The language of raised and lowered crosswalks, and raised and lowered classes of street users

Every now and then, I think about the language that we use when discussing municipal issues and citybuilding. There are a few words or terms that I’ve abandoned, adopting new language that’s more appropriate. I don’t say “car accident”; it’s “crash” or “collision”. And a pedestrian doesn’t get hit by a car; they get hit by a driver (we’d never say someone was stabbed by a knife). More recently, I’ve dropped “multi-unit building”, choosing to say “multi-home building”, instead.

It can all seem like semantics, but the words we use carry deeper meaning. There are underlying assumptions, value judgements and general baggage.

Recently, I’ve been involved in various discussions about raised crosswalks. When this comes up, the framing is always “raised crosswalks” versus “at-grade crosswalks”. Whenever I hear someone speak of an at-grade crosswalk, it always takes a moment to register what they mean. “At-grade” is used to mean at roadway level, but I reject that, and I think I’m going to stop saying it.

A real “at-grade” crosswalk would be one where the sidewalk doesn’t drop to meet the road. Basically, we say “raised” when we mean “at-grade” and “at-grade” really means a lowered crosswalk.

Now, I’m sure people can point to city documents with specific definitions, and this is probably the standard lexicon of engineers, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.

Of course, when we look at the terms “crosswalk” or, worse, “crossing”, we can see the problem. The pedestrian’s path is deemed to be crossing the driver’s path, not the other way around. The underlying assumption is that the driver has the right to the road, and the pedestrian is the foreign species getting in its way.

And that’s why we say “at-grade” when we mean the crosswalk lowers. It is a car-centric term for car-centric design. This sort of language is hardly neutral or impartial. It has layers of status and prioritization baked in. Worse, it inherently prioritizes drivers, the one class of road user the regularly, and often with impunity, kills people.

The mindset behind the language that raises car drivers over all other street users contradicts everything the city says about Complete Streets or “Towards Zero” or street safety, in general (even though there are still significant flaws in this rhetoric, too).

What if we didn’t call them crosswalks? What if we didn’t have crosswalks? What if the sidewalks just continued, unencumbered, when they intersected roadways? What if we said the drivers are crossing pedestrian space when they go through an intersection, rather than the other way around? How would simple shifts in language and infrastructure shift our whole paradigm when it comes to street safety and street life?

And how would this effect our prosperity, health and environment, know how destructive driving-obsessed culture is to all of these? We have a default mindset that is inherently destructive. We need a shift in thinking along with a shift in culture.

And we need better language, so that we stop reinforcing our inherited biases.

(So, no, I will no longer speak of “at-grade” crossings.)

The Transit Rider Ballet

I’ve been following the woes of Barrhaven transit users for the past few days. Issues have been cropping up for a while (like they have for everywhere else *cough*Vanier*cough*), and it seems like the city has some solutions in store (advisable or not)…but it also seems like no matter what happens, nothing can ever be solved. Every new solution seems to bring new unforeseen (but predictable) issues.

If you want to get a handle on the complaints, you can check out Jan Harder’s Twitter feed; it seems to be a clearing house for such issues.

One tweet stuck out to me. I’m going to quote the text here, rather than linking to it, because I’m not trying to critique the person who tweeted it or put them on blast or anything. I just want to examine what they’ve said:

OMG thank you. The route I need to get home is full of asshats trying to get off at Baseline, H.C., and Nepean Sportsplex. I don’t mind Fallowfield but if I can’t board a bus BECAUSE IT IS FULL to get me to my neighbourhood because you were too lazy to wait for yours, I get mad.

(I’m assuming “H.C.” stands for Hunt Club.)

There is an overwhelming sense of entitlement here. The bus this user wants belongs to them and not to the other transit users because the other transit riders aren’t going to ride it all the way to the end. It’s the only bus that goes to this neighbourhood (it would seem), so they feel it should be reserved for them.

I cannot fathom feeling so very entitled to public transportation and to excluding others from public transportation.

