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All In Hand
Here you'll find the sum total of Miss Vicky's Remarks thus far.
Last week I found a feature on the city's website that allows you to sign up for regular updates on what's happening at City Hall. I know what you're thinking - you must be a real municipal politics geek if you want that cluttering up your inbox on a regular basis! Maybe so. But the information is handy.
For example, you may have read in this week's Citizenabout a proposal for a new Central Library near Bayview and Scott, part of a scheme to develop the area around the transitway station. An intriguing notion, to be sure. Except the proposal comes from a developer not exactly known for creative urban mixed-use spaces, the design at this point is less than inspiring, and the whole thing would be a public-private partnership conditional (at first glance) on the developer being able to stuff as many condo units into the space as possible.
When I heard about this, I vowed to learn as much about this proposal as possible. So far my spidey-sense is tingling, but I wanted to get more info before responding in a knee-jerk fashion on the blog. I seem to recall a different proposal from this developer being floated before the Hintonburg Community Association's Zoning Committee a few months ago, and a new library sure wasn't part of the equation. It may be the company figures that adding a new library to the space might be a way to fast-track the process, help get the project built, and encourage the community and the city to overlook key elements. Like....I don't know... decent architecture. Or environmental sustainability. But that's just the knee-jerk speculation on my part, I admit. And while it might be amusing to write a blog entry comparing the possible new library to some of the company's other projects, I'd rather get a better sense of the proposal and its history first.
So imagine my delight when I got my first "upcoming meetings" installment of the city's e-news (which lists what committees are meeting, agenda highlights, and so on). Turns out Ottawa's Public Library Board is having a special meeting on Monday, October 3 at 6 p.m. in the Champlain Room at City Hall. On the agenda: a Presentation on Public-Private Partnership Proposal for a New Central Library.
Might be worth checking out, I think!
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The Hintonburg Community Association annual general meeting is this evening, beginning at 7pm at the Community Centre on Wellington.
Doors will open at 6:30 for folks to purchase a membership (if you haven't got one already). Memberships cost $5 annually.
the first part of the meeting will be pretty basic business - reports and elections for a new board of directors.
The second part is an open forum, where residents can air any concerns or issues they feel the HCA should be working on.
The HCA is a fairly active association, but they are always looking for new members and new people who are keen to get involved. So if you're interested, come on out!
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Apparently our councillor wants to remove the traffic calming measures on Kirkwood Avenue. On his request, a report from a technical evaluation and environmental assessment study was deferred to October 5th's meeting of the city's Transportation committee.
The report recommends retaining the existing measures. Councillor Little argues they don't work and the majority of residents would prefer that Kirkwood be used as a 4-lane arterial road.
Traffic calming, in the form of a raised intersection, a flat-top speed hump, and a series of curb extensions, was built on Kirkwood in 1999. It was a pilot project, to be monitored and its effectiveness evaluated. In 2003, Councillor Little requested a report on the impact of the measures, arguing that he was being inundated with complaints about drivers speeding down surrounding roads to avoid the traffic calming, that it caused problems for emergency vehicles, and that people found it difficult to navigate. He also asked that $175,000 be set aside to remove the traffic calming if the study determined removal was justified.
Here's what the report found:
"The comparison of the “before” and “after” data indicated that the traffic calming measures have reduced the negative impacts of traffic on Kirkwood Avenue. Collision rates have been reduced and traffic speeds have generally decreased along Kirkwood Avenue. On other parallel and intersecting streets in the adjacent community, traffic volumes and speeds are unchanged or slightly reduced, with two exceptions: moderate increases in speed were noted on Tweedsmuir Avenue, as were both speed and volumes on Hilson Avenue. Noise levels and vibration levels are unchanged or slightly improved. They also surveyed service providers (EMS, Fire, Police, Transit, etc), and "none indicated that they had experienced unacceptable impacts".
The study also sought public input, to see if there was any case to be made for removing traffic calming:
"Overall, the vast majority of the comments received from the public indicated that the traffic calming measures have been successful in improving the safety of Kirkwood Avenue for travelers by all modes. Access to local properties was said to be easier, pedestrian crossing of Kirkwood Avenue to be safer (particularly for children walking to school), and driver behaviour to be improved. The negative impacts of traffic on residents living along Kirkwood Avenue were also reduced. " In fact, the most frequently-cited negative comment is that it's not fair that Kirkwood has traffic calming and Churchill doesn't - residents there would like traffic calming measures as well. Some additional concerns about signage and traffic signals were identified, and these were examined by the study.
