The political makeup of the city will soon change with the long-awaited recommendations of the special adviser appointed by the province to finally bring some sense to service delivery in this region.
My regional counterpart, Wendy Stewart, shares the same electoral boundary. Our responsibilities are divided along city and regional service delivery. We experience almost daily the complications of overlapping responsibilities. We both frequently get calls from constituents complaining about a service they incorrectly believe is a city responsibility or visa versa.
The problems associated with two levels of government often appears on the surface to be minor and more of an irritant than anything else. However, for the affected community, it can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming. The third access onto Clyde Avenue, traffic signage on Merivale Road and the Central Park stormwater pond are just a few examples of where the overlapping jurisdiction of the city and the region have overburdened the process.
My presentation to the province's special adviser, Glen Shortliffe, also touched on the aspect of community representation in the political process. Much has been said and reported about how difficult this would be under a large, one-city government. In the Mooney's Bay Ward, there are nine community associations, most of which meet monthly. The associations represent different communities of varying sizes across the ward. Each generally follows original subdivision boundaries. The level of participation in these community associations closely relates to the issues the community faces at any given time. The newer communities tend to be more active and have larger attendance at meetings. This is not to say that more established communities can't rally the troops if a significant issue arises. I usually attend the associations' monthly meetings and am in regular contact with association presidents. These groups have no legislative power or authority. However, they do serve as conduits of communication to and from their communities. Politicians ignore them at their peril.
I support the city position of adopting the existing 18 regional ward boundaries under a one-city model as opposed to the borough concept supported by the region. We do not have to re-invent the wheel in our search for a model of governance that is close to the people. Community associations offer an excellent way to stay close to individual communities across the region. As a new councilor I have benefited tremendously by utilizing community associations as a means of identifying important issues in my ward and to communicate with constituents.
I am not suggesting the community association process is perfect. An electoral process should be standardized and these groups could benefit from a small amount of funding for administrative purposes, such as advertising regular monthly meetings. Community associations across a city ward should also be afforded the opportunity to meet as a larger group to share common experiences and explore common solutions.
Jim Bickford can be reached at Ottawa city hall at 244-5365.