Shawn Menard on “Our Ottawa”

Yesterday on CKCU I had a conversation with Shawn Menard on the “Our Ottawa” group. There’s been lot’s of hints over the past few months as to what exactly the organization is, much to the consternation of some. They’ve been pitching themselves as a “network of community organizations”, and their first real release was more than a little cagey, though it does position them of being generally in favour of centre-leftish (with an emphasis on the centre) urbanist ideas. You won’t find much disagreement in this corner with things like restricting the urban boundary, supporting services like Crime Prevention Ottawa, or a more general push to city-wide thinking.

I think the interview clears things up a little bit more, leaving a bit of a better scope of who is actually involved. It’s also pretty clear that there is some manner of organisation behind the group, and they aim to make it more than an umbrella title for a coalition of like-minded groups. While they aren’t going to run a slate of candidates, they are going to do some decidedly slate-like things and (I paraphrase here) endorse candidates that are willing to endorse their principles, and maybe even look out to find some people to carry the flag. It seemed pretty clear that endorsement will come with at least some organizational and volunteer support.

That’s a pretty big deal, especially if they are as organized as they make it sound. Unseating incumbent councillors is a daunting prospect, even if you have a group of dedicated and connected volunteers, but is certainly not impossible. The real advantage will probably be in open contests, of which there are at least three so far. Council candidates have a notoriously tough time trying to build profile, so being able to associate with a larger group of ideas can only help.

We’re still a ways off from the election, and it’s still a bit early to tell exactly what effect this will have at the ballot box. At this point, I think that its fair to say that they will be an important part of the campaign, and should make the council races a whole lot more interesting. Short of it being a spectacular failure,  I expect that we’re going to see more coordination like this in the future, and especially from those that disagree with what Our Ottawa ultimately advocates.

Our Ottawa is organizing a rally today at noon at City Hall to oppose the re-opening of the urban boundary, so if you are around you should go and check that out.

Radio Topics, January 19th

We’ve got a pretty exciting show lined up for tomorrow: at 7:30, we’ll be joined by mayoral hopeful Jim Watson; at 8:30, we’ll talk with George Dark, who is heading up the Lansdowne Strategic Design Review and Advisory Panel.

We’ll also touch on some of the following:

Iggy- make that Mr. Ignatieff- finishes his campus tour at the University of Ottawa.Josh was there.

In and out decision is out. Shifting spending space is apparently in.

Cabinet shuffle day! Best guess is that some people that made mistakes will be demoted, others will be promoted. The largely faceless and unidentifiable will still be faceless and unidentifiable.

McGuinty clears the air on LRT.

New Brunswick to revise hydro sale deal.

Liberals silence Ross Rebagliati

“Electrosensitives” bothered by electrical tower that had been turned off for 6 months.

Competing Stadium Proposals, Featuring Clive Doucet

Image Courtesy of Flickr user spotmaticfanatic, NC-BY-ND

Image Courtesy of Flickr user spotmaticfanatic, NC-BY-ND

This morning I spoke with Capital Ward Councilor Clive Doucet on the City Staff report on the two stadium proposals. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he took a rather dim view on both of them. For another perspective, Randall Denley takes a dim view of the tone of the report itself (he thinks they were looking for ways for it to fail), you should also read what David Reevely has to say over at Greater Ottawa, though that is generally a good rule of thumb.

This will be a bit longer than my usual podcast posts, if only as it is a good opportunity to roll in my own thoughts on the matter. If you are reading a blog and can’t handle a little bit of narcissism, you probably should give up on the internet.

I’m mostly interested in the Lansdowne question, and never was really a big fan of the Kanata plan (largely for geographical biases.) I’m torn on the whole affair. I think that we are too quick to equate the question of what to do with Lansdowne with the question of whether or not this city needs or wants a new largish sports stadium. On the second question, I am pretty sure that we probably can support one, and have every confidence that a competent ownership group could make football or, well, football work. Remember, a CFL team survived in this city for the better part of a century, and we are a bigger more prosperous city than before: the failure of the Roughriders and the Renegades must be seen not as a dislike for football, but an absolute failure of the ownership to convince people to pay to go and see it. So, to a certain extent I am sympathetic to Denley’s calls to look at the cost of a stadium, however it is financed, over a longer term.

But that says nothing about whether or not it should be at Lansdowne. Doucet does a bit of an artful dodge on the merits of the city building a big stadium, but he is pretty clear that he doesn’t think it should be where it is now. I think I sort of agree. Putting another stadium at Lansdowne is pretty much building the park around the status quo, even if there is associated new commercial development associated with it. I’m not so much opposed to that as I am interested in seeing what other cool ideas could be brought to the table – be it a new library, some sort of museum, or whatever. I just don’t want this city to get caught thinking that the places things have been in the past is where they should always be.

I also want any redevelopment to encourage the public to go and hang out: I spent three weeks in France last August (pictures and blogs are coming, I swear!), and my favourite parts were sitting at outdoor cafés in public squares. I want the new Lansdowne Park to have that feel. That might still mean a stadium is located there, it might not. I have every faith that there will be developers interested in whatever plan moves forward, so am not super concerned about the current proposed management group walking away as they might if the “Live” plan is rejected. I also have every faith that if a new football stadium were to be built at Bayview, that a tenant could be found and the community would benefit from nightlife and spinoffs. That part of town would probably benefit from such a tenant.

So, the city has been offered a false dichotomy: it is not a question of soccer in Kanata or football in the glebe. It must absolutely do something with Lansdowne park, it also must decide whether or not it wants to be in the Stadium business. These are different questions, both of of which come with a certain amount of cost. Both are projects that have been a long time coming and, if done right, will benefit the city for decades to come. I could live with what Hunt and Co. have proposed, but worry that we’d be settling with the familiar and the safe. That’s not what this city needs more of, but at the same time it’s preferable to waiting 5 or more years and end up accepting more or less the same plan.

And let’s be fair: that’s what we all are assuming is going to happen.