The report's findings are pretty clear: there is no justification for the removal of the traffic calming measures.
The councillor insists the "vast majority" of the public wants traffic calming removed; that it's been a failure. The study would seem to indicate otherwise - it's working, and the public doesn't see a problem.
Personally, I've never noticed a ton of congestion on Kirkwood, and certainly the calming makes me slow down when I'm driving along there. Seems to be working fairly well to me. But I don't live on or directly around that road. Any points of view from Miss Vicky's readers?
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The vehemence with which some readers responded to my comments last week about Jennifer Teague and the Take back the Night March (not to mention the rather unnerving ways some of our discussions have evolved in the last couple of months) led me to reflect a bit on why I do this. I suppose it's a good thing - since our launch in February, the site has grown tremendously. Lots of people are reading it, and folks are starting to participate more in the discussions. So it is time to take stock, I think.
I have have a long fascination with on-line community-building, having been a participant in various on-line fora for over a decade now. I started with usenet newsgroups in the mid-nineties, then branched into listservs and web-based discussion boards like babble. Over the years I have made some wonderful friends (some of whom I have yet to meet in the flesh, but they are dear friends nonetheless), reconnected with lost pals, stayed in touch with others, found family members, struck up romances, organized political and advocacy campaigns, debated, dialogued, researched, exchanged, learned, supported, grieved, educated, amused, distracted, flirted, collaborated, entertained and more, thanks to these tools.
For a while I have been toying with the idea of having an online presence - a home base on the web, not just occasional participation in other people's sites, boards and groups. I registered my domain a few years ago in anticipation, but was never really inspired to do anything about it. Then the blogging phenom started, and I was intrigued, mostly because of the range of blogs out there - from alternative sources of journalism to glimpses into people's personal journals, from a testing ground or performance space for artistic endeavours to reflections, tips and tricks about a particular topic or past-time.
Then of course, there's that whole cat-photo thing. I just don't get why so many bloggers post pictures of cats (theirs or others). But hey, I don't have to! Because there's so much out there!
I also like the interactivity of certain blogs - the potential to create a community, or at least a space for dialogue. And I like the idea of getting into the habit of writing on a regular basis. The former literature scholar in me misses the writing, I guess, even if she doesn't miss the academic lifestyle.
When Webgeek came into my life, underemployed and bored as heck, I finally got the push I needed to start to think about what I wanted to do.
I wanted the site to be about my community, and specifically the corner of the city I call home. I love my neighbourhood. I love how it is changing, and over the last few years I have met more and more people who share this passion and are willing to work hard to help Hintonburg and the city in general continue to grow in positive ways. I see a lot of challenges ahead - finding ways to reduce waste and help people adopt more sustainable habits, for example. Or dealing with increasing density in the urban core, ensuring that vulnerable populations don't get left behind. There's the fundamental problem of community safety, and of course the overarching context of limited sources of municipal revenue combined with lack of action on the part of other levels of government.
So I wanted the site to be a place to reflect on all of this, to comment on the responses of decision-makers, and maybe brainstorm alternative, creative approaches to municipal issues.
I also wanted to use the site to promote community and cultural events, to share some of the secrets of this part of the city. Maybe do a little rabble-rousing on occasion, on issues that I really care about.
Of course, a gal can't be political all the time. At least, this gal doesn't want to. I do like to indulge my domestic side now and then, and I like a good distraction (especially in these oh-so-serious times). So I wanted my site to have the kind of balance I've been striving to achieve - a healthy mixture of work, politics, family, community, food, hobbies, gossip, silliness, friends, art, culture and fun... not necessarily in that order. I'm not always successful at finding that balance....but at least my blog could try!
So we designed and executed the site to accommodate these diverse desires. Within the various sections I have space for discussion of a range of issues ("My main point"), the occasional rant ("Vicky's vitriol"), and promoting spaces, places, organizations, causes and events ("Ringing endorsements"). We added the "Dear Miss Vicky" section because I thought it would be fun to have an advice column. Unfortunately not too many folks have picked up on that part of the site, but you never know. Maybe it'll catch on.
