A Few Thoughts on Week 61

The week that was!

  • The latest episode of Council Conversations with Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan of the City of London. I had 1 listener from the UK so I suppose they though I landed a Councillor from London England.
    • Tonight Ward 4 Councillor Jesse Helmer is on the podcast, tune in at 7pm.
  • The end of Greyhound service in Canada is a big deal. It is also a big deal in contrast to the $12B in transit funding announced for Toronto and Hamilton.
    • There is always money for subway lines but when it is about connecting rural and mid-sized communities suddenly silence.
    • I am hopeful that a new company will likely step into the void left by Greyhound but what that looks like in the meantime is concerning.
  • #buildingbackbetter in Detroit led to greater inequality. A full 104 page report breaking it down.
    • There has been much talk of Downtown Windsor needing to go through a similar revitalization as Detroit went through. Windsor Work’s is kind of that traditional “neo-liberal” game plan for that: attract investment, get government out of the way, make things fun and pretty = #winning.
      • You could almost write a report about why it isn’t so easy.
    • If you want an interesting take on Detroit’s revitalization you should read “How to Kill a City” which dedicates 3 chapters to Detroit’s “revitalization” or “segregation and gentrification” depending on how you ask.
    • This inequality piece to me sees to the be square peg that few people want to touch in public conversations about downtown or poverty or urbanism in our region.
  • This brings me to the Barn.
    • Personally, I am utterly indifferent on the Barn, the Express’s proposal and the Petition. I have been to the Express games they are certainly a good time, I imagine more people would go if they were downtown.
    • I did find it interesting that Councillor MacKenzie raised on Rose City Politics that there were a number of “interesting proposal” for the site, yet only this one has come public.
      • I would love to know the “what ifs”. So far it has been framed as Express proposal or bulldoze the site when we don’t know what else was offered. Only one group went public on their proposal with designs and drawings but that doesn’t mean it was the only adaptive re-use of the site.
        • Could the Barn be a new Central Library location – we re-developed one historic building for a library why not another?
      • Put the top proposals in public and have a debate about it – otherwise the City should bulldoze the city and put it up for tender.
      • I would also point out that there is a wide body of literature (like this book) out there that points to public investment in private sport and entertainment facilities rarely generate net positive economic benefit for the urban areas. I recognize there were other social and community partners on this project but that has to be considered.
  • I do think that the Express did misplayed their hand trying to develop this proposal as a for-profit development. As was suggested to me by someone I chatted with on this, if the goal was community space, accessible facilities and partnerships in the core – then create a non-for-profit to control the space. Each of the for-profit or community partners get a vested stake in the entity’s Board or a voting member of the organization and you can then invite the City to the Board as a partner rather than just a financial flow through.
    • This would give the City some vested control and oversight of future operations. The city’s ownership stake could be potentially maintained through a long term $1 per year lease on the land rather than sale (although I am sure that would change the business model).
    • If the fundamental business cases is sound (not clear to me and Councillor MacKenzie mentioned holes in the business plan on RCP) then you have limited the risk of giving land and investing in a private operation. It is true a non-profit could still go belly up but the core mandate is very different and the ability for NFP to flip things for profit is constrained compared to a private business. This is something I feel like the City is a little gun shy in doing after the last municipal asset sale in the downtown core.
    • True the governance is more complicated and Windsor loves to take the easy way out but these non-profit consortiums have been successful in community development in other Cities.
      • An idea that jumps to mind for me, is the Western Fair Board in London as the Fair District and the events/operations/services that occur directly impact the City. The City has a form representative on the Board.
      • Also in London, developers and NFP housing providers came together over the SOHO housing project – 600 units on the former site of psychiatric hospital – 300 units will be affordable. This is being spearheaded by the local community foundation and the City gave them the land for a dollar.
      • In Waterloo Region – the region partnered with the YWCA on a 59 year lease for land for $1 for affordable housing.
  • If we have to make a profit on this land as a city you might as well sell it to the highest bidder, if you are trying to make broader community value then maybe the community should be involved in the process.
  • Garden update – I bed is planted, second bed is started. Some of my seedlings went too long in their little incubation tray and went bad. Will be restarting.
  • Creeping back up?

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