Citizens deserve better than to be treated like children when we offer to become engaged in plans that affect our communities.
By Paul Tetley
Published October 24, 2011
Public engagement, accountability and transparency. These three things are necessary in a well functioning city. They contribute to healthy communities. We should expect them from our elected officials. Most importantly, they should present in a democracy.
In 2010, Council unanimously approved $1.2 Million for the feasibility, planning and design work for a Seniors' Recreation Facility in the area formerly known as Scott Park. For over a year, Ward 3 Councillor Bernie Morelli has stated: "Neighbourhood consultation with various stakeholders...will begin this winter" (Summer 2010), and "During all stages....extensive consultations with residents and groups in the neighbourhood" (Spring 2011).
To date no formal or organized consultations have occurred.
Two weeks ago, on the heels of the $5 Million cap for the Velodrome, Councillor Morelli brought forward a proposal for the money be redirected to the Seniors' Recreation should the Velodrome not proceed.
Council's approval of the proposal would mean $6.2 Million in secured funding without any public plan or community engagement. While I certainly welcome a new Seniors' Centre in my neighbourhood, I'm also greatly concerned that the vision and development of this project will have zero community input.
Last week, I emailed Councillor Morelli offering to organize a meeting for him to present his vision in the auditorium of the former Scott Park School. Below is his response.
Thank you for your e-mail. Plans are in the early stages of development. When details are more complete, neighbourhood will likely be informed of any scheduled meetings. As has been traditional, I am holding informal daily discussions with various individuals in the neighbourhood. If anyone wishes to speak with me, please do not hesitate to have them contact me directly.
I wasn't satisfied with his response, so I replied, pointing out that I hadn't asked for him to present details, only his vision for the project. I also asked whether I was correct to infer from his email that his vision was also in "early stages" and to suggest that, if so, perhaps the request for $5 million was premature. Below is his response.
You're welcome to infer anything and I'll leave the rest to your speculative imagination and I will relegate the harbouring of any of your excitements and/or commitments wherever, to you.
As with any major City project and as mentioned to you in my last e-mail, the neighbourhood will be advised at the appropriate time of any scheduled meetings. It would be expected as in most City projects that visions and potential visions would likely be shared at that time, subject to further comment and feedback..... Once again, as also mentioned earlier, I am speaking to a number of people on a daily basis and anyone is free to contact me at anytime to discuss the project and its current status.
I'm left feeling that informal - i.e. off-the-record - conversations are the best we can expect from our current Ward 3 Councillor. We will have no say as to when, or if, we are included in the project planning that will be spending our taxpayer dollars on a project that will greatly impact our community.
I fear our community involvement will once again be reduced to only an 'Open House' to view project renderings once all the decisions have been made through closed door meetings and "informal" conversations with the nameless.
We deserve better. We don't elect our officials to plan for our communities in a vacuum and treat us like small children when we offer to alleviate the lack of engagement.
The councillor encourages people to call him anytime to informally discuss the project. Council is meeting this Wednesday, and I encourage you to take the councillor up on his offer to learn more about his plan and its proposed location within the renamed Ivor Wynne Precinct.
If you do call Councillor Morrelli, please pass the information along to the Scott Park neighbourhood, as we'd like to know as well.
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