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Posts Tagged ‘Trees’

The following article was on the BBC News website last week. It’s definitely worth repeating. Its clear that Guelph is not the only city dealing with a drastic decrease in its urban mature tree canopy.

Calls To Green The ‘Concrete Jungle’
Mark Kinver, Science and Environment Reporter, BBC News
June 30, 2010

Trees can play an essential role in improving the quality of life in UK towns and cities, a report has said.

The Woodland Trust says planting more trees has been shown to improve air quality, reduce ambient temperatures and benefit people’s health.The trend of declining tree cover in many areas needs to be reversed in order to improve access to green spaces in urban areas, the study adds. The trust is also launching a campaign to plant 20 million native trees each year.

“Towns and cities tend to put into sharp relief some of the key problems we are facing as a society,” said lead author Mike Townsend. “So they are a good place to start when try to illustrate just where green spaces can deliver significant improvements for relatively little cost.”

The issues outlined in the report included physical and mental health problems, childhood obesity, air pollution, soaring summer temperatures, flash flooding and diminishing wildlife.

The trust estimated that 80% of the UK population live in urban areas, yet less than 10% of people have access to local woodlands within 500m of their homes.

“If you look back over history, Victorian times saw a real move towards parks and street trees; some of the big street trees that you find in our cities today go back to these times,” explained Woodland Trust conservation policy expert Sian Atkinson.

“What we have seen more recently is that there has been reduction in the number of trees being planted, and there has also been a loss of the lovely Victorian trees with big canopies,” she told BBC News.

“We are starting to miss these from our towns and cities, and not enough thought has been given to replacements and to ensuring that there is going to be enough tree cover in the future.”

‘Slow the flow’
The report also highlighted the role urban trees could play in preventing flash floods.

Ms Atkinson said: “Hard surfaces in towns and cities have increased in recent years, and we are seeing more flooding. One of the problems is surface water drainage. It has been shown that trees and woods are key to help control this sort of flooding. As well as absorbing groundwater, tree canopies help reduce the volume of rainfall hitting the ground and relieve pressure on urban drainage systems.”

She called on civic planners to address the issues highlighted by the report.

“There is quite a lot of talk about green infrastructure,” she observed, “and our message is that we hope that trees and woods are a really big part of that.”

In its Programme for Government report, the coalition government announced that it would initiate a national tree planting campaign.

During a speech in May, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “If any organism has demonstrated an ability to multi-task, it’s trees. They capture carbon and hold soils together, prevent flooding and help control our climate. They also add immeasurably to the quality of life of our towns and cities.”

She added that in some parts of inner London, it was calculated that each tree was deemed to be worth as much as £78,000 in terms of its benefits.

Ms Atkinson welcomed the government’s announcement: “The UK has very low woodland cover compared with the rest of Europe. We are actually looking for a doubling in native woodland cover. There are some areas that have more cover than others, but – overall – there is quite a big job to do in order to increase tree cover to a level that provides all the benefits outlined in the report.”

To coincide with the publication of the report, the Woodland Trust is also launching a More Trees More Good campaign, which will look to plant 20 million native trees across the UK for the next 50 years.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Guelph’s urban forest canopy sits at 25%, while the desired level  is 40%. Guelph citizens have now been waiting for a new stronger protective tree by-law for over 19 years. In the meantime we continue to lose canopy.

Guelph Urban Forest Friends have been advocating for our urban trees, including a strong protective tree bylaw and a separate urban forestry department with a certified forester to more effectively manage tree maintenance and coordinate public education on the value of our mature trees.

For more information, visit www.guffguelph.ca

Please contact Mayor and Council about this issue. Tell them that our mature urban trees need their help and support. Tell them to get the Strategic Urban Forestry Management Plan completed and a strong and comprehensive protective bylaw passed.

