Archive for March, 2012

Unlocking City Information

- March 28th, 2012

It seems the public is filing more and more access-to-information requests with City Hall, and apparently they’re chewing up resources.

It’s making the city say, hey, why don’t we just give the public more access to information generally?

That’s the partial gist of this report to the finance and economic development committee.

Says the report:

During the past four years, formal requests for access to information at the City through MFIPPA have steadily increased. Upon an internal review, it has been determined that various requests held no requirement to access confidential or proprietary information and therefore the records could have been provided directly from the responsive program area, to the requester.  It appears possible that some City staff are hesitant to release information due to a lack of understanding precisely what information is protected under MFIPPA and what is considered a routine disclosure or “business as usual”. 

MFIPPA, by the way, is short for Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The report says the city will find ways to make information more available to the public without having to file a formal access request, which costs people $5. For formal requests, the city is considering posting the results to its open data page 30 days after the requester receives the information.

This is all good news in the interest of transparency, but hopefully there will be a buy-in from staff. One of the reasons why the public — especially us in the press — frequently use formal requests is because there has been a roadblock somewhere, and staff are compelled to provide as much information as legally possible to the access-to-information department when a request comes in.

Why You Might Be Interested In Wednesday’s Council Meeting

- March 26th, 2012

1. You have been watching the design changes to the LRT line.

2. You live in a community with big condos going up.

3. You frequently hang out around the Billings Bridge area or drive between the mall and Walkley Rd.

4. You support protecting historic buildings, or, you see no important historic value in this particular Rockcliffe Park home.

5. You wonder what the heck that random clothing donation box is doing in that parking lot.

And then there are some of the more interesting bylaws to approve:

- A bylaw of the City of Ottawa to repeal Bylaw No. 8-94 designating the Horticulture Building , 957 Bank Street to be of cultural heritage value or interest.
 
- A bylaw of the City of Ottawa to amend Bylaw No.2003-446 to prohibit smoking on outdoor patio encroachments and at café seating.
 
- A bylaw of the City of Ottawa to amend Bylaw No. 2004-276 to prohibit smoking in city parks and facilities.
 
- A bylaw of the City of Ottawa to amend Bylaw No. 2001-148 to prohibit smoking on outdoor patios.

City Calls Bond Company To Find New Bridge Contractor

- March 23rd, 2012

The City of Ottawa isn’t gambling on the future construction of the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge.

The city decided it will activate its $23-million performance bond and consider ConCreate in default after the company recently went into receivership. Desroches said the city is on solid legal grounds because its contract with ConCreate has a clause about what happens in an event of receivership.

“We’re taking the bull by the horns here,” Coun. Steve Desroches said. “This gives us greater certainty.”

One of the most significant concerns involves the custom-built arches that are in Nova Scotia. There are too many financial unknowns with ConCreate to say for sure if it will be able to get the arches to Ottawa, Desrcoches said.

Desroches said he doesn’t know when the bond company will appoint a new contractor to finish the job.

“We believe this is the best scenario for the timely completion of the bridge,” he said.

The project is a proud one for Desroches, who represents Gloucester-South Nepean. The shovel and hard hat hang in his City Hall office from the day of the groundbreaking.

Cleaning Up The Rink Of Dreams

- March 22nd, 2012

Ever since the Rink of Dreams closed for the season the front lawn of City Hall has been an eyesore. It’s been taped and gated off because it’s just not safe for people walking around. Perhaps it’s evidence of how quickly the city moved to get the rink ready in time for the NHL all-star game.

There hasn’t been much going on since the snow melted. The area could use a cleanup and some landscaping. I put in a request with the city this week and received a response this morning.

This from a city spokesman: “The Rink of Dreams boards will be dismantled this week and moved for summer storage. The boards will be stored at an indoor facility to prevent corrosion or damage to the LED light connections. The contractor that installed the boards in January will be doing the tear down. City staff are concentrating on litter pick up around the Rink of Dreams site and are working with the site contractor to complete work on landscape restoration as soon as possible due to the recent mild weather.”

The city’s $250,000 cost for the project still stands.

I went out to take some fresh pictures of the rink this afternoon and found some workers taking it down.

What do we call the Rink of Dreams in the summer, when it’s not really a rink? Maybe “Ottawa’s Magical Porch”?

Presto Coming This Summer

- March 20th, 2012

OC Transpo boss John Manconi tells the transit commission in a memo today the Presto card readers will roll out across the fleet over the next four months.

Perhaps the most significant thing about the memo is Manconi’s confirmation that the tap-and-go system will be ready for the summer. Last month, although he said the timetable looked fine, he didn’t want to put a date to the launch.

Also interesting is the big beta test Transpo is planning before Presto goes live.

But hey, instead of me paraphrasing, here’s the memo to the commission…

Presto Reader Update