Fat Louis - March 30, 2016
An Odd Thought

By Fat Louis
Spring is nearly sprung—don’t let the occasional late March/early April snowstorm fool you!—and already the city’s residents are complaining. It seems that, for some Sudburians at least, the melting snow isn’t enough. They are outraged at the filth left behind—the mounds of wet garbage and soggy cigarette butts. Even the sand is offensive to their delicate sensibilities. You remember the sand, the stuff that made the roads sort-of drivable all winter? Well, now the much-too-easily-offended citizens of Sudbury want it gone. Pronto!

The complaints are being shouted loud enough that the local media looked into the situation. What did they discover? That the city’s streets and sidewalks are a disgusting mess. Of course the intrepid investigative reporter made one small mistake. She chose to study the downtown and the downtown, as everyone knows, is always a disgusting mess. It doesn’t matter the season, spring, summer, fall, or winter.

(Other ground-breaking insights of the report include: that drunks stumbling out of a bar throw their cigarette butts on the ground, that the city won’t sweep the streets/sidewalks until all of the snow is gone, and that people feel ‘things should be done.’)

What the reporter should have been doing is calculating how much money has been wasted trying to revitalize the so-called ‘city core.’ A bit of back of the napkin math reveals a worrying fact—the number is in the hundreds of millions. Hundreds of millions of hard-earned taxpayers dollars spent on Sudbury’s downtown and nothing has improved. In fact it continues to get worse!

We all know that Sudbury’s downtown was once great. It was the thriving heart of the community. But that was sixty years ago. Sixty years ago the Toronto Maple Leafs were great! Things have changed a lot since then. Some of those changes have even been for the better, for instance Vale (formerly Inco) no longer dumps mind-boggling amounts of untreated chemicals in the air. Other changes were neither good nor bad, like people living in the suburbs and thinking nothing of driving across town to shop and/or eat, but marked the beginning of the downtown’s slow death.

Most cities let their downtowns ebb and flow. Things get bad, prices drop, and eventually it turns around, gentrification occurs and the downtown changes into something different. But not in Sudbury. No, here a succession of deluded politicians keep trying to prop up a corpse—it’s like that movie Weekend at Bernie’s, only less funny (much like Weekend at Bernie’s 2)—and wonder why people avoid the place. Cobblestone sidewalks aren’t the answer. Neither is shoving the School of Architecture, a new arena, or the proposed casino into the crowded, dirty, and crime-ridden downtown confines.

Let’s do a quick survey: How many times have you been propositioned in Sudbury? It’s happened to me twice, both times in the downtown. Not once in the rest of the city or the outlying region, just the downtown. Question #2: How about approached by the homeless? Me? It’s happened in the downtown 20+ times in the last few years alone. The rest of the region combined—only twice. And I’ve never thought twice about walking outside after dark, except when in the downtown.

So the point of this article, inasmuch as it has one, is that the city has much bigger problems than dirty streets and sidewalks. Look up from the clogged gutters people and realize that, despite the well-meaning efforts of councillors and businessmen, the downtown is finished. Stop pouring money into a leaky bucket! Spread the wealth around and maybe, just maybe, things can improve elsewhere..”

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