Contacting Guelph City Council

Mayor Farbridge: mayor@guelph.ca

Ward 1: Bob Bell bob.bell@guelph.ca, Kathleen Farrelly kathleen.farrelly@guelph.ca
Ward 2: Vicki Beard vicki.beard@guelph.ca, Ian Findlay ian.findlay@guelph.ca
Ward 3: Maggie Laidlaw maggie.laidlaw@guelph.ca, June Hofland june.hofland@guelph.ca
Ward 4: Gloria Kovach gloria.kovach@guelph.ca, Mike Salisbury mike.salisbury@guelph.ca
Ward 5: Lise Burcher lise.burcher@guelph.ca, Leanne Piper leanne.piper@guelph.ca
Ward 6: Christine Billings christine.billings@guelph.ca, Karl Wettstein karl.wettstein@guelph.ca

Don’t know your ward? Click here to see the map

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Clearcutting on the Carson Reid Property, June 2009

Like to prevent developers clearcutting trees whenever they feel like it? Like to ensure that people have a better understanding of all the important benefits mature trees provide for our health and community?

Then you need to help ensure that the City of Guelph drafts as strong a bylaw as possible.

Guelph citizens have now been waiting for a new stronger protective tree bylaw for over 20 years. In the meantime we continue to lose canopy. Guelph’s urban forest canopy sits at 25%, while the desired level  is 40%.

Unfortunately the 1986 tree bylaw (view) said it was an offence to injure or destroy any living tree in the City of Guelph but did very little to actually protect them.

Like to make sure that this one actually protects urban trees?

The new bylaw (view the draft) has to be much better, but it still needs public input to make sure that it is truly protective.

The City of Guelph has held one workshop  (June 3) on the new tree bylaw and has another planned  for June 8. The workshop takes place at City Hall, 1 Carden St. in Meeting Room C from 7–9 p.m. Following a presentation by city staff, participants will have an opportunity to discuss issues and provide feedback. Remember that even if you can’t attend the sessions, you can still comment. Comments will be received until June 18. To ensure that the decision makers are aware of your concerns, comments should be sent to city council as well as staff.

View the draft Tree By-law

The following message is from Guelph Urban Forest Friends and concerns the draft version of the updated tree bylaw.

Hello GUFF supporters,

The City has drafted a tree bylaw and is holding workshops for discussion and input:  The next workshop is on June 8, from 7-9 p.m. in Conference Room C at City Hall. We urge you to attend or provide written comments by June 18.

Guelph Urban Forest Friends (GUFF) has reviewed the draft tree bylaw.  It is an improvement over the existing 25-year-old bylaw and requires that permits be obtained for destroying trees over 20 cm in diameter on small properties and trees over 10 cm in diameter on large properties.  Even so, it is still much weaker than some other tree by-laws in Ontario.  There are a number of areas that need to be stronger:

1. The foundation of the bylaw should be that healthy trees of a certain size should be protected.  The City of Toronto bylaw states this clearly:  “The Commissioner shall not issue a permit for the injury or destruction of trees where trees are healthy.”  813-15C.

Admittedly, the Toronto bylaw does allow exemptions for the destruction of healthy trees under certain circumstances–such as when they are within the building envelope of a proposed building.  But the importance of an affirmative policy protecting healthy trees cannot be underestimated.

2. The draft Guelph bylaw gives too much discretion in deciding whether to issue a permit to destroy trees.   A city inspector would have to “consider” such things as whether the tree is an endangered species, the condition and location of the tree, whether it is important for erosion and flood control, whether there are breeding birds present. Instead, the by-law should contain a section entitled “PERMIT REFUSED” that itemizes reasons for which a permit must be denied.

Those reasons should include:  that the tree is an endangered or threatened species; that the tree is healthy; that environmentally sensitive areas will not be adequately protected; that erosion or flood control will be negatively impacted; that significant vistas will not be protected and preserved; that the tree is a heritage tree; that removing the tree would violate the Migratory Bird Act.  Such language is consistent with the Toronto and Richmond Hill tree bylaws.

3. Guelph’s tree bylaw should include mandatory parameters for issuing permits for destroying trees.  As in #2 above, the draft by-law gives too much discretion in imposing the conditions on the permit.  The by-law only requires that the “inspector may make the Permit subject to such conditions as the Inspector may consider necessary. The Inspector “may” require replacement trees; the inspector “may” require cash in lieu of tree replacement; the inspector “may” require that specific measures be implemented to mitigate effects on nearby trees, land, water bodies or natural areas.”

