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All In Hand

Here you'll find the sum total of Miss Vicky's Remarks thus far.

Budget demo Dec 1

Miss Vicky Sun Nov 30, 2008

from Miss Vicky's inbox, via People for a Better Ottawa and other groups:

Community groups will ask City Council if people matter as much as sewers and roads as Council meets to decide on the 2009 budget starting Monday, Dec. 1.

Ottawa residents are encouraged to fill Council Chambers on Monday morning, the first day the Committee of the Whole meets to decide the 2009 budget. At noon, a united front of cultural and social groups will rally outside:

WHAT: Rally for social investment in the City budget
WHEN: Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, Noon
WHERE: Marion Dewar Place (formerly Festival Plaza), Ottawa City Hall, 111 Laurier Ave.

At Monday’s rally, People for a Better Ottawa will release its “Three Simple Steps” that City Council can take to avoid its proposed budget cuts. These measures would help bring balance to a budget that cuts social investment much deeper than other City services and programs.

Crucial, community-building programs like affordable housing, transit and child care face a disproportionate share of the proposed cuts. This is unbalanced and unfair.

Miss Vicky couldn't agree more. See you Monday.

Holiday Shopping season begins

Miss Vicky Fri Nov 28, 2008

(Note: I understand the irony of posting this on Buy Nothing Day. But I am pretty sure that supporting local artists and crafty types does not conflict with the need to counter rampant consumerism on a global scale. The Hintonburg Craft Sale is not exactly WalMart, right?)

The holiday shopping season has begun. If you are looking for unique gifts hand-crafted by local artists and artisans, there's a lot going on this weekend.

The community association's annual Artisan(e) Craft fair takes place today and tomorrow at the Community Centre. In addition to funky and fun gift items, there's a silent auction and a bake sale, so stop on by - 3pm to 8pm today and 10am to 5pm tomorrow.

Over at the Cube there is a nifty exhibit of kid-oriented art running this weekend. In addition to paintings, you'll fund puzzles, stuffed animals, paper dolls, doll houses and games. And there are FREE workshops for kids from 1pm to 4pm on Saturday, Nov 29.

Also on Saturday, the Wellington West BIA is hosting an event to celebrate end of construction season and the beginning of the Holiday season - hot drinks, free horse and trolley rides and wandering carollers will supplement the great gift items available at our local shops. The event takes place between noon and 3pm. And while you're wandering, stop by the Rosemount library for their 90th birthday celebrations. There's a children's show at 2:30, and at 1 they will unveil a new photo collage created by area teens about what the library means to them.

Next week, the creative fun continues with a couple of new shows - the Cube's annual Great Big Smalls show opens on Wednesday, and Andrea Stokes is curating a new show at Cyclelogic called Foot Fetish, featuring 12x12 inch pieces by an array of local artists. That show opens on Friday night (actually, both shows have Vernissage parties on Friday December 5 - hooray for arty party-hopping!).

It's that time of year

Miss Vicky Thu Nov 27, 2008

Time for the Canadian Blog Awards!. Miss Vicky has been nominated in the "Best Local Blog" category (thanks!, so any votes you want to throw our way would be much appreciated. The first round of voting ends on the 29th (the middle of the 29th they say, so let's guess that is noonish). That will pare down the list, and then there will be another round of voting. Great er Ottawa has helpfully listed a few of the other Ottawa blogs nominated, including knitnut.net in a few categories, andrea from the fishbowl for Best Family Blog and the always entertaining XUP for Best New Blog. Plenty more to check out in all of the categories!

Oh, and for those who followed the saga last year about the Best Feminist Blog category, they did make some improvements in the screening process this year. Unfortunately they mistakenly screened out one of Miss Vicky's favourite feminist bloggers, JJ at Unrepentant Old Hippie. They'll get there, one of these years.

The Cost of Poverty

Miss Vicky Tue Nov 25, 2008

So the Ontario Association of Food Banks has come out with an analysis of the economic cost of poverty in the province. It's a fascinating read, and well-timed too, as the provincial government is supposed to be engaged in developing its Poverty Reduction Strategy.... and the implementation of that strategy is already at risk because of the recession and the particular devastation the slowdown in manufacturing is having on the province's finances.

Here are some interesting facts:

The federal and Ontario government are losing at least $10.4 billion to $13.1 billion a year due to poverty (that's the equivalent of between 10.8 to 16.6 per cent of the provincial budget).

In real terms, poverty costs every household in the province from $2,299 to $2,895 every year.

When both private and public (or social) costs are combined, the total cost of poverty in Ontario is equal to 5.5 to 6.6 per cent of Ontario’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Every year, poverty adds $2.9 billion to provincial and $7.6 billion to federal health care budgets. Crime costs between $0.25 to $0.6 billion, split between both levels of government.

