Local Ottawa stuff Politics

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,

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
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…