As I write this to you, my head is very much in the books – the city budget, that is. My staff and I are busy analyzing hundreds of spreadsheets, to make sure that we are making the investments that will move our city forward and serve the residents of Somerset Ward well.
We have all noticed the changes in Centretown. More boarded up storefronts, less vitality, more people sleeping rough or using drugs in public. It is within this context that Somerset Ward Councillor Ariel Troster, took the initiative to assemble a community safety panel. Panel members included Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden, Dawn Lyons (Somerset West Community Health Centre), Bobby Jamison (Centretown resident with lived experience with drug use), Michael Wallack (President of the Centretown BIA), and Constable Paul Stam (community police liaison officer). The meeting was attended by residents and businesses from downtown Ottawa.
Below is a report outlining the takeaways and results from this meeting.
It was an intense couple of days at the joint Planning and Finance Committee meeting to discuss Lansdowne 2.0 last week.
The word “renoviction” is not just a buzz phrase, it’s an unfortunate reality for so many people in our city. The story is often the same – a long-term tenant who is paying a moderate rent is told that they must vacate their apartment so the landlord can do necessary renovations.
Land use planning is political. The decisions that we make about how to use city-owned land today will have an impact on our children and grandchildren’s future. At every council meeting, we begin with a land acknowledgement, reminding ourselves that Ottawa sits on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin People.
I know how much Centretown has been struggling with the impact of the overdose, mental health and homelessness crises. I receive dozens of emails a week from residents who don’t know what to do when confronted with open drug use, erratic behaviour, or displays of psychological distress by people on our streets or in local businesses and community spaces.
The thing that constantly amazes me about this job is that I never know what I am going to learn a lot about very quickly. In the last few months, I have had to study up on the Transportation Master Plan, the right-of-way guidelines governing front-yard gardens, and the regulations governing zoning amendments. This week, it was all about the shadow impacts of a potential high-rise development on the Experimental Farm.
The cooler mornings are hinting at the crispness of fall that is about to come. Things are getting busier at City Hall, as we get back into the regular rhythm of committee and council meetings and prepare for the consultation process for the next city budget.
I hope you are taking advantage of the waning days of summer. I am definitely enjoying the slightly cooler temperatures, though I always dread the slow march toward the dark evenings of the fall and winter. After a short break, council meetings and committees are back at it, and I wanted to give you an update on some issues that we have been discussing in the community and at City Hall.
I hope you are enjoying time with friends and family and taking some time to rest and recharge this summer. I just got back from a trip to Montreal, where I re-connected with the city I went to university in 20 years ago. It was inspiring to see the transformative changes that have been made to the core since Valérie Plante was elected mayor. The rapid scale-up of safe cycling infrastructure and lush greenery-filled traffic calming installations was really something to behold.
During our community safety meeting on August 8th we shared a list with neighbours of who to call when confronting difficult situations in their neighbourhood. We're happy to share this list with neighbours and we encourage you to print it out and keep a copy on your fridge or save these numbers in your phone.
With summer upon us and lots of special events happening in the downtown core, it is not surprising that the issue of road safety for active transportation is in the news again.