According to the report, "If child poverty were eliminated, the extra income tax revenues nationally would be between $3.1 billion and $3.8 billion, while for Ontario, the additional (federal and provincial) taxes would amount to $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion. The total economic cost (private and social) of child poverty Ontario is $4.6 to 5.9 billion annually."

And then there's lost productivity - which, in Ontario, costs Ottawa and Queen’s Park a combined $4 billion to $6.1 billion.

The report goes on to point out that spendingon programs designed to reduce poverty are an investment, saving the government money in the long run. It's an interesting approach, and perhaps necessary, since the moral arguments for fighting poverty, clearly, aren't having much of an effect on government spending and priorities.

City Council would do well to take a look at the report, even though it is directed more at our provincial politicians. If poverty costs the province and the feds such a substantial amount, it's probably costing the city as well. Yet many of the cuts in the draft City Budget will significantly impact Ottawa residents who live in poverty. Like the 700 day care spaces. Or the cuts to public health, Ottawa Community Housing, and Long-term care. Or the increases in transit fares. Spending more money on roads to accommodate wasteful growth is only an investment in more pollution. It's time to rethink the city's budget with an eye to investing in people.

Edited to add: here's Campaign 2000's annual report card on poverty in Ontario.

Newswest AGM and budget-related events

Miss Vicky Wed Nov 19, 2008

Busy week next week, starting with Newswest's Annual General Meeting on Monday night. Newswest is Kitchissippi's community-run newspaper and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Membership is open to any resident of its catchment area (from the Ottawa River to Carling Avenue between the O-Train tracks and Woodroffe Avenue) and is one of the best deals in town - $5 for an individual, $10 for a family.

The newspaper is dedicated to providing coverage of local issues and events from a community perspective. Residents and organizations are encouraged to submit articles and other content - but we also need the involvement of a volunteer board of directors. Miss Vicky has been serving on the Board for a few years now, but will be stepping down for this year as the Webgeek's class schedule is making it extremely difficult to attend meetings! The board is always looking for new faces and new voices, so if you're interested in getting involved and helping produce the paper, come on out on Monday and put your name forward! You can get a new membership or renew your existing membership at the meeting.

Later that week, also at the Churchill Seniors Centre, Councillor Leadman will be hosting a consultation on the the budget. This will be your chance to let her know how you feel about the proposed cuts to social services, arts and heritage, and more. It takes place on Thursday, November 27 from 7:30 to 9:30.

The following week, People for a Better Ottawa and other organizations are calling for a rally at City Hall at noon on December 1. We'll post more details here when we have them. In the meantime, check out their websitefor some of their analysis of the budget, posters and more.

There will be action that week in Hintonburg as well, as the community association will be holding a rally to support Phase II of the Wellington West reconstruction. It will take place on Tuesday, December 2 at 10:30am at the Hintonburg Community Centre.

Here's what they say: "HCA volunteers have given thousands of hours over the past 17 years to creating a better, safer community and we are no longer willing to again be put at the bottom of the City's priority list. It's the City's turn to repay residents and businesses for the work they've done when the City would not for the better part of two decades. Please come out to this photo op with your hard hats, shovels, wheel barrows, and other construction tools.

We've done as much as we can for ourselves. If we could replace our sewers ourselves, we would, but we can't. Let's show Ottawa the strength of our commitment to our community!


Budget Update: Wellington reconstruction

Miss Vicky Wed Nov 12, 2008

So I have been trying to get to the bottom of the discrepancy between the "tax supported budget" and the "rate supported budget", which had conflicting entries regarding Phase II of the Wellington West reconstruction. Here is what I got from the city today:

Good afternoon

The Wellington Street project is an integrated project which means it is funded with a rate and tax portion. This project wasn't originally in the rate budget however at today's Council meeting, the following motion was adopted by Council:


Committee recommendations as amended

That Council approve:

1. The 2009 Operating and Capital Budget Estimates, including $6.6M of funding in the Water and Wasterwater rate-supported budget for Phase II construction of Wellington Street (Parkdale to Bayview).

2. The Rate-supported 2010 and 2011 budget forecasts, which incorporate the high-level budget directions provided by Council.

As this an integrated project, the tax funding side of this project (the road component) is subject to Council approval in December. Council will decide whether it is going ahead during the budget debate.


Parkdale Market consultation

Miss Vicky Tue Nov 11, 2008

So the City of Ottawa is floating a proposal to renew the Parkdale market, with a view in particular to improving the availability of fresh food that is produced locally (as opposed what dominates now - a selection from the food terminal and coming from all over). There is a plan to expand the market stalls along Armstrong and offer meat, eggs and even local art and crafts. The city wants to know what you'd like to see happen at the Market. You can fill out a survey here or just send you comments directly to the city at parkdalemarket@ottawa.ca.

