Politician regrets seeking input on school closures

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After a surprise announcement this week that two local schools would be closing despite vocal opposition from local interest groups, one politician involved in the process believes the process could have handled better.

“We really dropped the ball on this one,” he admitted. “We were going to close the school no matter what anyone said. I think in hindsight opening it up for discussion was a mistake, and a bit of a dick move.”

Discussion around the closures has been heated, with many locals arguing strongly in defence of the schools and their communities. It appeared that the community was sending a clear message that they wanted to avoid closures, but that message was unknowingly being sent to deaf ears.

“What a waste of time,” lamented a community organizer. “We spent a lot of social energy here, collecting signatures, printing signs, organizing support, and in the end they weren’t even going to listen no matter what we did.”

When asked about how it should have been handled, the response came quickly. “Looking back now, I would have preferred it was quick and sharp, like pulling off a band-aid. Why stretch things out for so long when all you’re doing is building people up for more misery?”

Others were less mournful, having realized long ago that there was little hope that a closure could be avoided. They admitted that they had continued through the process as a “good exercise” in community organization, which can be drawn upon as valuable experience when an issue comes up which might actually be subject to discussion or persuasion.

Caught in the middle of it all, students were elated to hear that their school would be closing. The dream scenario of school being out “forever” spread through social media quickly. Once they were informed that they would continue to attend school, but in a different location, many resumed their traditional teen apathy and others rolled their eyes and were heard to remark “whatever…” before implanting earbuds and walking away.

The lasting effect of this closure would appear to be a deep mistrust of government bureaucracy and a disdain for decisions made by those with no real stake in the outcome, but other smaller issues may be proven by history to be the bigger burden. Things like the removal of the last blockade to relentless northward expansion of Queen’s University, or the potential use of the Memorial Centre grounds for a new larger school obstructing the future site of an XXLVEC, could be stumbling blocks in a future which will trace its woes to decisions made today.

While not quite the heart of a city, high schools are no doubt organic, on the level of a lung or kidney. The reorganization and redistribution of students, and the relocation of their school will create numerous changes and adjustments felt throughout the civic body on levels which are only just being considered. Being awake during the surgery will be trying, but the demeanour of the surgeon has come up lacking.

“It’s like they’re opening up our ribcage, and asking what we should keep,” fumed a local parent. “and when we say keep everything and make them healthy, they ignore us and cut it out instead.”

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West-end residents decry lack of community from behind backyard privacy fences

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Speaking anonymously from behind his 6-foot tall cedar fence, a west end resident has raised a number of complaints about the lack of community and neighbourhood charm in his west-end suburb.

“It’s like people pretend they don’t even see each other,” said the man, invisible in his backyard. “It took me almost three months to meet the guy on the other side of me, and that was only because FedEX delivered a package there by mistake.”

Many other residents share these opinions, lamenting the lack of friendliness and the absence of rallying points to generate camaraderie in their areas. Reasons for this barren community landscape include the large property plots and long driveways which make maintenance a chore, as well as a lack of walkable destinations at which locals can meet and mingle.

“Going home, I just drive by house after house. There’s no local shops, or a dance studio or anything, and even if there was, the houses take up so much space only a few people would walk to it. How are we supposed to get to know anyone when our communities are designed as a drive-thru and not a restaurant?”

Some initial steps are being taken by local council representatives, submitting a bill for taller fences that they hope will weave some community cloth.

“The goal,” outlined a supporter, “is to get everyone to have to re-do all their fencing. You’d have to talk to all your neighbours, organize the costs and the scheduling, agree on designs. It’s a pretty major undertaking that would bring people together and start to generate those roots where people get to know each other.”

However, others think that more drastic measures need to be taken.

“Yeah, the fence thing is a good idea,” admits the anonymous voice behind the cedar, “but I think it’s only a band-aid solution. What we really need to do is make this place busier. Maybe make the streets narrower and straighter so that walking is easier. Add a few office buildings and some retail and push the density up. Then people will be walking around, enjoying a lunch and maybe buying some gifts. We could have a pub in the middle for people to go after work. Doesn’t that sound like a lot more fun than what we’ve got now? Why don’t they make communities like that any more?”

Gambling addict haunted by “Roll up the Rim” promotion

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A local man has come out in opposition to the popular Tim Horton’s “Roll up the Rim” promotion, saying that the combination of caffeine and adrenaline it provides is a health risk to people like himself.

“Woo! That feeling you get when you roll up a winner!” The man exclaimed, eyes wide and hands shaking. “You tie that into a jolt of caffeine, man that’s a rush and a half. Bit of nicotine to keep things from going too wiggly and then it’s time to play again!”

Indeed playing again has been a problem for the man, who admits that he can’t resist the urge to immediately trade in any winners for the chance to “double down on his double double” by chaining together successive winners.