It was important to me to build interactivity into the blog, to make it a space for a friendly exchange of ideas. It's a big decision for a blogger, whether to allow comments, and a lot of folks who get serious traffic decided against it (or chose to cut off the comment feature because the folks who were commenting had more interest in making trouble than having a civil discussion). We added the extra step of registering in order to comment, which we hoped would be offer some disincentive to the "hit and run" variety of internet troll. And this has worked, to some extent. But there are clearly some issues that hit a nerve, and folks have come out of the woodwork. Or out from under bridges.
Blogging is a hobby for me. I do have a demanding job and a busy volunteer schedule, and I don't want to spend all my time bashing my head against a wall debating with people who aren't interested in other points of view or who are just interested in arguing for arguments' sake. I haven't got the energy. And I don't enjoy it. I had hoped we'd be able to establish a certain tone on the site that would foster some degree of civility. Naive, perhaps. Having had some experiences with "codes of conduct" on other sites or listservs, I know that people rarely read them and seldom respect them. So for now I've chosen to rely on the good will of the participants; I cross my fingers and hope that folks will tone things down when I ask them to. And if all else fails, there's always tea and sherry.
As Miss Vicky's grows, I imagine I'll be wrestling more and more with these tensions - how do I keep the site a reflection of my particular voice and perspective (it is a personal blog after all) while keeping it as open as possible to others' participation? What happens when someone just doesn't respect what the site is about? How bad or off-topic does a discussion have to get before I cut it off? When do I ask someone to leave the parlour? Is the world ready for accidental altruist and pinklitva to meet in person?
I imagine I'll be adding to this manifesto as time passes. In the meantime, if you've been reading regularly and have yet to register or participate, I would encourage you to do so. I will try hard to keep this a friendly, cosy place. And if you have particular issues, topics, or questions - or if you're just looking for a recipe - do let me know.
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The Webgeek here. Just a brief note to our readers that, thanks to this comment (edited by me last night -- the original didn't have strategically placed stars or my editorial), I've decided to keep a comment "history" in the database now. Any changes you make to a comment will be logged and retrievable later, should we need to do so. I do log the IP address of the machine you post comments from as well (I have from the very begining). This is only visible to "Admin" users on the site. Should anyone else feel the need to threaten myself or Vicky (or anyone else for that matter) on this site, the company or service provider that owns that IP address will be notified, complete with comment history. Hopefully this will not be required.
While I was at it, I also decided to replace the "edited by" lines that appear at the bottom of comments that have been changed. Now, instead of every edit being added to the list for all and sundry to see, only the last edit date by a user will be shown. Unfortunately, I accidentally wiped out all the edit info in the process of adding this feature. I did manually indicate that the "Chicagosun" comments were edited by me last night, just so that there is no confusion on the matter.
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Not the happiest of weeks, really.... a brutal murder in Barrhaven, hurricanes to the south, no CBC to help process it all.... so when Finishing School alumna Katy (class of 2002) invited us out to celebrate a certain milestone birthday, we jumped at the chance. Literally.
Katy decided to hold her celebration at Spring Action, a trampoline and circus school tucked away on Chapel, just off Rideau. The school was started up by my cousin, Olympian Heather Ross-McManus, and her hubby/coach Sean McManus. They provide a place for serious competitors like Heather to train (apparently some skiers train there as well - it's a good way to perfect your nutty jumping tricks), they have a wide array of classes for kids of all ages (and for adults, too!), they perform at various festivals and events (Busker Festival, WestFest, and the like). And you can have birthday parties there - for kids and folks-who-still-wish-they-were-kids as well.
The evening began with some trial runs at a mini-trampoline, to try out a range of tricks - tuck jump, straddle jump, j-jump.... once we had that down, we did a few warmup stretches and movements, then hit the big trampolines. The coaches divided us into groups, and then ran us through various jumps. We added the pike jump and the butt-drop to our repertoire. Then the races began. Webgeek was able to show off his judo chops when we were instructed to roll across the trampoline to the other side. I think most folks were taken aback at the enthusiasm with which he threw himself across the surface. Of course, he has some tramp-burn to show for it. But if he had a tail, it would have been wagging!
It was a great time, and a pretty healthy workout as well. We were both feeling it the next day, that's for sure!
