December 15, 2011: Letter to the Editor.
Letter to the Editor.
On December 5, the Planning Committee approved Uniform Urban Developments proposal for 16 and 14 storey towers on the former Fendor site at 335 Roosevelt.
For years I have heard Ottawans complain about how developers run this town and how that is ruining our neighbourhoods and our city. I was only half listening. I had to experience it first had to know the depths of it. Our democracy and institutions have been entirely subverted to serve the interests of developers.
Prior to the meeting, I had spent numerous hours poring over the documentation provided by the developer. I found half-truths, exaggerations, gaps in logic, characterizations of private benefits as public benefits and many other deficiencies. What I now know is that, as a citizen, criticizing the documentation that a developer submits with his application will not help you, even if you find major errors and gaps in logic. In a system as totally captured by developers as ours is, facts do not matter.
Shockingly, city staff are captured to such an extent that they actually sit in front of the committee and advocate specific development proposals. They defend them against attack. They find creative interpretations of City policies that will favour the particular proposal. Civil servants, paid by you and me to provide fair and impartial advice to Council, are doing this.
I was significantly more shocked and sickened, however, to see our Councillor Katherine Hobbs sit and say nothing through most of the meeting. Her only interventions were to ask staff for clarifications favourable to the proposal. As my representative on the Committee and Council, I expect her to bring community concerns to the attention of her colleagues. Quite the opposite! In fact she moved the proposal for the 14 and 16 storey buildings. And she seemed positively giddy as she was doing it, as if she was unwrapping a Christmas present.
I’m afraid that my main conclusion from the meeting is that, in a system that is as thoroughly captured* by developer interests as ours is, citizen input is irrelevant. Decisions are made early in the process by City staff and developers and the rest is simply a process of public manipulation, including public meetings and public representations to the Planning Committee.
Another thing that became abundantly clear at the meeting is that tough talk by politicians I am talking here about Councillor Hume about the sanctity of zoning and/or Community Design Plans gets very quickly thrown under the bus as soon as they actually might have to mean something. Think about it if zoning and CDPs actually did have meaning, communities might actually have meaningful input into the planning process. In a fully captured system, that cannot be allowed, and it is not allowed. Only the appearance of community input is allowed. We are all paying the price. Just look around.
There is only one tough talker left standing now: Mayor Watson. We will see on December 16, when the Planning Committee decision goes to full Council for ratification, whether he throws our Community Design Plan under the bus too.
Ceo Gaudet, Atlantis Avenue resident.
*Captured has a precise meaning in the economics literature. It means when a regulatory authority is taken over by the industry and begins to use that regulatory authority to serve its own interests, against the public interest.