2016: The Year in Review

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Well, that was a year!

Wellington X started 2016 recommending revisions to the City’s Request for Proposals for hiring a consulting team for the North King’s Town Secondary Plan, and ended it heartened by the community response to the DIALOG consulting team’s draft report. Over 65 letters to the City asking for changes to the report were cc’d to Wellington X!

In between there were highs and lows:

Canvassing – Sayyida Jaffer, Justine Scala, Colin Khan and other volunteers enjoyed going door-to-door and talking with people in North King’s Town, both in 2015 and 2016. They were gratified to find how much people want to talk and are already engaged, and by how many are already opposed to the Wellington Street Extension.

Land Swap with Weston Bakeries – Council’s approval of the land swap with Weston Bakeries, in which the entire width of the WSE was purchased for parts of the northern section, surprised the DIALOG consultants. This occurred during the initial planning stage of the NKT Secondary Plan and restricts the potential for alternatives to the WSE. More recently, other attempts to jump the gun on the NKSP include the ABNA proposal to move the Outer Station, and the City’s idea of ending golfing in Belle Park. We will continue to stand against any proposals that pre-empt the Secondary Planning process.

Changes to the Official Plan – community members- including Anne Lougheed, Mike Cole-Hamilton, Julian Scala and Vicki Schmolka- slogged through four drafts of the City’s Official Plan and made presentations and wrote letters to Council and Staff. This resulted in important changes to language in the OP about the WSE and protection of the waterfront, including:

  • Recognition in the transportation section of the OP that a Secondary Planning Process for NKT will examine the feasibility of the WSE
  • Changed wording in the OP’s treatment of the Woolen MiIl area to no longer include and describe the WSE as an important link to the downtown
  • Corrected wording to state that the UNESCO World Heritage Designation protects all of the Rideau Canal north of the Causeway as an Environmental Protection Area with a 30-metre wide setback from the waterfront, not only the section north of Belle Park
  • Improved language with regard to the 30-metre wide Ribbon of Life along the waterfront
  • Wording changed to refer to road widening and extensions as “projects” rather than “improvements”

De-greening of Doug Fluhrer Park – DFP has changed from mostly green to mostly pavement and gravel with the construction of the K&P trail and the City’s gravelling of the lane along it.

DIALOG’s draft NKT Report – The draft NKT Secondary Plan Visioning Report misrepresents the results of DIALOG’s and the City’s community consultations, which clearly showed that nearly all of the public are against the WSE. As well, the draft report does not require sufficient protection of the waterfront or reflect that the secondary planning process is happening, in part, to determine alternatives to the WSE. More generally, it seems to reflect little vision for the integrity of this diverse and environmentally sensitive area of the city with a long industrial and residential history.

Community Engagement! – At community and City events throughout the spring, summer and fall, the community attended and spoke loudly in favour of waterfront and cultural heritage protection, environmental sustainability, active transportation and social equity, and against the WSE. People made Tshirts, bought Tshirts, and wore Tshirts (thanks Barb Danielewski!), and helped create an ongoing big banner designed and guided by Nancy Douglas. As well, the community filled in surveys and wrote letters, including those 65+ letters already mentioned asking for changes to the NKT draft report. As a result the City has requested a second draft of DIALOG’s report to be presented for further comment from the community.

You are all awesome! As one of our group said, “Some highlights for me were the t-shirt workshops, the banner and the canvassing. They all reminded me that we live in an amazing and vibrant community and that it is possible to be an activist and to have fun, too …  I’ve also been encouraged by how many people do come out every time that there’s a public meeting. Whether we win or lose this fight, that gives me hope.”

Stay tuned and stay involved for the next season of this gripping drama!

  •  Will DIALOG’s revision of its draft NKT report reflect the concerns raised by the public?
  • Will the City protect the lane next to Doug Fluhrer Park from use by vehicles as promised and will weeds be allowed to grow back on it in the spring?
  • When will the second phase of the NKT Secondary Plan process begin and which consultants will the City hire for that process?
  • What will happen to the Outer Station?
  • Will the new urban K&P trail be used extensively and will those who use it want the WSE to be built alongside it?
New K&P trail east of Rideau St

New K&P trail east of Rideau St

However things unfold, we will keep insisting on our right to participate in decisions that affect our lives and our City.

— Mary McCollam

 

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Canvassing: Fall Results and Spring Prospects

Now that spring is (almost) here, isn’t it the perfect time for canvassing?

In the fall of 2015, ten Wellington X volunteers went out in pairs to knock on doors in the Inner Harbour and Old Industrial Area to talk to people about what they thought about the Wellington Street Extension (WSE).  We knocked on 406 doors in total, and spoke to 141 people over all. It was an insight-producing and even heart-warming experience. Then winter came. We’re going to start up canvassing again soon, so we thought this would be a good moment to share our interim results.

First, the numbers: of the 141 people we spoke to, 105 said that they were against the WSE; 8 said they were for it; 25 said they were undecided; and 3 were indifferent.

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We were very encouraged by these results.

But the exercise produced far more than polling numbers. We were struck by how willing and even eager people were to talk with us. Through conversations ranging from a few moments to over half an hour long, we heard all kinds of things, including:

  • a desire to maintain and protect green space
  • a concern that the WSE would reduce safety in the park for kids who play there, especially those who live in the Rideau Street townhouses, whose back yard is essentially the park
  • a concern that the WSE would cost a lot of money and that its need hasn’t been proven
  • a desire for the city to create separated bike lanes to ensure cyclists’ safety
  • a concern for turtles and other wildlife
  • a concern that Fluhrer Park will no longer exist with a road, because of how narrow the park is.

We also heard about other issues going on in people’s lives. In the Old Industrial area, one woman was keen to share her thoughts on the federal election, because no candidate had canvassed her neighbourhood (we listened to her ideas once we had finished with WSE issues). Another told stories of difficult city rules that made it hard to start a small business. We also heard broader concerns about climate change and the need to reduce our dependency on cars. People who grew up in the Swamp Ward told stories about how it has changed over the years. One woman lived in a house that has been in her family since the 1940s. One young man talked about playing in what is now Fluhrer Park, back when it was what he described as a sewer. All in all people really seemed to want to engage in discussion about where we live.

So this is an invitation. If you have 2-3 hours to spare on a week night or weekend afternoon, please contact us at wellington.x.kingston@gmail.com to find out more about how our canvassing efforts work, and to get paired with another volunteer.

It might seem scary at first to knock on strangers’ doors; however, it is a lot easier than it may seem before you start. Besides, it’s important: a community that takes time to connect and interact can build trust and a stronger mutual understanding. Yes, we are opposed to the WSE. We are also committed to understanding what we individually and collectively want rather than letting outsiders decide for us. And that understanding happens best one conversation at a time.

— Sayyida Jaffer