Ottawa's Integrity Commissioner can't have it both ways on gift registry

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Joanne Chianello, Ottawa Citizen

While there was lots to like about the first council meeting of the term held Wednesday, not every decision made by council was laudable. In particular, the decision to raise the disclosure threshold from $30 to $100 was misguided, to put it kindly.

When council adopted the gift registry in May 2013, councillors at the time voted to make the disclosure limit quite low — $30, one of the lowest in the country. What that means is that councillors could accept anything valued at $30 or lower without worrying about disclosing it. In the words of Coun. David Chernushenko, the $30 threshold covered "a coffee, a sandwich, a ball cap."

Councillors were still able to accept gifts worth more than $30, but they'd just have to disclose them on the city's online gift registry. At the time, the city's Integrity Commissioner appeared thrilled about the $30 level. (Councillors have to register gifts of event tickets as well, but that falls under a different part of the policy. And at no time are councillors allowed to accept gifts of any value from anyone with an active file on the lobby registry.)

Growing pains for drivers, pedestrians at Lansdowne Park

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Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

The pedestrian friendly layout of Lansdowne Park is proving confusing to motorists who aren't banned from the area, but aren't particularly welcome either.

There seems to be some growing pains at Lansdowne Park as drivers and pedestrians alike are confused about who belongs where.

Although vehicles can enter and exit the park in three places, much of the site has been redeveloped with people travelling on foot or bike in mind. The cobblestone roads and squares are level and don't feature the hallmarks of a typical city street, including a lot of signage and other directions to drivers.

Vehicle traffic is prohibited during Ottawa RedBlacks games and other major events at TD Place stadium, and only club seat ticket holders have access to the underground parking lot. Everyone else enters on foot.

But at other times, it feels like bit of free-for-all, and that's proving to be tricky.

In addition to the Ottawa Farmers' Market's return to Lansdowne last Sunday, there was also a pottery show in the Horticulture Building and an Ottawa 67s game in the arena. Meanwhile, many of the larger retailers, including Whole Foods and Sporting Life, were open and eager to attract business. All of this combined to make for a busy day at the park.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko was there until around lunchtime and said he witnessed a lot of "nervous behaviour" on the part of drivers who appeared to have no clue where they could go. Pedestrians also appeared unclear about where they belonged.

Restricting cars some of the time and allowing them at other times may be confusing to the public and contributing to the problem, he said.

NCC holds open house for Clegg crossing

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Signalized crossing planned for spring 2015

Michelle Nash, Ottawa Community News

The National Capital Commission will present designs for a new signalized crossing at Clegg Street and Colonel By Drive during a Dec. 11 open house.

Working with the city on the project, the NCC’s open house will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Saint Paul University, in Laframboise Hall. The evening will showcase the proposed improvements such as the installation of a traffic light which would be activated by pedestrians and cyclists as needed at Colonel By and Clegg Street.

According to NCC spokesman Cédric Pelletier, the NCC, in partnership with the city, intends to move forward with the planned improvements in the spring 2015.

“The NCC’s objective is to move forward with a design that will maintain the NCC’s parkways standards, that will improve the level of comfort and safety of pedestrians and cyclists crossing the intersection, and that will satisfy the City of Ottawa requirements,” Pelletier said.

The proposed design requires the closure of Echo Drive at Clegg Street and additional pavement markings and support signage is also being considered.

It’s early, but new council shows promise

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Joanne Chianello, Ottawa Citizen

An amazing thing happened Wednesday at this term’s first city council meeting.

Councillors discussed, debated and disagreed on the specifics of a 289-page governance review for more than two-and-a-half hours. And yet the sky didn’t fall, there was no sign of dysfunction, and council seemed actually more productive than ever. There were even a few compromise motions passed, with a welcome absence of grandstanding. Could this be the dawn of a new era around the council horseshoe?

It’s the earliest of days yet, but the tone at council is already different than four years ago. More than half the newbies — councillors Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper, Tobi Nussbaum, Riley Brockington and Jean Cloutier — appeared well-versed in the contents of the governance tome and brought intelligent questions and well-considered improvements.

They didn’t showboat, but they weren’t afraid to disagree with Mayor Jim Watson’s stated preferences, either. It all seemed very grown up.

Leiper, for example, moved a motion to punt an item on budget procedure to next week’s council meeting when the budget process is to be hashed out more fully. The new Kitchissippi councillor — along with many others — is worried about the inflexibility of the budget practice, in particular the seeming inability to make any significant changes to the document once the draft is released.

But after numerous assurances from Watson and senior city staff that money actually can be moved among departmental envelopes at the final budget meeting, Leiper withdrew his motion. Reasonable.