I don’t take the bus all that much, but I do take it occasionally. Routes 6 and 7 go by my house. If I’m taking them I’m generally going no further than the Rideau Centre, going north, or Billings Bridge, going south. So, aside from taking the 7 to Carleton, I’m never taking a bus all the way to the end of the line, nor am I starting at the beginning of the route. Hell, in the mornings, sometimes I’ll grab the 6 or 7 at Fifth and take it to First (to then transfer to the 56 in order to transfer to the 85).

I don’t feel bad or guilty about this at all. I’m a transit user just like everyone else. I’ve paid my fare (and if I’m going a short distance, I’ve paid disproportionately more) and I have just as much right to the bus as you do (and, conversely, you have just as much right to it as I do).

The other day, my daughter and I were coming home from Billings Bridge. We were waiting for the 6, and we’d be taking it to Fifth Avenue. When we got on, there were already people on the bus (though there were others getting off at the mall). As the bus chugged along Bank, people got on and off. Some of the people who were on when we boarded surely got off before our stop.

It can be quite interesting, watching this sort of route if you travel far enough. You can get on and it’ll be almost empty. You’ll watch it fill up. You’ll watch it empty and fill up again. You’ll watch a handful of people get off at a stop, while a handful get on. It’ll ebb and flow, and it’ll (almost) completely turnover its ridership, sometimes multiple times.

No one in their right mind thinks they are more entitled to such a bus as anyone else. No one in their right mind thinks only people who are riding all the way to the end should allow themselves a spot on that bus.

So why can’t those routes to Barrhaven be the same?

If you’ve been reading my posts or my columns with any regularity, you’ve probably encountered me talking about Jane Jacobs’s idea of the street ballet. I lively street has a multitude of uses and sees a multitude of users. Workers heading to their jobs in the morning, school children off to school, workers coming into the area…later, stay-at-home parents run errands or take small kids to the park…business men empty into the streets at lunch hour…school kids come home, workers leave, residents return from work. Later, people are out to restaurants and bars or hitting the theatre. There’s always comings-and-goings.

That’s what life is like on routes like the 6 or the 7. People coming from St. Laurent need to get to the Rideau Centre. People from Lowertown are going to Centretown. Students from the Golden Triangle are busing to classes. People in the Glebe are going to Billings Bridge.

On these buses, there’s a rotation. Each seat may be occupied by five or six different people. The routes take you through places, not just destinations. There are things to do all along the route and people all along the route looking to something somewhere else. It is akin to the street ballet. It is the transit rider ballet.

But on those long commuter routes, you don’t have that. There are spots where a bunch of people will want to get on, and there will be people getting off along the way, at times, but it’s mainly just clumps of commuters hopping from hub to hub (or from hub, leapfroging hubs, to a final hub).

It is absolutely a failure of city design.

These buses may be packed, but that doesn’t mean they carry more people, more “fares”, if you will. A half empty bus that rotates through riders multiple times will end up carrying more people than the same type of bus that takes, primarily, one group of passengers from downtown to a suburban hub. Throw in the fact that these buses are “deadheads” (they don’t do a return trip because there isn’t sufficient ridership to warrant that amount of bus service going the other way), and it’s incredibly expensive to run these routes.

But the aforementioned tweet does highlight something that, I think, too few of our civic leaders think about. We basically need to types of transit service. No, not two separate transit systems, but we need to understand that the suburban commuter model functions inherently differently than an urban commuter system. We can’t try to cram the two together into the same service delivery model and think we’ll be able to serve everyone properly.

This is, in part, what LRT should help address. It is a suburban commuter system. It’s not really going to help people get around downtown that much. But what we can’t do (and what we have done) is assume that LRT solves all our problems, and can replace our urban transit service.

The city is on the verge of ghettoizing bus service, and if they do, they’ll be doing substantial harm to transit, including LRT (not to mention our economy, our environment, our health…). Hopefully, as more and more suburban and exurban communities get fed up with the substandard transit system we’ve been running, there will be serious political will at city hall to make the necessary changes. Hopefully, we won’t simply switch a couple of trips to express routes and consider the problem solved.

Everyone has a right to get on a bus. We need a city council that recognizes that.

