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.