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Election controversy in forefront

It’s not unusual for municipal councils to avoid controversial decisions during election years. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case in Guelph right now, and the Oct. 27 election should be better for it.
Council voted 12-2 last week to endorse city staff’s approach for structuring an investment fund, which would be used in redeveloping the Baker Street area of the downtown. At this point, it appears the proposed Guelph Economic Investment Fund would need to have some of its money raised through a special property tax levy. And this prospect had Mayor Karen Farbridge and mayoral candidate Coun. Cam Guthrie coming down on opposite sides of a motion endorsing the direction that staff have been going.
Guthrie has made it clear in recent months that he’s against the city’s long-standing plan to build a new main library on upper Wyndham Street, backing onto what’s now the Baker Street Parking Lot. He is now signalling, through his vote last week, that he’s against the idea of using a special levy to raise some of the money that would be needed for a Guelph Economic Investment Fund.
Another meeting on the Baker Street redevelopment issue is set for May, where staff will recommend a specific proposal. That meeting holds a strong potential for the differences between Farbridge and Guthrie on downtown redevelopment to be sharpened even further.
What city hall is talking about doing here is truly dramatic in its scope. “As a community, we have never done anything on this scale and so deliberately before,” Ian Panabaker, the city’s corporate manager of downtown renewal, told council last week. No one was inclined to argue with his assessment of the situation.
A lot of Guelphites think Farbridge’s administration is too downtown-centric. Others think a downtown is a city’s lifeblood and must be strongly nurtured. We welcome a substantial debate during the coming election campaign.

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