That’s really the only way to describe the week that was at Ottawa City Hall. In case you’re wondering, it was ugly all around, certainly for the politicians but more importantly, for us – the residents. The big story which dominated city hall centred around the Salvation Army and their wish to build a bigger and better shelter on Montreal Road.
It was billed as strictly a planning issue and as such was weighed down under all of the bureaucracy that means. And residents who care showed up in droves at said planning committee and were instructed they could only ask questions that pertained specifically to planning concerns. That might make sense on Lisgar Avenue, but it surely doesn’t make sense for residents worried about their neighbourhood, who care about their community.
The very worst thing about the three-day planning committee meetings is that the result of the vote was all but a foregone conclusion. It was tough to listen to, dozens upon dozens and dozens more of earnest citizens trying to have their voices heard.
This story has been a tough one from the start, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury began meetings with the Salvation Army early on. It was then that point, if Fleury had realized how devastated many of his residents would feel about this story, that he should’ve rallied the troops. But with Mayor Jim Watson in full support of the plan, it seemed apparent almost from the get-go it was a done deal. And when the meeting, which lasted three days ended, it was. Of course, it still has to go to council on Wednesday, but don’t expect a different outcome.
It’s more than fascinating (at least for city hall geeks like myself) to note that the city will actually be dealing early next year with a review of Ottawa’s housing and homelessness plan. In addition, the feds are also offering up their own national housing strategy soon which will certainly impact the city. Gee, maybe it would have made sense to delay this monumental decision
Let’s face it, this council is twiddling its thumbs on a much-needed strategy to deal with the growing garbage problem in this city, like how to convince residents to reduce, reuse and recycle. In fact, they’ve been twiddling for years and for a greenie like myself, that is incredibly frustrating. The reason they’re sitting around doing nothing this time around, because it’s not the first time they’ve sat back over the years – well the province is working on its own plan and heck, why make improvements when everything could change?
Having covered the city literally for decades, this file has been totally neglected, but somehow it’s okay to make a major decision which will impact Vanier forever even though changes are coming down the pipes with the city’s housing and homelessness strategy.
MORE MESS: And speaking about the ugliness of the public not being heard, city councillors reacted in horror this week when the Hard Rock Casino folks used the system to up the number of gaming tables allowed at the Albion Road location to 21 to 36. Oh, the horror! Former city councillor Alex Cullen described their actions – going to the committee of adjustment rather than city council – as a legal cheat. Well, that description has to get some kind of award in the best oxymorons of the year. Look, The Hard Rock is a business. It didn’t do anything illegal. It used the city’s own rules and got what it wanted. It’s all on council that the public’s voice wasn’t heard. Accept it.