OPINION: Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started noticing the proliferation of mobile signs all over the city, but it was several years ago. A constituent brought to my attention a stretch of mobile sign pollution between Harvard Road and Kortright Road a few years back, and after several calls to our By-law Compliance staff, we have regular monitoring of this stretch.  Our current Sign By-law was last reviewed in 1996.

Back in 1996, mobile signs were being used as temporary advertising for time-limited sales or promotions.  This is no longer the case.  Mobile signs are now part of the streetscape throughout the city. In my opinion, it is now permanent sign pollution.   Changeable lettering has become full-colour advertising.  Sales-only signs have become regular roadside advertising.  Sign frames no longer move locations, they just change the graphics every 30 days to meet the requirement of the by-law.  And then, 30 days later, advertisers recycle the sign again in a scheduled sequence.

There are some locations, along Woolwich Street on front lawns for example, that just should not have mobile signs, period.  The mobile sign frames are sitting right on top of landscaped gardens and shrubs, with barely enough room between the building face and the sidewalk.

Compounding the permanent mobile signage problem is the litter of A-frames and wire-frame corrugated plastics signs popping up constantly along the road allowance, advertising everything from “We’ll Buy Your Gold” and “Golf Liquidation” to real estate open houses and new subdivisions sales. Signs on buildings are getting bigger too, with some business having multiple signs at one location, and signs that are lit up all night long (don’t get me started on the subject of light pollution).  Woolwich Street, which once retained its aesthetic residential character despite having multi-use zoning, is a now a jungle of signs — on lawns, awnings, upper and lower building faces, and lately, covering entire windows.

I’m usually quite supportive of business promotion and creative marketing.  But sign pollution is no longer advertising, it is visual noise. It is not effective any more as a result of its excess.  When this happens, advertisers need to “up the game” to get noticed.  This means brighter, flashier, backlit signage, which then becomes the new norm.

How do you feel about excessive signage along our city boulevards?  Am I over-reacting?  Is it time for a comprehensive review of our City of Guelph sign by-law?




Closed Meeting Protocol

I have received a number of questions from constituents about Council’s Closed Session (often referred to as In Camera) meeting rules.

Here is a link to the City of Guelph Closed Meeting protocol.

The City’s protocol conforms to all requirements under the Ontario Municipal Act.  In addition to this policy, there are also rules about what can be discussed publicly outside of Closed Session.  The short answer is: nothing.  Other than the category of the item on the agenda and the names of members present, no other information can be released regarding the debate, motions, vote outcome, etc. unless Council passes a motion to report in Open Session.

Any member of Council who breaks Closed Session privilege is in violation of the City Council Code of Conduct.

These rules exist for a reason — to protect ourselves, our council colleagues, our staff and the Corporation of the the City of Guelph.

For this reason, it is extremely disturbing for me to read an article in Guelph Politico that Closed Session confidence has been breached.  I hope that the responsible party comes forward to take responsibility, as trust is essential to a well-functioning elected council.

Before releasing a statement to Mr. Donaldson, I carefully considered my words to ensure that I was following the Council Code of Conduct.  My full public statement on the matter is copied below:

Council is bound by strict Closed Meeting protocols, as well as a very clear Procedural By-law and CAO By-law about how the business of the Council and the city are to be enacted, how meetings are to be called and conducted, and the limitations of such meetings.  If I believe there is risk to the corporation, council or staff, I have an obligation to raise these matters for a ruling in Closed Session.  In the event that I feel this risk has not been addressed, I believe I have a personal and ethical obligation to excuse myself from the proceedings.  Unfortunately, I felt the need to exercise that provision for the first time in my nine-year council tenure on January 25.