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The challenge ahead for Ottawa’s new Mayor

Walter Robinson penned a good piece in the Citizen yesterday on the challenges that will face the new Mayor over the coming years. He rightly notes that keeping the next City budget increase to 2.5% will be a daunting challenge in light of the inevitable slew of “asks” by the new (and old) Councillors who will be eager to solidify themselves as champions for their Wards.

And he also rightly points out the following:

The other ongoing challenge for Mayor Watson will be council management. Yes, he is personable; yes, he is a consummate consensus builder; and yes, he has been the mayor before. Nonetheless, the Ottawa of 2010 bears little resemblance to the old City of Ottawa back in 2000.

Council management back then was simpler, with more predictable vote splits given the left-right divide on most issues. Today’s council can, depending on the issue, fracture across multiple fault lines including left-right distinctions, urban vs. suburban vs. exurban, partisan affiliations, east against west, language, homeowners pitted against tenants and community vs. community, both within and across ward boundaries.

Schisms are not just of the left/right spectrum any more. This can be seen at all levels of governments. For example, the ReformCons corner the market on much of the rural vote by playing to fears and issues that are predominately only issues in the minds of rural folks – the gun registry for example. While the Grits and NDP flip the coin around for their urban core base of support by playing on the fear that unregistered guns will make their ways into street gangs.

And it does not stop at urban and rural.  Faith-based versus fact-based. Those who have the opportunity of a higher education versus those are more “common-sensical” (not my term). Tim Hortons versus Starbucks (incidentally, we are almost certainly the only nation on Earth that draws a political line in the sand through the middle of a coffee shop!). Environmental prudence versus growth at almost any cost. Budget prudence versus spendspendspend.

And the City itself has its own “one side of the fence or the other” issues.  Pro LRT and against. Urban fringe development versus those who wish to can development altogether. Those for Landsdowne Live and those who are not. The list goes on.

All of these are divisions that play major or minor roles in the dynamics of decision-making by our various levels of government.

And our new City Council will be no different. Sure, there will be a honeymoon period where everyone is collegial and cooperative… but I suspect less so by, say, next summer perhaps?

I wish our new Mayor luck! He has quite a task ahead of him!

(644)

Composting, tunnels and Mayors…

Composting:

Small government and who-gives-a-crap-about-the-environment (often they go hand in paw) folks in Ottawa are all a-steaming about the roll out of the new curbside composting program which is being launched this week.

The complaints are as varied as there are pebbles on a beach. It costs too much. Composting isn’t effective. Why weren’t we consulted. I already have a compost bin in my backyard, so this is a waste of taxpayer dollars…

  • Costs too much – at about 77 bucks per household, the start-up costs are far less than what is currently paid for recycling – which is far less beneficial, environmentally, than composting. Much of the operating costs of the program will be offset by compost sales. And program costs should fall slightly as time goes on and more see the program’s benefit by diverting from landfill what can be 40-50% of a household’s waste, by weight.
  • Isn’t effective. Not only can a household divert much of the waste they generate from disposal, but there is a bigger impact from an environmental perspective. Less energy is required to transform organic materials into something useful – most of the work is done by micro-organisms. Dry material recycling takes energy to bind paper into bundles, crush cans and to sort our all of the materials. Composting works.
  • Why weren’t we consulted? Um, you were.
  • I already have a bin. This is a bit trickier. Yes, perhaps the City should have gone door to door asking residents if they already had a bin that they used. But the problem with this approach is that people move and the compost bin should stay with the dwelling. If I told the City in advance that I already composted, didn’t receive a bin, then sold my house to someone who didn’t want to backyard compost, then the new resident may be SOL… but still, yeah, the City might have been wise to do some advance scouting.

Bottom line is that composting – including curbside pick-up – is the best way to divert waste from landfill, aside from not generating it in the first place. And when landfill tipping fees increase dramatically over the next decade, Ottawa will look back at this initiative and say “Hey! we did something right! How about that!”

Tunnels:

Big surprise. Some are saying that the proposed tunnel under the Ottawa city core will run into cost overruns and engineering difficulties. And all this way before a single shovel has hit the pavement.

Well, duh! Of course there will be cost overruns and other problems! Can anyone honestly point me to a major engineering project that has NOT run into these glitches? Hell no!

Carry on – even though I’ll be dead and buried before I see this thing running!

Mayors:

Alex Cullen is the first candidate to declare his intention to run for the honour of being the Mayor of Ottawa.

According to the Shitizen, he promises to raise taxes, oppose Lansdowne Live, support a downtown transit tunnel, and stop the flow of sewage into the Ottawa River.

Run on raising taxes? Hell ya! Nice to see some honestly! Much of the infrastructure in this City is quickly deteriorating due to mayorlarry’s unrealistic promises to not raise taxes. Check out some of the ramps off the 174, the potholes downtown and the sad state of many of the City’s facilities

I especially like this quote:

Cullen criticized his expected opponent, O’Brien, as a “weak mayor” and said that O’Brien’s recent vow — to pre-emptively lock out O.C. Transpo workers if faced with the possibility of another winter strike — was “amazing, astonishing, and absolutely repugnant.”

Yeah, and mayorlarry himself  is amazing, astonishing, and absolutely repugnant!

Bring on the ballot boxes!

(1980)