The Toronto tree bylaw, in contrast, states that “A permit to destroy trees SHALL be subject to the following terms and conditions:”  Those conditions include such things as tree replacement and cash in lieu.

4. Guelph’s draft tree bylaw should require that whenever trees are proposed to be removed, impacts to surrounding properties (such as loss of shade, vistas or privacy) have to be considered.  This is consistent with a provision in the Richmond Hill tree bylaw.

To summarize, the draft bylaw should:

  • state that, except for certain exemptions, permits shall not be issued to destroy healthy trees over 20 cm in diameter (10 cm on large properties)
  • itemize reasons for which permits must be denied (e.g. trees are healthy, endangered, of heritage quality, etc.)
  • establish mandatory conditions for obtaining a permit to destroy trees (e.g. replacement trees must be planted)
  • require that impacts on adjoining properties be considered (e.g. loss of shade, privacy)

Thanks from GUFF

About the draft Tree Bylaw
In addition to regulating trees 10 centimetres at breast height on lots larger than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres), the updated draft bylaw proposes to regulate damage or removal of larger trees on smaller properties; trees 20 centimetres in diameter at breast height on lots less than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres). The updated draft also includes a permit process, a list of exemptions, entry and inspection powers, enforcement measures and increased fines.

Following a presentation, participants will have an opportunity to discuss issues and provide feedback. Even if you can’t attend the sessions, you can still comment. Comments will be received until June 18.

Suzanne Young, Environmental Planner
519-837-5616 x 2356
suzanne.young@guelph.ca

Jessica McEachren, Environmental Planner
519-837-5616 x 2563
jessica.mceachren@guelph.ca

Contacting Guelph City Council

Mayor Farbridge: mayor@guelph.ca

Ward 1: Bob Bell bob.bell@guelph.ca, Kathleen Farrelly kathleen.farrelly@guelph.ca
Ward 2: Vicki Beard vicki.beard@guelph.ca, Ian Findlay ian.findlay@guelph.ca
Ward 3: Maggie Laidlaw maggie.laidlaw@guelph.ca, June Hofland june.hofland@guelph.ca
Ward 4: Gloria Kovach gloria.kovach@guelph.ca, Mike Salisbury mike.salisbury@guelph.ca
Ward 5: Lise Burcher lise.burcher@guelph.ca, Leanne Piper leanne.piper@guelph.ca
Ward 6: Christine Billings christine.billings@guelph.ca, Karl Wettstein karl.wettstein@guelph.ca

Don’t know your ward? Click here to see the map

Guelph Urban Forest Friends have been advocating for our urban trees, including a stronger protective tree bylaw and a separate urban forestry department with a certified forester to more effectively manage tree maintenance and coordinate public education on the value of our mature trees.

For more on Guelph Urban Forest Friends, please visit www.guffguelph.ca.

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Doug Larson with the Guelph Guitar

The first hour of Royal City Rag on June 5 was devoted to M.A.S.H. Mondays, a new collaboration between Manhattans Music Club and the Hillside Festival.

University of Guelph Emeritus Professor, musician, luthier (creator of the Guelph Guitar) Doug Larson, joined us in the studio with Thomas Aldridge from Manhattans to talk about the monthly event. We also had the opportunity to hear Doug play a few songs live for us in the studio.

M.A.S.H. (Music, Art, Science, & History) Mondays will feature interviews and performance from special guests while in conversation with Professor Larson about their many interests.

Guests lined up for the series include:

  • Craig Norris(host of CBC R3-30, lead singer of the Kramdens)
  • Mike Ford:(musical historian, Canada in Song / Moxy Früvous)
  • Bob McDonald:(host CBC’s Quirks and Quarks)
  • Samir Baijal:(artistic director, Hillside Festival / musician)
  • Alan Wildeman: (President, University of Windsor)
  • Jay Ingram: (host, Daily Planet, best selling author)
  • Mark Stutman & Matty Cooper: (instrument builder and teacher)

The shows will be held at Manhattans, 951 Gordon St., Guelph and run from 8.30 – 10.30 p.m. The shows start on Sept. 13, 2010 to be followed on the first Monday of every month (Oct.4, Nov.1, Dec.6, Jan.10, Feb.7, Mar.7, Apr.4).  Seating is limited to 85 places. Tickets: $10, $30 (with dinner).  Reservations will be handled through Manhattans at 519-767-2440.

