There’s a pretty insidious attitude you see pop up now and again in our city. When it comes to our downtown and central neighbourhoods, city officials will often treat them as a means to an end for suburbanites (the streets are for commuters, the facilities are for entertainment and work) or, worse, a nuisance.
(The corollary to this is that people in central neighbourhoods will see suburban neighbourhoods as purely a drain on city resources and undeserving of nice things.)
One city councillor, Rick Chiarelli, demonstrated this attitude perfectly, if unwittingly, a month or so ago.
Speaking on CBC, Chiarelli was defending the Where Is My Plow app that completely failed users during the first big snowfall of the season (even when it worked as designed, it was still a failure as a communication device). Chiarelli was noting that the app was only for residential streets (though, as we all probably know, it wasn’t for all residential streets), and it wouldn’t give estimates for main streets, like Bank. This makes absolute sense. Bank Street is a high priority street for clearing. It’ll always be one of the first done (at least downtown), and it gets done regularly during the snowfall. That’s fine. No problem. As someone who lives on Bank Street, no complaints.
As a follow up, he notes that the app was designed for streets “where people actually live.”
Dick move, Mr. Chiarelli.
I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he knows that people “actually live” on Bank Street. (I’m typing this from a Starbucks on Bank Street underneath condo tower, sitting at a window facing another condo tower.) It was just easy shorthand for him. There was no evidence of malice. (From all appearances, he seems a jolly and likeable chap.)
So his words were ill-measured, but there is still meaning behind them. It may be shorthand, but it’s shorthand for something. He’s trying to build a city for the suburb-dwellers in his ward. He’s not considering that people (like me) actually live on Bank Street. We don’t count.
This is the attitude I’m talking about.
Council is often quite dismissive of people living an urban lifestyle. Whether it’s transportation, service delivery, schools, events, development or taxation, central neighbourhoods are considered secondarily or not at all.
It’s ugly, and it’s just demonstrative of the bullshit urban-suburban(-rural) culture wars that politicians feed upon. And it’s perpetuated by lies and misinformation. Whether it’s Jan Harder claiming Barrhaven is denser than downtown (well, if by dense…) or Chiarelli saying that people don’t actually live on Bank Street, it’s harmful to the city, and it’s just plain dumb for city-building purposes.
And, you know, I’ll bet these condo towers have more residents that Joyce Crescent in College Ward.