News of the year: in Waterloo

The top stories of 2009-10 reported by The Cord

1. Public Square

From it’s opening on May 20, Waterloo’s public square has been both a source of community-building and controversy.

Although the square’s opening day was filled with celebration, it was preceded by a year of debate regarding its purpose, design and cost.

Immediately following its opening, it was criticized for its lack of green space.

The concrete ramps and steps did however become an attractive spot for local skateboarders to spend their afternoons; only causing further concern that this would both damage the square and become hazardous for those walking through.

The issue was quieted after rails were installed on July 1 and skateboarding hours were delegated. However, the need for a proper skateboarding facility in the area continued to plague city politics for months to come.

The artwork in the square, the rust-coloured Bell For Kepler, was vandalized in August when Laurier alumnus Marcus Green covered it in chalk drawings conveying messages of peace.

Although done with good intention, the chalk addition to the bell received mixed reviews from outraged city officials to amused local residents.

2. Northdale

After a heated town hall discussion in April 2009, it was clear that the student-concentrated area north of Laurier was in desperate need of a concrete, attainable vision.

City officials made a list of concerns and took suggestions from permanent residents and students to compile a community vision.

A town hall meeting in November revealed not only the city’s compiled vision but also the “Green Solution” developed by the community group Help Urbanize the Ghetto (HUG) in Waterloo.

After debating about the appropriate next steps, a later council meeting in January determined that both visions needed to be given to city staff to outline the tools and costs associated with them.

Staff results will be brought to council this April and a vision to move forward with should be decided on at this time.

3. Amalgamation

With the upcoming municipal election, a group of local residents and business owners brought forward to council on Jan. 25 the question of amalgamating the cities of Waterloo and Kitchener.

The phrasing of the questions to be posted on the ballot, “Would you support members of Council engaging in a dialogue about the merits of merging the Cities of Kitchener and Waterloo? Yes or No,” was not passed by council with a vote of only 3-5 in support.

The question was raised yet again at the Feb. 22 council meeting by mayor Brenda Halloran to let Waterloo residents share feedback.

The new question asked permission for city council to engage in dialogue on the issue of merging the two cities.

It passed 6-2 and will appear on the region’s election ballot this October.

4. It’s Your Waterloo

Launched in September, the “It’s Your Waterloo” campaign was designed to educate students on the city’s by-laws and promote good citizenship.

Posters around both university campuses, the main Conestoga campus as well as coasters in bars were used to market the most commonly issued by-law violations to the specific demographic, such as public urination.

The project worked in unison with the door-to-door welcoming initiative involving members of the Waterloo Regional Police Service, the city and both universities talking to students just after moving into their homes for the term.

By-law infringements were reportedly down this St. Patrick’s Day from previous years.

Thus, it appears the initiative has taken some effect on the actions of community members.

5. Prorogation rally

Following Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s move to prorogue parliament, Waterloo was one of many cities to host a protest on Jan. 23.

The rally, organized by the group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP), brought over 500 protesters and MP candidates to Waterloo’s public square.

Despite the great numbers of support, only 30 students were present. As well, the event was a disappointment for the community as local MPs and elected officials were noticably absent.