Community will miss The Pantry

June 2016

I had no idea how important The Pantry was in the lives, hearts and stomachs of local residents until the time came for me to sign off on closing the tearoom, which opened in the Glebe Community Centre in 1975. The lease was running out in 2014, and the space was coveted for community and City programming.

But not so fast! Patrons by the hundreds wrote, called me and notified the media to advocate for one last extension to the lease. That would mean delaying other users' plans, tackling the tricky issue of mandatory provincial taxes, and finding solutions to several other obstacles.

All the players came to the table, with the GCA and some prominent community organizers convinced that where there's a will, there's a way. And there was a way to keep the doors open, but only until June 30 of this year. Carolyn Best, David Pritchard and staff got to continue doing what they love for a while longer, patrons got to celebrate The Pantry's 40th anniversary with founder Ilse Kyssa, and I saw how loyal this community is to its institutions.

It will be missed.

As for the future of this space, the City is currently seeking proposals for a new tenant to operate a café offering "healthier alternatives".

Fireworks an explosive issue

As residents have noticed, fireworks are becoming a regular occurrence at Lansdowne — first to ring in the New Year, now for other events like the Tulip Festival.

While many people love a colourful show of lights exploding in the night sky, others find it tremendously loud, disruptive and stressful. The noise is especially terrifying to pets and wildlife — they don't know that fireworks are supposed to be fun, and may have more sensitive hearing than humans do.

Fireworks are not universally appreciated, and one town in Italy passed a law requiring pyrotechnic displays to be silent — which is not as farfetched as it may seem, since there's at least one company that makes silent fireworks.

With that in mind, I'd like your opinion on these questions:

  1. Should fireworks be allowed at Lansdowne?
  2. If yes, how often would you like to see them (monthly, quarterly, yearly) and when (holidays, special events)?
  3. If no, would you reconsider if the City of Ottawa and Lansdowne were to pioneer the use of noiseless fireworks?

Echo Drive is fine — except for the guide rail

Recent issues of the OSCAR have included various reports and letters related to the status of Echo Drive, which slopes downhill from the Sunnyside Library to Riverdale, and then, after a short green pause, onward to Old Ottawa East and Immaculata High School.

Echo Drive is a semi-closed right of way that has evolved over the years to accommodate all kinds of users, mostly sharing a roadway, and mostly doing so very safely. What might seem to some like an accident waiting to happen is, in fact, a great illustration of what can happen when you force people to slow down, pay attention and watch out for each another.

The mixed-use street, which resembles what the Dutch call a "woonerf" (literally "living area"), works for everyone precisely because it is not "owned" by any one type of user. So, whenever someone calls for Echo Drive to be fully opened, or fully closed, or to have more lines painted or sidewalks added, the reaction of many users — myself included — is, "Nah, leave it as is. It's working fine."

This being said, the cable guide rail separating the road and the steep treed slope down to Colonel By Drive, between Bank St. and Avenue Rd., has deteriorated to the point of being almost useless. Views on what to do about it range from fix it, to remove it, to build a higher curb, to "I've never really noticed."

City staff considered removal without replacement, but ultimately concluded that a barrier is needed for safety purposes. They decided on an easy-to-maintain steel beam rail to provide the greatest protection for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. This project will go out to tender this fall.

Electric vehicle expansion

Electric vehicle (EV) drivers in Ottawa will soon have access to more charging stations thanks to the province's Electric Vehicle Chargers Ontario (EVCO) grant program. Six will be installed at municipal sites: the Terry Fox and Fallowfield Park and Rides, Ben Franklin Place, Fire Administration Building (Carling Ave. and Hwy. 417), and the parking facilities at 687 Somerset St., and 141 Clarence St. These will join existing chargers at the Lansdowne and Third Ave. parking garages in the Glebe, and at City Hall. Charging stations are also coming to three St-Hubert restaurants (Airport, St-Laurent, Gloucester), and IKEA will install an additional charger. All should be operational by March 2017.

Having extra chargers at a convenient distance for many residents will help reduce the "range anxiety" — fear of running out of power — that's known to discourage EV ownership.

For those more interested in car sharing than owning, Vrtucar has electric vehicles in its fleet. Or, if distance or aging knees are part of your cycling reality, you might consider an electrically assisted bicycle.

Where I stand

Constituents often ask what my positions are on various issues. In deciding whether I support or oppose any position, idea or project, I try to balance my personal views with the best available evidence and a healthy dose of public input. Sometimes this is more art than science, but I always endeavour to be as transparent as possible. Here is where I stand on a few contentious issues:

Photo radar: I am very much in favour as long as revenue is specifically dedicated to chronically underfunded traffic safety measures, as long as it is installed on streets known to suffer from chronic speeding, and as long as drivers are clearly informed of its presence. I would rather discourage speeding than make money off speeders.

City Council recently approved a motion requesting permission from the province to install photo radar, but not until it was diluted to limit photo radar to school zones, and only as a pilot project. While this is better than nothing, I don't understand how something as fundamental as the safety of our roads could have been resisted on the basis that it is "just a tax grab. Feedback from Capital Ward residents was 95% in favour of instituting photo radar.

Ranked ballots: I believe that when voters can rank their candidates in order of preference, we can move away from so-called strategic voting, whereby ballots are often cast to block the undesirable, rather than choose the desirable.

Election financing: I have long supported a ban on corporate and union donations.