how soon these " hopefully on their last term pubic employees" vote to keep these washrooms open for these drunken pigs.”
That second one didn’t have anything to do with a skate park, but little things like topic relevance haven’t stopped people from anonymously sounding off about the politicians they hate in the past. A discussion about washrooms downtown is one best left for another time (or another column), but this is the spirit in which an issue of concern by some of our younger citizens, and their parents, is being discussed.
The history of the issue goes like this: in 2009 there was a skate park in the Deerpath Drive Park, where local skater boys and girls could practice their boarding in a safe, clean and free environment. The project was a pilot with the intention of perhaps opening other skateboard facilities across the city. Unfortunately, the typical hooliganism came to settle in the park, parents rallied, the city responded and long story short, despite promises to the contrary, there’s still no where for youth to skate, discounting the privately-owned (and pay-per-use) Ward Skatepark at Victoria and York.
The wheels of political action do move slowly, and at this rate the kids that used to enjoy the Deerpath Skate Park will be in grad school by the time they get another city-run facility going. I’m just kidding, of course. There are plenty of grad students who still enjoy their skateboards. But the typical issues with any city-run initiative – funding, location, cost, construction – are playing second to the typical misconceptions and stereotyping about skateboarding. And if people aren’t lamenting the few that brought drugs, foul language and noise to ruin the Deerpath Park, they paint those that legitimately want somewhere to skate as “stupid, spoiled and disrespectful.”
Some of that may be true, but here’s what else is true: kids just want somewhere to skate, and maybe can’t afford to do it at a privately-owned and operated facility. There’s the classic argument that a skate park is a kind of extravagance, an elite service that only a few will use, so why should taxpayers pick up the cheque? I don’t know. Do you use every library branch? Get your share of emergency rides in the ambulance? Play in every ball diamond? Swim in all the pools? Obviously not. In the park near my house there’s a public tennis court, and for the life of me I can’t see there being a greater number of tennis players in the city as compared to skateboarders.
But I find these arguments tiresome, not to mention useless without the hard numbers to prove, well, anything. I will say this though, the town I used to live in, Georgetown, has a skate park. If a municipality as bass-ackwards as Georgetown, whose stewards allowed their town to slowly become little more than a bed and breakfast for people from Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, Brampton and the rest of the GTA – in other words a town without a culture or economic signature of its own distinct individuality – then why can’t a progressive community like Guelph move forward on this issue?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Arts + Business = Good

The City of Guelph announced today that our fair berg has been chosen to participate in 2011/12 artsVest Ontario program, which is put on by Business for the Arts, a national non-profit that seeks to inspire co-operation between local business and artists. It must be a pretty big deal for the City to put out a press release, but I would point out that if the City wanted to do more for artists, maybe they shouldn't have by-law officers shut down exhibits at local arts galleries. More on that after the jump.
GUELPH, ON, July 4, 2011 – The City of Guelph is excited to be one of only five communities selected to participate in the 2011/12 artsVest Ontario program.
The program will offer free sponsorship training to help Guelph’s cultural organizations build mutually beneficial partnerships with the business community. Cultural organizations will also be invited to apply to artsVest for a total of $50K in matching incentive grants. When matched with sponsorship from the local business community, artsVest has the potential to flow more than $100,000 in funding to Guelph’s cultural sector.
“We see great value in this program as a means of further strengthening our municipal cultural planning and development,” said Mayor Karen Farbridge. “With the support of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce and the Guelph Arts Council, we can develop valuable partnerships to connect business and arts in our community.”
“From a business perspective we see a huge benefit to supporting arts and culture in Guelph,” said Lloyd Longfield, President and CAO, Guelph Chamber of Commerce.
Guelph’s participation in the artsVest program builds on a series of cultural capacity-building initiatives launched by the City in the last year. Some of them include the Artscape Creative Spaces project, a Public Art Policy, and support of Canada’s Culture Days activities in Guelph this fall.
“We know that artsVest has been a transformative experience for many other communities and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to bring this program to Guelph to help vitalize our community’s cultural assets,” said Colleen Clack, the City’s General Manager of Arts Culture and Entertainment. The City established the Arts, Culture & Entertainment division to consolidate and advance cultural planning and initiatives, and to bring together the resources, programming and management of River Run Centre, Sleeman Centre, Guelph Museums and the new Market Square.
artsVest Guelph will launch officially at City Hall in Guelph on July 14 at 5 p.m.
About artsVest
artsVest is a flagship initiative of Canada’s Business for the Arts, a national non-profit organization of business leaders dedicated to increasing partnerships between business and the arts. The program sparks business sponsorship of arts and culture and bolsters municipal cultural planning.
Speaking as the chairperson for a local artist run centre, anything that helps the local arts community in terms of money or support is good news. But reading over the press release again, I can't help but notice the emphasis on government venues and operatives like the River Run and the Museum. Both worthy organizations, but what about Ed Video, or Kazoo for example.
Speaking of Ed Video, it was home to an art show called Unknown Unknowns by Toronto artists Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borin. Even I can't pretend to fully understand the piece, but it was a commentary on today's heightened surveillance, which involved constructing a room within a room at the Ed Video Gallery and the placement of four, foreboding black servers inside. The show got some encouraging press in Canada Art magazine, and was an instant success for the Centre, but shortly after the article, by-law stopped by and said that the room wasn't up to code and had to come down. I think we can all agree that the room inside the room wasn't up to code, but then again, Ed Video wasn't renting the space and having someone bunk there. It was an art project. 
Between that, and last year's fine-a-thon against arts groups and artists trying to promote their shows and concerts through posters, the City of Guelph hasn't shown a lot of love to the arts, despite protestations to the contrary. There's also the fact that the Arts Platform, an endeavour by several arts groups and artists to create their own multi-purpose space in the city is pretty much left to its own devices and I think we have a pattern of double standards happening here. Still, $50,000 is a nice start I guess.

The Revolution is Now on Facebook

The Carden Street situation seems to be this season's cause célèbre in the Royal City. There was a "Buy Mob" (a Flash Mob where you show up and buy stuff) earlier today, and that's follow all the media attention last week with the protest by Little Shop of Guitars owners The Raso Brothers involving Led Zepplin and a pair of speakers pointed at City Hall.
But because nowindays, the revolution isn't real until its been pimped on social media, the Zepled protest now has its own Facebook page called Carden St. and Led Zeppelin vs. The City Of Guelph. Feel free to request to join the group and follow along. I have a feeling that this may the thing this summer. The "thing" being the thing we talk about all summer. (We'll wait and see what happens next.)
In the meantime, rock on Carden Street!