Saturday Morning in Stittsville

A couple of weeks ago, my daughters were invited to a birthday party in Kanata. I was tempted to take them, come home, then go back and pick them up, but some issues with the car share made us a bit late and made such driving back and forth untenable (it wasn’t really an ideal solution, regardless). So, being on the west end of Kanata, I decided to pop over to Stittsville, hole up in Quitters and get some work done.

Now, I’ll tell you straight, as I was driving from Kanata to Stittsville (which was basically across the street), I may have vocalized a disapproving “ugh” or two. I was going a past unfinished and just-finished developments, and it was just streaks of blank, carbon-copy homes stretching on indeterminately. This wasn’t a value judgement. It was a reaction to both the aesthetic of bleakness painted across the landscape, as well as a recognition of the sheer unsustainability of so much of our suburban development.

I don’t say all this to rag on sprawl (I do have some other, more nuanced thoughts that I may or may not share in a later post), but to set the scene and give you an idea of where my mind was as I came into Stittsville.

The route I took into The ‘Ville, as they call it, took me past the Goulbourn Rec Centre. Man, that is an impressive looking rec centre. I’ve since learned a bit more about all the issues necessitating its recent rehabilitation, but it seems like it should be a worthwhile community amenity.

I approached Stittsville Main Street from the east along Abbott Street (it’s Abbott Street there, right?). I wasn’t in much of a rush, so I figured I’d just park wherever I could and then take a stroll towards my destination. As I approached, I could see there was much going on. There were cops in the distance at the intersection. I was going to pull over and park right there, but there were no stopping signs everywhere. Curiously, there were also a bunch of cars parked in these no stopping areas. Oh well, I’d keep going.

As I approached Stittsville Main Street (which I’ll just be calling Main Street from here on), I remembered hearing that it was 9runrun that day–a marathon/10k/5k/Something-k. Volunteers and spectators were all over the place. I wondered if I’d get stuck in a massive traffic jam or re-routed away from where I was going. Oh well, whatever, I’d deal.

I was struck with the role-reversal. Regularly, there are major events going on in the Glebe, sometimes (but not often enough) with street closures, leading to much gnashing of teeth and rending of Garmins. I certainly wasn’t inclined to be one of those interlopers, cursing out a community for doing community things.

As it turned out, I was able to easily turn left onto Main Street, and then quickly found a (free) public lot. Super easy. Teeth un-gnashed.

I started walking north up Main. I had a lot of time, so I figured I’d check the place out. It’d been decades since I’d been to this part of Stittsville. And, you know, it’s lovely. The people fighting to keep The ‘Ville in Stittsville are really trying to maintain something worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong, Stittsvile will eventually get completely swallowed up in ex- and suburban sprawl, but hopefully the personality of the place won’t get completely chewed up in the process.

I had DMed a few people I knew in Stittsville…well, two people. As I was about a block down Main, I got a message from soon-to-be councillor-elect Glen Gower. I’ve known Glen on Twitter for a few years now, but we’d never actually met. He was heading towards the finish line, a little further west along Abbott.

I quickly turned around and quick-stepped it back to the intersection. I got there just in time to intercept Glen, and we chatted for a block or two, as we wandered down the street.

Abbott is a lovely street, and clearly still holding dearly to the small-town pedigree of Stittsville that is slowly being eroded away. Maybe that’s for the best. If a community isn’t evolving, it’s probably dying. But, still, I feel there has to be a way to maintain the small towns at the edges of greater Ottawa, while we build up within the old city and suburban enclaves. I’m confident we could build a city that preserves the small-town/rural areas while ramping up development just about everywhere else.

Clearly, Abbott Street isn’t about intensification. Large and small houses reside on large, wide lots. At least one sits on a double-lot. There’s tons of room for density here (if desired), and, in a sense, we should probably be seeking some intensification. We do want better transit going to Stittsville, and for that, we need people. But there are ways to do it and ways not to do it.

There’s been some infill, and some of it’s been rather clunky. This seems to be the first stage of infill development. You do it wrong until you figure out how to do it right.

