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Guelph Mercury Editorial

Life in the hole of a donut

Sue Richards - June 9 2004

In the 70's, I was employed by a major grocery chain's in-store bakery. My duties ranged from bread maker to cake decorator with a regular 5am stint as the donut fryer. I would flip dozen after dozen of dutchy, fritter, and the regular holed donut, trying to avoid third degree burns from flying fat and the mind numbing boredom of the job. That work experience and a nasty nightmare about major household appliances provided a pivotal life change for me. After five years, I quit, packed up my Pinto and moved to Guelph.

I did not intentionally choose Guelph. Rather, Guelph chose me when the University accepted my mature student application. As the semesters passed, and graduation day came and went, I decided to stay. Guelph is a brilliant city to live in if you have a creative bone in your body. There's room for vast, innovative ideas and a hive of creative synergy. Guelph dares to be different.

Ironically, almost twenty five year's later, here I am, living in the hole of a donut. At least that's what the political analyst's of last November's municipal election have called my part of town. According to them, the pattern of Guelph's 37% voting public looked much like your regular honey glazed donut. There's a big doughy circle of right wing ideology surrounding the downtown and university area donut hole of left leaning culture.

The concentration of artist's and lateral thinkers in Guelph is significantly higher than many Canadian communities. Out of towner's are envious of our thriving counter-culture and boldness. What they don't see is that we creative types are geographically congregated and thrive because of a well honed interdependence and resourcefulness, not because the city dough boys and girls recognize the value of our contribution.

Rather than see in "left and right" , I attempted to evaluate our municipal voting pattern differently. The way I see it, the outer ring represents the voice of the "in the box" thinkers, that surrounds a cavity of, "out of the box" style of thought.

Given how over used the in and out of the box concept has been over the last few year's, it's fairly easy to understand. "In the box" is just that. B follows A. End of discussion. The world is small. The picture is black and white. There is little vision.
Different is bad.

"Out of the box" thinking provides endless possibilities and multiple perspectives to consider. It's like being a kid in a candy store. The range of colour between black and white will make your head spin. And vision goes well beyond where the eye can see. Different is celebrated.

The majority of our current council appear to spend much of their time in the box with the lid tightly closed. They proved this with acute narrowness when they used "in the box" thinking on our "big box issue". In a ten to three vote, council approved a zoning change for a THIRD Wal-Mart location, this one in the north of our city.

Sametown Ontario, here we come.

Did you know that Guelph already has two city approved, commercially zoned, infrastructure ready, big box sites in the west and south ends of our town? Problem is, these sites don't meet poor Wal-Marts approval. So rather than hold to our own, city created Official Plan designed to reflect our values and our needs, our council wants us to do what every other city in North America has done when giant Wal-Mart comes knocking.

Roll over and get squashed.

Remember last summer's blackout? For one short period of time, you could see the stars and hear the birds because the power got turned off. People actually talked to each other. With the exception of the frozen food industry, the average person found the silence golden and the experience rich.

Perhaps you don't realize that Guelph is home to a 640 acre, world renown, silent retreat centre complete with organic farm foodshare and store, hiking trails, farm animals, a living willow house art installation and glorious, natural space. I have been walking on the St. Ignatius Jesuit Centre property every week for several year's. The acreage is a serene haven in a chaotic world with the calm vibe of a perpetual blackout.

The newly approved THIRD site for Wal-Mart butts up against this property. Rather than tell you how incompatible and outrageously disrespectful I find this decision, try this. Imagine a Wal-Mart store parking lot on a Friday night. What do you hear and see? Does this seem like a good bedfellow for a silent retreat centre? And did I mention that the newly approved site sits directly between our two largest cemeteries? So much for "rest in peace."

Our new city council claim that Guelphites want a Wal-Mart, no matter what the terms. Well I doth protest. I believe good leaders move people beyond their positions and encourage folks to think and see past their little worlds. We don¹t have to be like every other city. We can be smarter and different.

Krispy Kreme donuts have just announced a devastating quarter of loss because people have realized that the high carbohydrate and fat content of the donut is killing them. The 63% of Guelph citizen who did not vote in November and who find any size box suffocating, should speak up now.

The killer donut is on a roll.

Sue Richards is a social entrepreneur, artist and cultural animator. She is also a member of the Mercury's Community Editorial Board. Check out her Guelph Photo Blog.

Contact Sue Richards at [email protected]

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