The following is a guest post by Vince Jelenic. You can find his contact info at the bottom of the piece. These views represent Vince’s opinion; if you’d like to share yours, please contact me
Hi, I’m Vince Jelenic, a resident of Cambridge, and owner of a local business called Green Spot Antiques – TwoJJs. Benjamin asked for some of my thoughts on the recent talks about the possibilities of Kitchener & Waterloo municipal amalgamations. My viewpoint is one of a general resident of the region, and I claim no expertise or special interests.
The fact that two municipalities such as Kitchener & Waterloo (KW) would at some point amalgamate is a given, or almost. As an outsider when I travel to KW I see only one city.
When I was a child, my mother used to clean houses for wealthy Toronto residents in the Avenue Rd & St. Clair area. I remember how when we got to ALMOST our destination, there would be a second ticket to pay on the streetcar. There was this invisible line somewhere on the road, and if we crossed it , it cost more. Sometimes on nicer days, we would “choose” to walk the few extra blocks. That extra ticket line functioned as a reminder how the two sections of town were connected, but quite distinct, both in terms of wealth, provenance, and services.
In KW today, there is still a two-ticket zone mentality but in the end it is the consumer who pays – each citizen. There are many areas where rationalizations and savings could be obtained through amalgamation, and even standards of service raised to equivalent standards. This is a good thing. Toronto outgrew it’s two-ticket zones years ago, KW should too.
Recent talks have indicated how Cambridge, the third partner in this Region of Waterloo, is not to be privy to these talks. I understand this is by choice and by design. We, in Cambridge have been very reluctant interlocutors with regards to amalgamation of our municipalities.
While some of it may be due to the fierce pride of local residents, and their ties to history, I think it is more due to the “marginalization” rationale. We are at the “ends of the earth” for the Region, at it’s borders, so to speak.
We sit on the outskirts of Waterloo Region — with our City Hall in Galt, the southernmost part of the three municipalities. So let’s call us “outskirters”, just for fun.
We, in Cambridge, are also made up of three smaller village cores, each with it’s own sense of history, and there are internal struggles within our own municipality for services. Witness the previous debates on the “proper” placement of our new City Hall .
For Kitchener, was there ever a doubt as to where their new City Hall should be? Yes, give or take a block, perhaps. Kitchener has a downtown; we don’t -not really.
And that is the problem of “critical mass” which Cambridge has to live with. As part of the Region, we can very seldom benefit from new initiatives because we cannot bring critical mass to the table of needs and benefits. We have a tough time doing that even within our own municipality.
Most services are built from Hubs, made sustainable, and then extend outwards to reach all an area’s citizens. Cambridge will never be the Hub of this Region. We know that, and fear it.
A KW amalgamation puts Cambridge in the very disadvantageous position of now dealing with a true HUB mentality up north of the 401, an economic powerhouse.. While Cambridge is oft-times under represented today in Regional Government, we can only imagine that representation being further eroded in the “new Region” with KW amalgamated.
In all countries, “outskirters’ are often the last to benefit from the gains of their economy. It is a natural occurrance due to fiscal and resource restraints. On the other hand, outskirters are first to be courted to by the neighbours. Of course, both parties, would love the free flowing tax dollars from the “outskirters” for their own.
As an immigrant from a border area I know that feeling well. I come from Istria, a peninsula close to Trieste, Italy, and our conquerers (friendly neighbours) have changed a multitude of times since before the early Romans. A fiercly proud populace in a veritable “no man’s land”.
If we look at Cambridge geographically, and culturally, we probably have more in common with our southern neighbours such as Paris& Brantford, than we do with Waterloo or Kitchener today. In terms of distance, both are closer to Galt than Waterloo is, for example. Perhaps a KW amalgamation is a good thing, it may help Cambridge reconsider it’s struggles with the north and make us concentrate on increasing our collaborative efforts with the south.
While the Region markets Waterloo & Kitchener to the world, and the HUB of activity grows with leaps and bounds to the north of us, perhaps we can make OUR little neck of the woods a more pleasant place to live. So much so that the go-getters from Waterloo will consider Cambridge a prime place to reside, even if they have to work in Waterloo. They may even take comfort in our historic downtown and river settings.
Cambridge has a choice here: either remain an “outskirter” in Waterloo Region, facing a tougher and larger opponent to the north, or become a HUB of it’s own for a different concept of growth.
We are a small town. We should stop acting like a big city. So far, in doing so, we’ve not only lost our identities, our downtowns, but also our shirts – our economic drivers.
I believe KW amalgamation will have the effect of finally putting the roaring Cambridge dog to rest so that it concentrate on it’s own house a little more and make it a more lively and comfy place.
However, it should be kept in mind that within the Region, “taxation without proper representation” will lead to larger problems later. There are many instances where the “centralization” or “regionalization” of services has lead to a total disregard for Cambridge interests. To continue down that path during a KW amalgamation period would only add obstacles in the way of a productive change.
So, yes, please leave Cambridge out of it. It’s best for all parties. There is much to be said in recognition that one’s place in a partnership will not actually lead to profit. It puts a stop to wasted energy.
Cambridge is full of energetic people, and is a great community. It just might begin to concentrate on itself more.
Vince (Venanzio) Jelenic is co-owner and partner (along with Wanda Jimenez) of Green Spot Antiques in Cambridge, Ontario which is situated in the old Cedar Hills Dairy building (nee’ Hutchinson’s Dairy in 1904) at 49 Cedar Street.
Vince has been active in the antiques field since 1979, in Italy, and Canada and now sells worldwide through his online stores. Cambridge, Ontario thus became a veritable “hot spot” for antiquers from across the globe.
With over 80% of our business from out of town, our innovative outreach programs bring customers to Cambridge every day, whether virtual or in person. A resident of Cambridge since 1990, Vince has a keen interest in this city’s developments and consider Cambridge HOME now.
Green Spot Antiques : http://greenspotantiques.com
Green Spot LIVE: http://greenspot.ning.com
And we’re everywhere on the net too — just google “green spot antiques” you can’t miss us.
and if you’d like to share your perspective on amalgamation, or any other local issue, just drop me a line.