But there’s definitely opportunities to get it right. Nothing (yet) completely sticks out. Some of the houses could have been done better, but nothing’s a monstrosity. Hell, there’s even a triplex (don’t tell some Kitchissippi residents). This sort of thing, and maybe splitting up double lots, is really the way to go. It’s about incremental changes in density, gentle density.

The very nature of The ‘Ville doesn’t have to be trampled on in the name of progress. “Neighbourhood character” is a term regularly deployed by NIMBYs attempting to halt all development and, maybe, keep certain types out of their community. But our neighbourhoods should have character. Our city should have personality…it should be a conglomeration of personalities.

There’s no reason to make sure every different area slowly morphes into the vacuity of sameness. Citybuilding isn’t the borg. There’s no need for assimilation of die. We can be different; we can have different communities with different characteristics, while still ensuring that the city is open for all residents. It’s a tough balancing act, sure, and no one’s going to be 100% satisfied, but that doesn’t mean we just give up.

As the city progresses, we should get better at this. We should be able to find balance no longer elevating neighbourhood character over every other concern, but not elevating every neighbourhood 65 storeys high.

Glen went on to meet with people finishing up the 9runrun race. I turned back and headed towards Main Street. I popped into Quitters, which has quickly  become an important community amenity. I grabbed a coffee and sat down. I pulled out my laptop and got to work on that week’s column for the Sun.

Maybe all our communities aren’t actually that different.


Looking ahead to the 2022 municipal election

With the 2018 election behind us, and a number of interesting developments (seven new councillors, four new women on council), it’s about time to start looking into what the next election has in store for us. Will Jim Watson run for a fourth term? Which councillors will be angling for their own mayoral runs? Which councillors might be in trouble? Which candidates might come back strong next time.

It’s time to take a look at these questions. Continue reading

Predictions, Endorsements and our Best Possible Council

A few weeks ago, a friend asked on Twitter about the best candidate who had a chance to win their ward. This would be a slight deviation from pure endorsements (his example was that we know Jan Harder is winning in Barrhaven), but definitely with some overlap.

It’s a neat idea, but I kind of put it on the back burner while I took care of other stuff…but now with a bit of time, let’s give it a whirl. For fun, I’ve combined it with my predictions (which are, again, different), and I’ve included my endorsements for references. I’ve called the best candidate with a chance to win “Best Hope”. Also, I decided to be generous in terms of what constitutes having a chance.

Also, I’ve got a small bet on with a City Hall insider on predictions…so I better friggin’ be right. (Also, I hate doing predictions,) Continue reading

The #OttVote Dream Team

In my College Ward endorsement, I noted that Emilie Coyle was one of the best candidates across the city. This led to a couple of people wondering about who would be my Top Ten candidates.

Well, I’m not going to do that, exactly–a Top Ten feels restrictive, but since council has 24 members, how about the ideal council, ignoring wards and including all mayoral candidates. This list is in no particular order, but if a candidate is near the top of the list, they’re more likely to be one of my top candidates than someone listed at the bottom of my list. I’ll include their ward, just for reference.

This is kind of a dumb post, so I’m going to do this quickly, and it may not be 100% accurate and it may not be exactly 24 people. Let’s ride! Continue reading

Mayoral Endorsement

Yesterday, a friend asked when I was going to publish my endorsement for mayor. I told her that I intended to do it last night. But last night, I fell asleep before I could write anything. If that’s not a good synopsis of this mayoral campaign…

Fine, enough with the meaningless preamble.

They key point about this mayoral election is that it is time for Jim Watson to go. He’s been an underwhelming mayor, and his rhetoric no longer matches his performance. His “steady hand” has led to deficits, crumbling infrastructure, surprise LRT delays and a city that continuously fails to live up to its potential.

He has show a general disdain for issues relating to gender, as well as to the well-being of vulnerable residents. From his tight grip on an intentionally opaque and inscrutable budget process, to blocking residents on twitter when they disagree with him, to ducking important debates during this campaign, his contempt for democracy is clear.

