It's 9:30 in the evening and I just got back from a walk with my dog.
We were out for more than an hour and we went through several neighbourhoods, including the downtown core. I was thinking to myself how safe I feel walking the streets of this town.
Ottawa just elected a new mayor. He promised to freeze taxes and to 'make our streets safer.'
I think our mayor and I have different ideas as to what makes a city safe.
I don't think that 'cracking down' on panhandlers and harassing homeless people will make my city safer. If safety is what matters to our new city council, these are the things they need to consider:
Ottawa is one of the few cities in Canada that has yet to pass a bylaw banning pesiticides for commercial and residential use. It is past time for this to happen.
Many of our parks, especially in the downtown core and in poorer neighbourhoods have play structures that are badly in need of replacement.
Ottawa needs more affordable and mixed income housing.
We need to address homelessness and child hunger. This means improved funding to shelters and more no or low-cost children's programming.
Funding for libraries and the city's bookmobile must be protected. Library hours could be increased and more programming, especially for older children, should be a priority.
You see where I'm going with this.
I don't feel threatened when I am out walking in most places in this city (and my dog and I log 30+kms/week). I would be much more fearful in a city where even more angry, bored and hungry youth had no where to go for support, to blow off steam or to put some food in their bellies.
It makes more sense to fund an arena than to buy one kid (or even a whole team of children) a pair of skates. And I feel strongly that my taxes are well spent when they fund these kinds of services.
I fear the mayor's solutions will make my city a more dangerous place and one where most of us will feel a lot less comfortable.