Hey Jim. My son’s got an idea for the Prince of Wales train bridge

When my 9-year old son heard about the City of Ottawa’s plan to block off the historic Prince of Wales truss bridge, physician the controversy around it, more about and Jim Watson’s aversion to lawsuits on the grounds that: “It’s not safe to be on an unused, rickety old train bridge.”, my kid begged me to go out again last night to walk across the bridge while we still can.

So, like any irresponsible parent, we did a bit of civil-disobedience-trespassing-for-the-public-good. Now, you can disparage my parenting all you like, and neither my boy nor I are engineering experts, but here are a few things my boy said as we crossed that I think should be added to the public record.

“This place is AWESOME!!!”

Just a small selection of the Instagram shots tagged recently at the Bridge.

Just a small selection of the Instagram shots tagged recently at the Bridge.

He’s right. It is. It is almost impossible to quantify its awesomeness. The bridge has Ottawa’s most spectacular, Instagram-worthy views, and it connects the two cities in a way that made sense in 1881 and *should* be self-evident today. If you’ve never done it, GO and check it out while you still can!

“It’s a shame the O-Train doesn’t run across it.”

Yup. It sure is. There really should already be BOTH a train to Gatineau AND a cantilevered platform for bikers, walkers, and even cross-country skiers in winter. But you see, there’s no money (as the Mayor just told me on Twitter)… unless you want $58 Million to widen Greenbank Road I guess… but lest we get bogged down, let’s ponder my son’s next bit of wisdom.

“There’s already a path here!”

He’s right again. At least on the Ottawa side, a sturdy old 1.5m-wide access walkway goes all the way across. Check the picture below if you’ve never seen it.

“It doesn’t seem that unsafe to me. All they need are railings.”

Hmm… He may have something there. Right now, as you cross, all you have between you and the water is an old rusty wire of dubious support value. A solid set of railings with maybe some new decking and lighting along the existing walkway could SURELY be set up for a lot less than the widely quoted $10+ Million price tag for a full pedestrian/ cycling bridge.

So Jim Watson: how about this idea from a nine-year-old kid?

Nah. Probably too easy.

ScreenHunter_309 Aug. 19 10.39

Artist’s (sloppy) rendering of a simpler, more cost-effective solution for the Prince of Wales train bridge – from that idea by my 9-year-old son.

Political Humour: Mitt Romney: Horses, Bayonets, and Binders of Other Ideas!

Binders, abortion and blinkers, and blades… oh my!

I was all gooey and weak in the knees listening to Mitt Romney tonight during the final debate with Barack Obama. He. Is. Dreamy. (sigh) But tonight, and through the whole campaign, I was also struck by how many progressive, modern ideas Mr. Mittens has – about women, Muppets, the 47% of Americans who mooch off the system, that kind of stuff.

But his brilliant plan to measure American military capacity by the lofty standards of 1916 –  bayonets, horses, gunboats, and all? Pure un-bindered genius! Then it occurred to me: why, this guy doesn’t just have a LOT of ideas. He has BINDERS full of them.

So I give you. Mitt Romney’s secret idea binder…

DenVan to Mayor Watson: Transparency means no private meetings

OTTAWA POLITICS: For those who need a refresher on the issue before reading this, website like this please scroll to the bottom for some background links.

Mr. Mayor, approved

I’ve just read the full text of your response to Jeff Leiper’s letter. And I think you missed the point.

You see, a lobbyist registry is nice, but it is rendered almost completely meaningless by the secret pre-consultation meeting you defend in your letter. And while it would be nice to take you at your word that everyone is playing fair and nothing untoward is being discussed or promised, the letter quoted in the original Citizen article leads us to believe that isn’t true. Are we wrong?

Great. Prove it.

Here’s my five-step approach to allowing you to continue your practice of holding confidential pre-meetings with developers but  also ensure that appropriate public oversight becomes an integral part of the process.

  • 1) Hold the meeting as usual – It can be private, and confidential, and frank discussion can be had about a given property and a developer’s options and plans; BUT
  • 2) All details of these meetings are recorded – Including who was there, notes on what was said, and all documents exchanged before, during, or after the meeting;
  • 3) Hold these details in confidence – Developers can adjust their plans without fear of competitors learning of their plans; then
  • 4) Release all details when a formal rezoning application is made – so community members can see that nothing untoward was discussed.
  • 5) If no application is ever made, discard the documents – after, say, 10 years.

There, simple, transparent, and easy to manage. What do you think?

Your humble citizen,
DenVan

Background: secret meetings at Ottawa City Hall

For those just joining us, here’s where we’ve been so far:

Storified by DennisVanStaalduinen · Wed, Jul 25 2012 13:41:25

Community associations and long-time activists were shocked to read this story by Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely showing evidence of detailed, and secret, negotiations between Ottawa Planning staff and large developers where City staff seem to be pre-agreeing to rezoning applications that are double or triple the allowed height. 
City planners promise rezonings before talking to public, councilWould-be developers are regularly told how extensively the city is willing to rezone their property at private meetings before the public…
And all this came right before council debated a new “Lobbyist Registry” that is supposed to bring transparency to dealings between City Hall and moneyed people with agendas. 

