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More Convent shenanigans

Miss Vicky Wed May 18, 2011

It seems that access through Byron Linear Park to the Ashcroft development at the former Soeurs de la Visitation convent is back on the table, contary to what the community had been led to believe.

Planning committee meets on May 24 to consider a recommendation that Council allow the cut-through.

This has taken most community associations by surprise. According to an email sent out by the Wellington Village Community Association president, Jason Thompson, Councillor Hobbs "let it slip" at last night's AGM that the issue is on the committee's agenda, and "this fact had not been included in the emails she sent out on the issue over the past week."

The WVCA president goes on to say that despite the Planning Department report's claim that residents in the area had been notified by mail, he had not yet found anyone who had received notification.

Community Association representatives met with Councillor Hobbs this morning and have given her a list of questions for the Planning Department to answer in writing (hopefully before Tuesday's meeting!).

From the WCVA email: What the meeting this morning made obvious was that Hobbs is totally committed to supporting the cut through Byron Park. She actually contends that this option will affect less of the park, because the Shannon route is longer, and continues to insist that all new city roads must be 16.5 metres (54 ft) wide, which would mean a Shannon which is wider than Richmond Road or Byron, let alone the other smaller streets in the area.

Here's the Hampton Iona Community Group's perspective on the issue, and the Councillor's handling of it.

And from another email circulated by Amos Hayes:
The only alternative on the staff's table is access through Shannon Ave. (currently a narrow street which dead-ends at the property.) This would have a significant impact on residents there. Even though it has been confirmed that the southern building parking will have underground access to Richmond Rd., the city staff and the councillor are suggesting that if there is no southern access, the developer will cut down all the mature trees on the eastern side of the property (Nun's Walk) rather than slightly adjusting building footprints to accommodate emergency/service vehicle surface access from Richmond Rd. You may recall that in November the committee was assured that all service vehicles would use the Richmond Rd. entrance either way, and that the Leighton Terrace entrance was to be the second entrance required for emergency vehicles only.

The community has been railroaded into a terrible either/or decision which pits neighbour against neighbour, all to reward a developer with an overly dense site plan. This is despicable and an affront to all communities. Please take some time to make yourself heard. Please also consider visiting http://hamptoniona.ca and donating time or money to the community appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board."

I'm not quite sure what to say. Just when you thought the Ashcroft business couldn't get any worse... it does.

Comments on the recommendation may be sent to the planning committee via:

Caitlin Salter MacDonald
(613) 580-2424 x. 28136

Also let her know if you'd like to be on the list to speak at Tuesday's meeting. It starts at 9:30am and will be in the Champlain Room.

UPDATE: Here's a Facebook group for a sign campaign that is underway. There's also plenty of discussion on Katherine Hobbs' Facebook page


They paved paradise....

Miss Vicky Fri May 13, 2011

well, Ok, maybe the playground at Devonshire isn't paradise. But it is an important play space for our neighbourhood school - a school that is well used by families from Hintonburg, Mechanicsville, West Centretown, Preston, Lebreton Flats and Civic neighbourhoods (a school so well used it's likely to be among the last to move to full-day kindergarten... but that's the subject of another piece of vitriol). This is a school in a neighbourhood where many parents are trying to live sustainably, biking and walking when we can and teaching our kids the importance of healthy, active lifestyles, including plenty of outside time.

Apparently the school board is planning to pave over 2000 square feet of the Devonshire playground to make way for 6 parking spots for teachers. The School council and neighbourhood parents are mobilizing to find another way - the city has apparently offered parking space at Tom Brown arena, which seems like a reasonable solution, but this has been rejected. To make matters worse, parents have raised thousands of dollars to improve that playground - only to have it ripped out with no notice or consultation. Appalling.

There's plenty of info on this facebook group. If you want to express your concern and outrage, here are some email addresses:

City Councillor: Katherine.Hobbs@ottawa.ca
Ottawa Carleton District School Board, Walter.Piovesan@ocdsb.ca and
School Trustee and Board Chair: jennifer.mckenzie@ocdsb.ca

Here's the letter to the Superintendent from the School Council:

Dear Walter and Mike,

Further to my voicemail messages to each of you this afternoon, I am writing to convey Devonshire School Council's very strong objection to the timing of and the process involved in moving the west fence of the junior yard at Devonshire Community Public School tomorrow morning. Specifically, we would ask you to delay moving the west fence until you can also move the east fence along Breezehill at the same time. In this way, we will have confirmation from the survey you intend to conduct that you can indeed move the east fence to compensate for the loss of space along the west fence. We support the proposed solution, as long as and only if there is no net loss of precious, precious outdoor space at our school.

While some of us find it a bit of stretch to believe that the OCDSB does not have a survey of the land in question, we accept the need to confirm ownership before the fence is moved. Since your goal and ours is to ensure that there is no loss of children's play space with this solution, I am sure that you will agree that ours is a reasonable request.

