Opinion Column

If you think pennies, you get pennies

By Paul Kelly

Sometimes it’s the little things that upset me about life in a small town. Small town, small mindedness.

 
For example, that parking ticket on Esther Street on a Saturday morning for parking too close to the corner that I wrote about? Pure, unadulterated BS.
 
A cash grab. An embarrassment. Small town cheap at its worst. And please, spare me all the malarkey about enforcement, revenues and “the law” etc. etc. I have no time for it.
 
This led to a discussion at council – people shopping downtown getting tickets – about parking that exposed, if we had free parking downtown for the summer, there would be a loss of $8,500. I repeat $–8–5–0–0!
 
Now, here is what I would do because I don’t believe in just bitching and bellyaching. If I was mayor or a councillor (and I am not..yet) I would divide that amount by weekend and pay for a weekend or two out of my city salary.
 
I would reach down into my own pockets, my own city salary and cough up some cash. That’s how much I support downtown merchants.
 
Alternatively, I would set up a charitable foundation for the downtown core. If there is one already I’ve never heard of it. I would make Algonquin College and this company that is buying up half of downtown Pembroke founding members.
 
Then I would be able to get a charitable receipt for my donation – or not. I don’t care.
 
I would hire an executive director and help raise $10,000 with an event, donations or series of events to cover off that $8,500. Then I would take a welding torch and cut down the parking meters.
 
Because here is another thing that sets me off: I always walk up in the east end – up towards my former high school. I walk a lot. I am most likely the fittest fattest person you ever met.
 
The other morning – Sunday – I walked down to the marina for a change. I may be down on “The Broke” and city hall quite a bit but I love the physical setting and the downtown core.
 
I am cutting through city hall parking lot and I see all these reserved parking spots – all the way over to the former dam. At the end of 10 or 15 reserved parking spots I see spots marked “Visitors” (Next to the sign that threatens restaurant guests with being towed)
 
Are you for real? Taxpayers park farthest from the door? Right next to those spots are...you guessed it..parking meters!! At the front door? Parking meters.
 
I crossed the dam...blocked by trees. Can we not get a company down there (again) to clear the trees? Maybe fill up the Maple Avenue potholes with them?
 
I pass what I refer to as “The Walmart Fountain”...broken.
 
Recall that fiasco: the time the city fronted a challenge to Walmart expansion as a favour to a family business? They blew the $50,000 settlement money on that damn fountain. I have the document to prove it.
 
Pass the skateboard park. It’s beautiful. You know what the poor guy who did all that get? Nothing but grief. Nothing but setbacks, delays, bills and contempt. I’ve spoken to him. He said in this paper that he would thank the city but it didn’t do a damn thing for him. Good for him.
 
To you sir, here and now, thank you. God bless you.
 
I get down to the marina. The boardwalk is blocked off but – to hell with it – I go down to the very end. What a great spot.
 
Walked past the college. What a development. To Algonquin College I say “Thank you”. I would give it the key to the city. Jim Watson did in Ottawa. But do you know what we did? Celebrated a Liberal Cabinet Minister from the 50s. Masterstroke.
 
I have nothing against Paul Martin Sr. ...or Jr….but haven’t we flogged that horse to death already. He has a road already. Let’s have an Algonquin College Day instead. Or a Bob’s Music (or Ullrich’s, Goldstream) “You Survived Us” Day!
 
Because, as I am walking home, I see Bob’s has a new front. Save the letters. I know the city threw chicken feed at it, the old Crescent Gardens has one too. But there are stores down there that have survived 40 years through every damn cowboy/fiddle/crazy hair day, this day, that day promo that we’ve ever had.
 
But, sorry downtown folks, we can pay someone $160,000 to run the city but $8,500 in lost revenue to help out the downtown?? Forget it. Pure madness.
 
We have had stuff literally fall into a laps: Algonquin College, committed business owners, private businesses doing improvements but we nickel and dime them to death every time.
 
Bitch about that at a council meeting. Get off your wallet and find the $8,500. Start a foundation. Donate yourself. Cancel a few trips to California, Toronto or wherever the hell you’re going and head downtown instead.
 
Pound foolish and penny wise is the old expression. You got to spend it to make it. Think pennies and you get pennies. It’s backward thinking and I – and many – are sick of it.