I went to the Ward 3 community meeting a week and a bit ago - sadly, it was pretty much as I expected. A repetition of the issues raised at the previous two meetings, generic reports from city staff that didn't relate directly to comments or suggestions made by residents at those meetings, and no reports of actual actions taken or budgetary commitments to action.
By my count, 14 highly paid city staff were there, with about twice as many ward residents. The meeting itself showed poor planning - it was at Riverside School, but the gym wasn't available, so we were crammed into the library, which isn't meant for large meetings, and the various displays were put up in the hallways, which meant awkward transfers of people from the library to the hall and back again, and of course, there wasn't room in the hallway for people to have a clear look at the displays and ask questions.
I've been to all three meetings, and some of the audience was new, while others had been to one or both of the previous meetings. In talking to some of those who had been at previous meetings, they were disappointed that it was just the same old message being delivered again, and nothing seemed to be focused on the particular issues of the ward. One would hope that at some point, city staff would move away from solutions proposed in books to adapting those solutions to something that will actually work in the particular conditions found in the ward. And then put those solutions into the city budget, so that action could actually take place.
It was also disappointing to hear a resident raise an issue,and then have staff dismiss the proposed solution. This resident commented about how it's difficult walking her dogs in the winter, because the lack of sidewalks, particularly along the avenues, means that she has to walk in the road, which is definitely dangerous. The response from city staff - sidewalks are expensive. Yes, they are. But I would hope that residential safety would warrant spending money both to improve safely and make the area more attractive to residential traffic, which has been proven to also reduce crime, another ongoing concern. Unfortunately, the current council would rather allocate a half million dollars of tax money to pave the Art Hauser parking lot, or figure out how to get 2 million dollars to irrigate the golf course with potable water. Where they actually take action shows what their real priorities are.
I wish that council, rather than always expecting taxpayers to pick up the tab, would look more at directing a portion of user fees for those expenditures that benefit only a few. For example, a surcharge of fifty cents on each ticket sold for events at the Art Hauser Centre could be put into a fund to pay for parking lot upgrades. Similarly, golfers should already be paying for water (it's provided by the city free of charge, unlike the drinking water that comes into your home), and irrigation improvements should be part of the fees collected from golfers, the actual beneficiaries.
I also wish that I could figure out a better way of getting input from the public rather than these wasteful, of both time and money, public meetings. I know that some members of the public have good ideas, but it's only discouraging to those who take the time to come to these meetings to have their issues agreed with, but then no action taken.
In fact, it was almost funny to hear the city planner talk about how parks are really important, to residents of a ward that has no city parks. Not one. I'm not sure if the city planner knows that, because he certainly didn't follow up with any plans to rectify the situation. That's the problem with planning. Unless it's followed up with action, it's just so much talk. We've heard the talk, three times now. It's more than time for some action, not just confirming the issues.
"Words may show a man's wit, but actions his meaning." - Ben Franklin