Posted on

Behind The Lens – hypocrisy and addressing the underbelly of some current events


So, it’s been a few weeks since I did one of these… three to be exact.

Right off the bat, why is our city so hypocritical? We complain about lack of transparency yet don’t interact with stories or individuals attempting to fix that. We straight up bitch about the crime level and substance abuse issues, but negate any idea of workable solutions. Last but not least, we say we want to see our west end succeed on one hand, and yet seem to do everything to stunt growth in the area.

Oh, and how is it that there has been nothing but silence from the Ministry of Environment about holding those accountable for damaging our natural resources? Isn’t that what they are there for, to enforce the rules?

Where to start-

Let me start with point two. We worry about crime, especially in our downtown core, yet complain about anything which may attempt to possibly fix it, which ultimately, like it or not, may include a seemingly unpopular downtown revitalization strategy.

On Saturday, I toured (and took some readers) on a tour of the GFL Parking lot which was dotted with nearly 300 cars for the Queen Street Cruise Festival. Not only were there cars, a band and vendors, but also literally thousands of people, (including some I’m sure who have said that they won’t be caught at the Plaza), enjoying the collection of some rare and all beautiful automobiles.

While wandering the grounds I had the pleasure of speaking with Angela Romano board member of the Downtown Business Association, who was also touring the lot.

Our conversation bandied about the event, what else was going on in town, and the DTA’s relationship with the City but eventually fell on the Downtown Plaza project currently being built.

I admitted as I have before in other pieces, that I support the idea behind the project, but disagree with the timing.

Then, standing there, while I didn’t have an epiphany of sorts, in listening to her I did start to see a way of stemming downtown crime… and that way was people.

You see, among all the cars and the visitors to the GFL yesterday, what you didn’t see were any individuals the social media populations worry will overrun the new Plaza upon completion.

I’ve heard them called “unsavoury” or “the criminal element” and I’ve heard them called much worse. Amidst an epidemic of substance use, fatal overdoses and reminders all around of mental health issues in our community, at the GFL, I saw a glimmer of hope.

If the overall downtown revitalization strategy planned can bring more people downtown, it doesn’t eliminate the underlying problems, but it does bring a sense of life to the core. And also, with an increase in localized foot traffic and crowds, perhaps, decreased opportunity for illegal activities.  Perhaps.

With that sense of life and revitalization maybe comes a sense of hope for the future. Sometimes all anyone needs is a sense of hope to avoid substance abuse, sometimes it’s a sense of community – one that is thriving and growing and building.

Alright, so the Plaza won’t solve the opioid crisis, the homelessness issues or the myriad of other problems facing our community, but it might, with the proper execution and a lot of luck, bring a bit of vibrancy to a core that was lost, arguably years ago.

I still don’t think it’s the right time to execute the plan, but, with a lot of luck, a public who cares more about the event than the location, the investment could pay off.

On that note let’s move to point three, why does this City hate its West End so much? Why does it appear every time we turn around something else is being done to dissuade individuals from going anywhere west of the bridge?

I read one of our feature Op Ed contributor Mark Menean’s take on the hub trail and I want to go one step further. I believe decisions start at the top, and at the top, it appears that nearly everything that can be possibly done to reduce the allure of the canal district, is being done.

Practically speaking, millions of dollars have been spent, privately and by taxpayers, to enhance this district, to revitalize it and transform it into a portion of our city which brings tourists by the busloads to the area.  In this moment, however, it seems that not only have these efforts and investments been in vain, but that further efforts to continue progressive development have been stymied at every turn by City Hall.  And I truly believe that there are certain individuals inside City Hall, who, because it wasn’t their idea and their name isn’t on it, simply would like to see it fail.

Those individuals know who they are.

Consider the fate of the form Studio 10 property.  It was known that there were offers of private investment into the old property to turn it into parking, yet the City now owns it.

How about the relocation of the bus terminal?  To take it out of the downtown core which they are purportedly trying to reinvigorate, with all the pollution, traffic and noise that goes along with a transit hub, and bring it directly to the doorstep of the mainly privately owned tourist district.

Last but not least, we move a homeless shelter away from the core where it is needed to a location, under a bridge and a mere 5-minute walk away from the hoards of visitors that visit our most historic area of town- again, the Canal District. These decisions have all been made while this council has been in charge, while this mayor has been in charge and while the same heads of departments have been in charge.

In living here for almost two years I feel like, if the idea didn’t start at City Hall, it’s not a good idea and can never be a good idea because the right people in this City might not make the money off it that they want to.

Instead of trying to destroy a district that has already benefitted from investment and seen corresponding growth, why not try being a little more cooperative and a little more helpful? It can’t kill anyone, can it?

Point one is something I’ve spoken about numerous times also.

If you want transparency in the city, you have to demand it and interact with any form of it you can find. Right now, going into Week 12 this week of our Question and Answers from first our current council, and now including those who are running for it, the public response level is weak.

The collective individuals in Keeping the Soo Safe, Keeping the Soo Safe Explicit,  and numerous other Facebook pages dedicated to the problems in our community are fast to jump on a video of an individual stealing from Walmart and mock/chastise them. Yet when presented with stories about those who want to fix the problems, who have ideas and put the time to answer their questions… crickets.

Collectively, we are a bunch of hypocrites, as we complain about the issues in this community and then use them as a form of entertainment, ridiculing, chastising and laughing at the same people who are the “problem” you don’t want to hear real solutions to.

Finally, why doesn’t the Steel Plant ever seem to get rung up by different ministries for half the stuff they do?

I’m sure we all have our theories, but when inattentiveness to work processes and unwillingness to listen to employees who warn of imminent situations leads to environmental impacts on our community, we all pay the price.

I think anyone would be hard-pressed to argue with me that if this was Mom and Pa’s restaurant that dumped their cooking oil into the river by the thousands of litres, even if “by accident”, there wouldn’t be significant penalties imposed on those responsible.

I guess, when you get billions of dollars to stay open and upgrade from different levels of government, the rules might be different for you… who knew…

When I got back from vacation I had a myriad of messages and stories I was presented with and have started to work through. Including some, I had on my plate before vacation started.

With my new self-imposed limits on what I can and can’t do for stories, on occasion those stories are being addressed by other members of the SaultOnline team, help for which I am grateful.

To the others who may still be waiting, I apologize and intend to get to your stories as breaking news and more significant stories allow.

As always, let’s try to be a little nicer and work a little harder to get through these next two weeks, much like the way we did the last one.

That’s the way I see it, from behind the lens, I’m Dan Gray.