It's a bit of a weird consultation, since the deadline for comments is November 13 and the final recommendations report will be available on November 14 on the city's website. Hmmm, makes you think that they may already have those recommendations written, doesn't it?

Well, flawed public engagement strategies aside, what's your vision for the Parkdale Market?

Miss Vicky will start. Yes, I'd like to see more local producers, as well as more organic produce (which is pretty much nonexistent there now). Meat and eggs would really be a plus, and baked goods would be a fantastic addition. I'm less enthused about local art and crafts, unless our local (and by local I mean Hintonburg and West Wellington) arts and artisan community is actively engaged in planning this aspect of the expansion. I love the idea of more stalls along Armstrong, and I would also like to see the fieldhouse use more effectively. I'd love to see more permanent and more attractive structures than the metal-and-plastic stalls we have now. I'd love to find a way to have food available all year 'round.

But what Miss Vicky would love to see most of all: a community bake oven. I think it would be a wonderful addition to the Parkdale Market and the park, and an important contribution to food security in our community. Something like the Community Bake Oven in Kitchener or the one in Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto.

So.... what's your vision?

Edited to add a letter from Jamie, a Hintonburg resident and regular reader here:

We were excited to hear about the proposed expansion of the Parkdale Market.

We're new residents to the neighborhood and in the past two years, the market has become a daily part of our lives from opening day right up to the last two stalls that are hanging on until the 16th of November. A 5 minute walk to the market usually ends up in all the fruits and vegetables required to get through the day.
(click below for more!)

Your plans sound ambitious.

May we suggest keeping it simple and that the city simply focus on allocating more space. The market draws clients and customers all by itself. Tacky and expensive bi-lingual signage, marketing themes and structures are a waste of money. It's food. People drive by it and see it and they come. Get space, put up barebones canopies, provide some electricity and try not to get too complicated. Water has always been scarce at the market but the vendors have learned to make do.

Frozen local Meat (and cheese) can be effectively and safely sold from coolers or portable equipment provided by the vendors. The Lansdowne market is proof of this. Adding complex and expensive infrastructure is a surefire way to kill this project by bogging it down with costs that will rapidly get out of control.

Parking in the city will always be difficult regardless of what you do. Don't bother with it, just deal with it.

While local is certainly wonderful to have, the other distributors that import do serve a purpose and it is still nice to get things like bananas and oranges. We hope that they would not be excluded in future plans to show a completely local focus.

A bakery stall would be the most welcome addition.

A solid offering of beef, chicken, lamb, pork and game would really serve to make the market a one stop shop to purchase all the ingredients for a complete meal.

Fresh seafood while nice may not be feasible without excessive and costly infrastructure for refrigeration and sanitation. Take a pass.

To summarize, offer up more space, keep it simple and this could be a very good thing.


Kitchicoo Co-op Daycare Open House

Miss Vicky Mon Nov 10, 2008

Having trouble finding daycare in the neighbourhood? Kitchicoo, Hintonburg’s first parent-run cooperative daycare, is holding an open meeting on Saturday, November 15, for families who may be interested in any spots opening up in the next several months. The meeting will take place in the Laurel Room of the Hintonburg Community Centre, from 2 to 4pm.

Kitchicoo's goal is to provide an environment in which children will grow and thrive, and where parents will be deeply involved and committed. Benefits of the cooperative (not-for-profit / parent operated) model include:

Cost effective care
3:1 child-to-adult ratio
Involvement in your child's day-to-day learning and development
Influence over your child’s daily diet and activities

Each family is required to volunteer one day per week, as well as contribute to the ongoing operations of the facility (finances, maintenance, cleaning, cooking, and programming).

At the open house, you'll be able to meet some of the parents involved in the co-op, as well as our caregiver. We'll answer questions about how things work, what kind of commitment is involved, and anything else you might be interested in finding out!

There is at least one full-time spot opening up in the New Year, and more later on as some of our founding kids move on to Montessori and preschool.

Kitchicoo has been a great experience for WeeG, and for us too. If you think the co-operative model might be right for your family, come to the open house - or if you can't make it, send an email to kitchicoo@gmail.com to set-up a meeting and view the facility.

City Budget in Brief

Miss Vicky Mon Nov 10, 2008

OK, here is the upshot:

The draft budget was put together by staff using guidelines given to them by council, to keep a tax increased under 5%. SO, the draft budget is based on a tax increase of 4.9% and to get to 4.9% staff has outlined about 35 million dollars in cuts to programs and services and substantially increased user fees for transit, parks and recreation and other items.

