Q&A with Somerset Candidate Jeff Morrison

The race for Somerset is heating up this month! This week in our Ottawa Election 2014 series we're hearing from another candidate from Ward 14, Jeff Morrison. As mentioned, I've decided to use the blog as a bit of a platform for Read more

Q&A with Somerset Candidate Thomas McVeigh

Next up in the candidate Q&A series...Thomas McVeigh, who is running for city council in Ward 14 Somerset.  As mentioned, I've decided to use the blog as a bit of a platform for Ottawa Election 2014. These posts are not endorsements; any Read more

A park to call home: Lessons about public spaces from NYC

We were in Bryant Park, sitting at a table that the man had moved into the morning sun. We were drinking coffee, chatting and watching a group of kids play some stick game (Google later told me it was Read more

Q&A with Rideau-Rockcliffe Candidate Cam Holmstrom

Election day in Ottawa is just four months away. As mentioned in my last post, I've decided to use the blog to help out the democratic process through a series of candidate Q&As. These posts are not endorsements; any Read more

Alright Ottawa, let’s talk tacos!

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in guide, Ottawa businesses, restaurants, stuff I love | Leave a comment

This week the man and I did something new and amazing in three different places.

No, not that!

We ate soft-shell tacos!

Suddenly, I’m really into tacos.

I’ve always liked tacos enough but they weren’t something I craved. I occasionally serve up some Old El Paso hard-shells for dinner and we’re big fans of Ahora on Dalhousie, but soft-shell tacos weren’t something I needed in my life.

Until now.

In fact, if a guy were to show up at my door right now and say, “Congratulations Karie! You’ve won a week’s supply of either this delicious award-winning poutine or four soft-shell tacos!” I’d probably tell him to pass the guacamole!

I don’t know why I’m suddenly loco for tacos (nope, no way, not pregnant). It all started last week when we hit up a patio for dinner with the little one. We decided to check out Cali (264 Somerset St. East), not for the tacos, but because it was close, cheap and has outdoor seating. This little spot is in a more residential part of Sandy Hill, across the street from the Sandy Hill Community Centre. Not only does it have tasty tacos, it also has local beer, a good patio and friendly staff.

The experience also seemed to trigger something deep inside me that wasn’t indigestion…Why on earth had I not embraced this particular food item until now???

A few days later it was the man’s birthday and we ended up eating tacos at Ola Cocina (62 Barrette St.) near Beechwood Avenue. Again, the food was really good and although it’s not licensed (beer + taco = A+); this tiny restaurant does have a nice little sidewalk patio and offers takeout (which could prove dangerous due to its proximity to my home).

And finally, a few days later, I again found myself sitting in front of a plate of tomato-topped goodness. This time, it was at the Hillside Festival in Guelph. The meal was delicious but I’m guessing most of you aren’t too interested in driving six hours for tacos…

Anyway, eating lots of tacos is now apparently one of my life goals.

So here’s a handy map with 10 other places to eat tacos in urban Ottawa

You’re welcome.

Ahora (307 Dalhousie St.)

El Camino (380 Elgin St.)

Corazón De Maíz (55 Byward Market Square)

Burrito Borracho (105 Clarence St.)

Burrito Gringo (566 Bronson Ave.)

Pancho Villa (361 Elgin St.)

Stone Soup Foodworks (11 Marie Curie Pvt.)

TacoLot (999 Wellington St. W)

Bonita’s Cantina (250 City Centre Ave.)

Bar Burrito (176 Rideau St.)

 

Q&A with Somerset Candidate Jeff Morrison

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in guest post, issues, neighbourhoods, politics | Leave a comment

Jeff Morrison 300x225 Q&A with Somerset Candidate Jeff MorrisonThe race for Somerset is heating up this month!

This week in our Ottawa Election 2014 series we’re hearing from another candidate from Ward 14, Jeff Morrison.

As mentioned, I’ve decided to use the blog as a bit of a platform for urban candidates. These posts are not endorsements; any urban Ottawa candidate can participate and I’ll be asking everyone the same four questions. 

Okay Jeff…You have the mic…

 1. Tell us a little bit about your background and why you are running for City Council. What do you have to offer Somerset Ward?

