Leap year offers an opportunity that seldom comes to look backwards a bit. I’ve been blogging here for 7 years or so. There’s been 2000 articles. Daily readership of about 400.
Originally I chose to focus on the west side of downtown Ottawa for a number of reasons:
- it was (and often still is) a skip-over area. There’s downtown extending over to Bronson, and then the world resumes somewhere west in mid-Hintonburg. Just ask Bookmark the Core.
- the entire neighbourhood has no accepted name. Realtors call it centretown west. As do some city maps. The community association prefers Dalhousie, as it was that ward name from 1890’s to amalgamation in 2001, but ironically Dalhousie St is no where near here, causing further confusion. So I called it West Side [of the downtown]. I stuck in Action in a direct copy from ActionSandyHill.
- the area is undergoing tremendous change, in fits and starts, some of which is awful (Booth Street, Bronson Avenue) and some of which is better, and occasional bits that are worth emulating. Urban form is a diagram of the forces acting during growth, I am trying to help shape those forces.
- we need a forum for alternative ideas on neighbourhoods and transportation applied to our specific locale, as the city supplied infrastructure can be lacking and the kludgeocracy in the city planning dept aren’t exactly our friends
- we need to keep and eye on the details of what the city plans, since the headlines are wonderful (eg multi-use neighbourhood) but the gritty details are often not (any house can and will be converted to businesses).
- our current ability to shape growth and influence change is limited, partly by who we elect, the ideology of the dominant political factions, and partly by a lack of self confidence; we need alternative voices.
- a blog offered quicker response to planning issues than monthly community newspapers
- I controlled the content, not
Anyhow, throughout the fall of 2015 I felt increasingly ill at ease with this blog, its focus, and whether it is worth the effort to write the stories. Too many stories were becoming rote repetitions of the same old issues, the same old complaints. Intellectual challenge yields to snarky remarks. Are blog stories too long in a twitter universe of one photo+one caption line?
I also felt that I was relying on benchmarking type stories too much, showing examples of how other cities achieve progress in contrast to our modest ambitions (otherwise known as how I spent my travel time). Our problems in Ottawa aren’t so much we don’t know what to do, as that we don’t reach high enough, and we spend wa-a-a-a-y too much money doing / subsidizing the wrong things. We spend billions each year, and I don’t think we do it wisely. We don’t need bigger government, we need smarter government. Less beggar-your-neighbour policies (the basis of Ottawa zoning after all is pushing the unwanted onto the less powerful) and fewer policies and rules, but much more widely applied. Spend more time on results and less on process.
A number of people tell me they like the snapshots of other cities and how they do things. Others want coverage of their neighbourhoods too. A few suggest I stop writing this and submit articles to The Citizen. Some use occasional reads here as a substitute for getting involved and making a better neighbourhood. Political agendas abound.
A trend in blogging as far as I can see is a stronger emphasis on Branding. Sometimes this is so the author will get more consulting work (BTW, I am not employed, and am staying that way. I pay my own travel. Paid work is vastly over-rated). What would one brand this blog anyway? EricDarwinUrbanist? EricDarwinComplainyPants? EricDarwinUrbanObserver? EricDarwinSnarkyFool?
Stay the course? Change direction? re-brand? I’m listening.
PS – I also changed the web site page WestSideAction.com to show recent articles in a more inviting, summary format.