As you both know, Devonshire's School Council has invested weeks of our time over the last year to work collaboratively with the Board and the City of Ottawa to find a solution for teachers' parking at Devonshire. We understand that while there is no contractual obligation for the Board to provide free, on-site parking to its employees, staff do have an "expectation for equitable treatment" and therefore feel entitled to free parking on OCDSB property, just like their colleagues in Kanata, Orleans and Stittsville.

We also understand that at urban, heritage schools like Devonshire, which were built before cars and thus without provision for parking them, finding on-site parking for staff is a challenge. You both know that parents have proposed many solutions over the last year to help you solve this problem. Remember our presentation at the Business Services Committee last June? (On that note, I was perplexed to notice today that a provision for seven additional parking spaces has not been removed from the plans for the primary yard.) At schools like ours, we must find alternatives to using play space for parking: we simply cannot afford to give up recreational space for cars.

We have been fundraising for years to improve the playgrounds at Devonshire, including the junior yard. It took forever -- and tens of thousands of dollars -- to have the junior yard redeveloped, including the installation of tether ball pots, which cost $10,000 and which will now be removed. Will School Council be reimbursed for our unnecessary fundraising, planning and work to have them installed?

On a funding note, School Council may be prepared to pay for one or two months' worth of on-street parking passes for staff while the survey is conducted if the OCDSB cannot find it in its budget to do so. We must all keep our students well-being top of mind, and several hundred dollars to ensure that the solution being implemented is a win-win solution would be well spent.

Finally, when movement on other issues is so slow, it is perplexing that plans can be drawn so quickly and that work can be arranged overnight. Why the rush? Keep in mind that the Board acted in the same manner several years ago when it annexed part of the basketball court in the junior yard for parking in front of our emergency exit, i.e. no consultation, no prior warning, no explanation to the parents who had spent years fundraising to improve that space.

I would ask, again, that you delay moving one fence until you can move both fences at the same time. I would also ask that if work is to proceed tomorrow, Friday, May 13, that you provide us with an explanation of the urgency, so that we convey the rationale to the many angry parents who will be asking questions.

Looking forward to working with you to find a solution that is guaranteed to be win-win: for staff and our children/your students.

Joanne Astorga
Co-Chair, Devonshire School Council


Reality Check for CBC's The House

Miss Vicky Sat Apr 23, 2011

So I listened to Kathleen Petty's interview with Jack Layton and found myself a tad agitated. Kathleen has a hard-hitting interview style, when she wants to be hard-hitting. And I would not expect her to go easy on Jack in the middle of a remarkable surge in popularity.

It was her questioning on child care that really got me riled up. I felt it was reinforced some myths about child care, and misrepresents what the NDP is proposing, and what child care advocates are asking for.

Here's the transcript:

Jack says, offering an example of a success in Quebec that the rest of Canada could build on: look at the best daycare program in the country...

Kathleen interrupts also wildly unaffordable when applied to the rest of the country, if you applied it to the rest of Canada. Couldn't be done

Jack: Well what we've proposed is that there be a national childcare act so that there could be affordable, high quality, public or non-profit child care right across Canada. And you know what? That legislation received the support of the Majority in the House of Commons. And that's the practical approach that we take to these kinds of things....

Kathleen: But the rest of Canada doesn't want Quebec's balance sheet

Jack: But I can tell you, people want child care across the country

Kathleen: If they can afford it

Jack: Hey, well, it would be up to each province, working with the federal government to make sure that it is put together in a way that makes sense, but we do need a national child care program and that's what we're proposing

I was feeling a little hot under the collar, I must admit, and I think I misheard Kathleen refer to the Quebec program was a failure (which is why I went back and transcribed that portion of the interview - she doesn't call it a failure outright, but by using the term "wildly unaffordable" and referring to Quebec's balance sheet in a derisive manner she may as well have). I tweeted, and the House responded saying they were just basing the questions on a recent reality check piece. I looked for that piece but was unable to find anything that referred to the NDP's plan or to the Quebec system in the CBC Website's Reality Check series.

So here's Miss Vicky's Reality Check for Kathleen Petty and The House:

Fact: no one is calling for $7/day day care to be applied across the country. Not the NDP - nowhere in the platform nor the Private members' bill that Jack refers to in the interview does it say that's the objective. Not Child Care advocates, either. You'll find what they are calling for here. It is by no means a uniform approach, not the "institutionalized daycare" that many opponents like to claim. It asks for a substantial investment of funds, a national policy framework and legislation, but the idea is that each province or territory would decide how to best deliver child care to their population.

But I'll tell you what's wildly unaffordable, Kathleen, to many working families: our current piecemeal, incoherent, unequal, unfair system. If you can call it a system.

Only one in five children in need of day care (that's the children of the 70% of mothers in the paid labour force, by the way) have access to a licensed, regulated space. One in five. And those numbers increase depending on where you live, what your income level is, and so on.

There are upwards 9000 families on the waiting list for spaces in Ottawa's child care centres. Even parents who can afford to pay the full fee can't find anywhere to put their kids. If you're a single mom in need of a subsidy, you're even worse off. If you're a stay at home parent looking for part-time or respite care, or a shift worker looking for options that accommodate your hours, forget it.

