Civic Affairs

Municipal politics

Plenty of places to walk with Jane

[img_assist|nid=53|title=Elm Street foot bridge|desc=Participants in Saturday's Jane's Walk will be invited to stop, think and talk.|link=none|align=right|width=500|height=423]

I came across the work of urban thinker Jane Jacobs long ago, while studying the general idea of "The City" for my postgraduate work in English lit. I'm thrilled to see it's still taking hold, and taking hold in Brockville.

Jacobs, if I recall, had a particular bias toward larger cities. She called Toronto home, after all. But Saturday's Jane's Walk in Brockville demonstrates that, while Jacobs's theories may not always be geared toward small cities like ours, the spirit behind them can be found wherever people gather in an environment that is recognizably urban.

In fact, it is a good thing for any city dweller, big or small, to pause and take note of his or her surroundings. Sometimes, as may be the case with trees and urban wildlife, noticing those surroundings is the first step toward ensuring we do not lose them.

At other times, noting one's surroundings is the first step toward fixing them.

Baroque and Blue

[img_assist|nid=54|title=Baroque and Blue|desc=Michael Morgan peforms Claude Bolling's "Baroque and Blue" during the Stars of the Festival Awards Night show.|link=none|align=right|width=500|height=459]There were plenty of thrilling moments at Tuesday's Stars of the Festival show, but if I had a fedora, I'd tip it right now to flautist Michael Morgan, who brought to festival-goers' attention the under-appreciated genius of the French composer and jazz pianist Claude Bolling.

Sporting a fedora for the occasion, Michael played "Baroque and Blue" a suitable representation of Bolling's fusion of classical and jazz.

It was a joy to hear, even if Morgan and pianist Donna Richards gently excised the raunchier jazz bits, no doubt because they didn't have the luxury of a drummer and stand-up bassist. (You can get the original version, with Bolling and Jean-Pierre Rampal, here.)

Leave some room in the warehouse

 

One of the more significant details in the most recent story about new jobs in the west-end industrial park  is not the little boo-boo city hall's economic development department committed in projecting Spectrum Brands' future hiring plans, but rather Dave Paul's comment about the acquisition of new industrial lands.

We must keep the music alive

[img_assist|nid=51|title=Music festival|desc=DARCY CHEEK The Recorder and Times Ellie McCann plays "Catch Me" (Anne Crosby) during a Grade 2 Canadian Composers class for the Lions Music Festival at St. John's Uinted Church on Wednesday.|link=none|align=right|width=500|height=387]I may be biased on this one, since I got to skip work this morning and watch my two daughters perform in the Brockville Music Festival. Then there's this afternoon, when my eldest daughter placed first in her category for classical piano.

But spending the day at the Brockville Arts Centre brought on the irresistible urge to rant about the importance of the music festival, which the Brockville Lions Club is putting on for the 62nd year.

It culminates Tuesday night with the Stars of the Festival, and a decent turnout would be a welcome antidote to a continuing decline in participation.

Music Festival committee chairman Norm Kearney said there are about 400 entries, adding the number is in decline because there is less musical instruction in schools.

Let the people decide... a little later

[img_assist|nid=46|title=Mayor Henderson during OPP debate|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=410|height=273][img_assist|nid=48|title=Jeff Earle spoke in opposition|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=405|height=270]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next chapter of city council's OPP costing saga will be bureaucratic, involving letters back and forth between the city and provincial government. That will be followed by a lot of behind-the-scenes number crunching and, perhaps, disputes over the validity of the numbers being crunched.

You can probably bet, however, that when the OPP's proposal comes back and the discussion reaches the public meeting stage, there will already be a full lobbying effort to refer any final decision to a referendum in the 2014 municipal election.

The idea of a referendum, urged by Louise Severson in last night's debate, already appears to have some traction on council, although how much remains to be seen.

C-Day

[img_assist|nid=18|title=OPP costing?|desc=|link=none|align=middle|width=900|height=188]

The hours are counting down to what could be the most significant vote by a Brockville council since the approval of the Tall Ships Landing agreement. It's C-Day, costing day, or what could be the start of a long and bitter cost-analysis for an Ontario Provincial Police service contract.

