City press release fails to convey the true feelings of community
If there was any thought that City Hall is out of touch with the people they are suppose to serve, here is an example that should clear up any doubt:
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE CITY OF OTTAWA
Date: Wednesday 15 June 2011
Contact: Public Affairs (613-580-2450), email@example.com
NR: Positive change continues in the Banff-Ledbury Community
Ottawa – River Ward City Councillor Maria McRae and Ottawa Community Housing CEO Jo-Anne Poirier joined the Banff-Ledbury community and community partners to open an exciting new community hub, the Ledbury Park Pavilion.
“This new meeting place is a shining example of how areas like Banff-Ledbury can see real benefit when the City and community partners work hand-in-hand to turn dreams into realities”, said Mayor Jim Watson. “And the $14 million dollar addition to our social housing portfolio this year is proof of our determination to see more community-building like this in the future.”
“This beautiful, brand new facility is just the latest development in the revitalisation of this community,” said Councillor McRae. “I am proud of the positive growth in this neighbourhood over the past seven years –growth achieved by working together to make this community and this city a better place to live.”
Funding was announced early in 2010 for a new community space in Ledbury Park offering programming space for residents across the city, including: a multi-purpose meeting and activity space, a kitchenette, change rooms, outdoor rink storage space, and washrooms.
“I would like to congratulate the Banff-Ledbury community for this incredible achievement. Your commitment to this project has forever changed the face of this community and has set a new standard for our city,” said Councillor Mark Taylor, Chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee.
The Ledbury Park Pavilion is a $1.3 M investment in the continued rejuvenation of the Banff-Ledbury community. In recent years this has included the No Community Left Behind initiative, a revitalised basketball court and approximately $8 M in housing rehabilitation repairs.
AND HERE IS AN OTTAWA CITIZEN NEWS ACCOUNT OF THE SAME EVENT
Ledbury-Banff residents say hold the cake
By Zev Singer, The Ottawa Citizen June 15, 2011 11:50 PM
The plan, by city officials, was to have a nice ribbon-cutting ceremony, with speeches and cake, to open the Ledbury-Banff Pavilion. The newly built, $1.3-million fieldhouse was planned as a valuable addition to a community that has worked hard to turn itself around from an infamous gang-run neighbourhood to an urban success story where residents have reclaimed ownership through engagement and participation.
But when city officials arrived Wednesday afternoon, they found that Ledbury-Banff residents weren’t ready to celebrate. Instead, the engaged community was going to give the city officials a piece of their collective mind. The cake would have to wait.
That’s how councillor Maria McRae and several city employees found themselves in the middle of a group of 50 to 100 people at the corner of Ledbury and Banff avenues, just across the street from the pavilion, listening to residents’ concerns.
Before the new building was there, the neighbourhood had a little trailer. It was modest, but it was for them. They could use it when they wanted and didn’t have to pay. It was used by camps and for other recreation programs.
“It was ours and we used it,” said Dennis Charbonneau.
The new facility, while a major upgrade, will have to service a wider catchment area of the city. Residents wanted to know what kind of access they would have to it and the field and basketball court beside it. They wanted to know whether they would have to pay now for things they used to get for free. If they wanted to hold a community barbeque would they now need to fill out an application?
It wasn’t until half an hour after the scheduled start time of the ceremony that McRae was able to start the official program of thanking the people who helped build the pavilion.
Christal Brownlee, a mother of five who has lived in the neighbourhood for seven years, said that while the city did survey the community to find out what residents wanted from the new facility, there was not enough communication over the last few weeks to explain to residents how things were going to work.
“We feel like we’ve been left behind,” Brownlee said, adding that the building itself was appreciated. “This can be positive. We want this … but not like this.”
There will be meetings next week between the city and residents to address concerns.
McRae said there would have been more information for the residents before the ribbon cutting had the ceremony not been moved up to this week; one of the city officials who was heavily involved in the project was going to be away for several months for medical reasons, so they held the ribbon-cutting earlier than planned.
“If I had known they wanted even more information we could have had a meeting scheduled tonight as part of this opening,” McRae said. “But we didn’t know that they wanted to meet tonight until we got here.”
Six years ago, it was a city-led program called No Community Left Behind, that had encouraged residents to take back their neighbourhood. It worked so well that the community gave the city Wednesday’s little lesson on how to make sure community involvement and buy-in stay on track.
After taking heat from the crowd, McRae herself praised them for “finding your voice.”
Ottawa South MP David McGuinty saw the polite little uprising the same way.
“When people talk about local democracy and people being engaged and having a sense of ownership of their community, that’s it. This is what it is. This is all good news for me,” he said. “Then years ago this wouldn’t have happened.”
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
As a member of the Banff Community House board, I can’t reveal how many days before the event city officials and the councillor actually knew the community had concerns. I would direct all questions to the board chair and the house director on this particular matter.
But overall, am I the only one that finds this divergence of views of a situation concerning? City Hall has to remember they are there to work for the people who pay the taxes in Ottawa. They are not there to make work projects for themselves that they think make sense on paper or would make a good news story. That’s what the published press release makes this look like to me. It is so far off the real situation it borders on propaganda.