Friday, 17 October 2014

Monaghan, Part Two: Jocasta Boone Leads the Way to Smart Growth

Drew Monkman's brilliant piece for the Examiner this week helps us envision Peterborough in 2035 as a healthy, compact city whose residents wisely took the path to sustainability before it was too late. The city he imagines is more densely populated, with condominium development replacing the low-density sprawl of the late 20th century. Jackson Park remains intact, a natural oasis in a still-warming, stormy world.

The local headquarters for suburban sprawl and car-dependent thinking is Monaghan Ward. Seventeen-year incumbent Henry Clarke is likely to be re-elected, but comments on his website about maintaining a balance between fresh perspectives and experience suggest he's feeling pressure from the younger challengers.

Principal among these is Jocasta Boone, the 38-year old private consultant who recently chaired Fashion Week in Peterborough. Boone knows how to present herself professionally, evident in her Cogeco video statement, and has gained support among other women professionals in the ward - and among forward-thinkers able to imagine a sustainable Peterborough like the one Monkman portrays.

Boone's website offers a policy statement focusing on smart growth. She notes that the province's Places to Grow Act calls for significant intensification in Peterborough, which means more mixed-use redevelopment of existing built-up areas, and less "greenfield" developments like Lily Lake and Parkhill West. She notes that the Loggerhead Marsh area near Parkhill and Brealey need protecting, even according to the city's own existing documents - but City Hall appears to be asleep at the switch. Boone pledges to "hold our city accountable to its own guidelines and recommendations, to stand up for smart growth that is in alignment with the Province’s vision and to ensure we listen to the concerns and input of our citizens." Who can argue with that?

The only questionable statement on Boone's website is the claim that opens the smart growth policy discussion: "Peterborough is experiencing rapid growth." She's not the only one who keeps parroting this myth - residents and other candidates do it too, even the progressive thinkers. The plain fact is that Queen's Park's plan to include Peterborough as a satellite of the Golden Horseshoe targeted-growth area hasn't borne out. Peterborough's population growth remains well below the Ontario average, and there are no signs that this will be changing soon. The reason is obvious - Peterborough has the tightest job market in southern Ontario. Our young people keep leaving at the same rate that we import new residents.

What's the answer? Boone suggests taking advantage of the vibrant arts scene in the city, aiming to capitalize on this to capture a segment of the emerging creative economy. Toronto's already been exporting creative types to Hamilton in the flight from high rents - why not find ways to get businesses relying on creative design to set up shop in Peterborough?
Judging by lawn signs, Boone's primary competitor appears to be Don Vassiliadis, best-known as owner of the Shish Kabob Hut. Vassiliadis wins the Cotton Candy Prize for Most Vague Campaign. His website says absolutely nothing about any issue, a stance he has maintained throughout his campaign, and reiterates in his brief, awkward Cogeco clip. Vassiliadis spends far more time listing the community organizations he’s been involved with in the past than he does addressing anything of substance for the future. He has no apparent position on the Parkway extension, the Jackson Park bridge, or sustainability in general. He seems blissfully unaware that we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, a looming six-figure police budget deficit, and an economy that’s only expanding because we’re letting developers sell Monaghan Ward wetlands to retirees from the GTA, further pushing up our median age, which is already in the top-five in Canada. “Decisions will have to be made to move the city forward,” Vassiliadis assures us. Thanks for the insight, Don.

Jeff Westlake’s Cogeco speech suggests he’s been taking lessons from his former boss, Dean Del Mastro, whom he avoids mentioning by name. Westlake was Del Mastro’s campaign manager during the 2011 election and worked in his constituency office for years. Westlake trots out the usual Conservative party clich├ęs about lower taxes and guns - implying that electing him to council would magically change Queen’s Park’s regulations on municipal taxes and the police department’s strategies for minimizing violent crime. Westlake’s foggy thinking is best demonstrated by his comments on the Parkway. He clings to the naive belief that building more roads with more stoplights to serve more car-dependent subdivisions would lead to less traffic. But the real comedy comes when Westlake moves from pushing the money-losing Parkway extension to “respecting our tax dollars” in mere seconds. “Any city service or facility that loses money should be corrected immediately” says Westlake at the 1:25 mark of his Cogeco clip. Any city service – except the Parkway.
Finally, there's David Edgerton - as always. Edgerton, a financial consultant, has run for council in every election since 1985. He was elected once, back in 1989, then failed to get re-elected. He spent no money on his 2010 campaign, perhaps figuring he had no chance to top Doris or Clarke. What financial consultant worth his salt would recommend investing in a lost cause? He’s only slightly higher profile this time out – still no website. Edgerton echoes Westlake’s double-think on his Cogeco video when he backs the Parkway in the same breath as holding the line on taxes because of our high seniors population. What’s frightening about Edgerton’s spiel is that he’s already worried about running out of land to put residential subdivisions on. Hasn’t anyone told him that we’ve already approved enough old-fashioned sprawl to last the next thirty years at our current growth rate?

The countdown to Election Day is on. Which path will we take?

1 comment:

  1. What a joke this little blog is! You wax eloquently about intensification as if it is the saviour to all of our problems. Such naive thinking. We don't all want to live in little concrete boxes like in Toronto. Some of us would like to still be able to buy a home with a yard. The fluffiest comments and vision statements appear to come from your anointed candidate Ms Monsef. She talks about intensification as if it is something that everyone will obviously want as long we can all sit and talk nice about it. Name one neighbourhood that will accept the type of intensification you truly speak about. Name one existing neighbourhood that will love the idea of re-developing 50-70 foot single family homes into row houses or 4 storey apartment buildings! Maybe the Old West End would be a willing host neighbourhood, seeing as most of the "enlightened" residents spewing this fantasy seem to reside there. Of course if challenged, Ms Monsef won't tell you which neighbourhoods she plans to densify and by how much. Your blog shows a utopian view of urban planning, as does the piece of fiction written by Mr Monkman in the Exagerator. You have obviously never had to actually implement any of these policies you espouse. If so you would understand that even when change can be properly encouraged it takes a long time to be realized - and you can't just stop all development you don't like while you wait for the type you like to take hold. You have obviously forgotten to mention that the City Official Plan already includes 40% of new growth within the existing built boundary - all in accordance with the Provincial Growth Plan. The very policies in the current Official Plan you claim as so lacking have finally led to some much needed redevelopment in the Downtown - but that is just a drop in the bucket to what your vision would require. You have obviously forgotten or are unwilling to admit that the 2006 growth plan forecasts for the City are so far in line with the 2011 population figures released in the Census.
    The last thing that really bugs me about your blog is the smug innuendo you use to smear candidates that you don't like. Your statements border on slander, but of course you will never use your full name behind your statements. I guess you don't stand behing the drivel you write as if you are so importent. Cameron, your blog is a joke....