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LETTER: Will the new library be a 'another legal Trojan Horse' for Guelph?

Patrick Sheridan writes that he has some serious concerns with the new main library
Photo by jules a. on Unsplash

GuelphToday received the following letter from Patrick Sheridan about the new main library.

So the 88,000 sq ft $62M library, which includes a 20-year property tax levy, is now in the books on a 8-5 vote at the Oct 7 special council meeting. An attempt to discuss the $20M in library service enhancements included in the proposal was shut down on the floor of council by the eight councillors supporting the expansions of service.

Those who followed the two evenings of delegations and discussions were treated to quite the show. Granted, a bad show filled with plot lines that didn’t make much sense but there was some gold amongst the political pyrite.

For those who are interested, I would highly recommend watching the hour of final summations at the Oct 7 special council meeting.

For me, the comments from the five 'nay' votes resonated most strongly, and while I thought most of the comments from the eight that voted in favour of the $62M project amounted to blarney, one comment stood out from the rest.

During the final comments by Coun. Leanne Caron, she took the opportunity to compare those who questioned the mandate, size, form and price tag of the new library proposal to the musings of the US President on COVID-19. This sort of hissing virtue is all too common in Councillor Caron’s world, the indignity of the comment brought me back to some contemplation I’ve had during the lockdown.

Mayor Guthrie had the final word before the vote. The stark contrast between the depth of his summation versus the eight councillors who endorsed the project, highlighted the primary difference between those in favour of and those against the $62M proposal and that difference was dignity.

On Guelph City Council you will find no shortage of pride. The status that comes with being chosen by constituents to oversee their municipal interests is an accomplishment deserving of a certain level of self satisfaction.

However, pride untethered from dignity inevitably slides into conceit, narcissism and arrogance, all qualities that are incompatible with competent public service. Dignity requires effort, a commitment to be worthy of the position or status one holds. In this case, it was demonstrated by the efforts of five members of city council (Bell, Billings, Gibson, Guthrie and MacKinnon) to bring their experience, expertise and sober second thought to a bloated proposal that adds significant financial risk to the city. For those who live on pride, it’s enough to simply hold up the shiny thing that defines them, be that a possession, ideology or name plate.

The final comments by the eight councillors in support of the $62M library proposal amounted to an entitled shrug, with repeated deference to “experts” and “studies”. For those who have been around Guelph long enough to remember projects like SUBBOR, District Energy and the URBACON affair, they know “visionary” projects have always been justified by experts and studies. Those same projects were all too often followed by barristers and extensive litigation for residents to bankroll.

Will the new library be yet another legal Trojan Horse for Guelph? Time will tell. Though from the arguments presented on Oct 7, from the five members of council who tried to ring the warning bell, at the very least the new “library” is the tip of a financial iceberg and Guelph just set sail from England on a ship that experts said and studies showed could never sink.