President Glebe Community Association
I had an interesting conversation the other day with the president of another community association. When I mentioned the coming raid on taxpayers’ money to support the Lansdowne 2.0 redevelopment, he commented that his community couldn’t get fired up about it because of other more pressing issues, like no community centre and a lack of other city amenities. He said Lansdowne “is seen as a Glebe issue.”
It was a good reminder of inequities across the city and how some communities lack the things we take for granted. At the same time, Lansdowne and the potential half-billion dollars that the city could ultimately sink into it should be a concern for everyone. The fact that people everywhere in the city aren’t up in arms about the possibility of unsustainable municipal debt and higher property taxes is telling.
But just as the rapid transit mess is the result of bad and opaque decision-making by the city, so too is Lansdowne. When the rights to develop the site were handed to a private sector group without competition a decade ago, we were told not to worry because there would be a “waterfall” of revenue that would more than cover the cost to taxpayers.
That didn’t happen. In fact, the whole enterprise has spectacularly failed to generate profits. So, the “solution” is more of the same. More tax dollars to staunch the red ink and then things will be fine. Or so we are told. In effect we are being told to place our faith in yet another roll of the financial dice. This opaque process is the opposite of what we should expect. If tax dollars are involved, taxpayers deserve to see the assumptions and the numbers behind the proposal. This will now come very late in the game.
By the time you read this, city staff will have released a report outlining their case, and the GCA and other community players will have held a public meeting in the Horticulture Building on the proposal. It will be the first time the public has had a chance to weigh in on this costly proposition. The goal of the “Let’s Talk Lansdowne” public meeting was to show this is not “just” a Glebe issue, it should be a city-wide concern.
We shouldn’t have to repeat our demands that big projects like this get the spotlight treatment. Despite pledges on transparency made by the mayor during the election and the sense of a new beginning when council came in nearly a year ago, not much has changed.
The City of Ottawa faces three crises that need immediate attention: the lack of affordable housing, inefficient and unreliable public transportation and the effects of climate change. Lansdowne is not a crisis, but making the wrong decisions and throwing good money after bad will help it become one.
A motion at the last board meeting makes the GCA’s position clear: We will oppose Lansdowne 2.0 until we are confident that the redevelopment is in the public interest.
You still have a chance to get your views in on Lansdowne before the first committee meeting now scheduled for November 3. Join our campaign and write the mayor and city council to demand a new approach to revitalize Lansdowne – one that will not lead to unsustainable municipal debt or increased property taxes for all Ottawans. Write firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Most important, share your views with friends in other parts of the city – ask them to write or call their own councillor and the mayor to express their views.
Traffic issues on two fronts
Last month I reported that the GCA had not succeeded in getting the city and the National Capital Commission into the same room to discuss the effects of the closure of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. The city has released data that showed a marked increase in traffic on O’Connor due to the closure at Fifth Avenue. We want to see what the NCC has gathered, and we want all the parties in the room at the same time. We will keep pushing. Meanwhile, a recent Nanos poll commissioned by the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association confirmed there is no consensus on this issue (https://surveys.nanosresearch.com/634846?lang=en).
Another traffic issue that could use a meeting of minds is the Chamberlain Avenue detour caused by delayed Queensway bridge construction at Percy Street. The road was closed for more than a month, and people on nearby streets reported a massive increase in traffic as commuters were re-routed into nearby residential streets. The GCA Traffic Committee’s advocacy and resident support succeeded in getting Chamberlain re-opened to cars, reducing impacts on adjacent streets.
The next Glebe Community Association meeting will be held online Tuesday, October 24. Login details to follow.