Imagine what this means for the economy, when people make career choices based on whether or not they have access to a safe, quality care for their kids. Or decide not to have more kids because they can't afford the child care fees (I know a few families in that siuation). Or spend a huge portion of their monthly income(the biggest after housing) on child care. For the vast majority of families, there's no choice to have one of the parents stay home, so they make it work the best way they can. But Canada doesn't give them much to work with.

What does it say about our society more than 20% of children aged one and two years with working or studying mothers are in unregulated
care with non-relatives? We do a great job supporting parents with maternity and parental leave through Employment Insurance (if they qualify, of course) - but once you hit that 12 month mark, suddenly there are no options. For many parents, it's like having the rug pulled from under you, at your most vulnerable time.

But what kills me about your approach, Kathleen, is it perpetuates the faulty notion that child care is some kind of perk - a frill, a nice-to-have, if only we could afford it.

The reality is, we can't afford to not have it. Women and men now participate equally in the labour force. Women have actually surpassed men in educational attainment. Women are a driving force in this economy and with 70% of mothers working there is certainly a need to ensure access to quality child care to both recognize and support labour force participation.

The YWCA recently released an excellent report, making the economic case for national child care. According to the Y, "A wealth of research assessing the cost-benefit of public investment in quality early learning and child care services concludes that net economic benefit occurs in both the short and long term. More than 90% of the cost of hiring child care workers returns to governments as increased revenue, and the federal government gains the most. A recent
study determined that for Canada, over the long term, every public dollar invested in quality early learning and child care programs returns $2.54 in benefits to society."

According to this article, Quebec's "wildly unaffordable" child care system reduced poverty rates by 40% and increased single mothers' income by 30%. More income means more tax revenue, more spending and a boost to the economy. You're telling me the rest of Canada doesn't want a little bit at that?

No one is asking for $7 a day. But Canada's families deserve better than what we have now ($40-$60 or more per day in Ontario, for example). Perhaps The House might reconsider the assumptions behind today's claims about what the rest of Canada wants or does not want when it comes to child care.


Convent decision Thursday

Miss Vicky Mon Mar 7, 2011

I have been wanting to write a more detailed post about the Soeurs de la Visitation convent issue. But I'm feeling pretty cynical about the whole thing, so finding it difficult.

I'm not the only one feeling a range of emotions - check out Andrea's post over at quietfish.

Councillor Hobbs dropped a bit of a bomb at the meetings this week: an 11.5 million dollar appraisal for the slice of land that the city would need to buy - well, some of that is for the value of the land and some to compensate Ashcroft for loss of potential revenue. They paid 12 million for the whole property, so it works out pretty well for them, doesn't it?

Then community associations found out in an email at 5:30 on Friday that the decision on buying the land would happen this Thursday, leaving very little time to build support for a levy - particularly a levy that is going to be a lot more than predicted.

For a decision that could potentially cost Kitchissippi taxpayers $97 a year for the next ten years, the process leading up to Thursday's vote on the Convent Garden purchase sure seems rushed and not-so-transparent.

And that doesn't make me feel optimistic about the future of the greenspace.

In fact, it feels like the community has been railroaded from the get-go. I know there are some great, committed planners working at the city but this file really makes me feel like Ottawa really is governed by developers.

Various community organizations have tried to put forward solutions, but it's not clear whether they will be considered at Thursday's meeting. They stand a better chance of being discussed if you take the time to write to your councillor using the form on the HCA website or call Mayor Watson (613-580-2496) and Councillor Hobbs (613-580-2485)

Not a great start:: Hobbs' response

Miss Vicky Wed Nov 17, 2010

Here is Katherine Hobbs' response to a query from one of her constituents on her Facebook site:

Councillor Leadman has been working on this issue for many months, and has continued her involvement at the various meetings in the community this month. If she had invited me to attend with her during this period prior to ...Dec. 1, I would have gladly done that. However failing the Councillor's invitation I did not want to show a lack of respect for her work by inserting myself at this juncture. I do understand the gravity of the concerns, and will keep apprised of the outcome of all meetings so I am able to continue the work with the members of the community on this issue as soon as I am in a legal position to do so on Dec. 1. It was not my intention to show any disrespect for the community's concerns by not attending today, and I will be reading the detailed minutes which contain all the comments from the meeting.

This seems like a pretty weak justification. Seems to me that it is more disrespectful to blow off an opportunity to hear from dozens of people who are taking the time from their day to attend a long meeting and have their say on what is happening in their neighbourhood. Every other councillor-elect attended the meeting, and it's a public meeting so anyone can attend. No invitation or permission required. Reading the minutes is no substitute for reading the room, being present to listen to people's concerns. And at this stage it is fundamental that our councillor-elect is perceived to be listening and engaging as she prepares for the transition.

I hope Katherine rethinks her approach and attends today's session.

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