Listen to Hour 1:
Download (right click and save)

Construction Damage - Will this tree be there in 5 years?

In the second hour, Judy Martin from Sierra Club Canada and Norah Chaloner from Guelph Urban Forest Friends joined us to talk about the City of Guelph’s proposed new tree bylaw.

Guelph citizens have now been waiting for a new stronger protective tree bylaw for more than 19 years. In the meantime we continue to lose canopy. Guelph’s urban forest canopy sits at 25%, while the desired level  is 40%.

Unfortunately the 1986 tree bylaw (view) said it was an offence to injure or destroy any living tree in the City of Guelph but did very little to actually protect them.

The new draft bylaw (view the draft) still needs public input to make sure that it is truly protective. Among other issues, Judy and Norah expressed concerns that the current language in the draft bylaw is nowhere near firm enough, using words like should when words like shall and must would be more appropriate. They recommended that City Staff should be directed to take a look at municipalities that have strong and comprehensive bylaws such as Toronto and Richmond Hill.

The City of Guelph has held one workshop  (June 3) on the new tree bylaw and has another planned  for June 8. The workshop takes place at City Hall, 1 Carden St. in Meeting Room C from 7–9 p.m. Following a presentation by city staff, participants will have an opportunity to discuss issues and provide feedback.

Trees protect us against harmful UV radiation - They need our protection too.

Remember that even if you can’t attend the sessions, you can still comment. Comments will be received until June 18. To ensure that the decision makers are aware of your concerns, comments should be sent to city council as well as staff.

For more on this important issue please visit Guelph Urban Forest Friends at www.guffguelph.ca.

Listen to Hour 2:
Download (right click and save)

Music:
Doug Larson, Little Bird from Nightmares And Dreamers (Live In The Studio)
Doug Larson, Enemy Within from Nightmares And Dreamers (Live In The Studio)
Doug Larson, Whatever Happened To The North End Variety Store (Live In The Studio, demo)
Doug Larson, Who? What? When? Why? (Live In The Studio)
Doug Larson, Recollection from Complete Metamorphosis (Live In The Studio)
James Gordon, Whistlewing from My Stars Your Eyes
Gwen Swick, Grand River from A Pebble Of Mercy
Dave and Ken Sills, Lake Erie Pipeline Blues (Demo)
Bluegrass Patriots, Why Do You Weep Dear Willow? from Springtime In The Rockies
Bruce Cockburn, If A Tree Falls from Anything Anytime Anywhere

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There will be a musical start to Royal City Rag on June 5; University of Guelph Emeritus Professor, musician, creator of the Guelph Guitar Doug Larson, will be joining us in the first hour (8-9 a.m.) with Thomas Aldridge, owner of Manhattans to talk about M.A.S.H. Mondays, a new collaboration between Manhattans Music Club and the Hillside Festival. Doug will also be playing the Guelph Guitar live for us in the studio.

M.A.S.H. (Music, Art, Science, & History) Mondays will feature interviews and performance from special guests while in conversation with Professor Larson about their many interests.

The shows will be held at Manhattans, 951 Gordon St., Guelph and run from 8.30 – 10.30 p.m. The shows start on Sept. 13, 2010 to be followed on the first Monday of every month (Oct.4, Nov.1, Dec.6, Jan.10, Feb.7, Mar.7, Apr.4).

Guests lined up for the series include:

  • Craig Norris(host of CBC R3-30, lead singer of the Kramdens)
  • Mike Ford:(musical historian, Canada in Song / Moxy Früvous)
  • Bob McDonald:(host CBC’s Quirks and Quarks)
  • Samir Baijal:(artistic director, Hillside Festival / musician)
  • Alan Wildeman: (President, University of Windsor)
  • Jay Ingram: (host, Daily Planet, best selling author)
  • Mark Stutman & Matty Cooper: (instrument builder and teacher)

Large Elm Tree

In the second hour, Judy Martin from the Sierra Club Canada and Norah Chaloner from Guelph Urban Forest Friends will join us to talk about the City of Guelph’s proposed new tree bylaw as well provide some follow-up on the city’s Natural Heritage Strategy and Official Plan deliberations.

