One of my favourite conversation topics is local issues. I thoroughly enjoy engaging in these types of discussions.
I don’t always agree with what some people say, but you’d be amazed at what can change your perspective if you keep an open mind. However, me and many others are growing rather bored with some of the issues that have been hanging over Guelph for some time now. So, I would like to officially ask that council and the public join the fight for eliminating the following exasperated conversation topics.
Revitalize downtown. Wow, that has turned out to be easier said then done. The city offered downtown business owners funding toward storefront facelifts to help revitalize the area without compromising the heritage value and appeal of the buildings. A very generous act indeed, but I am not sure how effective it was. I am more interested in what a business has to offer inside, which could explain why I very rarely shop downtown. There are too many specialty shops downtown that can’t draw large numbers into the core, making the revitalizing efforts near impossible. And I am not criticizing the specialty shops. Nor am I suggesting we change the fountain into a Walmart (which by the way seems awfully busy considering we were told that we didn’t want one here). I am simply saying maybe we should be looking at the type of businesses that attract and represent the citizens of Guelph more accurately. Let’s hear some new voices for a change. Knock on some doors around town and find out what we really want and listen to what we say. To paraphrase that line from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come”.
No more road construction. Well, that will never happen, so let’s make it as travel-friendly as possible. Maybe the city should strengthen some of the contract specs when the jobs go out for tender. For example, there should be stiffer penalties for failing to meet a deadline. I understand that factors such as weather or unexpected problems arise during the job, but jobs are quoted with these types of contingencies included in the contract price and timelines. Not to mention the frustration some motorists feel when they see five workers supervising the two leaning against their shovels while watching the eighth worker scratch his head. Maybe the city could dangle a little carrot as well and reward these contractors for completing a quality project in a timely manner. This may also reduce the number of major intersections simultaneously closed, making the drive to work seem a little less like a corn maze.
Fix the stoplights. Guelph is infamous for having an extraordinary number of traffic lights considering the city’s size and layout. The constant red lights are the only thing worse than construction detours. Why is it that I can drive the speed limit from one side of Hamilton to the other with only one or two red lights and yet I can’t travel through five intersections here without having to stop three or four times? If you don’t believe me, try driving almost any of Guelph’s main roads. And if an intersection is busy enough to warrant an advanced left turn signal, shouldn’t it function every time a car is in the turn lane? Wouldn’t this and timing changes decrease traffic flow problems as well as motorist frustration levels? Perhaps the consistent red lights are set up this way in an effort to make motorists leave their cars and frustrations in their driveways and force them to use our new bike lanes. High gas prices didn’t entice motorists to stop driving, so let’s fix the stoplights.
Adjust the Wet-Dry system. New parents are going to love this new system! Ready folks? Your baby’s diapers will now go into clear bags (soon to be a bin) and be picked up every other week. That’s right. For 26 days a month, your baby will be providing unlimited overtime hours for hundreds of air freshener suppliers and nose plug factory workers across Ontario. (I should buy stocks.) We are being told to just close the bag after each deposit and the smell won’t be that bad. I don’t know if you have met my son, but a clear bag is no match for his efforts.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Every decision made in Guelph will receive some backlash. But we need to concentrate on the majority. All residents should be more active in voicing their opinions, and it is council’s responsibility to accept each opinion with an open mind. This means that on occasion, some council representatives will have to change their methods and set aside their own views to accommodate their constituents. That alone could be the most positive change of all.
Not to mention one heck of a conversation topic!
Published in the Guelph Mercury, August 29, 2011