amongst books

amongst books

Friday, December 19, 2008

WHAT KIND OF OTTAWA DO YOU WANT? (Ottawa Citizen, 19 Dec 2008, Page F4)

I urge everyone to respond to Ken Gray of the Ottawa Citizen who asks us what kind of city we want. E-mail him at

Here's my answer:

Dear Mr. Gray,

In regards to your column on what kind of city residents want, thank you for asking. Ottawa is unique in Canada in that it is not just a city but also our nation’s capital. While the latter is important, it is the former status that I would like to address. I want Ottawa to shape its identity as a city in order to be a vibrant and enjoyable place where people want to live.

In that regard, here are a few things on my xmas list:

I want to live in a city where arts and culture are valued and treated as essential. This means investment in facilities such as the Ottawa Art Gallery, the Ottawa School of Art, the School for Photographic Arts Ottawa, local theatre, and festivals such as the Ottawa International Writers Festival and the Ottawa Folk Festival. It also means providing funding to individual artists and writers who live in the city and contribute to making this city vibrant.

I want to live in a city where our downtown is as car free as possible. Areas such as the Byward Market and Sparks Street should be traffic free. More bike paths and bike racks would be a good idea too. I think there should be incentives not to own or drive cars in this city.

I want to live in a city with a vibrant and busy downtown. That means allowing bars to be open late, allowing more night clubs in the Byward Market, more cafes, more downtown theatres, more venues where one can go to see various styles of entertainment. I want to see more shops such as used clothing stores, record stores and bookstores, cafes devoted to knitters and crafters. I’d like to see more 24-hour stores and cafes, laundrymats and bus service.

I want to live in a city with good bus service. One of the issues for me has always been OC Transpo’s tendency to want every bus to go through the downtown core. That isn’t necessary. Also it doesn’t make sense that almost all downtown buses have to travel on Albert and Slater streets, clogging up the roads. Buses should be travelling on more of the downtown streets, making transit a more accessible option. Right now if you want to travel east on Somerset past Bank, for instance, there are no bus options. In some cities, such as Winnipeg, buses have been free in the downtown areas. That would be a good way to encourage people to move around downtown from Elgin Street to the Market, which would help local business.

I want to live in a diverse city that celebrates all cultures, ethnic groups and sexual orientations. I want Bank Street to become a gaybourhood so that we can celebrate the GLBT community.

I want to live in a city that promotes and has a healthy attitude toward sexuality. I’d like to see more community health centres in the downtown core, more places where one can receive anonymous HIV testing and counselling. I’d like to see more sex shops like Venus Envy in Ottawa, more clubs that offer adults the opportunity to celebrate sex and sexuality. More resources available to teens so that they can learn about sex in a bias free environment.

I want to live in a city that takes care of people who have to live in poverty. I want to see care and attention given to the homeless and support given to those who are trying to break free from drug and alcohol addiction. I want to live in a city where the police force is compassionate and not too quick to use force on the disadvantaged. I want to see more opportunities available in the downtown area to donate food and clothing, more boxes like the Salvation Army boxes, which have disappeared in the downtown area. I want to see more money given to organizations like the Cornerstone Women’s Shelter, which provides emergency shelter for homeless women downtown but doesn’t have enough facilities to accommodate the increasing numbers of homeless women or women running from domestic abuse.

I want to live in a city with parks and recreational facilities and green space. I’m alarmed at the rate of new luxury condominiums that are springing up in the downtown core or at Lebreton, taking up beautiful riverfront space. We need more community gardens, more places for composting in the downtown core.

I want to live in a city with a good library system, where the libraries are open seven days a week from early in the morning to late in the evenings. I want the auditoriums and spaces in libraries to be used for seminars and literary readings.

I want to live in a city where the mayor is compassionate towards the people, sees social services and culture as fundamental to the city’s well-being. I want to live in a city where the mayor can work with people not always be in a position of conflict and confrontation or stubbornness. I want to live in a city where the mayor allows experts such as labour negotiators to do their job.

Finally, one of the things that I think was a big mistake in Ottawa was amalgamation. Rural and urban concerns and requirements are quite different and I think both communities are being treated poorly under amalgamation; therefore, I want to live in a smaller city, one that doesn’t include the outskirts of Gloucester, Nepean and beyond.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to think about this issue. At a time when the City ofOttawa is undergoing one of its worst periods of esteem, thanks to a very divisive mayor with no real vision for the City, what you’ve suggested is particularly important. I look forward to reading the responses from others.


Amanda Earl

Ottawa Citizen
19 Dec 2008

During an interview I had recently with noted author and academic Richard Florida, I asked him how he would market Ottawa. Mr. Florida replied with a story about the great urban critic Jane Jacobs. He asked her post9/11 how she would develop the more...

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