Support for Mizrahi Development?

Mizrahi Development’s application to build a 12-storey tower in Wellington West (which I’ve written abouttwice) is up for discussion at City Hall today. City planners have suggested that the application be rejected. It contravenes the Community Development Plan (CDP), which limits development to six storeys, and it even contravenes the special allowance for building up to nine storeys.

Interestingly, a number of residents have shown up to voice their support in favour of the development. This doesn’t really happen too often. Generally, people don’t want giant condos going into their neighbourhoods, but these residents argue that it’s a nice building, that Mizrahi has been very responsive and engaging with the community, and that the property is derelict and it really needs to be developed. They put forth a valid argument in favour of the development, and the anti-NIMBYism is a refreshing change.

But they’re still wrong. Continue reading

Traffic Laws and Unintended Consequences

vinyl-decal-sticker-8006If you were to drive east down Fifth Avenue from Bank Street, you might notice this sign (or you might not, it’s not really that noticeable, but you’re totally supposed to notice it). In case you don’t speak red-circle-with-red-slash, the sign dictates no trucks. Big, heavy trucks–construction trucks, delivery trucks–aren’t supposed to go down this road. Right at Bank Street, there are some restaurants and businesses, but further along it’s just residential units (except for the fire hall way at the end). It’s a wide street and can lead to the QED or the Queensway, so it makes sense to keep it from becoming a truck thoroughfare (since we know what that can lead to).

Does anyone think this will actually keep trucks off of Fifth?

One block to the south is small, residential one-way street. It’s a block and it leads to another short, narrow residential one-block street. That street connects with Fifth. These two streets–Regent and Howick, respectively–don’t have one of those nice picture-of-a-truck-in-a-red-circle-with-a-red-slash-through-it signs.

Regent is a street with at least 5 to 10 children (who often play outside), at least that many dogs and also a number of cats. There’s on-street parking on one side that fills up quite quickly and eternally. And children play. And people live.

And because Fifth Avenue–the wide street with traffic lights and multiple businesses–won’t allow trucks to enter from Bank Street, the trucks are tacitly encouraged to take Regent to Howick to Fifth, driving on roads that are not meant for vehicles of that size or for excessive traffic loads (unlike Fifth).

Fifth Avenue is considered part of Ottawa’s (woefully neglected) bike infrastructure. In addition, there is a plan to use it as a shuttle route to get commuters into the new Lansdowne village (because that’s how you build an authentic urban village, bus people in!). I image these are the justifications for trying to keep trucks off of Fifth, but it’s clearly not working.

The traffic measure the city has implemented does not keep trucks off of Fifth, it merely forces them onto even less-ideal streets before they wind up on Fifth, anyway. The city needs to either bar trucks from Regent and Howick, or let them back on Fifth.

Or they could just get these inappropriately-large vehicles out of our urban, residential neighbourhoods.

Ottawa Public Schools Pay for Students to Attend March for Life Rally

Ottawa’s Roman Catholic school board (OCSB) provided buses to allow its students could attend the March for Life, a massive pro-life/anti-abortion* protest that converged on Parliament Hill yesterday. It would seem easy to chalk this up to religious schools attend political-religious rally, but as much as these are religious schools, we must remember they are also public schools.

The OCSB is publically-funded and as a publically-funded institution, it is risible to claim that it is private entity merely making private religious-based decisions. Our courts have already determined that these school, since they are by their nature public, cannot enforce religious observation on their students. It is equally valid to object to public funds going to such a religious endeavour (that does not fall within their mandate as a school).

And this is not a situation of a school board supporting multiple political viewpoints. Ontario’s Roman Catholic school boards object to anti-bullying school groups, and they have launched a campaign to prevent teachers from participating in pride parades. It would be laughable to suggest that they would pay for buses to take kids to a pro-choice rally.

Roman Catholics are the only religious group to be blessed with publically-funded religious schools, and they do what they can to maintain that privileged status. All other religious schools are private and are forced to find funding through tuition, donations and other fundraising schemes. In 2007, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives attempted to address this imbalance by extending some public funding to all religious institutions. The established school board opposed it, and the Liberals presented a thinly-veiled racist campaign against it. There was no support for the Tory plan, and they eventually relented.

So here we are. We have a formal hierarchy for religious instruction. Roman Catholics get theirs for free (using tax dollars), and the rest of us have to pay for our own (and theirs, through tax dollars). Currently, the Green Party is the only Ontario political party proposing to do away with this system. Unfortunately, they don’t have a whole lot of traction.

This should be a bigger deal than it is.

*I’m not particularly concerned about the labeling. I’ll let others battle that out.

A Walking School Bus

CBC reports that eight local schools will implement “walking school buses“:

Students at eight Ottawa elementary schools will say goodbye to yellow buses in favour of a paid pedestrian guide this fall.

Ottawa Public Health is launching the walking school bus pilot project to help battle obesity rates by keeping students active. Program manager Marie-Claude Turcotte said adult supervisors will be paid $13 to $15 an hour.

This is a great initiative. It’s good move in terms of health and the environment. It also reminds us that, yes, kids can walk places. Finally, considering that financial matters have led to Ottawa losing two busing vendors, it makes a whole lot of sense economically.