And right on time for C-Day, supporters of the costing have the opportunity to dig up some old ammunition. Yesterday's police services board meeting offered up a timely reminder of the huge spike in police wages this year.

The city has budgeted for a nine-per-cent increase in wages and benefits, and that's just officials' best estimate of what will come down later this year, since the collective agreement calls for 2013 wages based on the average salary of four comparator police forces.

This is a "catch-up year" in the four-year collective agreement, and the steepness of that catch-up will be an advantage to supporters of a switch to the OPP.

Jobs and parrots can coexist peacefully

[img_assist|nid=43|title=Black and Decker site|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=242]

The award for non-sequitur comment of the weekend goes to "the_moment," for: "If you all think a bird should be in the front of your home town paper that is why all the jobs in Brockville are flying south."

Someone please tell me the connection. And besides, our story on the passing of the parrot (which, thankfully, some people "got" and expressed the appropriate sympathy) was not on the front page, but on page three.

One front-page story had to do with jobs that may not be flying south (or east, for that matter).

The sale of the former Black and Decker property is far from a done deal. Court-ordered sales can be even more complicated than ordinary ones, so we'll have to wait until May to find out where this goes.

Anything on that site, be it retail, warehousing or a secret farm for breeding parrots, would be better than what's there now. Camalor needs neighbours.

Living in a sprocketless world

[img_assist|nid=13|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=600|height=400]There's something sadly symbolic about the looming closure of the Data Group plant in Brockville. The plant makes stock tab computer paper, the kind with holes in the margins that go on those old printer sprockets, as well as cash register rolls.

Computer printers with sprockets. Kind of sounds as obsolete as the old pre-globalization and early-globalization manufacturing model under which Brockville thrived, the disappearance of which has created the economic mess we are in right now. ("It is sad to watch Brockville circle the drain," one of the commenters under the story remarks.)

The parallel is obvious: obsolete product; obsolete city.

It is also more than a little too simple.

The Data Group closing won't be the last one to hit Brockville, and as the city transforms under a new economic model, it likely won't be a Fortune 500 town again.

But there will be something here. What that will be will depend on what is possible.

A cop is a cop, which I am not

[img_assist|nid=40|title=Use-of-force training|desc=Reporter Ronald Zajac, left, tries to pacify Const. Shawn Borgford during a scenario in Tuesday's use-of-force training.|link=none|align=none|width=900|height=596]

 

As you can now read in today's R&T, Brockville could get an OPP costing, should it ask for one, as early as this summer, as long as all the bureaucratic and statistical stars align.

And if next Tuesday's vote proves to be a "Yes," Pembroke and Orillia could well be two poster cities for, respectively, the pro-OPP and and pro-city-police sides of this debate.

This morning, however, I have a different policing exprience in mind.

I am actually quite proud of the way I held my own in yesterday's city police use-of-force training exercise. Still, one look at the video will reveal that I would not have gone far in this scenario without the timely instructions of Det.-Const. Graham Coe.

With apologies for the delay...

[img_assist|nid=36|title=Louise Severson|desc=Former councillor Louise Severson speaks to city council's finance, administration and operations committee last Wednesday.|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=312]In the news business, it's always a risk to promise.

When I promised, yesterday, there would be more coverage of Brockville's OPP costing debate in today's print edition, it was before a much more important story, the Boston Marathon tragedy, had happened.

Today we pray for Boston, and tomorrow (one hopes), we can return to the debates that fill our regular civic space, albeit with a renewed sense of perspective.

In the meantime, I see former Councillor and COPS chairwoman Louise Severson has taken to Facebook to deny, yet again, any intentions of running for mayor -- or at least, as she noted here, of running with policing as her platform -- in next year's municipal election.

To be clear, my opinion to the contrary, in Friday's column, was just that: an opinion, based on my reading of the political math and the political momentum.

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