Larry O’Brien, on his Re-Election Campaign

This morning, I spoke with Mayor Larry O’Brien about his campaign for re-election. We talked about what’s he’s achieved over the past year, his financial plans, setting up a arms-length agency for OC Transpo, and E-governance. The mayor made a quick comment at the end about his ring-road proposal, which I wish I’d remember to ask about earlier.

To say that the Mayor has had a rocky term is a bit of an understatement, but he is certainly a lot more polished now than before, even when we go outside of  what I presume he would have prepared for. He laments “professional politicians” a couple of times during the interview, but in terms of the actual practice of politics he has gotten much better.

Do enjoy!

George Dark on the Lansdowne Design Review Panel

This morning, I had the chance to chat with George Dark, who is heading up the Lansdowne Strategic Design Review and Advisory Panel. To bring people up to speed, as part of moving forward with the Lansdowne Live plan, the city opted to appoint a design panel to help sort out what the whole thing is actually going to look like.

I was already generally supportive of the Lansdowne Live plan, mostly because I was pretty sure that we were going to let hopes of the BEST PLAN EVER get in the way of something that we can all use and enjoy, but this makes me a lot more hopeful. Coming from this, I think its a lot clearer that much of what we’ve already seen is largely a first draft, that we sorta know what the pieces that are going to be used are, but not actually what exact form they’ll take. That’s a good sign.

There is also room for optimism in that it sounds like there is  going to be, or is at least an option for, public consultation in the early design phase. So, bidding companies will be encouraged to actually come and talk to the people that live here to help shape their proposal. That’s a good thing for a project that, rightly or wrongly, has left a nasty feeling of being imposed. We should all get uppity and make sure that happens.

Jim Watson, Mayoral Candidate

This morning, Josh and I had a chance to chat with Ottawa mayoral candidate Jim Watson. We talked about why he was looking to come back to municipal politics, the challenges of a 10-month campaign (especially with the burden of a “front-runner” moniker), and talked specifically about transit and Lansdowne.

Watson clarified his comments from last week a bit, but still used some the phrasing that frustrated Reevely so last week (“Cut the suit to fit the cloth”, etc.) We pushed a bit on the transit issue, but he’s still pretty vague as to what something being affordable means. That said, he was pretty clear that it’s important to move forward on these files, and it doesn’t sound like he is going to look to change decisions that have already been made should he be elected. That’s a good thing.

Anyway, Watson is going to be an interesting force over the next year: he’s pretty clearly the front runner, and suspect that he’s going to be pretty tough to beat over the course of it. That means that, as we decide on these big issues, his opinion should have some affect amongst the public, even if he doesn’t get an actual vote at council.

This is the second of our conversations with mayoral candidates, having previously spoken with Alex Cullen. We’ll keep plugging away as time and circumstances permit, and will endeavour to speak with people again as things actually start to happen. We also won’t limit ourselves to the city-wide race, and will likely start turning our eyes to some choice council seats closer to the date.

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.

Alex Cullen, the first 2010 Mayoral Candidate

This morning, we spoke with Bay Ward councillor and mayoral candidate Alex Cullen. The audio is below.

Cullen is first out the gate, and is obviously quick to frame himself as an experienced guy that knows what he’s doing and is unafraid to speak realisitically about taxes and services. His efforts on transparency are along the same vein. You can expect that this will be a dominant theme from a couple of candidates, including some of the rumoured high-profile ones, so it makes sense to try to associate himself with it early.

Also, as a heads up, I’ll be trying to get all of the candidates, as they declare, for similar interviews. I’ll probably also touch back with candidates as things move forward.

Also also, you should check out Cullen’s website at www.electalexcullen.ca. He’s right that it’s a bit rough (and there was some twitter catcalling to that effect yesterday), but he does have a fair number of ideas and issues up there, so it’s worth a look.

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.

Trimming the Budget

I have not had a chance to work through the proposed budget yet – that is saved for this weekend, so as to prepare in advance of some meetings next week- but it is worth a quick comment on the proposed cuts to arts funding.

Now, city funding might be needed for such organisations to look for funding from other levels of government, and some organisations (I’m looking at you, Bluesfest), are probably large enough to survive without direct subsidy, even if it means reducing the profile of some of the acts. If it goes, I will miss Centretown movies, but admittedly have seen exactly one show in the last 3 years (Khaaaan!).

But, as it is with most of the proposed cuts, it is worth figuring out what the actual per-household costs of such programs actually is. In 2006, there were 350,917 households in the city. So, with $4.1 million in proposed cuts, that works out to a per-household cost of $11.68.

Let’s say that again, but this time in bold: $11.68.

Obviously, that’s assuming each home pays the same, the vagaries of property taxes would mean that something different. But I think that the question should be whether an extra 12 bucks a year per household (or a little more than $4/person) is worth having the sorts of arts programs we are about to cut. I also think that is a fair question as we look towards other cuts and, more importantly, as we look towards other spending. The game shouldn’t be getting the budget to a magic number, it should be about making sure that we are getting value for our money.

With these arts programs, I’m comfortable with the cost.