‘Community-mindedness’ and Libraries

 

Here’s a copy of my letter that was published today in the Guelph Tribune. Comments welcomed. Thanks for reading. James

One of the things that makes me proud to be a Guelphite is our ‘community-mindedness’. We are a city of volunteers and ‘participants’. We are for the most part a city that appreciates the value of investing in our future to sustain our enviable quality of life. It’s that quality that draws a rich diversity of new people here who share a desire to work together towards making this city an even better place to live.

I very seldom hear people say “I moved to Guelph because I was looking for lower taxes”. ( In fact our taxes are totally in line with other cities our size in Ontario.) I hear MANY people, however, say that they appreciate the VALUE they get for the taxes they pay, ( at the same time urging their elected representatives to be always mindful of that value ). For most of us who are community-minded, we understand that to keep that quality of life, we need to contribute as taxpayers and as ‘good neighbours’ to maintain that high standard we are now known for.

Those who do NOT appreciate or contribute to our sense of community are a small but vocal minority who would sacrifice services, cut back programs, widen our income gap and turn their backs on investing in the future for our children in order to save a few dollars on their tax bill. They look towards an unrealistic ‘rate of inflation’ tax increase as their definition of a live-able community. I say ‘unrealistic’ because this cannot address our infrastructure gap, our investment in energy sustainability, our efforts to address the impact of climate change, and other areas where we are falling behind. In speaking to those for whom low taxes are their main measure of a city’s success, I often find that citizens who complain the loudest about their tax rate are also those who do not draw on many of the services that their taxes support. I sometimes hear them say “I don’t use the library. I don’t walk the trails. I don’t take transit, so why should I pay for improving them?” The community-minded majority seems to understand that our taxes provide for our collective wealth, and that we cannot thrive as a society if our economic policies leave anyone behind and favour the ‘fortunate few’. It’s my job as an elected official to always be trying for a fair balance. We want our citizens to not feel overly burdened by their taxes, and we want those same citizens to feel that their city provides the amenities that make them want to live, work, and play here.

What I think some of us miss is that when we DO invest in our future with recreational facilities, our trail and river systems, an effective transit system, a sustainable infrastructure, our innovative community energy initiative, our culture, our programmes to address affordable housing, poverty, and accessibility we attract businesses here, we create jobs, we grow our economy, and we can keep our taxes affordable without sacrificing our well-being.

Guelph’s best opportunity right now to demonstrate the value of community investment is to respond to the growing demand for a new main library. We’re learning that there’s nothing that stimulates a community more than a vibrant central library. Look at Halifax, Winnipeg, or just down the road in Cambridge. When a library becomes a community hub, offering much more than books of course, it becomes a reflection of, and contributes immeasurably to, the vitality of the city it represents. An investment in a new library can pay for itself quickly in the extra business it brings to a downtown and in the social value it provides.

It is clear to me that there IS a public will for a new library. We have the chance to let it be a great example of the benefits of capital investment in our city. I believe we have a strong mandate to speed up the process to get one, and when we do, I am confident that it will be a positive asset to our city that will be appreciated by all, even the ‘library deniers’! Yes, we are community-minded, and our new library will be a wonderful way to help ‘mind’ our community!

 

 

 

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “‘Community-mindedness’ and Libraries

  1. Ron

    What an elitest outlook.

    Equating those whom would see taxes kept low as not being community minded is insulting and degrading to the SILENT majority that would like spending by the city kept under control.

    Oh, and do look down the road to Cambridge. The library project has become nothing but a money pit and is no where near completion.

  2. jamesgordoncouncillor

    thanks for your feedback. I think we ALL want our taxes to be low, and I am committed to trying to keep them that way. My point was that some understand that artificially low taxes can have a negative impact on our community wellness. Some people don’t seem to mind that impact. Others seem to understand that our taxes are our only source of revenue for sustaining our cities’ well-being, so they look for a balance between affordability and a realistic base for meeting our common needs.

    • Ron

      James,
      on the one hand, you say that Guelph’s property taxes are right in line with other comparable municipalities while on the other you are insinuating that property taxes in Guelph are artificially low. You can’t have it both ways.

      Further, if the main branch were indeed a health hazard, WHY IS IT STILL OPEN?

      Guelph still has massive expenditures to pay for; the new garbage system, new city hall, new museum, new transit hub. as nice as new library would be, it would be unfair toburden the taxpayer with yet another legacy project’

  3. john

    RATHER THAN SPEND HUGE SUMS OF MONEY ON A NEW LIBRARY ON BAKER STREET, FIX THE CURRENT ONE AND IF REALLY NECESSARY, PUT AN ADDITION AND PARKING RAMP ON THE LOT BESIDE IT. NORM MCLEOD WAS TOLD BY COUNCIL OVER 10 YEARS AGO THAT THERE WAS TO BE NO NEW LIBRARY BUT HE WOULDN’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER AND WORKED ON MONIED PEOPLE TO KEEP CHARGING FORWARD TOWARDS THE PROBLEM WE HAVE NOW. WE NEED MORE SATELLITE LIBRARIES, NOT AN EDIFICE IN THE FORM OF A NEW LIBRARY.

    • jamesgordoncouncillor

      Thanks for your views John… My point in my article was that all over North America it’s being proved that new “edifice” flagship libraries are not “Spending huge sums of money” as you said, all in capitals, but a revenue generating investment in our future. It’s money invested that gives a good return. The current library is actually a health hazard right now. It’s in woefully bad shape. It will be saving us money too if we don’t throw repair money at a failing building. I am not hearing a demand for MORE satellite libraries, but the ones we have do need to be kept vital and current. It seems that there is a will for BOTH.

  4. I believe the Libraries will go the way of our Guelph Daily Mercury.

    • jamesgordoncouncillor

      Not sure I understand the correlation between libraries and the newspaper. the Merc was owned by a giant for-profit corporation based in Toronto. It was closed even though they were making a profit…just not large enough for their shareholders apparently, and the decision was made without any regard for community or loyalty. The Library is owned by us…. it’s not for profit and it is actually picking up the slack left by the absence of the Merc. Membership in the library is up 7000 in one year. It’s thriving despite the lack of an appropriate space. It has found a way to be relevant and to adapt to our changing times. Interestingly, rentals of eBooks are Down, and borrowing of print books is up…. the library can thrive if we have the community support for it, and since writing this article I am seeing lots of it!

  5. boomer828

    Maria –Take your head out of the sand. Libraries are the number one cultural resource in any community. The ‘first stop’ for new residents and a hub of information for all. To compare the Mercury’s demise and the future of libraries is ridiculous. Libraries thrive accross our nation now and will for a long time coming.

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