MINISTRY OF TRUTH: Why do we bother planning when planning apparently means nothing?
Lately, when I’m shuffling through the aisles in Ferraro Foods I’m often stopped by some enquiring Rosslander or another who wants to know what the ‘deal’ is with the sidewalks on Columbia Avenue. People also email me, accost me in the street, and hover over my house in helicopters--but Ferraro’s is the place where most of the important business in town gets conducted, as we all now know.
Most state proudly that they ‘voted’ (signed that petition) against parallel parking, but they still want me to 'explain' (as if I could! as if anyone could!) the answer to Marvin Gaye’s perennial question, ‘what's going on?’. When I tell them the parallel parking is gone they say they’re glad. But then I sit them down, right there in the produce department, and I tell them about a little thing called ‘process’.
I tell them about the three design charettes, the Official Community Plan, what a pedestrian-friendly downtown means for tourism in case Red ever takes off and commercial development at the hill starts to threaten local merchants. I tell them about green values and the new parking lots less than a block from the lost stalls on Columbia and the resultant net gain in parking.
Then, invariably, they say, 'Oh, I guess we should have gone for the expanded sidewalks'.
So much for the petition.
Here’s what the City report that followed the design charettes said: “Rossland’s existing downtown layout limits its day-to-day pedestrian amenity and annual street festivities to two Sidewalks, neither of which are wide enough to allow seating during activities and which provide very restrictive seating adjacent to restaurants or cafes. The generous width of the asphalted right-of-way currently allows diagonally parked cars to back out of their parking stalls while highway traffic continues flowing past them. This begs the question as to whether this is the best use of the space for the city's businesses and residents.”
Wise words, since ignored. When the contract was awarded a week ago, instead of reasoned discourse and an explanation, we got this: “There was no discussion about the contract at the council meeting on Monday evening, but Mayor Greg Granstrom stated that council had removed parallel parking from the design...”
We have a process because people can't really make informed decisions unless they educate themselves. People who got involved in the OCP educated themselves. Those who showed up for the THREE design charettes educated themselves. Council have, presumably, educated themselves. People who signed a petition saying ‘no lost stalls on Columbia!’ while picking up a jug of milk? Not so much, perhaps.
It's very easy to put out a petition and have ‘folks’ sign it, but it means very little in a rational universe where ‘folk’ often don’t really know what they’re talking about (see US politics, 1776-present). But this isn’t a rational universe.
I should note that, personally, I'm not passionately against the loss of parallel parking. I’d have preferred it, but if the design process had resulted in angle parking only, I’d have shrugged and let it go. What I'm bothered by--all of us here at the Telegraph are bothered by--is the utter disregard for public consultation and the OCP in this instance. The contempt for process. The lack of explanations.
Every time the Telegraph has spoken out against a decision made by council over the last four years, it's been because of procedural reasons, not because we don’t ‘like’ the decision itself.
As I’ve written before, a real newspaper exists for two reasons: 1) to inform and 2) to hold those in power accountable. After all, it’s not ‘their’ power--it’s ours and we’ve just loaned it to them for a couple of years. And so we ask questions. And wait for those in power to answer them.
Next election a good question to ask all candidates might be 'do you pledge to abide by the OCP and any future public consultation processes?'
But that's still two and a half long years away. Until then, anything seems to go in the wild and wooly, world of Rossland civic politics.