Re: Pitt and the park debate rages on in Nepean

Re: Pitt and the park debate rages on in Nepean
Posted on August 11, 2013 | James O'Grady | Written on August 8, 2013
Comments
Letter type:
Unpublished

Publisher

Publisher:
Ottawa Citizen

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

My letter to the editor on the City's seriously flawed commemorative naming process was not published in the Ottawa Citizen this week, but the paper's editorial on August 8th entitled 'Politicians and Parks' sums up my feelings pretty well: http://bit.ly/13bQ7nv. As the Citizen editorial says, the public MUST be consulted.

Last year, when the same issue arose around the renaming of Merivale Arena, I commented, complained and put forward a solution that is not only much more respectful of the wishes of local communities but also a way to bring the community together and grow its trust in City government. It can be found on this site at: http://bit.ly/14juCPL. (FYI - I didn't push as hard as I could have on the renaming of Merivale Arena because I didn't want to shine a negative light on Howard Darwin, the man, because I know how difficult it is to get recognition for a deceased father. I'm just sorry he didn't receive the recognition he deserves by naming the Civic Centre or Baseball stadium after him)

Dear Editor,

I am not surprised, despite Mary Pitt's likability in Nepean, that there is once again public outcry over the naming of a public place or institution in the City of Ottawa. One of the outcomes of amalgamation has been the removal of local decision making by people living in the area where the decision will have its greatest impact. Councillor Rick Chiarelli is right when he says the 'commemorative naming process' is one of the worst decisions made by City Hall. But, this process, where the public is asked to only comment on the choice proposed by politicians and bureaucrats, is the same process City Hall uses to make ALL its decision.

Case in point, planning decisions are always about a particular development that has already been proposed for a property, before the public gets a chance to make suggestions. The current LRT western route debacle is a controversial because the public only got the opportunity to weigh in on the merits of the 'Richmond Underground' route after the City decided it was its preferred location. If they had asked a more open ended question about where residents think the best location would be, then they wouldn't run into such great public opposition because the public would have already given its support to the preferred route.

The problem with the City's current approach is that it is really used as a method for Staff to get their way. But Staff are not elected nor do they represent the voting public. For as long as I can remember, Ottawa residents have been complaining about the tail wagging the dog, ie. staff directing Council rather than the other way around. The problems exposed through the commemorative naming process are the same problems residents and community groups experience every day with decision made at City Hall.

If we really want to fix this problem, we need a complete governance review of how City Hall operates. Unfortunately, this is not something Mayor Watson has shown any interest in despite his 2010 election promise to do so.

James O'Grady, Nepean resident

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About The Author

James OGrady's picture

I am a social media entrepreneur, communications professional, part-time school teacher and community leader living in Nepean, Ontario. I am also a hockey goaltender, political hack and most importantly, an advocate... More

Comments

Jamie Brougham

You are right, however so what are you or any of us going to do about it? We don't need a review, in fact one on public consultation is in place right now, and it will only put a new stripe on a old car. Democratic reform is a much bigger ticket to work on, but it is what we need. The way all these little issues are managed will not change significantly if there is still the same old accountability process. With only 44% of the public voting, and half of them not being well aware of issues and governance, our politicians don't have to change, and frankly it is easier to give the public consultation over to city staff who are not accountable to the public and get their opinion in the end, then it is to build a real working system based on participatory democracy!

It may be easier, but it doesn't get the right answer, so its not a solution. In terms of what I've been doing to help bring about better City governance, I can tell you that I ran for City Council in 2010 on a governance platform in Ward 9 (Nepean). I finished second with 20% support. I also built this website to help promote grassroots, participatory democracy not only in Ottawa but across the country.

I think Canadians are starting to realize that the decisions our governments make do not reflect the will of the people, and that the problems lie in the institutions themselves, not just in our elected officials.