Guelph Urban Forest Friends have been advocating for our urban trees, including a stronger protective tree bylaw and a separate urban forestry department with a certified forester to more effectively manage tree maintenance and coordinate public education on the value of our mature trees.

Guelph citizens have now been waiting for a new stronger protective tree bylaw for more than 19 years. In the meantime we continue to lose canopy. Guelph’s urban forest canopy sits at 25%, while the desired level  is 40%.

Unfortunately the 1986 tree bylaw (view) said it was an offence to injure or destroy any living tree in the City of Guelph but did very little to actually protect them.

The new draft bylaw (view the draft) still needs public input to make sure that it is truly protective.

The City of Guelph has held one workshop  (June 3) and has another planned (June 8) to provide input on proposed changes.

The June 8 workshop take place at City Hall, 1 Carden St. in Meeting Room C from 7–9 p.m. Following a presentation, participants will have an opportunity to discuss issues and provide feedback.

About the draft Tree Bylaw
In addition to regulating trees 10 centimetres at breast height on lots larger than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres), the updated draft bylaw proposes to regulate damage or removal of larger trees on smaller properties; trees 20 centimetres in diameter at breast height on lots less than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres). The updated draft also includes a permit process, a list of exemptions, entry and inspection powers, enforcement measures and increased fines.

View the draft Tree By-law

Even if you can’t attend the sessions, you can still comment. Comments will be received until June 18.

Suzanne Young, Environmental Planner
519-837-5616 x 2356
suzanne.young@guelph.ca

Jessica McEachren, Environmental Planner
519-837-5616 x 2563
jessica.mceachren@guelph.ca

For more on Guelph Urban Forest Friends, please visit www.guffguelph.ca.

As always we’ll wrap the whole thing up with some great music. Should be fun. You won’t want to miss it!

Royal City Rag, Saturdays 8-10 a.m. on CFRU93.3fm in Guelph. Remember if you don’t catch Royal City Rag live , you can always pick it up later that day via the CFRU archive or here, on the blog, a day or so later.

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Bob Gordon

Weird Numbers Part 2: The Natural Heritage Strategy Tree Replacement Equation or ‘Two Tens for a Five Anybody?’
Bob Gordon, Freelance Journalist/Royal City Rag Contributor

The Draft Natural Heritage Strategy includes a tree replacement policy that contains two components. The first compenent establishes that any trees removed must be replaced and introduces an equation to calculate the replacement value of a given tree. The second, introduces the concept of cash in lieu of trees.

Unfortunately, the first component is nonsensical while the second is meaningless.

The current draft policies require that if a tree is removed trees totaling an equal diameter must replace it. The example below will demonstrate the absurdity of this mathematical reasoning.

Consider first the removal of a tree of 40 centimeters diameter at breast height. The current policy would permit this tree to be considered replaced if 8 saplings of 5 centimeters diameter at breast height were to be planted.

Briefly consider the area of the tree removed (40 centimeters diameter at breast height). Area = πr2 = 3.14 x (20×20) = 1256 square centimeters.
The area of the 5cm diameter saplings replacing it will be πr2 x 8 = 3.14 x (2.5×2.5) x 8 = 157 square centimeters.

Thus, removal of one tree of 40 centimeters diameter at breast height can be compensated with its replacement by 8 saplings (of 5cm diameter) but only 12.5% of its area.

Now consider replacement of the tree by 16 saplings of 2.5 centimeters diameter at breast height.

The area of these trees will be πr2 x 16 = 3.14 x (1.25×1.25) x 16 = 78.5 square centimeters.

Half Dead Oak Sapling - Now you see me, now you don't!

Thus, removal of one tree of 40 centimeters diameter at breast height can be compensated with its replacement by 16 saplings (of 2.5cm diameter) but only 6.25% of its area.

Clearly, the proposed policy is inadequate.

Comparison of the areas of the crowns of the trees would reveal an even greater imbalance. Leaf Area Index or Canopy Cover is a much more accurate measure. Using this type of measure would significantly increase the number of replacement trees required.

