The city has now started its third round of community meetings, with the first being held in Ward 1 this past week. Although the article in the paper didn't mention it, it attracted a crowd of fifteen. And once again, the meeting was filled with people voicing complaints, with no realistic solutions being proposed. I would have hoped that by this point, the city planners who are running the show would have developed some proposed strategies to address some of the problems - strategies that would take into account the unique features of the area in question, and recognize the realities of restricted budgets.
I know that it's difficult to get people to move beyond discussing problems to discussing solutions - that's why the city planners should be facilitating the group to find solutions, not just take notes about complaints yet again on how people want to feel safe in their neighbourhoods, and have better access to recreational facilities. These meetings have a cost to the city, and therefore to the taxpayer, and one would hope that in the time between meetings the focus is on how to move to the next phase. I know that the previous two meetings that I attended in Ward 3, the meeting content was pretty much identical between the two, and nothing that couldn't have been predicted. It's a shame that city administrators keep holding these meetings, and get people's hopes up that some action will be forthcoming, but then fail to move forward.
I also think that not providing information about what is already available in each ward has been an oversight. It would help to illustrate that some wards are sorely lacking in some of the amenities (like parks) and facilities. One of the issues that I continually tried to raise in my time on council was the need to bring parity between wards, rather that providing additional facilities in areas that already have several. It's no secret that Ward 3 is woefully lacking in green space, and even the public tennis court, at Midtown Hall, has been allowed to disintegrate to the point where it is unusable.
I also wonder if any effort has been made to invite people representing different organizations, rather than just opening the doors, posting a notice on Facebook, and hoping that people show up. What happens in the current situation is that people with a particular axe to grind show up, but people who might represent organizations that could help don't show up. When Andrea was involved in land use planning for the province, she found that people who were specifically invited to represent their organization would show up, and often have valuable advice to offer from their perspective.
Finally, the city planner said that he wants to put together a committee made up of twelve representatives from each ward. That would be a group of close to one hundred - not really feasible for developing solutions. It's the kind of suggestion that only a little thinking about exposes its inherent unworkability. The idea that the more people you crowd into a committee means that more viewpoints can be heard is understandable, but would make for meetings at which you have a choice - either only a few people can speak, or everyone can, making meetings interminable, and very quickly, people will stop coming. Another concern is where the money to fund this gigantic committee is going to come from. These ideas should be thought through before being said publicly.
Personally, I think that planning for the sake of planning is a good way of avoiding taking any action. It's a good way of looking like you are doing something, without actually doing anything constructive. It's like being on a firing range, and going ready, aim, aim, aim, aim - forgetting that your actual objective is to fire, to find out how good your aim actually is. Like many city residents, I would much rather see action than another committee set up to complain about problems that have been known about for years.
"A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow." - George Patton