This is what appeared in The Bulldog on June 30, 2016.
As of today, there is absolutely no way to trust the City of Ottawa anymore in the manner it is currently configured.
The city has just released that it is slashing snow-plowing in Ottawa next season.
The city is cutting this very basic service without any public consultation and is releasing information in the minimum legal time before next Wednesday’s transportation committee meeting.
Not only that but it released the information while Ottawa was enthralled by the visit of the Three Amigos, when students just got out of school for the summer, during one of heaviest weeks of vacations during the year, late during the day and when Ottawa is preparing for its huge annual event, Canada Day celebrations. And of course transportation committee will meet next Wednesday to discuss these drastic cuts in July when during this hot weather, snow is the last thing on taxpayers’ minds.
Nothing has happened in the intervening two years to change the minds of residents of this community when it come to trusting city government. Absolutely nothing. In fact, the situation has become worse.
On June 30 of this year, Ottawa residents awoke to discover to their surprise that towers of 65, 56 and 27 storeys are planned for the Bayview LRT station, the largest high-rise project in the history of this city. The zoned limit for height is 30 storeys.
But what is worse is that no public consultations are planned (no doubt the city has known of this project for months … maybe years), despite Mayor Jim Watson once holding a consultation on consultations because the public had lost trust that the municipality was listening to their concerns. Like most things Watson does, the consultation on consultations was but for public relations and to make him look good. That’s a tall order given the stink emanating from Ottawa City Hall recently. In fact as Watson’s arrogance increases in his lifetime of living off a government income, the mayor is conducting public policy with the MO being what is best for Jim Watson rather than what is best for the taxpayers for whom he is supposed to serve. The trust that taxpayers put in Watson to conduct city business to their benefit has been misplaced.
As we have seen with the height-and-zoning report and the Chateau Laurier addition, Watson was either eliminating public input as in the height-and-zoning report or giving staff final approval on the Chateau decision.
Because he wants all controversial issues eliminated in the summer so he has clear sailing into the Oct. 22 election. Self-interest clear and deliberate.
Accordingly the giant Bayview development is released to the public on June 30, just as the snow-plowing changes were in 2016. On July 10 this project will be rushed through planning committee after the Canada Day weekend and when the public is on holidays in the quietest time of the year. Most people will discover the project has been approved before they have had a chance to respond to it … not that the city is planning any public consultation. In other words to adapt a college football cheer to the new Bayview development, “elevator, elevator, we got the shaft”.
Worse, the day after it is rubber-stamped at planning committee, it will rubber-stamped by city council.
As the CBC’s Joanne Chianello pointed out in a tweet, this mammoth project is being “rammed” through rapid-fire city approvals in such a way that it will get past public notice. Somerset Councillor Catherine McKenney has grave reservations about the project in her ward as does the local community association. Those concerns are being tossed in the garbage in a kind of governance … by Watson, planning committee chairwoman and Barrhaven councillor Jan Hardy and city manager Steve Kanellakos … that would bring a smile to the face of Vladimir Putin. The City of Ottawa has become a sham of participatory democracy.
One grasps for words to register the level of disgust that should be heaped on Watson, Harder and Kanellakos. The city is being run for politicians and the development community. The public, at best, is perceived as a nuisance … probably not even given credit for that.
This is not democracy. It is autocracy and unCanadian. Democracy is more than a vote every few years. That’s how Russia works, not a free country and certainly not during a period where we celebrate Canada’s freedom. Politicians and staff at the City of Ottawa have abandoned public service for self-service. Shame.
Meanwhile in the case of the high-rise and zoning report (the most significant planning legislation in a decade), the public was given 24-hours notice of public meeting on the legislation. Then it was passed. Most Ottawans never even had a chance to learn of this report, let alone respond to it. What pathetic debate that occurred at planning committee on the report revealed councillors had simply not done their homework and sounded very much like they hadn’t read the report. Pathetic.
At Ottawa City Council without the mayor present, the report passed into legislation unanimously and in four seconds.
During the discussion at planning committee on the report, Harder chortled arrogantly that community associations had not responded to the legislation despite being informed of it by the city. Just one problem. Bulldog columnist Ron Benn went through a record of the Centrepointe Community Association’s emails and other documentation only to find no notification from the city. So Harder was either misinformed or lying.
Strangely enough, developer associations took part in the formulation of the legislation and were very pleased with the results. The public was shut out. The community pays the salaries of Watson, Harder and Kanellakos to represent taxpayers’ interests, not those of the development industry.
The City of Ottawa in these instances is not striving for participatory democracy, a term which should have been learned by Watson, Harder and Kanellakos in high-school social studies.
Accordingly, Watson, Harder and Kanellakos should resign.
If they do not resign, voters in Ottawa have an opportunity to throw them out of their jobs in the Oct. 22 municipal election.
They should take advantage of that opportunity.
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