At the very least basal area (area at ground level) should be employed as the replacement standard.

The draft Natural Heritage states, “Where planting either on or off site is not feasible, cash-in-lieu will be required equal to the value of the replacement trees and shrubs and including the cost of planting and maintaining the trees for a period of two years.”

While this proposal may sound wonderfully ‘green’ and hard on developers it is not, nor is it hard on the city. It is hard, only on the urban forest.

Consider, the cash value of a tree will be calculated based on the value of replacement trees. However, in light of the above noted formula the developer is receiving a kiss. Consider that the removal of a single tree may create a whole new building lot at the cost of only a handful of saplings. That is a great deal for a developer but hard on the urban forest.

As far as the city is concerned a cut down tree is a bargain at any price. No where does the policy hold the city to any commitment to spend the cash-in-lieu received on trees. It can go to anything from snow clearing at city hall to trips for councilors or catered meals before meetings. There is simply no guarantee that the money received in lieu of trees will be used for trees and not simply disappear into general revenue.

That is good for the city but not the urban forest.

Bob Gordon
bob34g@gmail.com

Guelph Urban Forest Friends have been advocating for our urban trees, including a stronger protective tree bylaw and a separate urban forestry department with a certified forester to more effectively manage tree maintenance and coordinate public education on the value of our mature trees.

If you feel strongly about this issue, please contact Mayor and Council.

Tell them to get the Strategic Urban Forestry Management Plan completed and a strong protective bylaw passed. Let them know that the protection and management of our urban forest will be an election issue this October.

Contacting Guelph City Council

Mayor Farbridge: mayor@guelph.ca

Ward 1: Bob Bell bob.bell@guelph.ca, Kathleen Farrelly kathleen.farrelly@guelph.ca
Ward 2: Vicki Beard vicki.beard@guelph.ca, Ian Findlay ian.findlay@guelph.ca
Ward 3: Maggie Laidlaw maggie.laidlaw@guelph.ca, June Hofland june.hofland@guelph.ca
Ward 4: Gloria Kovach gloria.kovach@guelph.ca, Mike Salisbury mike.salisbury@guelph.ca
Ward 5: Lise Burcher lise.burcher@guelph.ca, Leanne Piper leanne.piper@guelph.ca
Ward 6: Christine Billings christine.billings@guelph.ca, Karl Wettstein karl.wettstein@guelph.ca

Don’t know your ward? Click here to see the map

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On January 25, CBC Radio 1’s Ontario Today’s Gardening Phone-in with Ed Lawrence focused on the management of urban trees and the need for stronger by-laws to protect them.

Guelph activist Diane Hurst was not only able to call in to talk to Ed, she also managed to get us a copy of the audio to put up on the website.

Well done, Diane! 

Listen to the segment:

Large Elm Tree

Guelph citizens have now been waiting for a new stronger protective tree by-law for over 19 years. In the meantime we continue to lose canopy. Guelph’s urban forest canopy sits at 25%, while the desired level  is 40%.

Guelph Urban Forest Friends have been advocating for our urban trees, including a stronger protective tree bylaw and a separate urban forestry department with a certified forester to more effectively manage tree maintenance and coordinate public education on the value of our mature trees.

If you feel strongly about this issue, please contact Mayor and Council.

Tell them to get the Strategic Urban Forestry Management Plan completed and a strong protective bylaw passed. Let them know that the protection and management of our urban forest will be an election issue this October.

Contacting Guelph City Council

Mayor Farbridge: mayor@guelph.ca

Ward 1: Bob Bell bob.bell@guelph.ca, Kathleen Farrelly kathleen.farrelly@guelph.ca
Ward 2: Vicki Beard vicki.beard@guelph.ca, Ian Findlay ian.findlay@guelph.ca
Ward 3: Maggie Laidlaw maggie.laidlaw@guelph.ca, June Hofland june.hofland@guelph.ca
Ward 4: Gloria Kovach gloria.kovach@guelph.ca, Mike Salisbury mike.salisbury@guelph.ca
Ward 5: Lise Burcher lise.burcher@guelph.ca, Leanne Piper leanne.piper@guelph.ca
Ward 6: Christine Billings christine.billings@guelph.ca, Karl Wettstein karl.wettstein@guelph.ca

Don’t know your ward? Click here to see the map

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Jan Andrea Hall

Karen Farbridge, Backstabbing And Her Bid For Re-election
Jan Andrea Hall, Royal City Rag

Since Mayor Karen Farbridge announced her bid for re-election this past Thursday, February 24, one or two of her supporters have publicly alluded to the fact that the Mayor has been “stabbed in the back” by erstwhile supporters during her current term.

