Originally Posted by lrt's friend
This has been debated to death. The courts have ruled. It is time to move on. I can't wait for construction to begin.
Throughout this process there has been a desire to prevent any real debate about whether OSEG's proposed development scheme is actually something that people in Ottawa actually want, or to seriously consider the concerns of those who critique the plan.
Instead, it's all "let's get 'er done," "something's better than nothing," "acres of asphalt," etc.
Remember the so-called consultations (really just show-and-tells with OSEG shills wearing City nametags); the only reason that they actually acceded to having Q&As was because at the first session at Lansdowne, local residents got fed up with being fed a line of crap and got out a megaphone to demand that City and OSEG reps explain and justify their plans.
Those residents should have been lauded by critics and supporters of the OSEG plan alike, because they forced them to have Q&As at the following open houses. Instead they were vilified for being Glebe hotheads.
But I really do think that far from simple reflexive NIMBYism, the resistance to the OSEG juggernaut has been as much a result of a sense that the plan is something that sprang fully-formed from the smoke-filled backrooms of Ottawa golf courses and Monaco restaurants, rather than something that reflects the broad desire of the residents of Ottawa, and has been arrived at through a genuine process of visioning and consultation.
Hannah Arendt, the German-born political philosopher, captured this when she wrote:
"Opinions are formed in a process of open discussion and public debate, and where no opportunity for the forming of opinions exists, there may be moods -- moods of the masses and moods of individuals, the latter no less fickle and unreliable than the former -- but no opinion."
Is there actually an opinion that has been formed amongst Ottawa residents through reasoned debate about this issue? I would argue, no. There are indeed moods; key among them a mood of annoyance and impatience towards a vocal opposition that continues to contest the plan that has been so masterfully framed and promoted by OSEG and the City's well-resourced spin-meisters.
"Why can't they just get out of the way?" "They hate football!" "They're just a bunch of whining elitist, NIMBY, Glebe crybabies!" etc.
Alongside this mood is the one that says "I really like the idea of the CFL returning to Ottawa." For many of these folks, who may or may not belong to the first group, they see little beyond the promise of the first kickoff. For the price of the few million dollars they paid to secure rights to an Ottawa CFL franchise, OSEG bought themselves a solid-gold rationale to justify why the City should pay hundreds of millions to spruce up Frank Clair Stadium and build an underground parking garage, so OSEG can field a team, while the City turns over a third of the site for commercial development for $1 a year.
Another mood is one of ambivalence or resignation. A sense from people not directly affected by the redevelopment plans, that although they aren't adamantly FOR the plan, they really don't know all the details, and besides, it's not in their backyard, and, well, don't those pretty drawings from OSEG look much nicer than what is there now (i.e. "sea of asphalt"), so, "what's the harm?" and "what's all the ruckus about?" "It's going to happen anyway, so why stand in the way?" I think this is really the dominant mood amongst the largest group of Ottawa residents. Neither really for, nor against the plan. But hardly a ringing endorsement.
The final mood is that of the critics. They have used a multitude of tactics and approaches to undercut the legitimacy of the OSEG scheme: questioning the plan's financials, transportation expectations, impact on heritage, questionable process, etc. But fundamentally, they are opposed to the plan because of its direct impacts on them and their communities (yes, Not In My BackYard), but as importantly, because they feel their concerns have been systematically marginalized in the public discussion, that they have been made powerless, and that the only way to try to perhaps affect tangible change, but as importantly, to feel that they have not simply stood idly by when something they think is wrong-headed has been allowed to pass, is to resist, to critique, to debate, and to contest.
I would say that given those diverse groups, that there really has never been a clear concensus of opinion on this plan.
Indeed, never in any of the public opinion polling done around the plan for Lansdowne was there a hands-down majority of respondents who said: "Yes, I support allowing private developers to build a shopping centre on public land at Lansdowne Park, and for City taxpayers to fund hundreds of millions of dollars of expenditures, in support of a privately-held sports franchise, and for tax revenues from those commercial properties to fund the City's debt service on its borrowing."
Some have said that the last municipal election was a de facto referendum, supporting the City's planned partnership plan with OSEG. But this was really not the case. Jim Watson was elected, not as an ardent supporter of Lansdowne Live (indeed he was rather coy about it during the campaign), but rather as a repudiation of the embarrassing term of Larry O'Brien, the Mayor instrumental in greasing the skids for a Lansdowne deal. Surely this could be said to be a "no" vote.
Another argument is that since some opponents to Lansdowne on Council were defeated, that this was due to the electorate punishing them for their positions on Lansdowne, and that the re-election of pro-OSEG councillors was an endorsement of their support by their ward electors.
Again, anyone who knows about local politics knows that rarely are there any particular city-wide ballot questions in individual councillors' races. Instead, most win because the small proportion of the electorate that bother to vote actually recognize their name, and because they spent the previous three years appearing at every charity BBQ or other community event they could, so as to cultivate a friendly image.
To close, a few other quotes on the value of debate to decision-making:
“Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.” -Hubert H. Humphrey (38th Vice-President of the United States)
“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.” -Joseph Joubert (French Essayist and moralist, 1754-1824)
“Honest differences of views and honest debate are not disunity. They are the vital process of policy making among free men.” -Herbert Hoover (31st President of the United States)
The actions of critics of the Lansdowne scheme may well ultimately have been futile, but isn't it more important that there are still individuals in society who have such strong convictions about a matter as this that they volunteer, donate their own money and stand up to speak truth to power? Or do we really want to just want to be able to sit back and have our circuses, or in this case our football games, uninterrupted by annoying questioning voices?