A Big Yellow Taxi moment

This past weekend, the (almost former) mayor piled more, ummm, vision, into his "vision for Ottawa": (yet) another suburb, to be serviced by a ring road plowed through the city's green belt. It was at one and the same time a Big Yellow Taxi moment and a heartfelt cry for help. Involving emergency laser eye surgery.

Us coyotes can't help noticing that most of the mayor's recent vente speculative fictions involve the thoughtless trashing of the city's public open spaces: running electric rail along the Ottawa River Parkway; a Lansdowne Park deal that bobbled lands in the public trust into private developers' waiting hands, with a nifty side deal to carve big a new exhibition space out of the southern greenbelt; and now the ring road idea.

Now, the green belt has been eyed with avarice and intent by developer types for most of its five-decade run. To them, it is 20,350 hectares of prime open space ideally situated for plunking down any old building they care to name. If only they could get their frustrated mitts on it.

A lot has changed since a rather well-regarded city planner guy named Jacques Gréber suggested the idea in 1950, and it may well be in the public interest to revisit its whithers and wherefores. But I'm unconvinced that Mayor Larry is the guy to shepherd the process. He has already amply demonstrated a really unfortunate bias toward what us coyotes call "inappropriate development", along with a serious disregard for the niceties of due process, and an utter lack of intelligent consideration of consequences.

We coyotes, of course, are biased in an entirely other direction. You might say hizzoner's purported big picture schemes hit us where we live. Because, well, they do.

But the public open spaces that the city under this mayor has already dealt away - or wants to - are treasures. If citizens decide to give 'em up after proper debate, fine. But it should only be for the right reasons, and for a fair payback. Even, one might hazard, and I am aware of the irony of my using this word, as a part of a vision. If possible, one grander, more inspiring and more cohesive than badly focused pipe dreams.

At the very least, you'd better damn good and sure before you throw away something as scarce as green space in a city. Because if there's one thing us coyotes know, it's that once you pave paradise, it's lost. And as Joni sang back in her chirpier, more soprano-y days, ya don't know what ya got 'til it's gone.


WJM said...

Pave the Greenbelt.

coyote said...

...and let's level Signal Hill while we're at it. Progress, baby!