When I was 18 years old, I started up the first ever Terry Fox Run in my hometown of Elliot Lake, Ontario. Through experiencing the community-building aspect of that one event at an early age, I learned firsthand the value of community involvement and leadership, a lesson I have lived since moving to Ottawa in 1990. Over the past several years, I’ve combined that belief in community involvement with my strong drive to achieve results-based change, gathered primarily from a career in government relations. That’s what led me to lead the successful opposition to the proposed casino in 2013. That’s what led me to become President of Centretown Community Health Centre, and oversee a $3 million+ expansion grant. That’s what led me to lead the successful campaign to redevelop Somerset House at Somerset and Bank. That’s what led me to start up a Neighbourhood Watch program. So that’s why I’m running for Council – I want to continue to bring that same results-based approach to Somerset ward, and to the city as a whole.

 

2. What are two of the biggest challenges facing your community and what do you plan to do about them?

The first challenge is the lack of amenities and inequality in services for a growing and diverse population. People move downtown because they want access to services and a lively neighbourhood. In addition to my ideas in Question 3 to increase vibrancy, the city also needs to partner with the province to ensure services to people on programs such as ODSP are protected, and that a “Housing First” strategy is implemented to address homelessness. The second challenge is related to the unprecedented development downtown. Although I support intensification, it needs to be smart intensification, taking into account community interests. That is why I have called for:

  • An end to the appeals process to the Ontario Municipal Board – a process that removes democratic accountability from elected officials and neighbourhoods, as we saw with the recent Council decision on the 9 storey development in Little Italy;
  • Using Community Design Plans as the leading guide for development decisions;
  • Incorporating more innovative, green principles in development, similar to the recently announced Chaudiere Island redevelopment plan. To support this, I want to introduce a green roof policy and increase LEED certification on city buildings.

 

3. What can be done to improve Ottawa’s urban neighbourhoods for families and get more families living downtown?

We can make Ottawa’s urban core more inviting, more vibrant, and more responsive to the needs of the people and families who choose to live downtown. A few examples of how this could be done include:

  • Make better use of, and introduce more activities at our public parks, such as Dundonald, Minto, and Plouffe. To make Dundonald Park in particular more family-friendly, I have advocated relocating the Somerset Street Beer Store to another downtown location.
  • We need to lobby for more services and amenities. For example, I would lobby grocery chains to locate a grocery store in Dalhousie, and lobby cinema chains to locate a theatre in downtown.
  • We need to put in place the infrastructure to encourage physical activity for families. As part of my platform, I’ve promoted the idea of introducing “free outdoor gyms”, so that our parks and green spaces can be more effectively used. I’ve also been a proponent of better maintaining existing bike lanes and expanding cycling infrastructure.
  • We need to provide more opportunities for people in communities to connect and enjoy their neighbourhoods. I have called for more frequent “Open Streets”, whereby major streets like Bank and Preston are closed down to pedestrian traffic. I have also called for moving major cultural, arts, and sporting events to public spaces in the downtown area.

 

4. In one sentence, what’s the best thing about Somerset Ward?

I believe this ward is the most cosmopolitan, diverse, caring, and engaged ward in the City of Ottawa, and it deserves a councillor who shares those same characteristics.

Jeff Morrison’s website

Jeff Morrison on Twitter

 

If you’re running in the upcoming municipal election and would like to participate, let me know at pubpatioplaydate@yahoo.ca

Q&A with Somerset Candidate Thomas McVeigh

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in guest post, issues, neighbourhoods, politics | Leave a comment

 Q&A with Somerset Candidate Thomas McVeighNext up in the candidate Q&A series…Thomas McVeigh, who is running for city council in Ward 14 Somerset. 

As mentioned, I’ve decided to use the blog as a bit of a platform for Ottawa Election 2014. These posts are not endorsements; any urban Ottawa candidate can participate and I’ll be asking everyone the same four questions. 

Here we go…

 1. Tell us a little bit about your background and why you are running for City Council. What do you have to offer Somerset Ward?

