Today is city budget day, when the 2021 budget is presented. We will have full updates on that in the next newsletter. Here are some important updates in the meantime.
Sunnyside Library Opening Update
I know many feel that it is well past due that the local Sunnyside library re-open. At the start of the pandemic, all libraries were closed. It was months before any re-opened. The OPL Board had communicated that due to COVID-19 staffing difficulties, the Sunnyside branch and many others would remain closed. We have met repeatedly with library staff, the CEO, Chair and ad-hoc committee to discuss this issue and pass on concerns from residents.
I’m happy to say that Sunnyside will be the next branch to open in Ottawa. It will return to full-service (within COVID-19 restrictions) in January of 2021. In the interim, we wanted a plan that would allow for some service at the Branch. The Library Board announced last night that starting November 16, the branch will be open for contactless service, six days a week. Thank you all for your advocacy on this; your voices made a huge difference. Library access is so important, but even more so in this moment we are living in.
Bank Street Bridge Winter Update
Unfortunately, I’ve been recently informed that the Bank Street Bridge safety measures on the exterior lanes may need to be removed for winter. This was scheduled to occur at the beginning of November. We have asked for more discussion on this, before any changes are made.
We have been hearing great feedback that the Bank Street Bridge modifications to enhance the safety for all users of the bridge have made a difference in people’s life--feeling safer when crossing, with lower vehicle speeds, room for passing as a pedestrian, going up the steep hill on a bike without a bus behind you in the exterior lane, kids on trikes, getting to school/work more comfortably, the list goes on. It’s amazing what large pylons can accomplish, isn’t it? Capital Ward now owns these pylons (which was about 1/8th the cost that renting would have been to this date). We paid about $35/barrel. I am hearing tales that we may need to find a way to store these ourselves...may need to get creative 😉.
Work continues on the design for the reconstruction of the Bank Street Bridge this spring to a three-lane format. There will be designs that the public will be invited to discuss and provide feedback on.
Winter Active Transportation Survey
With winter just around the corner, we would love to know more about your experience with active transportation during this season. Whether you walk, bike, roll, ski, sled, snowshoe, skate or other mode of active transportation, it would be great to hear from you. There is a survey you can fill out, which will pose various questions about your walking and active transportation. With the results of the survey, we will emphasize these considerations when discussing the update to the Winter Maintenance Quality Standards review, scheduled for 2021, with staff and council. It hasn’t been updated since amalgamation. We hope to improve experiences getting around our city as there are many winter pedestrians in Capital Ward. The survey will run from November 4 to November 15.
Changes to Policing in Ottawa
We have been seeing calls for change in Ottawa and across the world, regarding the way we do policing. There are many examples of successful alternative models of safety response which need to be considered for Ottawa, particularly as it relates to mental health calls. This Globe and Mail article provides helpful background on this issue.
City Council recently unanimously passed my motion, seconded by Councillor McKenney to investigate just that.
We initially tabled a motion to encourage Ottawa Police Services (OPS) and the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) to undertake a public consultation and report outlining potential alternative models of community safety response that could involve the creation of non-police led response to calls where a police response is not necessary. During the notice of motion two-week period, the OPS and OPSB signaled their intention to move forward with something that appeared more or less in line with what our motion called for.
Through working with OPSB Chair Deans to reframe our motion accordingly we were able to clarify and ensure that the OPS and OPSB’s development of a comprehensive “whole of city” mental health strategy would specifically include non-police response alternatives, would be open to the broader public for consultation (not just stakeholders), with Black, Indigenous and racialized groups represented, and would reflect a commitment to reconciliation and the UN International Decade for People of African Descent.
We know that the criminalization of poverty, drug use and mental illness needs to be stemmed. The outcomes are usually more expensive and less effective. Despite having very minimal authority over police operations as a municipality, we need to use the influence we do have to ensure that a fair process is established, that the public has a say in the process, that research is conducted, and that the direction of Council and the Board is clear: we support a change mandate here.
We will keep pushing on these issues. If you want to have your say on the direction of the OPS budget you can sign up as a public delegation and speak to the OPSB at their November 9 meeting (where the budget will be addressed).
To speak at this meeting, please contact [email protected] before 4:00 pm on Friday, November 6. Each delegation is restricted to five minutes, not including any questions the Board members may wish to ask you following the presentation.