Civic Affairs

Municipal politics

Who's in, who's out and what's in camera

It didn't take long for the latest step in Brockville's OPP costing process to generate plenty of online debate

A public meeting on 'a different planet'?

 

[img_assist|nid=75|title=Legal angle|desc=City solicitor John Simpson, left, speaks with city manager Bob Casselman on Tuesday.|link=none|align=right|width=500|height=315]So there was an interesting moment during Tuesday's special council meeting when it seemed like the coming public meeting over the rezoning of Water Street will have absolutely no meaning.

During the course of the debate over the agreement with Blockhouse Square Development Ltd., the discussion turned on the desirability of a public meeting before council approves the deal.

Some people figured the public meeting that will be required to rezone the land, once the deal is inked and it gets to that point, should be enough.

Not for Councillor Mary Jean McFall, however.

City solicitor John Simpson pointed to the clause in which the city pledges to support the project in principle.

Bike to work, with or without the heated lanes

 

[img_assist|nid=73|title=Downtown bike parking|desc=Kathleen Lowe, of the Brockville cycling advisory committee, places her bicycle by one of the bike parking rings placed on King Street to lure more cyclists downtown.|link=none|align=right|width=600|height=398]Among the things I didn't get a chance to report this week: the first week in June will be Bike to Work Week.

Now, I'd be more than glad to bike to work, especially since in my case it would be more a matter of blocks than kilometres.

The trouble is, if I am suddenly called to cover a fire in, say, Athens, it would be a pretty long haul on a bicycle, toting the camera bags and notepads, and I'd be sure to bust the deadline before getting back to the newsroom.

For people in more predictable professions, though, biking to work sounds like a worthy idea.

As does the ongoing initiative to promote bicycle parking downtown.

A commendable piece of bargaining

Revised artist's concept.One has to give city council its due: the renegotiated version of the Water Street condominium development is a commendable piece of bargaining.

As promised...

[img_assist|nid=67|title=Water Street project|desc=Revised artist's concept.|link=none|align=left|width=500|height=249]As I noted in the previous entry, city council spent much of last night behind closed doors refining the Water Street development deal.

It turns out it was all a matter of communication and clarification, with only some minor tweaks necessary to keep everybody happy.

What those tweaks are, and how happy everybody really is, are some of the things I hope to find out in short order.

But if it was all really a communication issue, then why not improve communication all around by making the rest of this process public?

Until I get those details, I leave you with some corny train humour.

No pictures, please, we're in camera

[img_assist|nid=67|title=Water Street project|desc=Revised artist's concept.|link=url|align=right|width=500|height=249]It turns out the most interesting part of tonight's city council meeting, once the Railway Tunnel induction ceremony is done, might be the part we can't report.

A good debate on doctor recruitment funding notwithstanding, the weightiest item on tonight's agenda is the in-camera discussion on Blockhouse Square Development Ltd.'s proposed $58-million condominium and commercial project on Water Street.

The project's first stage is a four-level podium on which the remaining floors – levels five through nine – are to rest. That is to include 65 residential units; 437 parking spots and some 202 lockers; 16 commercial units; and a common area.

“I'm just a guy from the psych who's starring in a documentary'

[img_assist|nid=63|title='NCR' director|desc=John Kastner speaks to the audience at the Brockville Arts Centre Thursday evening.|link=none|align=left|width=500|height=409]Is Sean Clifton evil or ill?

That's the question posed by director John Kastner in his documentary NCR: Not Criminally Responsible.

Along the way, and quite surprisingly, he also manages to show us Sean Clifton is funny.

Kastner warned the audience at Thursday night's Brockville Arts Centre screening in advance about the humour in this documentary.

A good idea, since the incident at the centre of this film, Clifton's brutal and near-fatal stabbing of a young woman in Cornwall, is not a laughing matter.

“It's OK to laugh,” Kastner told the crowd. “Mental patients are people too.”

Take the money and run

[img_assist|nid=61|title=Michael Veenstra|desc=Michael Veenstra speaks to city council's economic development and planning committee on Tuesday.|link=node|align=right|width=500|height=332]Sometimes you have to work at finding an excuse to punt an unpleasant chore down the road. At other times, the excuse just presents itself.

City councillors did not have to find any justifications, this time around, for their latest delay of the development charges debate.

In December, they put off the difficult decision on whether or not to reinstate the fees to builders by arguing developers needed more time to study the issue.

This time, the reason was the requisite consultant's report, the quote for which has gone stale.

There's no disputing we need a fresh quote, since the Hemson Consulting proposal is based on 2010 figures. The question should be why the city didn't suggest getting the fresh quotes in December, knowing we'd have to have the debate anyway.

Not your ordinary movie night

[img_assist|nid=59|title=|desc=A still image from the film 'NCR: Not Criminally Responsible'|link=none|align=left|width=400|height=430]Brockville would make a fine setting for all kinds of movies. It's something the folks at economic development would do well to promote. But the Brockville-based film being screened at the arts centre on Thursday is not city hall's idea of good community boosting.

Frank civic debate, however, is about real life, not Hollywood.

NCR: Not Criminally Responsible, which premiered Sunday at Toronto's Hot Docs film festival, centres on Brockville Mental Health Centre (BMHC) patient Sean Clifton, who in 1999 attacked 22-year-old Julie Bouvier with a knife at a mall in Cornwall. He now lives in Brockville on a conditional discharge under BMHC supervision.

The arts centre is hosting a free-admission screening of the film, courtesy of the National Film Board and the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

This is what they mean by cutting policing costs

[img_assist|nid=57|title=City police|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=500|height=333]It's not a revelation that city police officers, rather than blanketing the downtown core in full armour in anticipation of weekend bar fights, will instead ticket brawlers under the nuisance bylaw. City council approved that bylaw two years ago, and fighting was clearly among the offences that couild get one ticketed (up there with blocking traffic and going to the bathroom on the sidewalk).

The idea of ticketing brawlers, rather than rounding them up and throwing them in "the tank" for the night, followed by criminal charges, will strike many as insufficient. We're quickly approaching the fifth anniversary of the May 18, 2008 downtown assault that left Ken Gottfried with permanent physical damage; in many ways, for Brockvillians, there has not been such a thing as an "ordinary" downtown fisticuff since that tragic incident.

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