So this election is about finding someone else. Despite the large field of challengers, the pickings, sadly, are rather slim.

Sure, Moises Schachtler has the best twitter handle Ottawa politics. And, yes, candidates like Bruce McConville and Ryan Lythall are earnest in their devotion to building a better, more welcoming city, most of the challengers just aren’t up to the job.

So I’m left with two candidates from who to choose: Clive Doucet and Joey Drouin.

Clive Doucet joined the race on the last day of registration. He said he wanted to bring fun back to City Hall, and many observers thought he’d present a decent challenge to Watson (not necessarily in terms of winning, but at least in terms of pressing him on the issues)…of course, when Watson ducks so many debates, it’s hard to press him on much of anything.

Unfortunately, Doucet’s campaign did not go as most of us hoped. His Big Idea is a regional rail plan. I mean, maybe that’s okay, but it’s certainly not the most pressing issue in the city or for city transit. Added to that he spoke of delaying LRT Phase II and cancelling Baseline BRT (I don’t think he’d actually get to do that…the mayor is only one vote at council, after all). He had other decent ideas in his platform, but, sadly, they got overshadowed by the regional rail plan.

Well, that and his sudden pivot to weekly garbage pick-up. I don’t really even want to talk about that. It’s not happening, and it was disappointing that Doucet, of all candidates, was resurrecting that zombie issue.

Unfortunately, Joey Drouin isn’t much better. He doesn’t have a background in local politics, and it showed. He doesn’t have what I’d consider a full and well-rounded platform, though he does have some good ideas, and seems generally thoughtful. I don’t think his lack of experience counts against him so much as he doesn’t have a track record to bolster his campaign.

But worse than all that is his Bid Idea: merging Ottawa and Gatineau. So, like, this is never going to happen, and I really don’t see why anyone would think it should happen. Amalgamation didn’t work out so well for Ottawa; I really can’t get on board with this super amalgamation gambit.

Endorsement: Clive Doucet

Here’s where we’re at: for all his faults and unfortunate top-of-mind ideas, Doucet still has a better overall platform than Drouin. Further, we know what we’d be getting in Doucet, considering his history as city councillor. Finally, Doucet’s Big Idea (regional rail) actually has some merit to it, whereas Drouin’s is more just sloganeering.

I believe when we’re making these decisions, we need to take a holistic look at the candidates. It means we need to consider what they’ve done (if they have that experience), what they say they’re going to do and what kind of mayor they’ll actually be. (This isn’t totally satisfying; at the best of times, we have candidates with solid platforms and admirable visions, but sometimes, we don’t, sadly.)

If you sit down and talk to Doucet, you get an understanding that he understands how the city works and how to make the city work. He’s got a history of having a sound urban vision. Doucet the Former Councillor is different from Doucet the Candidate, and we’re likely to see more of the former and less of the latter as mayor. It is very unfortunate that his campaign went off the rails (haha), and it’s even more unfortunate that he wasn’t able to take Watson on in a battle of ideas–had that happened, his candidacy would be looking a whole lot better, I believe.

The things you hate about Doucet’s campaing–the focus on regional rail, weekly garbage pick-up–these probably aren’t going to happen. I don’t believe council would get behind him on these (and he won’t have the head-bobbing get-along gang that Watson has), but he would be able to switch the focus of city governance from Watson’s unimaginative pandering to something approaching a vision this city desperately needs and definitely deserves.

Orleans Ward Endorsement

Okay, I’ve only got like twenty minutes, so let’s whip through this.

If you’ve been following along at home, you know I’ve been slowly whittling down the list of candidates that I’d support in Orleans Ward. It started with 17 candidate, but then two unofficially dropped out. I went through all the information I could find online and reduced it a bit more. I watched the Rogers non-debate and, again, reduced my choices a bit more, still.

I’ve thought more on it, and I’ve reviewed more stuff online, and I got my choices down to the following four candidates (in no particular order): Catherine Kitts, Miranda Gray, Mireille Brownhill and Shannon Kramer. (Yes, all women. This both achieves the goal of greater representation on council and they’re the candidates I like best, regardless.)