Like many of us, I grew up with Sesame Street showing us an idyllic version of an urban street. One where the grocer was Mr. Hooper, and the street people were grouchy but nice. In a way, I think that ideal is what we’re all trying to recreate when we choose to live downtown.
That idyllic downtown is safe, has schools, businesses, lots of diverse people, and occasional ensemble song and dance numbers.
I have a background in small business, and have been involved in business associations for the last couple of decades, including a long stint on the Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s Street Issues Committee. Currently I am on the board of the Wellington West BIA. I have been involved in community associations since the founding of the Downtown Victoria Residents Association over a decade ago, and I’ve been involved in the Centretown Citizens Community Association for the last six years. I have been a small part of various arts groups, promoted live music, arts festivals, and been active as the treasurer of a Linux Users Group. I am a proud parent to a four and a half year old boy and a newborn girl, so soon I’ll probably start becoming part of the school community.
Which is a long winded way of saying that I get involved in my community, and I am always trying to make it better. I have a broad range of experience that will benefit the community should they elect me as their representative on city council. I have the wisdom to know that there is always more than one way to do it, it’s just a matter of figuring out which way works in a given situation.
Just don’t expect an ensemble song and dance number on Bank St. In my first term.

 

2. What are two of the biggest challenges facing your community and what do you plan to do about them?

Managing development and traffic in the downtown core are the two biggest challenges in my ward.
Most of the people who choose to live downtown accept that there is going to be a lot of intensification in our wards. We welcome our new neighbours and the added amenities that they bring. The vision that Ottawa has chosen is one where we accept higher density in one area in order to protect other areas. The Centretown Community Design Plan calls for higher buildings along the Catherine Street Corridor and in the Northern Character Area. In exchange we get to protect the low rise areas in the Golden Triangle and in the areas west of Kent St. In Little Italy, they were very accepting of the towers being proposed along Carling Ave., and outraged that a mid-rise tower was proposed on Norman St. in the middle of the low rise areas. I plan on making that stance even more explicit, and will fight very hard for the character of our existing low rise neighbourhoods, as well as working with developers to make the new high rise neighbourhoods as well designed as possible. We need to protect the diversity of our housing stock. We’ll be seeing the Chaudiere Island redevelopment start in the next term of council, and that will probably set a very high bar for how development should be done, in terms of consultation, environmental sensitivity and urban design.
The other part of improving livability in the core is managing traffic. Between my home and my son’s school are Kent, Bank, Metcalfe and O’Connor. Making these roads into something other than on and off ramps for 416 is a challenge. Many of the parents in the ward see Preston and Rochester as similar obstacles as thousands of cars and hundreds of trucks daily use these roads as their route to and from Gatineau and their children go to Devonshire and Connaught or Fisher. Albert and Slater will be bus routes until the Confederation line is finished.  Creating safe routes for pedestrians and bicycles along and across these flows of automobiles and heavy trucks is going to be a challenge. One of the best solutions will be making many of the one way streets into two way streets. Lowering the default speed in the city would be one very good way to make the roads in our community safer.

 

3. What can be done to improve Ottawa’s urban neighbourhoods for families and get more families living downtown?

Ottawa’s urban neighbourhoods are already great for families. I chose to live downtown in large part because the time I don’t spend commuting is time I can spend with my family. We need more and better parks, sure, but I can walk with my kids to the Museum of Nature, the National Art Gallery and the Museum of History. I’ve walked with my son to a local restaurant to sit at the bar. I’ve had a beer and he’s had an apple juice and we’ve discussed the finer points of Digimon. I can walk him to school. Although some of the streets in my neighbourhood are scary to bike on, my kids can learn to bike on the tree lined street I live on. I may not have a big backyard, but Dundonald Park, McNabb Park and the parks on Elgin St are all within a few blocks of my home. My wife and I can go out for dinner or a drink at some of the best restaurants in the city within easy walking distance.
Really, the main reason families choose not to live downtown is affordability. There simply is too high a demand for housing for families, and not enough supply, so prices are high. The kind of house in which you can raise a family, located in the downtown neighbourhoods like Sandy Hill, Centretown, The Glebe, Hintonburg or Westboro has become too expensive for most. We need to increase the stock of buildings in our inner core with more than bachelor and one or two bedroom apartments. New mid- and high-rises should be encouraged to include a diversity of apartment sizes, as well as other formats like stacked town-homes in order to accommodate lower income families in the core who probably cannot afford the price tag of a hundred year old brick single family dwelling in the inner neighbourhoods, with the accompanying maintenance costs. We also need more housing for seniors in the core, so that some of the folk who have lived in our community for decades can give up the homes they can no longer look after and still be in the community.