Centretown Councilor Diane Holmes points out the contradiction in these live Tweets from the meeting:
Holmes wants clarification on planning consultations and pre-consultations.David Reevely live
"I think we underestimate the latent anger that’s out there in those communities, particularly mine."David Reevely live
Public consultations are "a sham. It’s really a con game." Points to two applications at council today.David Reevely live
Which led to this very articulate open letter to mayor Jom Watson from Jeff Leiper, head of the Hintonburg Community Association.
Open Letter to Mayor Watson and members of City Council, 10 July 201210 July 2012 Open letter to Mayor Watson and Members of City Council Mr. Mayor and Members of City Council, On behalf of the Hintonburg C…
Which in turn inspired my attempt at parody on DenVan.ca.
Cement trucks at 130 km/h? Why the heck not!A thought experiment: What if Ottawa treated speed limits like development applications? Recently, our City’s Planning Committee has been…
And now, here’s the long letter from Mayor Watson in response, which essentially tells Mr. Leiper (and the rest of us) to calm down and trust City staff to hold secret meetings. Because surely they won’t discuss the things they were clearly discussing in the correspondence that started this whole kerfuffle:
Watson responds to super-early promises of rezoningsThis story… Would-be developers are regularly told how extensively the city is willing to rezone their property at private meetings bef…

Wait, I have a new idea! An LRT subway through downtown Ottawa!

Here’s a blast from the past. The drawing below is from the 1915 Bennett Plan for downtown Ottawa showing a proposed East / West tunnel to carry street cars (the light rail before Light Rail) quickly and efficiently through the downtown core.

1915 - Proposed Ottawa subway line

(Click image for full size. Source file here.)

Note that the route it follows is only two blocks South of the current project’s Queen Street route but otherwise follows much the same path until it gets to the canal.

So how did Ottawa miss this train almost a century ago? The easy answer: World War I suddenly became the priority in 1917. But add to that bureaucratic dithering, site lack of political will, for sale and a general shift toward cars and away from public transit – and rail in particular – that was already underway.

Here’s how Bennett puts it in a section titled “relief to downtown congestion”, and note that even in these early days of the motor car, the priority has already shifted from moving people  to freeing up the streets for motor cars.

Means to operate cars faster through the down-town district are being sought in many cities. The end desired is that the round trip may be made in shorter time and the cars at present in use operated to do more work, with the increase in street congestion consequently obviated. This is being done in two ways,-first, by through-routing of all cars, that is, by the elimina­tion of as many as possible of the down-town terminals and loops,-second, by the construction, through the congested district, of subways for street cars, through which the (street)cars can move faster than they can on the streets.

Sound familiar yet?

So what do you think? How different would Ottawa be if we’d adopted the Bennett Plan?

The Growth of Ottawa 1810-1945 – illustrations from Greber plan

As part of my preparation for my 2012 Jane’s Walk, cialis 40mg I found this fascinating sequence of 9 graphics in the Greber plan that show how the urban area of Ottawa (in red) expanded over its first century and a bit.

Here’s the link if you can’t see the Slideshare window.

Anatomy of a very very awkward photo-op

Stephen Harper’s walk on the beach.

This morning, sales I saw this article  in the Canadian edition of Huffington Post: Stephen Harper On The Beach: Prime Minister Takes An Awkward Walk In Colombia. In it, order there was a photo of Stephen Harper walking down the beach in bare feet with his pantlegs rolled up.

My thoughts, in order, were:

  1. Wow, that looks really dorky. I’m almost embarrassed for the guy.
  2. But, because it looks so awkward, that can’t be a staged photo-op.
  3. Good gosh! Maybe the Prime Minister Stephen “Roboshot” Harper actually did something on the spur of the moment.

But then I took  another look at the photo. What are the chances that secret service guy spontaneously commandeered that neon-coloured dune buggy – or alternately that this is some random guy who likes to dress like the Men in Black whilst dune-buggying?

Here's the annotated version

Jesus comments on the 99% movement (RSV – Republican Standard Version)

It’s bizarre to me that so many prominent conservatives call themselves Christians and yet have so little sympathy for the plight of the working poor, abortion support tax breaks for the rich, viagra order and blame anyone but the wealthy, vote-buying class for the problems we’re in right now.

Jesus didn’t talk that way. At least in my Bible….