They believe that, as many progressive Guelphites worked hard to get her re-elected in 2006, after a fairly dysfunctional term under Mayor Quarrie, we should not only be happy to have her back, but keep quiet and remain supportive, regardless of the decisions her council and administration choose to make.

Unfortunately not everyone can do that, and, for that reason, are shunted off into the “backstabbing” group of the disaffected.

I count myself in that category even though I am as progressive as they come.

As far as I’m concerned, Farbridge’s administration has been found wanting on all the ‘big decision items’ of the past three years… the upgrades to the Hanlon Expressway, the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park and the Strategic Urban Forestry Master Plan (otherwise known as the urgent need for a much stronger protective by-law).

I call them the big decision items because they will have a huge effect on this city, for years to come. Progressive Guelphites choked over the previous council’s decision to support the Commercial Policy Review setting up four large shopping centre ‘nodes’ around the city. Yet, the Hanlon Expressway and Hanlon Creek Business Park decisions will have far more impact over the coming years.

Farbridge’s supporters may say that these are done deals; the Hanlon Expressway upgrades being ordained by the province through the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (colloquially known as the Ministry for Roads) and the Hanlon Creek Business Park (HCBP) by previous administrations.

But would it have hurt to question whether the right decisions were made or whether these proposed projects could have been improved upon, especially in the case of the HCBP, where the city is the primary developer?

Where was the leadership to resolve citizen environmental group concerns about Hanlon Creek?

Hanlon Creek Downstream In The Spring (Photo: Bob Gordon)

That Farbridge chose to remain silent at the Guelph Civic League convened public meeting in March about Hanlon Creek at Norfolk Street United Church suggests that she may not be cut out for high office in Guelph. Instead of offering a few words of welcome she instead chose to sit at the back with body language suggesting that she really wished she was somewhere else entirely.

The fact that council barely emitted a whimper with respect to the assumptions underlying the provincial growth plan Places To Grow, and the need for Guelph to grow from 105,000 to a whopping 165,000 people by 2031 raises questions about a serious deficit of leadership at City Hall.

The bullying tactics that have been employed to stifle opposition to the Hanlon Creek Business Park, including this week’s SLAPP suit, also raises questions about the direction the city is moving in. So much for community consultation.

We have now been waiting nineteen years for a new protective tree by-law. Farbridge talked about this as a priority in 2003 (more on this in a future commentary)yet we are still waiting. And in the meantime, we continue to lose our tree canopy.

Add to that, the fact that the City had a Transparency and Accountability Committee meet for two years to, amongst other things, discuss the important (but under the Municipal Act, currently discretionary) positions of Lobbyist Registrar, Auditor General, Ombudsmen and Integrity Commissioner only for the City’s Governance Committee to recommend against proceeding with these checks and balances until after the next election. This only raises further concerns about how truly accountable and transparent the current administration wants to be.

Is Mayor Farbridge the right Mayor for Guelph?

I went into the last municipal election in 2006 with high hopes that clearly haven’t been met. Farbridge is clearly strong on process (perhaps too strong?) but is she capable of taking the big decisions and making a stand.

I hope that if her re-election is successful she will turn back to her progressive roots and move in a truly sustainable direction. Enough of the spin and green-washing, please.

People need to consider what is best for Guelph for the next four years and beyond when they go to vote.

Mayor Farbridge may like the idea of being Guelph’s Hazel McCallion, but do we really have to look like Mississauga too?

Jan Andrea Hall
janhall@royalcityrag.ca

Royal City Rag will continue to focus on what is important for the common good as we move forward with the election. We will not shy from bringing forward issues. Expect many more commentaries on the record of the current council and hopes for the next council as we move towards the election.

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