This race went insane early on. At first, Bob Monette was running for re-election and only Gray was challenging him. Then he stepped back from politics and the candidate list exploded. What’s really interesting (to me, at least) is that this gave the chance to a lot of less-experienced candidates to give the race a shot, without being seen as too much of a neophyte.

Look at someone like Jarrod Goldsmith. It’d be a learning experience (as he admitted) to be councillor, but he does seem like he’d be up to the challenge.

Or then there’s the question of age or one’s profile in the ward. I’m thinking of Shannon Kramer here, as an example. She has a lot of knowledge about city-building, but she’s not as prominent in the ward. Her platform is well-thought out, though a little green–with many spending priorities, but also a desire to keep a cap on taxes.

These are just two examples of the people we’ve seen step forward, who we wouldn’t have, otherwise, and it’s actually pretty great, if a little overwhelming. (I’d speak more to this, but, twenty minutes…now ten.)

Let’s get to it.

Endorsement: Mireille Brownhill

She was one of the first candidates I’d had my eye on. There was a nice mix of community involvement, civic dedication and thoughtfulness. I wondered if she might be a little green on some issues..and, she probably is. If you’re not working at City Hall or some loser who watches every single municipal debate, you’re going to have a bit of a learning curve.

But here’s what I’ve seen: she’s working her way up that learning curve, quite quickly.

I’d lamented the fact that many candidates didn’t have much information online, or they didn’t have real platforms. Brownhill has come out with a six-age platform that is to-the-point, and really solid. Though I think Shannon Kramer is a little more dedicated to urbanism and city-building, I think Brownhill’s platform is a little more balanced and thoughtful.

(I’ve been using “thoughtful” a lot this election–I’ve come to believe it might be the most important quality in a councillor.)

Further, I think it’s clear where she may be a little behind in a dedication to city-building, she makes up for it in a dedication to community-building…and I think this dedication will help her adapt to and grow into the role of councillor.

With 15 active candidates, I wasn’t sure how certain I’d be able to be with this pick–I thought I might have to go with my gut or maybe just endorse a handful of people for the rest of y’all to choose from, but with her community experience, hard work on the campaign trail and a really solid platform, Mireille Brownhill wins out for me in Orleans.

No hedging. No caveats. No qualifications. No second choices. I’m choosing Brownhill with confidence and, in the end, without hesitation.

(19 minutes. Hell yeah!)

Gloucester-South Nepean Endorsement

Coming into 2018, Michael Qaqish was one of those councillors who really deserved a strong challenge…hell, he’s one of the councillors who probably deserved to lose his seat at the council table. He’s work for his ward has been middling, at best; he’s provided no significant benefit to the city, as a whole; and then there was the whole embarrassing story about how he spent his ward budget (not to mention the time he had a novelty cheque created to celebrate not taking his car allowance).

Look, I’m not going to say this was an Anyone-But-Qaqish race, but it wasn’t completely not an Anyone-But-Qaqish race.

At first, it seemed like we might not have much of a race. No one stepped up and grabbed the challenger spotlight, right away, and I started to wonder if Qaqish might get let off the hook.

But then at the last minute, Carol Anne Meehan–a beloved media personality with more name-recognition than the incumbent–decided to throw in. Suddenly, the race got interesting.

Now, to be fair, it’s not a two-person race. Zaff Ansari, Irene Mei and Harprett Singh are the other candidates vying for the job. Singh and Ansari–and Singh, especially–shouldn’t be automatically discarded. (I don’t think Irene Mei has much of a shot; she came off as earnest but not quite up to the challenge in the Rogers debate.)

So, although I wasn’t going to automatically dismiss the incumbent, with at least three strong challengers, it seemed like it shouldn’t be too difficult to select someone new…and it wasn’t; it was just a matter of who.

Endorsement: Zaff Ansari

Going into the debate, I was leaning towards Singh. He seemed like a worthy challenger, running a good race, and it seemed like he’d be a reliable councillor if chosen.