The Budget at a Glance document outlines the direction that staff was given and describes the proposed cuts and changes.

A lot of the increased spending described in the budget reflect "budget pressures" that are beyond the city's control - it will cost an additional 44 million dollars just to maintain the services we have, simply because of increased costs (the price of fuel, wage settlements imposed by arbitration, and so on). That is simply the cost of doing business. Other items are mandated by the province and the city has no option but to deliver the services and pay the cost - that's an 11 million dollar "pressure". Other pressures are not set by council but we have to pay for them nevertheless - like the police budget's request for a 13.5 million dollar increase (something like six percent, or a one percent increase in your property taxes). Council could refuse, send the police budget back and tell them they'll have to swallow it like veryone else, but will they have the guts? Doubtful.

Anyway, let's get to some of the recommended cuts and user fee increases:

A 7.5% increase in transit fees (I believe this would be an increase in the price of tickets, primarily). The budget also proposes service reductions, including the elimination of some routes.

Increases in parks and rec rental fees. Minor hockey teams would see a 51% increase in hourly rink rates. Field rentals would go up from $5.45/hour for kids to $24.30 an hour, and from $15.08 for adults to $30. Pool rentals would more than double, and fees for room and gym rental in our community centres would go up by 35%.

Arts and culture would see a 4.1 million dollar hit, eliminating funding for festivals, cultural events and individual artists. Arts and heritage funding would be cut by 42%, and some cultural programs would be deferred (the museum sustainability initiative, for example)

Outdoor rink grant are to be cut entirely. In Kitchissippi, I'm assuming this would affect the rinks at Champlain Park, Fairmont Park, Iona and elsewhere.

Where a program is mandated by legislation, staff is recommending to fund only the portion required by law. In real terms, this means the loss of 700 subsidized child care spaces and reduce the public health department by $2 million (or, if you want to put it in tangible terms, it would mean eliminating one epidemiologist, a nutritionist, nurses, project officers and program assistants). Ottawa Community Housing capital expenditures would be capped, therefore compounding the current crisis of deferred maintenance in those units. There will be cuts to Long Term Care, among other programs

Deferral of planned expenditures includes things like converting existing subsidized social housing units into targeted supportive housing for people with mental illnesses and addictions, funding for tenant resources and funds for community gardens (note: funding for the expansion of needle cleanup has been retained). Funding to consult with people living with disabilities about the city's accessibility is also among the deferred items, as has pretty much every expansion of library services, the Green Partnership program and expanded cycling services in keeping with the Ottawa Cycling Plan

Lots to digest, and you kind of have to sift through the series of budget documents to get the picture. By the way, Miss Vicky still hasn't heard back on the issue of Phase II of the Wellington West reconstruction. Definitely a question we'll need to ask our councillor at the public meetings.

Dinner and Theatre

Miss Vicky Sun Nov 9, 2008

Miss Vicky received the following question from a reader:

Dear Miss Vicky,

Any advice. If we want to go to see "Danny and the Great Blue Sea" play at the Elmdale Tavern at 7 p.m. but probably should arrive around 6.30 p.m., and do not have time for a leisurely meal what would be a good bet for a restaurant in the neighbourhood? Thanks for your expert (and practical) knowledge

Well, fortunately, there are plenty of options, all with a hop, skip or jump of the Elmdale! And some of them are among Miss Vicky's favourites.

On Wellington West between Stirling and Melrose: Spring Roll House - the best Pho in the city. Seriously. If you're looking for fast and fresh this may be a good bet for you.

Pnomh Penh Noodle House, across the street, has tasty Cambodian fare. Their homemade spicy peanut sauce is soooo good. Miss Vicky is especially fond of the Pad Thai there (but rarely eats it now, thanks to WeeG's peanut allergies. Sigh. They're closed Mondays, though, so if you're going on a Monday night you'll have to try elsewhere.

Also in that block is Habesha, which serves Ethiopian food. If you have a hankering for injera and their yummy vegetarian platter, you may want to go early or order it to go. Like many of the restaurants in the area, it's family-run and the pace can sometimes be pretty leisurely. But they do takeout, and the Elmdale is cool with bringing in food from outside (since they don't have any food besides pickled products).

Vina Del Mar is a great Chilean restaurant - simple, fresh and very tasty food. Not sure if things have picked up, but service was pretty slow last time we ate there. If you haven't got time to linger, you can order takeout. Believe me, it's so worth it.

A bit further east is Khatoon Persian Restaurant - a tiny little spot, but another great family-run business with pretty amazing food. Highly recommended by many in the 'hood.

Finally, if the idea of takeout fare at the 'Dale appeals to you, you could head to the corner of Somerset and Wellington to Indian Express, which serves up some of the best Indian food in the city. Try the Palak Paneer.

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