“Best streak I got was a 4-banger last weekend. Couldn’t believe it when the last one was a donut and not another drink. I guess it could have been worse but I got lucky riding that one as far as it would go.” However, the man admits that the health effects were considerable.

“Didn’t sleep a wink. Just kept goin’ around in my head, thinking of the sleeves of cups they’ve got behind the counter. Trying to figure out the odds, the best time of day, or which stores were the best to go to and when. I’m getting a system in place, but I can’t tell you too much about that.”

Friends of the man have always known there was a possibility for things like this to happen.

“I hear people say ‘addictive personality’ and he’s the one I think of,” admitted a friend. “Caffeine, nicotine, dopamine, right? He gets a rush from something, and he’ll just keep going until he burns out or hurts himself.”

Tim Horton’s wouldn’t comment on the though of their promotion as “gambling” but admitted that there is a tangible promotional aspect to making people believe they could be winners.

“Our promotion fits within all legal guidelines, and is designed in such a way to reward those who enjoy our beverages.” Remarked a spokesperson. “We encourage our customers to exercise moderation in all parts of their life, and to ensure that they are coming in for our excellent service and not for the prizes on the poster.”

 

Local panhandlers outraged at retail vacancy.

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In a downtown retail stretch that used to boast many viable pan handling locations, the empty store fronts and vacant display windows now present are an ongoing concern to those who make their livelihood on the kindness of customers.

“Used to be, there was places all up n’ down here where we could set up and make some coin,” remembers a local man. “Nowadays, there’s three or four of us all fighting to try to get in front of the same spots because that’s the only place which sees any customers.”

Indeed, the concentration of those seeking spare change has been accelerated by the removal of many downtown retail spaces, and the resulting reduction in patronage. Normally the winter months are particularly lean, with tourism dollars drying up until the warmth of spring, however this year has been particularly bad with the combination of poor weather and store closings meaning that a record low pedestrian traffic was observed throughout downtown sidewalks.

Some of those asking for handouts have taken a more long term approach, by establishing themselves in empty entranceways of previously occupied businesses. These home bases provide some consistency to the downtown working crowd, but are not nearly as successful as an open business would normally be.

“How are we supposed to get someone to stop and pass off some change when people are only passing by on the way to somewhere that’s open?” Remarked a young woman. “People just put their blinders on, and walk on to where they’re going. There’s nothing in the windows to make them slow down and look these days, and that used to give us an easy way to get their attention.”

Others have begun forming partnerships to cover a wider area and pool their earnings. It is hoped through this method that they may be able to generate enough to start a small business in one of the vacancies, providing a much needed influx of shoppers.

“It’s about being self sustaining,” remarked the organizer. “Eventually we start generating enough that we can get a retail space and maybe start selling something. People come in and we make some money on their change. The business model is there, we are just hoping that we can organize well enough to get it started.”

When asked what kind of business, they were dismissive.

“Doesn’t really matter, it’s not like it will make money,” they explained. “Rents are so high, at this point the business is going in as a loss-leader for the other half of the partnership. We are being realistic here, because we know there’s no way to make a profit no matter what kind of place we open.”

Former Pittsburgh township forces invade downtown as tensions mount.

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In a startling escalation of the conflict between Kingston and the former Pittsburgh township, forces were deployed to the downtown region under the pretense of protecting infrastructure crucial to the east-end residents.

Originally combined in 1998 by the amalgamation of the City of Kingston, recent unrest has come from the residents of the former township who feel that they are not seeing benefit from the merger, while taxation rates increase dramatically. More recently the relationship began to deteriorate as calls were made for separation and petitions were circulated. Those factions calling for dissolution were labelled as separatists and their concerns dismissed to satellite discussions outside of formalized parliamentary procedure.

It is believed that the Pittsburgh residents waited until the warmer spring weather reduced road conditions, meaning that a response from the city would be delayed. First to be secured were the LaSalle Causeway bridge and Wolfe Island ferry docks, crucial transportation infrastructure from which they could base their operation. From there they expanded northwest along the major highway, and southward toward city hall.

While there has been no conflict or military action, the show of force is being condemned unilaterally by surrounding townships and districts. The mayor tweeted that he was “caught off guard” by the deployment and questioned if this was “for real”.

Currently the Pittsburgh faction maintains that it is only maintaining the needs of their citizens, and does not intend outright action against the city, however unofficial channels have been opened with Amherstview and the former Kingston township, with assumptions that they will seek to control the airport and rail lines to further tighten their control of the city.

Tensions are high on both sides of the conflict, as thousands are now caught in the centre of the conflict without means to escape or avoid unless they abandon their lives as they know it. Many are just waiting to see if this will be a brief skirmish in municipal politics, or if it is the symptom of a much larger conflict which could be ignited by any small spark.