I haven’t been as much of a fan of Carol Anne Meehan during the campaign. Her stance on traffic congestion and pot shops is not great. Worse, I thought some of her positions demonstrated a lack of understanding of city issues, and an reticence to learn. Further, in her response to the Citizen’s survey, she didn’t answer the questions about safe injection sites, whereas Sing and Ansari both support them, and support funding them if our cruel and incompetent provincial government decides to cut funding.

That being said, she did reasonably well in the debate, and I would probably choose her over Michael Qaqish.

(As you may be guessing, this decision came about much by process of elimination.)

Singh has a lot of good ideas, and is clearly a smart, hardworking candidate. However, he’s a bit of a unicorn candidate, too. In his closing remarks of the debate, he spoke of the need to keep taxes in check…then he talked about the city building an employment hub and economic incubator, and then about the need for a new LRT loop in the area. And of course there’s always issues with pot holes, park and maintenance and the “need” for road widenings. I don’t care how many efficiencies you think you can find; you’re going to need a lot more money for your wishlist.

Zaff Ansari never stood out to me. He didn’t take control of the debate, and he doesn’t seem to have a Big Idea he was pushing. However, he was steady. He doesn’t seem to hold any egregiously bad positions. He seems reliable, and he seems like he’d be a decent decision-maker at City Hall.

And in this race, I didn’t need to be blown away. I just needed someone I felt I could trust as a decision-maker, and someone who possesses the thoughtfulness and a certain degree of wisdom for the role. For Gloucester-South Nepean, that’s Zaff Ansari.


College Ward Endorsement

About a month ago, I did a re-cap of the College Ward debate. You wouldn’t think this would be an interesting, with Chiarelli firmly entrenched as the incumbent, but with two smart and intriguing candidates–Ryan Kennery and Emilie Coyle–it was a much more interesting debate, and a much more interesting race, than I would have expected back in the winter.

Four years ago, I wrote that College Ward deserved better than Chiarelli, but there was no better choice running. This time around, College Ward still deserves better than Chiarelli, but now there are real, good options for voters.

Endorsement: Emilie Coyle

Okay, here it is: Emilie Coyle isn’t just the best candidate in College Ward; she’s one of the best candidates across the city.

I’m absolutely serious here. If I were to rank the candidates from all ward races and the mayoral race, Coyle might just break the top-ten. She’s smart. She’s dedicated. She works hard. And she has a worthwhile vision for College Ward and the city.

Coyle recognizes that College Ward is going to go through changes…it absolutely has to. There’s pressure from the core, as intensification spreads outwards, but, butting up against the greenbelt, there’s still a lot of pushback from residents wanting to maintain the traditional, inner suburban communities they’ve had and love.

And you know, I get that and, more importantly, Coyle gets that. A neighbourhood that isn’t growing is a neighbourhood that’s dying, so, no, College Ward cannot be frozen in amber and maintained in its current, pure form. In Coyle, College Ward would have a councillor who has the wisdom and understanding to guide ward forward. Managing growth, without arresting it; enhancing the ward without radically transforming it.

Now, at the debate, Coyle didn’t have the depth of knowledge of the details of city matters that the other two showed. But that’s to be expected–one is a long-time councillor and the other is a former mayor and city staffer.

Still, as I wrote after watching the debate, she was able to hold her own. Throughout the campaign, she has demonstrated more and more understanding of city building and city governance. She has shown that she has the qualities necessary for a good councillor and that she has the capacity to learn more and really understand how the city–and how city council–works.

I’ve spoken about this debate with a handful of people, and without fail, everyone has been impressed by Coyle (and maybe a little disappointed in Kennery). Everyone I’ve spoken with has recognized her intelligence, her leadership and her potential. She has the temperament and the demeanour to be a valuable representative, and the wherewithall to be a strong voice at the council table.

Personally, I’m surprised that I’m so strongly endorsing Coyle. At the start of the campaign, she was intriguing, but I wasn’t sure how strong a candidate she’d be, but from her diligence out on the campaign trail to her thoughtfulness when speaking to city issues, she’s the absolute best choice in College Ward that I can see.