So here I am sitting wide-awake at 2 am because I couldn`t sleep last night, woke up with a blinding headache and spent most of the daylight hours slumbering away…
In an attempt to find the peace that is sleepy-land, I thought I`d throw some words down about the latest local (non)-issue of the day; namely, the construction of a new playground at Mooney`s Bay here in O Town.
The local burghers have their knickers in quite a twist over a proposal (more of a done deal, actually) to construct a one acre children
The upshot is that a private film production company from Toronto (all things from The Big Smoke are evil in Ottawa unless otherwise designated, ya know) wants to build this facility and kick in $1 million to make it happen. The City (who leases the land from the NCC) would kick in a million (without going to Council – staff decision) and the thing would get done, and the company would film it as part of a series on TVO. The knicker-twisting part is that the whole process has happened behind closed doors at the request of the private company and not even the local Councillor, Riley Brockington, has been able to say a peep about this as per instructions from the City parks and Rec. senior staff.
Of course, the local NIMBY apparatchiks scream foul because the usual public consultations sort of didn`t happen. Trees were being cut down, the traffic would be horrendous, what about the water quality… etc. What about the Hope Volleyball Tournament? What about the boaters? What about the ducks?
And I get that. Wherever possible with any large scale plan that may impact a community, there should be extensive public consultations as soon as possible and the advice from the community should be taken into account in the final design plans.
Now, bowing to local pressure the Councillor did propose a walk-on motion to Council yesterday asking that the project be delayed until the anti-tree-killers and water quality worriers could have their say. This motion was defeated and the project will go ahead.
Out of this, I do wonder about the staff having the authority to spend $1 million without Council approval and maybe this should be re-visited. However, I really don`t see the issue with the lack of advance public consultations in this instance. This was a situation where the City was being offered a $1 million in times of budget shortfalls. It looked to be a solid, viable and valuable project for the community with little negative impact. After all, it is just a playground, not a PCB incinerator!!! The public will be consulted, I imagine, as the project proceeds and this should suffice.
Should it have come to Council? Maybe. But all City and NCC requirements going forward will have to be met about traffic, environmental protection and the lot, so it isn`t as though the film company can go off willy-nilly and do what they want.
Should the lure of private dollars allow for the bypassing of agreed-upon public processes? Not usually, but there are sometimes exceptions. And this is one of them.
I look forward to seeing the new park!