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Last night's march was very energizing - and not just because it kicked off with aboriginal women singing and drumming and punk rock aerobics led by the Jezebels. About five hundred women of all ages gathered at the monument at Minto Park yesterday evening - a diverse group, multilingual and multi-ethnic. After a few short speeches and the Jezebels' warm-up routine (nothing like shimmying to Bikini Kill to get you going!), we hit the streets, armed with banners, drums, whistles and bookmarks to hand out to folks along the route.
There was a fantastic vibe - very spirited, very noisy, very positive. Lots of chanting, particularly as we went through the Market. And a good reception from the people on the street (with a few exceptions - like the guy who threw the bookmark I gave him out his car window. whatEVER!). All in all, a positive, empowering experience. Kudos to the organizers and all the women who came out!
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Last night the Webgeek and I finally had a chance to use our new Great Canadian Theatre Company subscription. We went to see Relative Good, a new play by David Gow. It was a powerful, if upsetting, statement about the comprimises our country has made since 9/11 - the things we've traded away in the name of security and in the interests of smoother diplomatic relations.
I knew the play was based on the deportation of Maher Arar and his wife Monia Mazigh's struggle to bring him back to Canada. But I figured it would be loosely based, perhaps throwing in some elements of other cases of Muslim-Canadians being detained. Nope. The changes were minor - names, city of origin, the profession of the protagonist, not to mention his level of commitment to his faith. And much of the dialogue was so stiff that it sounded more like the content of legal briefings, op-ed pieces and interviews than anything else. It makes me wonder whether Gow actually met and spoke with Maher and Monia at all - maybe he compiled the play from press releases, articles, interviews and statements.
That being said, it still upset me - but I have a feeling that's because I actually know the people involved, because the situation is still fresh in my mind (not to mention evolving, as the inquiry into Arar's deportation gets more and more appalling as it continues). On our walk home, I wondered aloud what kind of emotional reaction the play would yield in 20 years, performed, say, by a high school drama troupe.
Still, it is very much worth seeing, especially if you're interested in the issue (better yet, if you think our response to the threat of terrorism is appropriate. The set is fantastic - a maze of glass corridors, reinforcing the Kafka-eque quality of the situation (frankly, the play could use a bit more absurdity, but that's just me). The pace is good, and some of the performances are excellent. I particularly enjoyed Paul Rainville's portrayal of the jaded bureaucrat nearing retirement and the foppish Vice-Consul.
Just be warned: it might hit a raw nerve or two. Which, I suppose, is a necessary component of good theatre.
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Tomorrow is Car-Free Day, when citizens are encouragd to leave their gas-guzzlers behind in favour of more environmentally-friendly modes of transportation.
We hear a lot of talk from City Hall about this city's support for public transit, enhanced walkability, cycling and so forth. Take this bit from the website, for example:
The City is committed to protecting and conserving our environment, and reducing pollution levels in Ottawa. Ottawa's Growth Management Strategy, Ottawa 20/20, is our blue print for where we want to be in 20 years and how to get there. As part of Ottawa 20/20, Council approved the Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan at the January 12, 2005 City Council meeting and committed to reducing Ottawa's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2012. To reduce pollution caused by transportation, the City is taking advantage of environmentally friendly technology such as hybrid buses, and bio-diesel and ethanol-diesel fuels, and expanding Light Rail Transit.
Of course, the road to global warming is paved with good intentions. That is, the good intentions get paved over. We sure like our roads here in Ottawa, and we like our cars even more.
No strategy will be successful unless people (and businesses and institutions) change their habits. Even the city's site admits this: "the success of the City's environmental strategies relies on you, our residents. You can do your part by reducing your reliance on cars - by walking, cycling or using OC Transpo to get to your destination."
Here's what the city has planned for the day:
Thursday, September 22, 200
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Festival Plaza, City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. West
Music - Trivia - Games - Art - Chalk painting - Fleet of original bicycle creations - OC Transpo Rack & Roll bus - Environmental booths
Similar things are happening at parks and suburban centres - bouncy castles, bike safety nfo, and so on. But really, doesn't this seem a little tame for car-free day? I'd like to see the city go a bit farther than having a bouncy castle and some display diesel buses. No amount of sidewalk chalk is going to persuade people to sacrifice convenience for air quality.
