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All In Hand

Distracted musings on the backlash

Miss Vicky Thu Mar 6, 2008

Miss Vicky has been a tad distracted of late. There's lots to write about - new transit plans, lots of stuff happenin' in the hood (mostly the migration of Westboro retailers to Hintonburg), and plenty more. Unfortunately the residents of the Finishing School spent 14 hours in CHEO's emergency ward on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and Miss Vicky has been looking after a wheezy WeeG ever since. Fear not, Faithful Legion, he is on the mend and is running Miss Vicky ragged here at home.

In the meantime, International Women's Day approaches.... and to celebrate, the House of Commons has just voted to send Ken Epp's dangerous bill to the next stage in the parliamentary process. The vote was close, but thanks to 27 Liberals and one New Democrat (who I hope to goodness will be disciplined by Layton) who supported this ridiculousness, it passed. Oh sure, the parties spent the day trying to out-feminist each other, brand themselves as THE party that stands up for women's equality. In fact, the Liberal Leader himself missed the vote because he was prepping for an IWD bash at Stornoway. Oh, the irony. Miss Vicky would laugh herself silly if she weren't crying tears of rage and frustration right now.

It's not just this bill that's frustrating Miss Vicky. Oh, there is so much more to be worried about. She has been spending a lot of time lately analyzing nomination results for Equal Voice and despite the fact that all the parties are nominating more women, they're not being nominated in winnable ridings, at least not in numbers that will make a difference in the upcoming election. And that just sucks.

Then she got an email from these fine folks, who, it turns out, are closing up shop because they no weren't able to find sustainable funding, thanks to changes in government policy on the funding for women's programs. They're one in a long list of important organizations that have had to scale back or shut their doors because of Harper's policies.

And in case you were holding on to any illusions that we have achieved equality for women and are not, in fact, slipping backwards, there's this tidbit of news.

Happy International Women's Day..... riiiiighhht
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Cool, but (currently) useless

The Webgeek Wed Mar 5, 2008

So I was poking around on Google Labs (I am a Webgeek, after all) and noticed a new service; Google Transit - A nifty utility that lets you find transit routes in various cities, including three here in Canada. Unfortunately, none of them are Ottawa (but, oddly, Fredericton NB is). Perhaps some tiny portion of that new transit funding can go toward wooing Google into adding us to the list.
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Smart Growth in Kitchissippi

Miss Vicky Sun Mar 2, 2008

Did anyone attend our councillor's symposium on Smart Growth this Saturday? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Given the level of interest in development issues (not to mention the incredible pace of development in our ward) it was a great idea to bring community associations and residents together to talk about what our priorities actually are. There is a massive degree of cynicism about the city's planning processes in our community, and it is pretty clear that many folks in different parts of the ward feel quite powerless and perplexed when they are faced with a development issue in their neighbourhood. I think the session offered many a chance to vent a bit, and to understand they are not alone in their sense that there is a huge disconnect between what kind of growth the city says it wants and what kind of growth it actually approves, encourages and facilitates.

The objective of the session was to provide some input into the city's review of the official plan. Community associations had time to make a short presentation about some of the key issues in their neighbourhood, and this was followed by an open discussion from the floor.

I'd like to say it was a constructive event - indeed, it was clear that people in Kitchissippi have a lot to say about the kind of community they want to build. Some people have very specific concerns about very specific developments... and others are just concerned about what they see happening around them. This may be a problem with structure more than anything, but what was unclear to me was the outcome - apparently minutes were being taken and a report will be developed for city staff. This is a good thing, but what exactly will be accomplished? Because for all the time we spent talking about what we'd like smart growth to be, there wasn't a lot of constructive discussion about solutions.

Then again, what are the solutions? After all, the city's got great stuff on paper about smart growth, we are supposed to have made a commitment to the vision outlined in the 20/20 plan. The disconnect is between the vision and the action.

City staff got a pretty bum rap at the meeting - and were unrepresented there, unfortunately. It would have been interesting to have an exchange of views and get their perspective on the not-so-smart growth we see all too frequently. Likewise developers - what's their take? It made me wonder how could we alter the process to foster a better understanding among all of the stakeholders in a development.

One of the really interesting interventions on Saturday was from a member of the Committee of Adjustment - who described a process whereby committee members routinely receive material provided by applicants alone - that unless citizens or community organizations make the effort to put forward their perspective, they have to assume that there is no opposition. What he'd like to see from the city is a sense of the big picture of each application for a variance, so they can really make a decision that makes sense for the community.

The source of the disconnect, really, is lack of political will. The divisions on council, the parochial priorities of many of our elected officials, and most of all the absence of strong leadership at the top - all of these contribute to Ottawa's relentless pursuit of mediocrity when it comes to urban planning. Not so smart.

Like I said, I wasn't fond of the structure of Saturday's event. I'm not sure we got the most out of what was clearly a room full of people with passion and ideas. But results are everything, so I'm looking forward to reading the report and seeing if anything comes out of it.
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