 

4. In one sentence, what’s the best thing about Somerset Ward?

Diversity. Diversity of culture, of income, of age, of love, of experience, of everything.

Thomas McVeigh’s website

Thomas McVeigh on Twitter

If you’re running in the upcoming municipal election and would like to participate, let me know at pubpatioplaydate@yahoo.ca

A park to call home: Lessons about public spaces from NYC

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in downtown living, other cities, park profile, thoughts, travel | 2 Comments

We were in Bryant Park, sitting at a table that the man had moved into the morning sun. We were drinking coffee, chatting and watching a group of kids play some stick game (Google later told me it was Kubb), when I started to notice it. We went on to spend much of the day walking around Manhattan, stopping at so many parks that it became obvious.

Urban public spaces, specifically parks, are something Ottawa could do better. We like to think we have it mastered with all our green space and close proximity to Gatineau Park, but as nice as these spaces are, I’m not so sure they create the kind of landscape that makes people want to live downtown.

This was our first post-child trip to New York and so we spent much time just walking around, sitting and talking about how our surroundings compared to Ottawa from the perspective of city-dwelling parents. We asked ourselves, what was something that stood out as making Manhattan family-friendly?

There were a couple things, and a couple that made it not so kid-friendly, but we kept coming back to the parks and how some of them seemed to work for everyone.

Lately, I’ve been lauding our new neighbourhood park, but it occurred to me that as fun as it is for our daughter, it’s not a place I’m going to hang out at with a group of kid-free girlfriends. Many Ottawa parks have limited seating and brightly coloured and plastic-looking play structures – hardly inviting to someone over the age of 14. Even our parks without playgrounds are often mostly just grass and benches – a little boring kids and adults.

We tend to create separate and distinct kid spaces rather than incorporate everyone into our public spaces. Heck, some of our urban parks are empty! I have yet to see anyone in that temporary park at Rideau and Charlotte.

However, many of the parks we visited in NYC were filled with people of all ages – playing, chatting, drinking coffee, sharing a meal, saying hello, meeting up, laughing, crying. We walked through Washington Square Park after dinner and it had an energy that was so differing from any park here.  It wasn’t just because there were more people and more tourists…

It was because these parks were not just places to visit but places to LIVE!

An urban parks needs to be an extension of the home. It needs to be more than a park. It needs to be a living room, dining room, playroom and even a quiet bay window.

We saw parks with tables and chairs (not just benches and picnic tables) that could be moved around, something I’ve always appreciated. Many play structures were made of wood, iron and more muted colours, which meant they blended nicely into the landscape, creating an almost secret hideaway for kids and a space that didn’t make adults feel like they’re hanging out in Peewee’s Playhouse. Some had spaces for lawn and sidewalk games, others had public art (some of which a little person could climb, hide under or shoot water from). There were lots of ledges and stairways to sit, balance and jump on; gardens and fountains to explore; and wide pathways for bikes and scooters. There were water fountains and nearby food vendors…

There were different areas and equipment within a park depending on whether you’re young or old, alone or with friends, craving noise or quiet, sun or shade. If you needed a snack or a drink, they were nearby. There was something for everyone.

My vacation observations are nothing new. Many of the same thoughts were laid out more than 30 years ago by urbanist William H. Whyte. He studied how people behave in cities and talked about the importance of location (near a busy street), movable chairs (here’s a video clip of his observations), sun and wind, trees, food, water and triangulation when it comes to public spaces. In fact, Bryant Park was redesigned in 1988 with Whyte’s help.

But let’s not kid ourselves; Ottawa isn’t NYC. We have about 1/10 of the population and more than double the space. Furthermore, many NYC parks receive private contributions and there is definitely serious inequity amongst neighbourhoods.  That being said – Sparks Street take note – what if Ottawa designed parks (and public spaces in general) by taking a few more cues from Whyte and one of North America’s largest cities?

It wouldn’t be too hard…We could start by putting out some tables and chairs during the day…ones that could be moved into the morning sun!

Better public spaces would mean more people envisioning downtown as more than just a place to come for work and sometimes dinner, but as a place to call home and raise a family.

Thoughts? What do you want to see in an urban park?

