A Few Thoughts on Week 60

A nice round number…

  • The latest episode of Mean, Median and Moose is out! We talk about leisure activities and spookie things.
  • You can catch the last episodes of Council Conversations on Spreaker or your favourite podcasting platform
    • You can support the show on Patreon. There is a extra content being added after each episode.
    • This week sees 2 more episodes released – Deputy Mayor Kelly Elliot (Sun 7pm) of Thames Centre and Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan (Thurs 7pm) from the City of London.
  • This weeks Public School Board meeting went over 6 hours long and got testy at various points.
    • I turned it off at 9:30 or so, the board still had 3 more hours of “debate”.
    • I watched most of this, and there are some major issues that need to be worked out IMO.
  • On Saturday I did a Jane’s Walk about Alleyways in Windsor you can watch the video here.
    • I hope to transcribe my notes for the walk into a more coherent follow up post in the coming weeks. The big question is, what alleys are most important?
  • May 11 is Census Day so here is Statistics Canada Official Census playlists!
  • The Windsor Law Centre for Cities has been releasing a blog series on Community Engagement with the final post going up this coming week (I believe). The series has been informative but I have struggled with some elements as well.
    • First, design charretting goes by a lot of other names, it is not a simple process to undertake. The fact that the Planning Act requires only one or two meetings is laughable and unfortunately true but to also jump right to a multi-day charretting process is a major leap for many municipalities.
      • There is a spectrum of engagement and I question if this posts are just outlining an extreme position without fully surveying the cost & benefits of that position.
    • Charretting can also create barriers.
      • The process requires significant time commitments from the community members, municipal staff and other groups as it often plays out over days or weeks of meetings. All of this carries costs that are not usually accounted for in the planning process. There is also a limited size to most of these process, as a result, in an effort to be as broadly inclusive as possible not all potential participants may be able to join.
      • Those who are selected for the charrette, also wield significant influence in the process (knowingly or unknowingly). Yes a charrette process has a follow up community element and the values alignment should create by-in but there is a risk that the community will still not be satisfied with the outcome. If the charretting members do not represent the make up of the community or lived experience that is trying to be tackled the potential for failure grows.
    • Additionally for a municipality to say, you can or can’t join a process does present major challenges. Fundamentally municipal processes are designed to be equality focused ensuring general access – poster boards at a community centre and an online survey – not equity focused based on giving voice to those who don’t have it. Sure they could do a hybrid, but if 100 survey are done and say X vs 10 diverse people in a charrette say Y, what path does the city take?
      • The example charrette from blog post 2 – show two of the biggest barrier.
        • The fact that the first page of the report acknowledges half a dozen funders to complete 1 report on waterfront design is a major challenge.
          • What do communities without multiple major foundations to contribute to pay for facilitators and a process do?
        • The second issue is that this charrette actually wasn’t an inclusive process. From the report “more than 40 invited charrette participants, including staff from participating municipalities, provincial representatives and local design experts provided their time, expertise and insights to assist in developing the design ideas presented in this report.”
          • This report wasn’t a community process it was a top down design process with for municipal leaders experts, that is very different than an inclusive community process. Community representatives or other members are not mentioned on Pg. 9 of the report.
          • Charrettes are targeted and in my opinion strategic interventions. They are not IMO a replacement for the general planning process or climate consultations.
    • Second and arguably the biggest gap, is the lack of recognition or mention of the role of community organization not only for advocating for additional consultation but also in facilitating connection to communities. Looking at the example above, it was private foundations that enabled the cities around Vancouver to come together.
      • Although mentioned in passing there is an assumption in this series in my opinion that by doing a more inclusive process of charretting that people will engage the municipal process. Generally speaking and as have been proven numerous times and processes, third party community organizations are vital to bridging these processes. They bring credibility and trust to residents who often do not have them with formal municipal or institutional partners.
        • Even the fundamental question of who is leading the charrette is an important one that I don’t think has been tackled by this series. Is Junior Planner Smith who normal does a survey and poster board presentation – ready, able and trained to deliver a charrette style consultation? How many planners are? Or is outside facilitation expertise needed?
    • There have been design charrette processes in Windsor although not necessarily by that name. .
      • The DWCC led a process with the City Planning Department around the Downtown CIP. The iterative asset mapping process, multiple engagement meetings and range of input processes checked many of the charretting boxes. This resulted in a strong CIP and Downtown Strategy, that were unfortunately not totally approved by Council at the time.
      • The consultations that I led on the Gordie Howe Bridge CBA had numerous charrette element. It was actually a hybrid model IMO with a mass community consultation > to recruitment interested parties to design table > to a facilitated process> to drafting of report for communtiy validiation > to announcement of the report > to submission to WDBA. Start to finish – 5 months.
      • The work of ProsperUs leveraged a charretting model called Human Centre Design this process has been proceeding for almost a year now.
  • Finally, who is really the audience for this series? As someone who has yelled into the internet void for 60 weeks now I appreciate the activity. I also recognize that for the student authors, the process of writing this blog was a learning experience and something build from which is of value. Maybe (I hope) there is a next step in the final blog but there hasn’t been a clear call to action beyond “you should do charrettes”.
    • The planning process is broken in a number of ways but I don’t think charretting is actually the best method to get better and more inclusive planning or climate outcomes.
    • Certainly cities need to do more, but they need a nimble methodology not a deep dive methodology in my opinion. Both of these methods can be inclusive and engaging the problem is one of political will and statutory demands on municipal officials, not the process.
Why didn’t you take me on the Jane’s Walk Human?

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