But then I realized: they must be reading from a different version of the Bible than the rest of us. And sure enough, see if you can recognize the Jesus that’s quoted in this passage from The Gospel of Newt:

Jesus_speaks_to_the_blind_protesting_beggar_-_shorter_800px

Dear Michael Ignatieff, here’s the “coalition” speech you should have given

For the record: I’m not a Liberal, medicine not a Conservative, pharm not Green, website NDP, or Marxist Leninist or anything. So what’s my political affiliation? Ottawa Centre – because that’s where I believe parliamentary democracy really lives: at the riding level. 

Because of that, I was annoyed when Stephen Harper opened campaign season by raising the spectre of a hypothetical coalition and even more dismayed when Michael Ignatieff took the bait and promised he would never, ever, ever even consider such a thing and how dare Harper suggest it (which Canadians didn’t believe anyway)?

Basically Harper handed him a brush, pointed to a corner, and Iggy happily painted himself into it.

But as branding guy, I saw Harper making two clear plays: 1) a clear move to reposition all of his opponents using a scary C word and 2) a moon shot for majority-or-bust by positioning himself as less scary. So I wondered: how would I have advised Michael Ignatieff to counter-position Harper?

So I humbly suggest: the speech Ignatieff should’ve given.

Iggy

Canadian voters – yeah, I mean all of you,

Our exalted Minority Leader Stephen Harper has thrown down a bold gauntlet in the early days of this election. And I’m here to tell you we are going to leave that dirty gauntlet on the ground.

Because the challenge Minority Leader Harper has issued is no progressive idea, not an innovative policy, and it’s not a pledge to stop wasting your money on expensive American-style megajails or vastly overpriced stealth fighter planes – because by golly, Minority Leader Harper still wants to spend your multiple billions of tax dollars on his Super Prisons and vanity planes.

Also, sadly, I can’t report that Minority Leader Harper has bravely decided to apologize for, or heaven forbid clean up, his party’s corrupt fundraising practices. Minority Leader Harper also won’t bother to fix the core problems at the heart of his government that led to last week’s ruling of contempt of parliament. Even worse, despite the fact that his minority government fell because they had lost the confidence of the democratically elected House of Commons, he has made no move to restore that confidence.

So today, the big C in “Conservative” is tainted by three other C’s: Corrupt fundraising, Contempt for Canada’s Parliament, and the non-Confidence of those who represent a large majority of voters across this country. (Take note Iggy – these are handy talking points for future speeches too!) 

But rather than fix those three C’s, Minority Leader Stephen Harper is instead trying to insult your intelligence with one more great big scary C: “COALITION SCAREMONGERING!” (Note to Iggy: this is where you do your best SCTV / Count Floyd impression.) “Ooooh Scary stuff kiddies!” 

In other words, our exalted Minority Leader wants you to be afraid of the one thing that scares the beejeezus out of him: Canadian parliamentary democracy.  (Iggy: feel free to hit the podium here. I would)

That’s why he prorogues the house at the drop of a hat. That’s why he refuses to abide by parliamentary rulings. That’s why his right hand men play fast and loose with campaign funding laws. And that’s why he uses basic democratic concepts as bugbears to scare Canadians.

But as Minority Leader Harper would have learned in grade 9 – if he had cared to listen – Canada is not a two party republic like our neighbours to the South, nor are we a one-party dictatorship like those that are falling like dominoes around the world. Canada is a parliamentary democracy. And that means the choices we make are not going to be simple. And it means we will have to shun simplistic answers while embracing scary, messy, and very Canadian values like diversity and community, cooperation and honest public dialogue.

(Iggy: this next bit gets a bit more partisan than I’d feel comfortable with, but your crowd will eat this stuff up)

Now, let me be clear: the Liberal party is not now in a coalition, nor do we believe a coalition is the best option for Canadians. We think that stable, Liberal majority is the best choice for our future. That’s why we are running our campaign to BEAT AND REPLACE Minority Leader Harper and his party – the Contemptuous, Corrupt Conservatives who have lost our Confidence. 

Let me also be clear that we will not enter into any governing agreement – including a coalition – that would compromise any of the core Canadian democratic principals our party, and the country, were founded on. 

But on May 2, if a majority of Canadians again vote strongly against Minority Leader Stephen Harper’s party – which has never received even 38% of Canadian votes – you have my promise that we won’t ignore the will of Canadians as Minority Leader Harper would obviously prefer. Instead, we’ll work with Canadians across the country to govern for them and with their democratically elected representatives.

(Pay attention Iggy: this next bit is the branding part.)  

Oh and in case you are wondering why I’ve started calling our exalted opponent “Minority Leader Stephen Harper”, it’s because I have the sad suspicion the term “Prime Minister” has gone to his head. And if Minority Leader Harper forgets to remind himself every day that he only governs by permission of Canadians and the parliament they elected, well then I guess that’s my job isn’t it?

And because it’s a parliamentary democracy, dear voters, it’s your job too. 

Please, get out and vote on May 2, 2011.