Ottawa Citizen

Cap­i­tal highs, lows

Coun. Stephen Blais gets the nod as most savvy in Chi­anello’s best and worst de­vel­op­ments of 2012,

- JOANNE CHI­ANELLO Canada News · Greater Toronto Area · Toronto · OC Transpo · Ottawa · Ontario · National Capital Commission · Metrolinx · Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation · Orléans · Farm Boy

Awa­ter­shed year wrapped up with a bang as coun­cil ap­proved the deal for the $2.1-bil­lion light-rail project, weeks af­ter our lo­cal government gave the fi­nal thumbs up to the re-mak­ing of Lans­downe Park. Whether or not you’re in favour of all as­pects of ei­ther deal, one thing is cer­tain: the projects will dra­mat­i­cally change the land­scape of our city.

But 2012 also saw coun­cil grap­ple with plenty of smaller is­sues worth not­ing. Here are 10 of the best and worst de­vel­op­ments from the past 12 months.

Most cyn­i­cal move: Coun­cil­lor Mark Tay­lor’s ini­ti­a­tion of changes to taxi reg­u­la­tions af­ter re­ceiv­ing fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions from the taxi union. From mak­ing wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble taxi plates trad­able to al­low­ing cabs to stay on the road longer and with few in­spec­tions, Tay­lor spear­headed taxi-owner friendly changes to the in­dus­try. The worst part is the coun­cil­lor ac­cepted a $750 con­tri­bu­tion from the taxi union af­ter he was named the taxi in­dus­try’s reg­u­la­tor.

Most savvy move: Coun­cil­lor Stephen Blais’s of­fer to give 10 per cent of his salary to char­ity. Liv­ing up to one of his cam­paign pledges, he’ll make the con­tri­bu­tion be­cause the mu­nic­i­pal tax hike was above the rate of in­fla­tion. Now, Blais still voted in favour of the city bud­get that brought in the 2.1-per­cent tax in­crease (as op­posed to the 0.9-per-cent in­crease in lo­cal con­sumer prices for 2012). Still, it’s nice to see a politi­cian liv­ing up to a prom­ise that will cost him.

Big­gest es­thetic fail­ure: The cor­ru­gated metal Zam­boni garage for the Rink of Dreams. Orig­i­nal de­signs showed the garage clad in stone that matched the ex­te­rior of our hand­some Ray­mond Moriyama-de­signed City Hall. But the Sens Foun­da­tion and the city ran out of money when they en­coun­tered un­ex­pected costs for the ice rink, so at­trac­tive­ness lost out. (Run­ner-up: the trailer parked in front of the doors dur­ing skat­ing sea­son. Ugly.)

Big­gest es­thetic win: Sav­ing cen­tury homes on Sus­sex Drive. Coun­cil’s plan­ning com­mit­tee — backed by full coun­cil — didn’t let the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Com­mis­sion tear down a cou­ple of mod­est but at­trac­tive prop­er­ties it owns at 273 and 275-79 Sus­sex, both of which are in the city-des­ig­nated Low­er­town West Her­itage Con­ser­va­tion District. The de­ci­sion might have been in­flu­enced by pol­i­tics, but it was the right de­ci­sion all the same that will pre­serve the last re­main­ing ex­am­ples of the work­ing-class hous­ing that once ex­isted all along Sus­sex.

Worst-man­aged file: Presto. Hands down, no con­test. But it’s not all the city’s fault. The tap-andgo tran­sit sys­tem smart card that’s sup­posed to even­tu­ally re­place passes and tick­ets is man­aged by Metrolinx, the pro­vin­cial agency in charge of man­ag­ing trans­porta­tion in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamil­ton. Still, tran­sit com­mis­sion chair Diane Deans and OC Transpo boss John Man­coni were in the dark far too long on this file, con­sid­er­ing how vi­tal the pay­ment card is to Ot­tawa’s tran­sit sys­tem.

Best-man­aged file: Garbage. Con­sid­er­ing how un­pop­u­lar the move to ev­ery-sec­ond-week garbage pickup was, the tran­si­tion has been sur­pris­ingly smooth. Sure, there was some con­fu­sion the first week that pickup day changed, and there are still chal­lenges on how to man­age re­cy­cling at multi-res­i­den­tial com­plexes. But de­spite some dire warn­ings that garbage would be waft­ing down the streets, most of us have made the move to ev­eryother-week col­lec­tion with­out much trauma.

Most dis­ap­point­ing de­ci­sion: Casino. And not be­cause coun­cil let the On­tario Lot­tery and Gam­ing Corp. ask for casino pro­pos­als for Ot­tawa, but be­cause coun­cil­lors voted in favour of the move af­ter openly ad­mit­ting they didn’t feel they had enough in­for­ma­tion to make a proper de­ci­sion. There was vir­tu­ally no pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the mat­ter, other than a com­mit­tee meet­ing where the vast ma­jor­ity of pub­lic del­e­ga­tions ar­gued against a new casino. Yet not one coun­cil­lor moved to de­lay the de­ci­sion, even though Hamil­ton, for in­stance, has un­til the end of Fe­bru­ary to say yea or nay to a new gam­bling den.

Most en­cour­ag­ing de­ci­sion: Street food. For the first time in two decades, the city will is­sue 20 new street-food ven­dor li­cences for spring of 2013. Coun­cil ap­proved the ini­tia­tive at the end of Oc­to­ber, but not be­fore a few coun­cil­lors cried “nanny state” over the in­clu­sion of the menu as part of the cri­te­ria for scor­ing one of the lim­ited li­cences. But coun­cil more or less stood firm, giv­ing the green light to a pro­gram that could make our city streets a lit­tle more vi­brant.

Worst new ini­tia­tive: Us­ing prop­erty tax money to re­ward busi­nesses for do­ing what they would likely do any­way. This month, coun­cil ap­proved a $460,000 grant — in the form of a prop­erty tax re­bate over 10 years — to the own­ers of Place d’Or­léans shop­ping cen­tre as an en­tice­ment to build a Farm Boy gro­cery store. Which is strange, since the store ac­tu­ally opened last sum­mer. A much larger, equally du­bi­ous pro­gram is be­ing pro­posed to “in­cent” em­ploy­ers to set up shop in Or­léans.

Best new ini­tia­tive: Lob­by­ist reg­istry. Hav­ing been only in ex­is­tence since Sept. 1, the reg­istry is un­der­go­ing some grow­ing pains. In par­tic­u­lar, a num­ber of en­tries are too vague, and the in­tegrity com­mis­sioner’s of­fice has been so snowed un­der with other projects that it can’t re­view en­tries as of­ten as it would like. But the reg­istry, even with its cur­rent flaws, is a land­mark move to­ward trans­parency, all the more im­pres­sive be­cause Ot­tawa im­ple­mented the plan be­fore any se­ri­ous scan­dal be­fell it.

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 ?? PAT MCGRATH/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN ?? Worst-man­aged file: The tap-and-go Presto tran­sit fare sys­tem has so far been a bit of a bust — but it’s not all the city’s fault.
PAT MCGRATH/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN Worst-man­aged file: The tap-and-go Presto tran­sit fare sys­tem has so far been a bit of a bust — but it’s not all the city’s fault.

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