The least they could have done was close down some city streets and hold the activities there. Close off the market, for example. Or a couple of blocks downtown. According to the Sierra Club's Ottawa chapter,
Street Celebrations are held on International Car Free Day (September 22) in cities around the globe. However, the City of Ottawa’s by-laws do not permit full road closures for International Car Free Day. The Ottawa Group of the Sierra Club of Canada looks forward to the day when Ottawa’s by-laws will permit full road closures for International Car Free Day to demonstrate the urgency of the environmental hazard that cars represent.
Diplomatic, no? Surely our council and bureaucrats could find a way to make a temporary road closure happen. That by-law excuse just doesn't cut it. And it doesn't make me feel too confident about the lofty rhetoric of our "growth management strategy".
At some point we're going to have to accept a little discomfort and inconvenience. If we want our planet to last, that is.
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I've really been missing the CBC this week. OK, I've already blogged about the lockout; you all know how I feel. But I really noticed its absence yesterday, when Jennifer Teague's body was found. The silence of what I consider to be Ottawa's most reliable local radio news outlet was profound. Normally I would expect comprehensive coverage of a story like this - not just the facts of the case, but thoughtful stories, interviews and commentary on the implications of Jennifer's murder for the community at large.
I could listen to CFRA, I suppose. But do I really want to hear what Lowell Green and the other boys who host the major shows have to say about this case? Not particularly. Their website has a poll up now on the issue of curfews, for example, as if making kids stay inside after 10:30 is somehow going to stop violent crime from happening.
I'm really bothered by this assumption that women and children are always already victims and the acceptance that it's OK to live in a culture of fear. It's not OK that women don't feel safe walking on a city street at night. I don't accept that our safety can only be protected if we stay at home, lock our doors, dress unprovocatively ... messages like this do not contribute to ending violence or stopping crime or enhancing community safety - rather, they reinforce gender inequality and divert attention from the real issue . And as some of my Faithful Legion have pointed out, violence against women doesn't just occur as a random act on the street - it can happen in the home, in the workplace, at the hands of friends, lovers, relatives.... Amnesty has branded this "one of the most widespread, devastating human rights crises the world faces", and I don't disagree.
The solutions, though, are complex and varied and entwined with other issues. Which is why, I suppose, folks tend to gravitate toward simplistic, knee-jerk responses when faced with an extreme example like the senseless and horrible murder of a young woman walking home from work. Curfews, extra police officers, surveillance cameras - none of these stop crime from happening - and indeed, they have the potential to compromise our privacy and our rights. I'm not sure they would even make us feel safer - it seems to me that a constant reminder that violence and crime lurk just around the corner only perpetuates and perhaps exaggerates fear.
amckay raised the question of surveillance cameras yesterday. The federal privacy commissioner referred this issue to the supreme court a couple of years ago, in response to concerns about a 24-hour police surveillance camera in a Kelowna park. Former Supreme Court justice Gérard La Forest wrote general video surveillance violates both the Privacy Act and the charter, which guarantees everyone the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. Most provincial privacy offices have set up comprehesive guidelines on the use of video surveillance. It's a complicated issue, to be sure. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has done a pretty good job of summing up the various angles.
Which brings me back to the CBC, which has an excellent history of indepth coverage on complicated issues. Unfortunately, the people who I've come to rely on for comprehensive, balanced, dynamic local and national coverage are stuck doing this.
It's time to ramp up the campaign to end this lockout. People who support public broadcasting in Ottawa are organizing a rally this Friday.
The event will feature Shelagh Rogers, who's crossing the country with a couple of other locked-out CBC employees, and blogging about her adventures.
We'll also hear from such notables as: Ian Tamblyn, Marion Dewar, The Mighty Popo,
Luba Goy, Senator Jim Munson, Heather Menzies, Arthur Lewis, Ember Swift, Clive Doucet, Jennifer Noxon, Arthur McGregor, Anthony Germain and more
Here are the details:
Friday, September 23, 2005
Glebe Collegiate Auditorium
212 Glebe Ave. at Percy
According to host Alex Munter, people attending the event will be given an opportunity to
have their say, by going to one of several audio recording stations in the foyer to record their feelings about the CBC situation. "These comments will be edited together to create text and audio "voice of the people" materials to send to MPs, broadcast on community radio stations and posted on websites", he says.
Visit http://www.ourcbc.ca for the latest news from the Ottawa Committee to Save the CBC.
(OK that was a pretty roundabout way of promoting a rally. I've got a lot on my mind this week, I guess)
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