P.S. A couple interesting and related reads from spacing.ca…

12 ways to make cities more child-friendly

Ottawa’s Waterfronts: An under utilized asset

A pocket park for Ottawa?

 

Q&A with Rideau-Rockcliffe Candidate Cam Holmstrom

Posted on by Pub Patio Playdate Posted in guest post, issues, neighbourhoods, politics | Leave a comment

Election day in Ottawa is just four months away. As mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to use the blog to help out the democratic process through a series of candidate Q&As. These posts are not endorsements; any urban Ottawa candidate can participate and I’ll be asking everyone the same four questions. 

First up…Cam Holmstrom, who is running for city council in Ward 13 Rideau-Rockcliffe.

Cam Holmstrom 240x300 Q&A with Rideau Rockcliffe Candidate Cam Holmstrom1. Tell us a little bit about your background and why you are running for City Council. What do you have to offer Rideau-Rockcliffe?

I come from a mixed background; I am a teacher by profession and training, have been a federal civil servant and am a political aide today. I paid my way through university working in a gold mine in the Far North of Ontario in the summers and by delivering pizza in my evenings during the school year. I’m Métis originally from Northwestern Ontario, happily married to my partner in life Allison for going on six years with a young daughter who is closing in on two quicker and quicker each day. I decided to run for council where I live in Rideau-Rockcliffe because I love the community we live in and I believe we can have better, more active representation. I am a big believer in participatory democracy; it’s what my professional experience has taught me works and I want to hear how people want their communities to look and feel like. I don’t claim to know it all and I want to have that input from residents to ensure I can serve them to the best of my ability. In the end, my family and I have found our home and I want to ensure that our communities can reach their full potential so that we can continue to make this our home for a long time to come.

2. What are two of the biggest challenges facing your community and what do you plan to do about them?

The biggest challenges I see facing our communities right now are the pace and processes for development. Rideau-Rockcliffe is blessed with great diversity, history and character. We value those unique parts of our communities. We are not opposed to new developments in our communities, we just want to make sure they fit the character of our communities and don’t destroy some of the historic features that have been with us for so long.

In my view, the city’s current approach to consulting neighbourhoods in the planning process has been lacking and inconsistent. It has resulted in some bad, rushed decisions, over-rulings at the OMB and with many upset residents. I believe that we can avoid some of those headaches by including residents early and often, taking a bit more time and do a better job of taking their concerns into account. I also believe in following our official plans more closely than we already do. When we deviate from those plans too often, the OMB has a means to impose decisions on our communities. I believe that if we take the approach that I am proposing, we can make some great developments for the city.

This is particularly true in Rideau-Rockcliffe, where we will see the re-development of CFB Rockcliffe taking off in the next few years. That re-development offers a great chance to develop a new, environmentally sustainable community in the right way, and set the standard that the city can follow going forward. But in order for that to happen, the political will needs to be there. I am offering to help bring that political will in this election.

3. What can be done to improve Ottawa’s urban neighbourhoods for families and get more families living downtown?

Firstly we need to make our urban neighbourhoods more family-friendly. Many young families, like mine, have chosen the downtown because we like the lifestyle, the proximity of transit and work, recreation centres, doctors, services and alike. Some of those factors can be improved upon (like OC Transpo’s new Presto cards and access to bike paths) but some of it is protecting the services that we receive. For example, when the city cuts back on the length of classes offered at recreation centres, that has an effect on the community and needs to be made up somehow. It is important to me that we protect those services as best as we can.

Secondly, when we are talking about development, especially regarding the city’s infill requirements, we need to ensure that these redevelopments are family-friendly and allow for young families to stay in our communities. It’s that diversity of residents that makes for a vibrant community and we need to do what we can to ensure that our communities are as welcoming as possible. Again, this is where the re-development of CFB Rockcliffe offers a unique opportunity to create such a community from scratch inside the city itself.

4. In one sentence, what’s the best thing about Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward?

The best thing about Rideau-Rockcliffe is the cultural, linguistic and historic diversity of communities and how we all come together to make our communities the best they can be.

Cam Holmstrom’s website

Cam Holmstrom on Twitter

If you’re running in the upcoming municipal election and would like to participate, let me know at pubpatioplaydate@yahoo.ca

 

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